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Should the store have done something?

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Ok, so i'm still reeling a bit from what i witnessed at WFM this afternoon, and i'd love to get input and opinions from my fellow CHers.

i went to throw away a tissue as i was waiting to check out, and a man was blocking my access to the trash receptacle. i said excuse me a couple of times, but he didn't budge or move his cart out of the way, so i reached around him...at which point i realized he was busy filling his shopping bags with all the disposable plates, cups and utensils the store provides for people who eat in the café area. not just a few of each item, he was taking STACKS of plates & cups, and handfuls of utensils. i stood next to him and stared for a minute, but he was still ignoring me, so i walked back over to the checkout line to begin bagging my groceries.

i pointed out the situation to three different store employees - the cashiers in my lane and the next checkout lane, and another employee who happened to be walking by. the cashier in the other lane started watching him in disbelief, but said nothing, the cashier who was checking my groceries kept his back turned and ignored the situation, and the other employee shrugged, and walked away to do a price check for someone. i asked if anyone was going to do something about it, and my query fell on deaf ears, so i continued to watch him as he cleared out the ENTIRE stash, and wheeled his cart right out of the store.

i was tempted to say something to him myself, but to be perfectly honest i got a really bad vibe from the guy and wouldn't have felt safe doing so. instead, i stopped by Customer Service on my way out, intending to talk to a manger about the situation. the employee who had walked away earlier was standing there, so i asked him why he hadn't done or said anything about it. his response? "He doesn't care. I've said something in the past but he just ignored me and walked away."

i'm sorry, WHAT???? this guy does this on a regular basis, you KNOW about it, and you continue to turn a blind eye? he's STEALING, plain and simple. i tried to explain this to the employee, and he said "We can't really do anything about it." i asked what the purpose was of having Security personnel if they didn't stop people from stealing, and he just shrugged. i suggested that the least they could do was ban the guy from the store, and all he said was "Sorry, i don't know what to tell you."

i tried to explain to him that when the store lets people like that get away with such behavior, they're essentially *condoning* it, and that the people who end up suffering for it are those of us who shop there, because as the store needs to continually re-stock those supplies, the cost of doing so eventually makes its way to increases in the prices WE pay. he SO wasn't getting it. i was really pissed about the situation, but clearly i wasn't going to get anywhere with it, so i gave up, wished him a Happy Holiday, and left.

i'm really curious to hear what you all think of the situation, and how you might have handled it...?

  1. Maybe the better employees get the 26th off.

    1. The true response you'll never hear:

      "It's no skin off our nose. We cover these kinds of losses by jacking up the prices you pay."

      1 Reply
      1. re: alanbarnes

        right, which is what i was trying to explain to the employee when i told him that by allowing this to occur, they end up screwing the rest of us who don't steal from the store by charging higher prices to absorb the cost of stocking those additional supplies. he didn't understand what i was getting at so i just dropped it.

      2. Maybe the store employees are just as wary as you were about this character. It is not worth getting punched or subjected to other violence. However, if a security guard saw this, he/she should have taken action.

        1 Reply
        1. re: emilief

          That was my guess, too...that he's a regular, a known nut case, and they're afraid of him.

        2. My take? I thank my lucky stars that I have the resources to shop at Whole Foods in the first place as opposed to having to steal all that stuff for whatever reason (for a food bank? can't imagine that there's a market for stolen paper goods . . .).

          I mean, really -- if it costs me a couple dollars more a trip because some sick, hapless, probably homeless guy is taking the plates and forks and cups, I'm fine with that.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bebevonbernstein

            had he been homeless, i wouldn't have had such a problem with the situation, but that was certainly not the case...this guy had purchased several bags' worth of groceries before he headed over to the table to pack everything into the space that remained inside his bags. i watched him through the window as he wheeled the cart out to the parking lot, loaded his bags into a BMW X5, and drove off.

          2. Welcome to the modern world of over-cautious, litigation-terrified MBA management. It's better to prevent your employees from provoking "a customer" of such proven value than to initiate a confrontation and prevent them from coming back. There's no consequence to that particular lout. He knows that all he has to do is ignore everyone that might question his action and leave without saying a word. The employees know that they're not to interfere/prevent his larcenous act. Managers are conspicuously absent probably observing the entire event from the safety of the security office...

            Up-thread, someone mentioned that a security guard "should have taken action..." The few security guards I know have all been trained to "dial 911" in all situations requiring customer confrontation. Those that "involved themselves" in preventing known shoplifters were terminated after each incident. Corporate types don't see it as loss-prevention when the criminal is detained; it's the worst of bad public relations because no one wants to be witness to bad people getting caught.