Think again before eating a stray nut in the supermarket without paying — big brother is watching, and he might have a blog. Newsagency owner Mark Fletcher is so sick of shoplifters stealing his stuff that he’s posted security footage on his blog of a customer swiping the TV Guide from a Herald Sun under the line, “Do you know this woman stealing from us?”

 

“Customer theft is a high cost problem in newsagencies so if you can catch and humiliate someone it is satisfying,” explains Fletcher. 

So is this the beginning of Neighbourhood Watch on the web? Or is it more about public humiliation on a global scale? Staff at a New Zealand computer store posted security footage of a thief stealing a laptop on Google last month. The footage, set to the sound of the Pink Panther theme, attracted 400,000 hits from around the world.

“I think it will become a trend because it gives businesses power to take matters into their own hands,” Fletcher told Crikey. “Shoplifting hits about 3% of our turnover, so that’s around $75,000 to $80,000 a year.”

And the small business owner has no qualms about the legal niceties when it comes to exposing the thief on the web. “We own the footage, we have signs up saying that there is video surveillance in the store, so from the outset people are warned that they could be video taped so the footage is ours to use.”

As for making his customers nervous with his vigilante style tactics, “anything we save in terms of theft reduces price pressure within our business,” says Fletcher, “so our honest customers benefit from us cutting theft…”

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW