Monthly Archives: September 2012

To Snitch Or Not To Snitch?

I just came back from our local Supermarket-Local/Express (well-known retailer). I paid for some confectionery at the self-service tills. As I waited at the front of the queue for a till to become free, I noticed that the woman at the left-hand till had taken her last item – a packet of eggs – straight from the resting shelf, across the scanner, onto the ‘bagging area’ without actually scanning it. Not surprisingly, the till complained ‘Unexpected Item In Bagging Area’. So she put the eggs back on the shelf before the scanner, paid for the items she had scanned, and then took the eggs she had not scanned and placed them in her bag.
Should I have complained loudly ‘Madam you didn’t scan your eggs!’, or should I have gone up to her before she left and offered to pay for her eggs? Maybe I should have simply rushed to the security guard and pointed her out as she was leaving the shop. Instead, what I did was precisely nothing. I scanned my confectionery, paid and left (actually I was sufficiently distracted that I forgot to pick up my own receipt. It would have been ironically funny if I’d been stopped).
I don’t know if this was truly the reason for my deciding not to snitch on her, or offer to pay for her goods, or quietly tell the guard – but this is my rationalisation: From the way she was dressed, she was obviously no well-off celeb chef out to get something for nothing perhaps because of some sense of victimhood, deprivation, entitlement or whatever (like, say, Antony Worrall Thompson of recent like fame). Neither did she look like the local squire/dowager or actor kleptomaniac. I might have been happy to snitch on any of them. Actually, she looked like someone who’d just got off work from a low-paid job and needed the eggs but didn’t actually have the money to pay for them. So – I didn’t want to embarrass her, or get her into trouble. And I reckoned that shoplifting is a normal part of retail life. Don’t they even call it ‘shrinkage’ in the trade? (Most of it due to staff, actually, I was once told). It has to be indirectly built-in to the price-setting algorithm of the retailer. Thus the rest of us – the other customers – end up paying for it. Depending on how much ‘shrinkage’ there is, maybe we pay up to 10% more than we might otherwise pay (or maybe lower profits are declared, and the management and shareholders pay – but I suspect not).
So… to snitch or not to snitch? That is the question… My answer is ‘it depends’.

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