Store’s party for shoplifter goes viral: Is video vigilantism a good idea?

Store’s party for shoplifter goes viral: Is video vigilantism a good idea?

 

Shoplifting costs small businesses billions of dollars each year; however, a video that has recently gone viral shows how a retailer in the Netherlands decided to fight back by throwing a party for a suspected thief, even giving her a slice of cake.

Video footage shows a manager at homewares chain HEMA catching an alleged shoplifter just before they prepare to leave the store.

But instead of reporting the woman to security or calling the police, the manger hands her a bouquet of flowers.

“Congratulations, you are the 10,000th shoplifter in this shop,” the manager says.

“We have a hat, we have champagne. We have real HEMA pie!”

Before long the unsuspecting customer takes off her party hat and runs out of the store, serenaded by music and a group of dancers.

While the footage was filmed almost a decade ago, the video has made the rounds on a number of news sites recently at a time when retailers are turning to the internet to name-and-shame bad customers.

In January, a restaurant in Western Australia posted CCTV footage on its Facebook page in order to name-and-shame a couple it claimed left without paying their bill.

The tactic has since proved popular with Australian businesses, with a surf and sports store in regional NSW posting CCTV footage to its Facebook page of alleged thieves just a few months ago.

As a result the store was contacted by the perpetrator’s mother, who apologised and said she would return the merchandise.

However, Narissa Corrigan who is principal at Ampersand Legal, told SmartCompany it is important SME owners understand that publishing a video of suspected shoplifters exposes their business to significant legal risk.  

“Generally when someone’s suspects someone of committing a crime or doing something wrong, police are called to prosecute and investigate,” Corrigan says.

“Social media isn’t a tool through which regular citizens should be trying to prosecute someone by public opinion. Call the police if you’re worried that someone has committed a crime and they will deal with it.”

Corrigan says while posting a video of alleged shoplifters online may be a clever marketing stunt, the risks nearly always outweigh the potential benefits.

“Potentially innocent people always have potential rights against people who make these kinds of posts, particularly if they turn out not to be true,” she says.

“I think people should be really cautious before they post anything like this on social media. It’s got so much potential to go wrong for everyone involved.”

 

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