Dear @marksandspencer: I am not a shoplifter

M&SYesterday, while I was doing some grocery shopping at my local supermarket, I couldn’t help notice the security guard. Every time I turned a corner, there he was. When I picked up some items and moved on, there he was. When my eyes were browsing the shelves for a particular product, there he was.

At first, I felt really self-conscious: is there something about me that makes me look like a shoplifter?

Then, I became quite angry: I am giving this shop my money, and they are treating me like a criminal?

Now, I don’t question their right to protect their property. In fact, I appreciate it, as I am pretty sure that any losses that they experience through shoplifting are passed on to me as the customer. But I am not a shoplifter, and I don’t like to be treated like one.

I felt really uncomfortable and cut my visit short, leaving the shop with a few essentials, and a lot of resentment. I can’t say that I will not be back, as I do like this shop’s fresh produce selection. And I trust them. But I will think twice about going in there for other products.

I would never want the security guard to be penalised in any way, as I am sure that he is just being over-zealous. Or, maybe, I am just being over-sensitive. Still, I can’t help thinking that something ought to be done, to improve the customer experience.

What would you do?

10 thoughts on “Dear @marksandspencer: I am not a shoplifter

  1. Dear Ana,

    that must have felt really akward, indeed.
    But surely you understand the shop´s point of view. – Maybe there have been several acts of shoplifting previously – maybe the security guards had no proof of any shopliftings and had to think of other actions with effective results….
    Could be that focussing on one customer for the whole shopping experience was their solution for handling the issue…sorry, that you had been the victim.
    I totally agree that it is negatively effecting your shopping experience.
    I think it would have been great, if the security guard had given you a small gift as a reward as being a proven trustful customer and would have appologised to have chosen you as a customer to survey and hope you would´t mind and welcome you again for the next shopping event in peace….

    Big gratulations from me for passing the shopping test 🙂

    Best wishes


    1. Thank you for stopping by, Signe. It’s great to hear from you.

      You are right that they need to stop shop lifting. And, probably, it is better to dissuade people than to catch them (i.e., I am keeping an eye on you – if you try anything, I will spot it). But, seriously, what am I going to do: put a lamb rack in my coat’s pocket??

      On a more positive note: Will we be seeing you in June?


  2. I can imagine this is not a nice feeling. It’s really intrusive, and, depending on my mood, I might have decided to not buy anything, and stop visiting for a while. On the other hand, at least now you know you were followed, if you indeed were. They could also have had camera’s with bodyscan capabilities, monitored by people in a far-away place.
    Another option, apart from sheer coincidence of you taking his routine surveillance path, he might have had another motive. Maybe he thought you were the most attractive customer he had seen all day/week/month/year. Maybe he was trying to figure out, from what you were putting in your cart, whether you were single and he could gather the nerve to ask you out on a date.
    In fact, in another mood, I might have confronted the person, asking him about it. In a friendly manner, of course.


    1. I am pretty sure it was surveillance, Arjan, but thank you for the compliment 😉

      And, you are right, the discomfort of the situation was amplified by my mood: it was dark and cold, and I had got out of my lovely warm house to buy some things.

      I wouldn’t wish to confront him. It would make me even more uncomfortable. But, maybe, another day and another mood, I will just do it. For the time being, I am using another one of the various grocers in the area.

      Thanks for stopping by, Arjan.


  3. Hi Ana,
    I have experienced such situations several times in the UK, its very embarrassing I can understand. But if I put myself in their shoes I would realize, they might have been told that way to look at it by the authorities. These days I have seen well dressed people stealing things from supermarkets, its a shame.( got some experience working as a security in supermarkets)
    Supermarkets can track online consumer behaviour easily but actual consumer behaviour depending on that particular moment is difficult. CCTVs have to be the best idea to cope with it, There are CCTVs in every supermarkets but still I think the amount of stray loss including shoplifting is more than 1% (Read somewhere).
    Improving customer experience is undeniably an area where some research is needed.
    I was reading your Bio and found that you are looking for PhD proposals on customer data management on online marketing, which is also an area I am interested in. I have studied MBA,from University of Salford with a live project on Digital Marketing with successful outcome.
    It will be great if you could tell me more about any opportunities that exist in this terms of writing a PhD proposal and pursuing PhD.


    1. Welcome, Abhijit. Sorry to hear you have experienced it, too. I gather from the reaction to this post here, on FB, etc that, unfortunately, this is quite a common occurrence, and not just in this supermarket.

      You are right that any one can be a criminal. But I still think that surveillance could be handled more subtly, without making the customer feel uncomfortable. Disconcerting was the word used by someone, on FB – and I think that it is a very good description of how you feel, when you realise that someone is suspecting you.

      This post, however, wasn’t really about victimisation. More about how the customer experience can be improved. So, it’s great to hear that you are interested in the topic, too. Why don’t you drop me an e-mail to discuss PhD opportunities?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am a lady in her early fifties (petite, Mixed race). I find myself constantly being followed in stores, especially in Marks and Spencer.
    I am not a shoplifter and wish to be left alone to browse in peace and quiet.
    My experiences to date have left me feeling afraid to venture into a shop to browse.
    I fully appreciate how your experience affected you in M&S, it’s quite unpleasant, I do feel for you.
    In my local M&S store I am usually followed around by a tall, well built security guard.
    I honestly feel that I have no right to enter shops these days given my ethnic status.
    (How can someone like myself have money to spend).


    1. Sorry to hear that. I never noticed such blunt surveillance in other shops – maybe, I am too distracted; or they are more discreet.

      But it does put me off. If I notice that I am being monitored, I just cut my visit short and leave.


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