Targeting shop theft suspects a delicate issue

Identifying and approaching a shoplifting suspect is a delicate matter that can lead to dire consequences if mishandled ("Sheng Siong rolls out new way to tackle shoplifting"; Thursday).

Many major supermarkets have thought of this initiative of approaching suspicious shop thieves before they strike, on the pretext of offering them assistance.

But the idea was abandoned as it could have far-reaching effects, such as additional manpower needs and customer inconvenience, and worse, mistaking a genuine customer for a suspect.

Some customers may feel offended if they are approached by a store employee wearing a vest that bears the Shopwatch logo.

They are cognisant of the store's measure to deter shoplifting, and being singled out for this "special offer of help" can imply that the employee suspects them of being potential shoplifters.

Some customers may feel offended if they are approached by a store employee wearing a vest that bears the Shopwatch logo.

It would be embarrassing for a customer to be in this kind of situation where all eyes are on him.

Any misstep in executing this Shopwatch initiative could result in loss of customer loyalty and sales rather than better service.

Retailers should, thus, study this initiative in perspective before implementing it.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Targeting shop theft suspects a delicate issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe