Recently, the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) condemned shop owners who force customers to surrender handbags/baggage on entry into their shops. Cama described the trend as “unethical, abusive and demeaning”. I cannot agree more.
If I were asked to give a list of my pet hates or pet peeves, then surely “security checks” in most of our local shops would top the list.
While I appreciate that shops need to put security measures to corner shoplifters, I find it most annoying and degrading to see customers, especially ladies, being asked to deposit their handbags or any baggage in some boxes at entry points to some shops. In fact, some shops even do not allow you in with your umbrella despite the fact that they do not stock the same.
And, as if the depositing of baggage at the entrance is not enough, I have noted an increasing trend in the number of shops that demand receipts from customers when exiting. In many of such shops, the security guards physically check purchased items against what is printed on the till receipts.
What beats me, however, is that some of the shops that subject customers to such treatment are multinational and have invested in closed circuit television (CCTV) monitoring cameras all over the shops which should help easily identify shoplifters or detect dubious dealings at the till, if any. Ironically, some of the multinational shops do not subject customers to such checks in similar shops back in their country of origin.
As Cama put it, it is “unethical, abusive and demeaning” to subject customers to some of these checks. Please, shop owners, you can do better by investing in CCTV cameras within your shops than treating every customer as a theft suspect. In law, they say one is presumed innocent until proven guilty; so, why should shop owners treat all customers as guilty until proven innocent by the security guards at the exit gates?
In the same vein, I would like to commend one multinational supermarket for sparing its customers such degrading treatment on exit. This shop seems to have confidence in its security system i.e. CCTV cameras and price tag detectors that customers freely walk out upon paying for their purchases. In fact, I have heard stories of some â€˜shopliftersâ€™ being cornered by the detectors at the exit points as they tried to leave without paying for â€˜smallâ€™ items such as chocolate bars or perfumes in that red-branded shop. Well done, customers deserve dignity.
To those shop owners that demand deposit of bags at the reception, what guarantees or warranties exist to replace lost bags or contents? What if a customer claims his/her cash has gone missing? Do you physically check the contents to verify other than merely giving the customers discs with numbers matching the box containing their items?
I feel consumers and shop owners are living dangerously here. One day, someone will pay heavily. This is where us, consumers, through Cama, should lobby for an end to this demeaning practice of demanding people, mostly ladies, to surrender their handbags at entry points.
Elsewhere, I have seen shop security staff sealing shopping bags from other shops on entry but, at the end of the day, customers are allowed to move around the shops with their personal belongings, including shopping bags.
Customers deserve better treatment. Remember, customers are kings and queens. Businesses are nothing without customers.