Humiliated shoppers are sharing their experiences of being falsely accused of shoplifting after an Auckland teenager was told she looked dodgy and accused of theft at a popular clothing chain.
Christina Victor, 19, spoke to the Herald yesterday after she was pointed at, laughed at and told she "looked dodgy" while being wrongly accused of shoplifting a pair of shoes from Glassons clothing store in Westfield Mall, Henderson.
Glassons chief operating officer Stuart Duncan said he was "satisfied staff followed the correct procedure" and that the matter was being investigated.
Her story has prompted others to come forward describing what it is like to be wrongly accused of taking store goods without paying.
Auckland graphic designer, Megan Daggar, said she had been shopping at a popular gardening store when she was asked by an employee at the counter to show him the contents of her purse.
"After he had put the purchase through, which was just over $60, I had my handbag sitting on top of the trolley, open, while having my purse out paying him, he said to me 'I need to check your handbag Ma'a'. I said 'excuse me?' I actually could not believe what he had just said."
Ms Daggar, who has olive brown skin, dark hair and brown eyes, said the staff member then told her it was company policy to check bags.
I actually feel nervous and anxious walking into any store these days, on the rare occasion I do.
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"The person he had just served before me did not have a handbag check. I threw my bag on the counter, which he refused to touch. He told me I had to go through my bag for him."
Afterwards Ms Daggar was told she was free to leave the store.
"I have only been back to [the store] once - to the New Lynn store to buy a cheap park bench seat - but otherwise I avoid them. I feel sick when I see their catalogues in the post."
The 43-year-old said it was not the first time she had been singled out by retail staff and accused of shoplifting.
"To be honest, I actually feel nervous and anxious walking into any store these days, on the rare occasion I do.
I even go to great lengths to remove anything from my bag that could be suspected as having been stolen and sometimes just leave my bag altogether and just juggle my purse and my keys in my hand.
"It's awful. My sister is the complete opposite to me - she is blond and blue eyed. She has lived a very charmed life and never been treated like this."
Herald reader Sujata Patel said she was often not greeted by staff while others entering the same stores would be.
"On principle I always walk out. I feel that they personally judge you and treat you accordingly. On the odd occasion, a staff member has been busy and apologised. I have worked retail and know that everyone deserves a welcome and offer of assistance."
Ms Victors's story has been shared by hundreds on social media prompting others to share their experiences of Facebook.
One woman, Te Aniwa Tarei, wrote; "My sister and i had a similar experience a few years ago in Sylvia Park, Auckland (though i was not accused of anything). Two workers followed my sister and me around the shop for about 15 minutes (there were two others in the shop at the time) staring at us and blatantly closing in on us if we got 'too close' to the exit. I bought a blazer but i will never forget being stared down like that," she wrote.
Jenn Preston wrote; "[A clothing store] on Lambton Quay once accused me of stealing a pair of socks, they chased me right down the street and made me go back to the store and show them where the socks were that I had in my hand (and decided not to buy). So disgusting."
Many others shared messages of support for Ms Victor praising her for speaking out.
Mistaken for a shoplifter
A woman was offered a part-time part-time job and money by a clothing store after it wrongly shamed her online for shoplifting.
The shop posted security-camera photos of the girl and two youths on its Facebook "Wall of Shame" under the text, "These people forgot to pay for their items."
2016 - Tattoo artist, Trinity Ropiha, received an apology from Owhata Surgery after it denied a doctor's appointment for his son because they wrongly believed he had stolen goods from their surgery.
Mr Ropiha said he had tried to book a doctors appointment for his son when he was told the company had security footage of him stealing a doctor's wallet and phone on his last visit. His son's appointment was also denied. He was later ruled out as a suspect by police after they viewed the security footage.
2014 - Countdown Dinsdale wrongly accused a pregnant woman of shoplifting over an in-store intercom.
Hamilton woman, Rikki Cooper, was doing her weekly shopping in July 2014 when she and other shoppers heard a female staff member describe her as a "Maori girl" who needed to be watched. The store later denied the incident had taken place.
2014 - A mother of four was wrongly accused of shoplifting at the Warehouse on John Goulter Drive, Auckland after she went into the store to buy some underwear. Upon exiting the store with her purchases, Irie Te Wehi-Takerei said police were waiting for her.
They told she'd put the underwear in her bag, she said.
2014 - Tana Puru received an apology from a Hamilton Countdown after it mistook her for a shoplifter. Ms Puru was shopping with her 13-year-old son when staff pointed at her and told her to leave. They later offered the duo chocolates by way of apology.