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Innocent Shoppers - How Do You Feel About Being Watched/followed In Stores (i.e. Treated Like A Potential Shoplifter)?


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Poll: Innocent shoppers - how do you feel about being watched/followed in stores (i.e. treated like a potential thief)? (97 member(s) have cast votes)

If you're an innocent shopper, which of the following best describes your feelings about being watched/"profiled"/followed in stores - even in the most "subtle" ways - by employees who view you as a (potential) shoplifter?

  1. Voted Not good at all: I feel insulted, angry, offended, hurt, (more) nervous - or any combination of these feelings (62 votes [63.92%])

    Percentage of vote: 63.92%

  2. Indifferent: being watched/followed in stores & being regarded as a (potential) shoplifter is no big deal to me (16 votes [16.49%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.49%

  3. I may feel a little uneasy, but in the end, I support what store employees do and the methods they use to deter shoplifters (19 votes [19.59%])

    Percentage of vote: 19.59%

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#1 crossroids

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 05:53 PM

Hi - I felt the need to create this poll because I have a serious problem with being "targeted" in stores by employees who think I'm some (potential) shoplifter (I'm nothing of the sort) - and I want to see how many of you (and to what extent) share my experiences and feelings surrounding this issue. I don't know if it's because I always seem "suspicious" in some way, or if I'm just exquisitely sensitive to all of the various "subtle" methods that store employees and "Loss Prevention" employees use to keep their eye on (or deter) "suspicious" people - but it seems like virtually every time I go into a store, I notice at least one "instance" of being "targeted" in some way as a (potential) shoplifter. As someone who has never stolen in her life (except for the time when I was three years old, and didn't know any better) - I find these tactics especially insulting, maddening, degrading, etc.. I often leave stores indignant and angry - shopping is not a pleasant experience for me these days.

It's gotten to the point that - as much as I want to - I've generally stopped complaining to store managers, employees, writing letters, etc. - because I've done these things in the past - and, in the long run, nothing changed. Besides - I feel as though "retail culture" as gotten to the point where if you complain, you're suspected even more, and things get worse for you instead of better. The alleged mentality among employees and "LP" is that customers who raise the most stink about being "profiled" are the guilty ones - the frustrated shoplifters who are just "sour grapes" that employees are on to them. (To their way of thinking, innocent shoppers wouldn't even notice what they're doing - and if they do, they wouldn't care.) As far as I'm concerned, nothing could be further from the truth: contrary to what they try to think, I believe that there are innocent shoppers who find being "targeted" as a (potential) shoplifter highly insulting.

So - as much as I want to "lash out" sometimes in frustration...I just try to ignore what they're doing and "pretend" not to notice. It's often a degrading feeling to just let them "watch" me without protesting - but it's gotten to the point where I feel damned if I do, and damned if I don't.

I have a gazillion "examples" of being "targeted" - but I'll only list some. I wonder how many of you notice these things as well? I've become highly sensitive when it comes to this stuff so I may notice things that go undetected by many other people....I feel like with each negative experience, I become more and more "expert" at sniffing out LP and the various subtle (and not-so-subtle) tactics used against me:

Example 1 (this may be a combination of several experiences - as this type of thing seems to happen to me all the time): I'm shopping in a peaceful, relatively empty part of the store. Before long, an employee (or two, or three, or more) appear out of nowhere and busy themselves "restocking", or "straigtening shelves" in my vincinity. Suddenly, what was a peaceful area becomes noisy as employees feel the need to chatter, whistle, sing...make any kind of noise to make me less comfortable and to "subtly" alert me to their presence (and to their watchful eyes). Sometimes, I will (concealing my anger) go into another section of the store - then, later on (only a short time later) - return to the previous section that was teeming with noisy employees. Guess what? Often, the employees have disappeared - the section is (relatively) empty and peaceful again. Coincidence? I think not.

Example 2: it's close to closing time for a grocery store (only about 5 to 10 minutes until closing). I really want to rush in there and get a few items before it closes. As I walk briskly through the entrance, I somehow meet the watchful eyes of a cashier stationed near the entrance (ever notice that employees like to make a lot of eye contact with you?). I quickly get the items I came for, and head straight for the checkout area. The line of the employee with whom I had locked eyes only minutes earlier happens to be the shortest, most inviting line. So I get in her line. She is checking out a couple who have purchased many more items than I have in my hand - I'm the next person in line. There is no "bagboy" present to bag these couple's many items - the couple's items appear to have been bagged by the checkout employee herself. There seems to be a "problem" with the check that one of the members of the couple wrote - the employee keeps handing back the check to the person to "clear up", or "correct" something that is on the check. This happens an unusual number of times - the check gets passed back and forth about 3 times (or even more) - which increases my waiting time. As the check issue is finally getting straightened out once and for all - a young "bagboy" whizzes past me in the checkout line and positions himself at the end of the bagging area (so he can bag my 2 or 3 items). (This bagboy is running past me - as though he had run from the back of the store somewhere.) Being ever vigilant and suspicious - I begin to suspect that this "bagboy" was called during the time in which the checkout employee was "stalling" with that couple's "problematic" check. Why call a bagboy to bag my 2 or 3 smallish items, when a bagboy wasn't used to bag the couple's gaggle of items? So the employee finally starts ringing up my items - and as I'm paying with my card I notice the "bagboy" out of the corner of my eye eyeing me up and down, scrutinizing me and my behavior. At the end of the brief transaction, the bagboy is "friendly", and "attentive" as he hands me my bag - maybe a little too "friendly".

Example 3: I'm shopping/browsing in an area (this kind-of thing mainly happens in Target, but it happens in other stores as well) - and suddenly, an employee appears in the area with the volume of his/her walkie-talkie turned up so disturbingly loud that I can hear. Or an employee is already in an area, and when I get near the employee, I suddenly hear loud staticy voices on the employee's walkie talkie. This is yet another "subtle tactic" they use to deter (potential) shoplifters - anytime you're shopping and you suddenly hear someone's walkie-talkie, they may be blasting their walkie-talkies for your "benefit" - to "scare" or "deter" you.

Example 4 (plain-clothed LP): I was shopping in a grocery store near closing time. I was in the frozen-foods aisle alone, when another "customer" enters the aisle. Being ever sensitive and suspicious (although I mostly try to pretend like I'm oblivious), I pick up on the fact that this "customer" (who is talking on a cell phone) has "odd" movement patterns where he seems to be hovering around me. At one point, he positions himself directly behind me while "talking" on the cell phone. I sniff out that this young man is probably LP. A few minutes later, I head to the checkout line - and guess who gets in line right behind me? The same young man whom I "noticed" slyly checking me out in the frozen-foods aisle. I still act oblivious, but out of my peripheral vision I can see that this young "customer" is mightly observant of me (especially when I accidentally drop something from my wallet and lean down to pick it up). I guess I acted so "dumb" and oblivious that, in the end, it caused the checkout employee and the "undercover" LP "customer" standing behind me to get sloppy. Because when I have all my bags in my shopping cart and am pulling away from the area, I notice that the checkout boy doesn't turn to the waiting "customer" and begin ringing up his items (the undercover LP guy had a few items in order to appear like a "legitimate" customer). The checkout boy just stands there idly, and the "customer"/LP guy just stands there idly, too. The plain-clothed LP guy and the checkout boy didn't even bother to carry out the charade of "ringing up" his items - because they thought I wasn't aware of what was going on. Busted!


I have many, many more "subtle" example - but because this post has gotten rather long, I may save those for a later time. I just want to make you aware of the kinds of surveillance tactics that go on - which can be so subtle that they may be undetectable to someone who doesn't know what to look for. Or, maybe you are already aware of these things - because you've experienced them yourself.

No matter how "rude or how "subtle" the gesture is - the message, to me, is the same: "You're suspicious, you're untrustworthy - and I feel the need to keep my eye on you and/or 'scare' you into honesty." As an honest customer who doesn't need to be "scared" into honesty - who is as innocent as any shopper - this is an insulting message to receive. As paying customers, is this kind of thing acceptable? Should I be o.k. with being treated like a suspect?

Am I the only one whom this happens to on a chronic, constant basis? What are your experiences? How do I cope with this injustice w/o "snapping"?

#2 Deepster

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 08:18 PM

I simply cannot relate. I have never experienced this in any store from Wmart to Saks. Actually, even the very thought has never even crossed my mind.

Perhaps I should be more observant?

Regards,
Deepster
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#3 crossroids

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 08:28 PM

I simply cannot relate. I have never experienced this in any store from Wmart to Saks. Actually, even the very thought has never even crossed my mind.

Perhaps I should be more observant?

Regards,
Deepster


This is the answer that I was afraid that people would give. It already hurts enough for this to happen to me so often - then it only exacerbates the pain that other people don't experience this unpleasantry at all.

Often, I feel singled-out - like they're treating me like the most suspicious person in the store (or one of the most suspicious persons). I had hoped that this was just overly-negative thinking - that others are being targeted too and it's not just me they're targeting....but I guess this is (mostly) not the case.

I'm at my wits end about this - I take this very personally. It's sad how such a "trivial" thing eats away at me.

How can I be so innocent - yet get constantly treated like I'm so guilty? Life sucks....I cannot even cope with this.

I guess the fact that people haven't even voted in the poll just shows how little this is a factor in their lives.

This is really affecting my already-fragile mental health.

#4 Deepster

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 10:04 PM

I simply cannot relate. I have never experienced this in any store from Wmart to Saks. Actually, even the very thought has never even crossed my mind.

Perhaps I should be more observant?

Regards,
Deepster


This is the answer that I was afraid that people would give. It already hurts enough for this to happen to me so often - then it only exacerbates the pain that other people don't experience this unpleasantry at all.

Often, I feel singled-out - like they're treating me like the most suspicious person in the store (or one of the most suspicious persons). I had hoped that this was just overly-negative thinking - that others are being targeted too and it's not just me they're targeting....but I guess this is (mostly) not the case.

I'm at my wits end about this - I take this very personally. It's sad how such a "trivial" thing eats away at me.

How can I be so innocent - yet get constantly treated like I'm so guilty? Life sucks....I cannot even cope with this.

I guess the fact that people haven't even voted in the poll just shows how little this is a factor in their lives.

This is really affecting my already-fragile mental health.


Crossroids-

I suspected from the time I responded to your poll that this was the response I'd get. Hate to have to say it, but I was "fishing" for a response.

Please understand that I was only acting on instinct, but not innocence. I found the poll somewhat problematic because it was all about "me", "my perspectives", "my reality", and "my experience".

I don't really feel that this issue should be at this time addressed in a public forum, as I have some things I can say that might be helpful, but at the same time personal.

Please feel free to PM me if you feel my support would be helpful. I do not share your PMs with ANYONE!

Best wishes,
Deepster
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#5 RexM

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 10:10 PM

I worked in retail for about a year, for Walmart.

You're simply being overly paranoid. Employees don't care about shoplifters to the extent you seem to think they do. They are making minimum wage and are just trying to pass the days along.


Nobody in retail goes above and beyond the call of duty to deter people they think are shoplifting, because they couldn't care less. The management treats them bad enough as it is, likely doesn't allow them overtime, and sometimes they even make it so they can only work 39 hours per week so they cannot get any sort of benefits.

Edited by RexM, 09 October 2009 - 10:14 PM.

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#6 Michelle W

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 09:42 AM

I'm a teenager, why wouldn't they keep an eye on me? Of course, I don't shoplift, but I totally understand why they would watch what I'm doing.

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 11:45 AM

Crossroids, I did not respond to the poll because none of the choices quite fits. I've been "stalked" (an employee hot on my heals) in stores where I believe the employees thought that I didn't belong (more expensive type boutiques). Needless to say they lost my business. Obviously, leaving isn't a good alternative for much shopping experiences -- such as those in your post.
When I feel that I'm being watched, my anxiety level is heightened. This can make any shopping experience less than comfortable.
I have to say that reading your post, I related to it more from my experiences in neighborhood rather than shopping. Perhaps it's a difference of what triggers high levels of anxiety. In my case, I have the same reactions and feelings about people around my housing area. When I notice people walking passed, 9 times out of 10, they are looking toward me, same with walking to the garage (neighbors watch me), or am driving out or in my entrance.
Iowa

#8 Tinkerbelle

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 12:25 PM

I have to say i do get anxious when i feel am being watched,I don't like it when people stare at me it really makes me paranoid,I remember one time ii was shopping in George and a security guard was really following me,I was only browsing at clothes so i just walked out the shop and went home.
I think alot of these stores should just have store detectives,that way it makes us feel more at ease.
Loving this forum

#9 crossroids

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 04:09 PM

I worked in retail for about a year, for Walmart.

You're simply being overly paranoid. Employees don't care about shoplifters to the extent you seem to think they do. They are making minimum wage and are just trying to pass the days along.


Nobody in retail goes above and beyond the call of duty to deter people they think are shoplifting, because they couldn't care less. The management treats them bad enough as it is, likely doesn't allow them overtime, and sometimes they even make it so they can only work 39 hours per week so they cannot get any sort of benefits.



I respect your perspective - but my own experience indicates to me that you may be overgeneralizing about retail employees and the kinds of things they're willing to do to deter shoplifting. Then again, I've gotten to the point where I notice and react to things that are very subtle - so in some ways, we may be in somewhat of an agreement about employee behavior. You say that employees don't "go above and beyond the call of duty to deter people they think are shoplifting". Well, to you that may mean that they don't get blatant with it, or overextend themselves. But it could still mean that they do "little things" (i.e. giving pointed eye-contact, suddenly swarming into an aisle to "straigten up inventory" near a "suspicious" customer, etc.) - things that they may assume that customers don't notice or "connect the dots" with.

The Walmart you worked for may have had employees who didn't bother with detering shoplifters - but that doesn't necessarily mean that every Walmart is the same, or that all employees don't care or aren't willing to do whatever it is they are instructed to do to deal with (potential) shoplifters. I've heard of cases where employees get into trouble if (a certain amount of) shoplifting happens on their shift, or they don't receive the "bonuses" they were hoping for if shoplifting happens. So there are employees who have significant incentive/motivation to deter shoplifting.

I remember , for a long time, Walmart would be sort-of a "sanctuary" to me; it would be pretty much the only place where I could shop without feeling "watched", or "sized-up" as a (potential) shoplifter. But within the past 2 years or so, things there have changed in a big way. Now, Walmart (at least the one I shop at the majority of the time) has some of the crudest, most blatant LPs and "security" around. For example, I've had issues with this uniformed door-guard at the Walmart I regularly shop at. He seems to put in some serious hours there: because I can go there on a Tuesday or a Saturday, 7:00 in the morning or around 7:00 in the evening - and I've seen him working there. Part of his job seems to be to "familiarize" himself with the customers - at least the ones whom he deems "suspicioius" - because before long, he seemed to make it a point to let me know that he recognizes me. There have been times when I've felt like he went more out of his way to "greet" me than he does other customers: other customers have walked in just ahead of me and he didn't seem to pay them any mind, but as soon as he's seen me, he's "laser-locked" onto me and made it a point to "greet me". One time, when I went in there during a busy time of day - he did the strangest, most offensive thing. Again, there were customers who walked in just ahead of me and he didn't respond to them in any way. But as soon as I am level with his "station" - he pushes this "bell"-like device that reverberates throughout the store. It's as though he were alerting colleagues, "High-risk customer entering the store!". As I was shopping, I heard the same "bell" a few more times - but I'm sure he wasn't sounding that bell each time a customer passed him on his/her way into the store (otherwise, I would have heard that bell much more frequently!).

I could go on about some "experiences" I've had in Walmart. Like I said, there have been times when the LP guys there didn't even bother to be discreet in their behavior...

Like I said, it baffles me that I often become a "target" of this type of employee activity - since I'm as innocent as any customer.

As Iowa indicated - it's hard to "boycott" stores like Walmart....so I feel forced to participate in my own degradation by continuing to patronize these stores. What's worse - I've continued to shop at this same Walmart over and over again - despite the things I've noticed there. Oh, I've spoken in person to a shift manager of this particular store, I've sent an email of complaint to the Walmart website (which resulted in another shift manager of this Walmart to call me personally to discuss the matter)....I've even "had words" with the uniformed door guard who's given me so much grief. But in the end, nothing's really changed. At this point, shopping at another chain is not the solution - because it happens everywhere. I think these stores know that it's happening pretty much everywhere - and use this to their advantage. Apparently, their "bottom line" is much more important to them than their customers' feelings or dignity.

Since I continue to go to this Walmart time after time - you'd think that they would have reached a point where they realize that I don't steal, and that they're wasting their time "harrassing" me. Then again - these people may egotistically think that the only reason I don't steal is because of their "tactics" - that they are "scaring" me into honesty. It's frustrating and insulting for them to not realize the kind of person I am, and assume that I need to be "dealt with" to prevent me from stealing.

#10 xf89

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 04:33 PM

My husband works in retail and it's their job to go up to a customer whom is seemingly taking a long time to look at something and ask, "Can I help you?" It's one way to ensure good customer service, but it also is one way of trying to deter a potential shoplifter. Even when my husband and I go into the store he works at, they do the same thing to us. And he works there, knowing where most everything is! LOL! He gets annoyed, but I just let it go.

#11 crossroids

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 02:59 AM

I'm a teenager, why wouldn't they keep an eye on me? Of course, I don't shoplift, but I totally understand why they would watch what I'm doing.


Teenager or not - I wouldn't, and don't, feel o.k. with employees watching people just because they fit a particular "profile". For ex., I think it's quite unfair for the innocent teenagers out there to be targeted just because you fit a particular age-group - it's prejudice-in-action.

Sometimes - it's unfair to make assumptions about a shopper based on bodylanguage. These employees never know why a shopper may have a certain facial expression, or is carrying himself/herself a certain way. It may be because of something that shopper cannot help - such as an anxiety/panic disorder, severe depression, Tourette's Syndrome, schizophrenia, etc.. Contrary to what these employees/LPs seem to realize - such shoppers do exist, and their condition has nothing to do with any intent to steal. It only makes what is already a difficult existence tougher and more angst-ridden for people who suffer from such unfortunate disorders. And it can exacerbate the symptoms of these disorders to realize you are being scrutinized - or scrutinized more heavily because you "betray" some symptom(s) of your disorder.

Heck - even mentally-healthy shoppers can have a very difficult time whenever they notice being watched or "sized-up" in stores as (potential) shoplifters....imagine what it can do to people who aren't quite as blessed in the mental-health department.

But getting back to what you were saying...although it may be unfair to you for you to be scrutinized more just because you are a certain age - that's good that you don't let it bother you that much. Anytime you don't let a negative situation get the better of you - that's a good thing.

Ironically, when I was a teenager back in the mid-to-late '80s & early-'90s - I never noticed being watched in stores like I do now. These were the days when I could, say, stand for a very long time at a magazine rack reading magazines - or take as long as I wanted/needed to browse - and never feel like I was coming under suspicion for doing so! Either I was blissfully ignorant, or they just weren't scrutinizing customers (nearly) as much back then. I think it's more of the latter than the former....I really do.

#12 crossroids

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 04:19 AM

Crossroids, I did not respond to the poll because none of the choices quite fits. I've been "stalked" (an employee hot on my heals) in stores where I believe the employees thought that I didn't belong (more expensive type boutiques). Needless to say they lost my business. Obviously, leaving isn't a good alternative for much shopping experiences -- such as those in your post.


I get what you're saying, and, IMHO - you're right. It's much easier to avoid going back to an expensive boutique, or to "boycott" some restaurant where you feel you received rude/subpar service - than to stop shopping at the "chain" grocery stores, "superstores", "drugstores", or the common "department stores" - especially when all of the major (or minor) chains seem to have extensive "theft control" practices. It's not a good feeling to feel basically forced to put up with these insulting practices.

One thing though: amazon makes it very easy to avoid buying from stores like Borders, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy - and can even limit the things you have to buy from places like Sears. Long-live amazon....and I hope I can continue to "stick it" to the major bookstore chains and the entertainment/electronics chains (yes, I've been "watched" or "scrutinized" in these places).

An additional way I "get back" at these bookstores is that, sometimes, I go into these places only to browse. Heck, I may read nearly an entire book in these bookstores (while employees are busy nearby keeping an eye on me or otherwise doing their best to make me aware of their presence) - and then just leave these places without making a purchase. Then I sometimes go home and order these same books on amazon LOL

When I feel that I'm being watched, my anxiety level is heightened. This can make any shopping experience less than comfortable.


This is exactly what happens to me. I've suffered from severe social anxiety disorder nearly all of my life (which I feel has only gotten worse over the years). In more recent years, I've also developed a problem with generalized anxiety disorder (as well as severe depression). But my crippling social anxiety disorder pretty much never used to be a factor as I shopped - because I never felt like employees were following me, watching me, or otherwise scrutinizing me as a (potential) shoplifter. In fact, in my younger years, I used to do a lot more shopping than I do now: shopping was an "escape", a "stress release" - something I could do by myself & without interacting socially with people. And I was pretty good at it! LOL

If I could just be "left alone" these days, like I used to be - I would be (much) more relaxed in stores. And my desire to not be scrutinized has nothing to do with any intent to steal - it has to do with avoiding things that exacerbate my painful anxiety issues. Because as someone who suffers from severe social anxiety....any time I feel watched, scrutinized, etc. - whether inside of a store or in some completely different setting - it makes my anxiety/nervousness worse. I try to hide it as much as possible, and I don't think it's that visible to the casual observer (i.e. fellow innocent shoppers - the real shoppers, not LP disguised as shoppers)....but for someone who is working hard to look for any signs of suspiciousness....they may sometimes pick up on the slightest thing that betrays my anxiety/depression, and grossly misinterpret my "weird" vibes as a sign that I'm up to no good.

Imagine having severe social anxiety - and three or more employees swarm the area that you're shopping in, just to keep their eye on you while trying to look "busy". (This has actually happened - several times.) Having one pair of eyes - let alone three pairs of eyes - basically focused on my every movement is excruciatingly unpleasant.

I could say more about this unfortunate, unfair dynamic - the ways in which I feel that I've been grossly misread and stereotyped in stores - and the toll all of this taken on me. But I'll stop here. I've lost my train-of-thought, anyway.

I have to say that reading your post, I related to it more from my experiences in neighborhood rather than shopping. Perhaps it's a difference of what triggers high levels of anxiety. In my case, I have the same reactions and feelings about people around my housing area. When I notice people walking passed, 9 times out of 10, they are looking toward me, same with walking to the garage (neighbors watch me), or am driving out or in my entrance.
Iowa


I understand what you're going through completely. It's quite unpleasant to be stared at or gazed at not only in stores, but in pretty much any situation - particularly when you have a "hunch" that the reasons people are looking at you are "negative" - such as their judgmental attitudes about perceived "weirdness", or them noticing how anxious or "quiet" you are.

#13 crossroids

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 10:05 AM

I have to say i do get anxious when i feel am being watched,I don't like it when people stare at me it really makes me paranoid,I remember one time ii was shopping in George and a security guard was really following me,I was only browsing at clothes so i just walked out the shop and went home.
I think alot of these stores should just have store detectives,that way it makes us feel more at ease.


This is the thing - these LPs and employees disregard the fact that being watched gives innocent shoppers an uneasy and anxious feeling (not to mention an indignant and angry feeling). Many of them like to pretend that only the "guilty" shoppers get nervous or upset....they live in a fantasy-world in which they "believe" that innocent shoppers either don't notice, or don't care. I think, deep down, at least some of them must know that they are offending innocent shoppers - but, in a self-serving way, they operate in denial. People in the retail/LP industry realize that it is easier to do their jobs (or get people to do their jobs) if they just pretend that what they do doesn't negatively affect innocent shoppers.

As far as having store-detectives vs. more "blatant" security guards - well, it only "works" when store-detectives are so good, professional, and discrete that even the more sensitive customers aren't aware of their presence. Otherwise, they - in their own way - are just as offensive as the security-guards who follow you or scowl at you. The reason for this is, if you notice store-detectives, they are more "subtly" sending the exact same message as the security guards: "We consider you a (potential) criminal...you look like you are more likely to steal so we are following you." Plus, you realize that they are watching you - which, even if they try to be more discreet about it, can still make you quite uncomfortable.

As I said in my first post, there are some "store detectives" who are just as rude and blatant as a rude uniformed guy - for ex., some plain-clothed "store detectives" at the Walmart I shop at will just stand stationary in the main aisle and stare people down. (Since when does a real customer wear an earpice and just stand still in the middle of a main aisle and look at people?) And I've "sniffed out" some of the ones who try to be more discreet.

#14 crossroids

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 10:51 AM

My husband works in retail and it's their job to go up to a customer whom is seemingly taking a long time to look at something and ask, "Can I help you?" It's one way to ensure good customer service, but it also is one way of trying to deter a potential shoplifter. Even when my husband and I go into the store he works at, they do the same thing to us. And he works there, knowing where most everything is! LOL! He gets annoyed, but I just let it go.


Yes, this "tactic" has been used on me, as well. These days, I consider the question "May I help you?" to be an insult, unless I'm somehow convinced that the employee is asking me this only for the genuine purpose of actually helping me - and doesn't have an ulterior motive of deterring whom they view as a (potential) shoplifter.

I don't like being the recipient of fake customer service that is actually designed as a thief-deterrant tactic.

One time, I was on my way out of a used bookstore when the employee felt the need to ask me, "May I help you?" This is when I knew he was only asking me this because he somehow found me suspicious - the timing of his question was stupid. He didn't ask me this when I was actually browsing the aisles - looking for a book...he asked me this when I was purposefully walking toward the exit. I should have said, "Yes, you can perhaps help me dig my keys out of my purse and walk me to my car - because at this point, I'm headed to my car in the parking lot." I should have made a total mockery out of his question.

Another time, I got the sense that this employee was only asking me if he could "help me" just to gauge my reaction and assess whether I was a "legitimate customer". Well, I must have failed his test - because he got this funny look in his face and remained in the aisle "straightening up shelves". (There is this simplistic view among those in the retail industry that innocent shoppers welcome "customer service", while would-be shoplifters don't like the attention and refuse it. That's b.s. - it doesn't account for the shy people and the introverts who simply like being left alone to shop in peace - unless they have a specific question or are having a lot of trouble locating something.)

A short time later, I decided that I really needed some assistance from this guy. I was standing there for awhile, waiting to ask him for assistance - and he ignored me as he appeared "preoccupied" with another task. When he was finally finished, I said, "Oh - when I really need help, that help is slow to come." - referring to his seeming obliviousness to my presence. Then I proceeded to get into a discussion with him about some products and ask him some questions - and he became increasingly annoyed and impatient as the interaction went on. This further confirmed to me that this employee, at least, wasn't really interested in helping me.

#15 gentle sun

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 04:55 AM

Yeah, I hate that. I get overwhelmed in stores and have an "add" type thing with a little obsessiveness so it takes me a long time looking at everything. I think this one little store near me is getting to know that Im just slow and they dont bother me. Im better in little stores.

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#16 crossroids

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 02:22 PM

Yeah, I hate that. I get overwhelmed in stores and have an "add" type thing with a little obsessiveness so it takes me a long time looking at everything. I think this one little store near me is getting to know that Im just slow and they dont bother me. Im better in little stores.

GS


Yeah - I think a lot of customers may have their little "idiosyncracies" - their own personal way in which they look at the merchandise and decide what to buy - but to employees, "personal characteristics" get misinterpreted as "intent to steal".

That's good that the employees at the little store you shop at are aware enough to recognize that you have a particular shopping style and respect that. Repeatedly, I have found myself wishing that the stores I regularly shop at will finally realize that I'm an innocent shopper - but time after time I go into these stores, and the same crap happens. You would think that as much as they seem to watch me, that they would finally realize that they're wasting their time....but they never seem to catch on. Perhaps it's because (as I said before) they errantly think that it is only because of their efforts that I don't steal. Or maybe they don't have their eye on me 100% of the time - and are never sure when/if I "swipe" something.

Because of my social anxiety disorder, I've "hated" little stores for a long time. Small, "mom & pop" shops are just too "personal" for me - those are the stores where the employees are more likely to engage you in conversation, or pay more attention to you. I've pretty much always been uncomfortable with this - trying to have a conversation with people is often excruciating for me. It's pretty much to the point where if I'm walking in a mall, and see a nice little store that seems to have interesting merchandise - I will just bypass that store, even though a part of me really wants to go into the store. I am most comfortable entering the large department stores - and stores like Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc. I feel more "anonymous" in larger stores - which is much more comfortable to me (forgetting these stores' "LP people" for a moment).

#17 POPI

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 02:44 PM

I have been around for a long time and I really have never felt any of this in stores. Of course, my feeling is that I am out and about my own business and I really could care less if someone should feel threatened by the way I move or look at merchandise. Can't say I've ever felt this. Peace
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#18 Deepster

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 07:00 PM

I have been around for a long time and I really have never felt any of this in stores. Of course, my feeling is that I am out and about my own business and I really could care less if someone should feel threatened by the way I move or look at merchandise. Can't say I've ever felt this. Peace
POPI


POPPI-

As I stated earlier, I have never experienced anything like what has been stated here! Dang, I feel neglected. Am I living in a "real" world? I guess that I have never, even once, entered a store of anytype and "suspected" someone was watching me. This is almost funny, 'cus the next time I go into WMart, I'll prolly hallucinate security personel attached by meathooks at the end of every aisle and rack. Brrrrr!

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#19 AngelOfTheMoor

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:03 PM

I've never been followed by a store employee before . . . I don't know if it really happens that often. Over the past week, I've been trying to find out whether I've been tracked while at the store, but nothing indicated that I was. I've had the walky-talky thing happen to me before, though. I didn't think anything of it at the time.

When I was a freshman in college, I went to the gym once with my friends. I was wearing jeans, and I was told that I wasn't allowed to get on the equipment while wearing jeans when I tried out a device. We went to another part of the gym, and my friends urged me to try out another machine. I didn't want to because it was against the rules, but the convinced me. And when I did try out the machine, the same employee who'd castigated me for wearing jeans earlier walked through the area and stared pointedly at me. That was an uncomfortable moment.

Another time, I was at Wal-Mart, and I couldn't find a certain item. I asked an employee randomly standing in an aisle where I could find it, and she replied that she didn't work there. She claimed that she worked at another grocery store and that she'd been sent there to help with remodeling and restocking the shelves. After a moment, I realized that she was wearing the apron of the store she claimed to work for. Suspicious or not? I wouldn't have thought so, but this thread has made me a little paranoid.

#20 gentle sun

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 07:10 AM

heehee, that makes me laugh!!! "Security personnel attached by meathooks at the end of every aisle" :shocked:


I have been around for a long time and I really have never felt any of this in stores. Of course, my feeling is that I am out and about my own business and I really could care less if someone should feel threatened by the way I move or look at merchandise. Can't say I've ever felt this. Peace
POPI


POPPI-

As I stated earlier, I have never experienced anything like what has been stated here! Dang, I feel neglected. Am I living in a "real" world? I guess that I have never, even once, entered a store of anytype and "suspected" someone was watching me. This is almost funny, 'cus the next time I go into WMart, I'll prolly hallucinate security personel attached by meathooks at the end of every aisle and rack. Brrrrr!

Deepster


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#21 shio

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 10:49 AM

I'd worked for a retail store as a plain clothes security for 6 years when i was in university.
I no longer work in that field but I tell ya - everytime i enter a store that has plain clothes security working... i can spot them a mile away lol.
On a good day it doesn't bother me but when i'm feeling like crap and anxiety is high. I have a tendency to confront them. Normally they don't say a thing and walk away.
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#22 crossroids

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:50 AM

I've never been followed by a store employee before . . . I don't know if it really happens that often. Over the past week, I've been trying to find out whether I've been tracked while at the store, but nothing indicated that I was. I've had the walky-talky thing happen to me before, though. I didn't think anything of it at the time.

When I was a freshman in college, I went to the gym once with my friends. I was wearing jeans, and I was told that I wasn't allowed to get on the equipment while wearing jeans when I tried out a device. We went to another part of the gym, and my friends urged me to try out another machine. I didn't want to because it was against the rules, but the convinced me. And when I did try out the machine, the same employee who'd castigated me for wearing jeans earlier walked through the area and stared pointedly at me. That was an uncomfortable moment.

Another time, I was at Wal-Mart, and I couldn't find a certain item. I asked an employee randomly standing in an aisle where I could find it, and she replied that she didn't work there. She claimed that she worked at another grocery store and that she'd been sent there to help with remodeling and restocking the shelves. After a moment, I realized that she was wearing the apron of the store she claimed to work for. Suspicious or not? I wouldn't have thought so, but this thread has made me a little paranoid.



I'm sorry if this thread makes you or anyone more "paranoid" - I realize that noone needs more paranoia in their lives. But I thought by talking about this issue (and bringing it to light to those unaware of it) - it would be a (small) step toward eradicating (or vastly improving) this offensive employee behavior. The more people who are aware of it and who don't accept this - the more stores will be forced to seriously re-evaluate their procedures. Apparently - I can't do it alone (I've tried enough!). When there is more of a mass outcry by the public that being treated like a (potential) shoplifter is insulting and unacceptable - it would be taken more seriously by businesses.

Plus - this is a burden that I've pretty much felt like I've been carrying alone for several years now - and I thought it might help me a little to find out the extent to which others go through the same thing. This might not be the "ideal" way of dealing with my dilemma - but continuing to bear the burden alone wasn't/isn't doing me any favors, either.

My first thought when I read about the specific Walmart incident that you recalled was that it could be taken at face-value and you need not worry about it. But who knows? Do you live in a smaller town/community? I would be more likely to "buy" that woman's explanation if this happened in a small(ish) town - as opposed to a large metropolitan area.

And I totally feel you on that moment in the gym - that would have been a very distressing moment for me, too (I tend to "ruminate" over such things - things like that could bother me years later).

#23 crossroids

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 12:17 PM

Just thought I'd throw a couple of more examples out there....


Example #?: this one isn't so subtle, and I'm frustrated with myself that I never did anything to "protest" this. It is troubling to think that stores don't have a problem with treating customers like this. I was in a Family Dollar - pretty close to closing-time. The store seemed pretty empty - and I headed straight for the dental hygeine section (I had come in there expressly to buy cheap dental floss). I picked up 4 packs of dental-floss to purchase - then I thought that maybe I could use a new toothbrush. So I start looking over the selection of toothbrushes - trying to decide if I wanted to buy one of them. While I am doing this (and again, it feels as though I may be the only one in the store at the time - or pretty darn close to it) - a pre-recorded voice comes over the store PA-system. The automated, pre-recorded voice says (I'm trying to be as close to verbatim as my memory will allow me), "Good evening, Family Dollar shoppers. Your actions are being monitored {emphasis mine} for your safety and protection." %$^&#??? I knew what that was all about - and for it to be so blatant like that was insulting beyond words. My dignity - not to mention my intelligence - was insulted (I knew that they just added "for your safety and protection" as empty words to "soften" the threatening message).

I took it personally - since I seemed to be about the only shopper in the store at the time. I mean...was someone in the back "spying" on me - and decided to play that message because he/she was viewing me from a bad angle and couldn't see my hands? Did they decide that a "scare tactic" was easier than apprehending me in the event that I actually stole something? :shocked:

Example #?: I was in a store (of a well-known grocery-store chain) - in the "bulk foods" section. That may not be the right name for this section of the store...but I was in the section where there are these large dispensers of products like nuts, cereals, granola, flour - and you get a plastic bag, fill it up with the quantity of product you want....then create your own price-label for the bag by putting your bag on an electronic scale and typing in the numeric code for the specific product. I was weighing my bag of almonds and typing in the numeric code for the almonds (so the right label would get printed) when, out of my peripheral vision, I saw an employee in a nearby aisle watching me (it appeared that she was leaning over to get a good view of me). Although I'm an honest shopper, it has gotten to the point where my mind automatically "scans" for occurrances like this - so I'm always picking up on "little" stuff like this. The implication of this employee watching me at this moment was that they felt that I couldn't be trusted to create the proper label for my bag (I guess they suspected that I would "cheat" by typing in the numeric code for a cheaper item, or something). I don't know if this employee was watching me because she wanted me to feel watched (to scare me into honesty), or what. But as I often do, I tried to pretend as though I didn't notice her - because I often feel like it would only make things worse (i.e. I would appear even more suspicious to them) if I looked their way.

Later on, while I am being rung up by the cashier - the phone that is positioned over the cashier's cash register rings, and the cashier picked it up to answer it. I thought to myself, "Well this is different." See - I frequent this grocery store, and have been targeted - in various ways - as a (potential) thief many times....but I don't think I've ever had a cashier's phone ring while I was being rung up. (I wasn't really aware that each cashier had his/her own phone - how special.) Because of my unfortunate experiences, I automatically figured that the phone's ringing had something to do with me...but I couldn't figure out exactly why they would call my cashier as she was beginning to ring me up. Anyway, the cashier answered the phone - and, it was pretty apparent from the cashier's responses that she was receiving some type of instruction. When she got off the phone, she acted a little funny....like she was a bit self-conscious about something and wanted to do something on the sly (I later figured out what she was self-consious about). For quite awhile, I couldn't figure out the reason for the call....then it finally hit me. Someone called to cashier to tell her to check my bag of almonds (which had already been rung up at that point, I believe) to see if I put in the correct item-code and printed up the proper label. After all - they didn't want me paying "cheap" cereal prices for a bag of "expensive" raw almonds. :wwww:

Now who's paranoid? Me, or the employees/LP who are always wrongly suspecting me of something?

Edited by crossroids, 05 November 2009 - 12:24 PM.


#24 adorabelle

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 02:38 PM

(((((crossroids))))) I'm sorry :wwww:

You did nothing wrong, I think your anxiety is playing a big role here. I have the same problems sometimes. It is common for employees to watch for potential theft risks (not offending you here!). I once worked in retail and managers made us look out for certain people and we had to follow them around and we were even told it was ok to make people uncomfortable to the point where they would leave, it was better than having to make a write off with the theft insurance dept. Big chain stores can afford to be like that. As long as you were just going about your business, I would try and just smile at them next time and go about my business. If you seem bothered, they will continue to follow you. I know it's very uncomfortable, and I usually leave if I feel I'm being watched because they are worried I might take something. The easiest way to get an employee off your back is to ask for assistance, lol... that is always my experience, as soon as I have questions or look like I'm looking for one of the employees - they all magically disappear in thin air, lol. It might be something you can try next time and see if you can continue your shopping in peace :sneaky2:


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#25 zinia

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:15 PM

Crossroids,

Shopping must be a horrible experience for you. I imagen all stores have some way to watch out for shoplifters. I have actually experienced the one in your # 1 example. There may be more, but I don't seem to be as observant as you are, so who knows what I'm missing.

It seems to happen everytime I go to the a store, and more often to a retail store. I come in to an aisle looking for something, and before you know it, there is sombody next to me or around me rearranging stuff in some shelf. It can be very annoying, but sometimes I find it humorous depending in what kind of mood I am that day. When I go in and stand in front of the isle trying to decide what to buy, I watch and wait to see how long it will take for somebody to find something out of place in the shelf next to me. Sometimes I want to tell them that I know what they are doing, and see what they say.

One time around Christmas time, I was out shopping at this "Nature" store. I usually take a long time to make a decision when making a purchace, so I looked and looked, then left without buying anything. While walking in the Mall's corridor there comes this lady running, and frantically calling after me. I stopped and asked what she wanted. She wanted to check the bag I was carrying. She said somebody at the store had seen me stuff something in my bag. I should have called Security, but I was so shocked I couldn't think, so I just gave her my bag to check.

I don't know if anybody is targeting you, I very much doubt it. It is possible that you get so overanxious, and at times, interpret what you see the way you expect things to be. But thn, they may watch you sometimes, not because it's you, but just because you are somebody in the store, and anyone in the store, to them, can be a potential thief. Of course, because of statistics, they may watch certain populations more then watch others. For example, teenagers. I don't know your age, so I don't know if that may be the case with you. In my case, I am a Hispanic middle age person living in the Midwest, so there may be a little racial profiling going on. But that is another subject.

I hope that you are able to relax more when you go to the store, so that shopping can be a more pleasant experience for you.

Hugs!

#26 itsjustastate

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 05:55 PM

If it makes you feel any better crossroids, it happens to me quite frequently.. especially in smaller stores. I always notice that if I'm in a group of people, I'm the one that the employee's keep the closest eye on, I'm not the only one who's noticed it, friends and family have as well and have made comments about it.

It's actually went past them just watching me before, I've actually been accused of stealing (I'll tell about those later). It sucks because it's not like I'm walking around acting suspicious or actually stealing, I'm not doing anything to deserve this kind of behavior, so I know what you're going through!

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#27 astralis

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 01:15 AM

I always get this feeling as well... of course, it may be my mildly crippling social anxiety speaking, but in any case, I too am hyper-aware of the people around me and the sounds of the loudspeakers and so on. I think my nervous behavior may put a red flag on me.

I also know, as an employee of a retail chain, that something we are taught to do to all customers is make eye contact and say hello, and maybe even ask if you need help. This is general courtesy, but also serves to deter shoplifters, as thieves HATE personal attention and eye contact and any sort of attention placed upon them.

Even knowing this and being trained to do this does not relax me when I have to go shopping, or even when I am working. I feel extremely nervous when I am in open spaces so I always find it comforting to stroll through racks and shelves and things that are a little more closely placed. Of course, this is what shoplifters do as well- they go to crowded aisles so they can more easily evade the security cameras and unwrap and pocket the items they are swiping.

#28 ChrystalR

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 08:00 AM

If it makes you feel any better crossroids, it happens to me quite frequently.. especially in smaller stores. I always notice that if I'm in a group of people, I'm the one that the employee's keep the closest eye on, I'm not the only one who's noticed it, friends and family have as well and have made comments about it.

It's actually went past them just watching me before, I've actually been accused of stealing (I'll tell about those later). It sucks because it's not like I'm walking around acting suspicious or actually stealing, I'm not doing anything to deserve this kind of behavior, so I know what you're going through!



Just a thought, forgive me if this has already been mentioned, perhaps we stick out on the thief radar because we look uncomfortable, nervous, stressed, etc. They don`t understand or know about the social anxiety so they take the signs we give out and mistake them for something else?
Knowing that doesn`t help though, but at least it`s not something wrong with us, it`s not like anything else about us screams "shop-lifter".

I am sorry to hear you`ve been accused of stealing, I think I`d panic quite well in a situation like that. An alarm went off once when I left a store and I froze! Couldn`t move at all. Turned out it was something I had bought in another store and I didn`t get any kind of crap about it. Still, I was quite anxious going through the doors again.

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#29 Beanchop99

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Posted 21 November 2009 - 02:53 PM

...perhaps we stick out on the thief radar because we look uncomfortable, nervous, stressed, etc. They don`t understand or know about the social anxiety so they take the signs we give out and mistake them for something else?


Chrystal, that's an excellent point. :wwww: I never thought about it like that, but I think you're on to something here. :shocked:
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#30 deedee80

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 04:54 PM

...perhaps we stick out on the thief radar because we look uncomfortable, nervous, stressed, etc. They don`t understand or know about the social anxiety so they take the signs we give out and mistake them for something else?


Chrystal, that's an excellent point. :wwww: I never thought about it like that, but I think you're on to something here. :shocked:


This has happened to me years ago in a clothing store where the employee followed me around. I was in the store just a minute or two and their she is following me. I got paranoid and I left out without buying anything. I felt uncomfortable. Well, a few months later, the manager must fired her because she was never seen in the store again.

#31 River

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 10:17 AM

This is an extremely interesting thread. I have read all of the different responses of people who can relate, and those who can not. I think all answers are justified.

Crossroids, when I was a teenager, I do remember being followed by employees in many stores. At the time, I used to shop after school in the mall and was always carrying a large backpack full of my books. I think my large bag instantly gave them the impression that I was a potential shop-lifter.

I can understand how upsetting it is to you when you feel targeted over and over again. Obviously, this triggers more social anxiety, and can raise unhealthy levels of paranoia. To some degree, I have social anxiety as well, and when I fixate on these types of things, it is easy to 'find' more fault because our brain is now trained to do that. Essentially, we become hypersensitive and might even appear very nervous, watchful, paranoid, etc. Immediately, this can give off a vibe to people that we are unapproachable, very tense-like. Naturally, this vibe will be misinterpreted as hostility ----> something that most employees in stores are trained to look out for because this behavior often resembles those who shop-lift. Reasonably, this does make sense. They see you as a threat, while you are trying to ward off their approaches, thus they approach the threat to intimidate them. Yes, this is a tactic that many employees in stores do to intimidate shop-lifters. I know this because my sister worked in retail for 16 years, and has employed the same tactics.

Negative body expression could play a role here. Our body language can be hard to retrain when we are gripped with social anxiety and suspicion. But it is not impossible to change. This could turn out to be one of your strengths in the long run, if you are willing to work on it. What you could do is research on the internet how a shop-lifter's body language looks like. And then reflect upon whether you exhibit the same traits. This type of emotional intelligence is used with health care workers such as myself. I have to retrain my body language before I enter a patient's room, because often the patient is extremely anxious, in pain, and unwilling to be cooperative. This took many hours to learn how to adjust my tone of voice, my body stance, my gestures. So, trust me, it is achievable with hard work and focused intent.

I believe that energy in a room can easily be picked up by sensitive people. You seem to be extremely sensitive, and I can understand that due to your anxieties. But know this, Crossroids, because you are sensitive, you already have a very important skill. You will be able to read other people easily, if you are trained properly to do that. It is important to read more about body language. Then, for fun, sit down at a park bench and observe other people's body language. Try to observe people's body language in different contexts.

I want to encourage you that your sensitive nature has the power to change the energy in a room. You can see this as good or bad, but I am actually quite optimistic that your sensitive skills will play a part in creating a powerful change in yourself, just by adjusting your body language. You see, your body language can be your armor when you go into a store. The armor can be perceived by others as hostility, or friendly. If you choose a hostile armor, the employees will naturally gravitate towards you. If you go into a store, armed with positive friendly behavior, yes you will get employees asking if you need help, BUT this time they might think you are a potential BUYER and NOT a shop-lifter.

Of course this will take time for you because you might still feel indignant. But in the meantime, one other thing you can do is get the employees to WORK. For example, if they approach you, instead of saying nothing, you can say "oh, can you find me a size 7 in these shoes?". While they are busy finding stuff for you, you have the time to look around. They will instantly think you could be a serious buyer.

PM if you have further questions. Trust me, you can be a master at this and you will regain control over your anxieties. I have been where you are, so I can truly understand.

Edited by River, 18 January 2010 - 10:24 AM.


#32 achingheart

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:18 AM

Being stared at and watched triggers the hell out of me. I'm totally innocent, but just because I have severe hyper-vigilance due to past abuse, they think I'm doing something dodgy myself. Huh.

Shadows echo deep and ache forever lonely in my heart, until caring gentle arms approach lost broken drowning child and see her in her loveliness, and hold her safe.


#33 Beanchop99

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Posted 07 February 2010 - 10:23 PM

I've also been watched, though never stopped (thankfully), in stores. When I'm nervous - a common occurrence for me since shopping brings about major anxiety - I tend to pace, pick things up, put things down, pick then up again, look nervously around, close my eyes & breathe deeply, etc. To trained eye, this behavior can seem suspicious.

Now, I don't fault the store employees for keeping an eye on me. My behavior is unusual, shoplifting is a major problem for retailers, and the employees are only doing what they're being paid for. However, I can't reason any of this out while I'm freaking out in a store and notice I'm being followed. All I do is panic more, which, in turn, makes me look more suspicious. Argh!

For me, the easiest solution is to put down whatever I'm holding in a obvious, visible manner, and exit the store, walking slowly. I'm also careful to walk through the security detectors slowly and in full view of the employee watching me.

Walking slowly is the hardest part. When panicking, my knee-jerk reaction is to move quickly, running if I feel I have to. However, this would only set off more warning signals. So I force myself to walk leisurely, breathing deeply the whole time in an effort to control the ever-rising anxiety that, by this point, is threatening to consume me.

My solution isn't perfect (for one, I don't buy the things I need), but it does get me out of the store without being stopped (so far!).

Big hugs to all of us who have to endure such treatment simply because we panic. :shocked: :sneaky2: :wwww:
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#34 Leaflet

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 07:26 AM

I've been in a few situations like this, but never attributed it to theft prevention - that might merely be a coincidence. Usually I find that they get a cut share of the profit for big products they can sell to you, so they follow you around in droves, especially if the store is empty. Some of them are genuinely keen to help, whilst others are usually just waiting for Friday to come and follow you around out of sheer boredom.

I think though, if you go around looking upset that people might stare at you, it will attract suspicion and they will stare at you. I wouldn't really worry about people looking too much, sometimes it's just out of curiosity - I am sure I am not the only one who has nosed at what was in someone else's basket and had to hold in looks of disapproval when I spotted the caged-hen eggs.

Think of it like this: if you worked at Walmart getting paid very little an hour, actually caring about security would not be high on your list. If you can imagine working day in day out stacking shelves or scanning items, your ability to care whether someone is thieving or not would be almost reduced to zero, because you get nothing out of it. It seems pretty callous and unethical, but having been a dish washer and potato peeler, you just loose the will to have to report dropped potatoes; instead washing them over and dumping them back in to the urn. Most of you probably are now contemplating me with disgust, but it's ok because I ate some of that food later on.

I must admit I'm a rascal when it comes to shops because I think staff are so unhelpful. If the self service machine stops working, I put all my stuff back into the basket and move on to another, leaving the assistant just behind me to spend half an hour removing all of the items, frowning at my back. If I don't want an item and I feel to lazy to go across the store, I'll just dump it down anywhere unless it would spoil. I've been told off for pealing back those smelly things (I'm not going to F-ing by it without sniffing it first!), so I apologised and carried on pealing them back anyway. I figure what's the worst that could happen? I'm not doing anything unreasonable, and I can present myself as more reasonable than I truly am.

My advice would be: Be thick skinned and arrogant. You're the customer they should play nice (but so should you)

Edited by Paper, 13 April 2010 - 07:27 AM.


#35 Kathy100

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 07:44 AM

I shop at Target, a lot and I used to work at a couple chain restaurants. The "May I help you" thing is part of a store meeting trying to increase the customer service. It happens to me all the time. I never need help, nor do I look confused or lost. I have no body language that would suggest I was tentative or nervous. Even so there will be days when every employee I encounter will ask me if I need help finding something. Just like there are periods of time that I will get offered that credit card at the end. Having worked in a chain restaurant I can tell they've just had their big rah rah meeting about how they want customers to feel attended to and welcome and for the week that follows every employee asks every customer.

There was a grocery store I used to shop at where every cashier every time made small talk as they checked out my groceries. This was their policy. Your story about the guy at Walmart, I doubt he was profiling you he was trying to be friendly. For some customers that moment of social interaction may be the only social interaction they get all day long. If stores can make people feel welcomed and befriended they are more likely to come back to that store that is their tactic. They want you back in the store spending more money.

I'll also propose that perhaps you are more attractive then you realize. Obviously I don't know what you look like but as I've aged I've come to realize men have different likes and dislikes and you may have one (or more) features that appeals to someone. They may be checking you out not because they are suspicious be because you are attractive. Age doesn't seem to be the barrier it used to be either. Perhaps the young bag boy was racing to the front to help you because his buddy told him how hot you were or if you are elderly perhaps the store has a policy to make sure there is assistance available for someone that might need it. Don't sell yourself short, sometimes it's one particular feature that catches their eye.

The other common thread I've seen in your posts is that you were there at store closing. Store employees are tired and ready to go home. They have to make sure all the customers are out of the store so they probably do keep close tabs on those that are there near closing time. You might have better luck shopping mid morning. It's still a slow time but the employees will be busy with other tasks.
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#36 Guest_bravetwilight_*

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 10:13 PM

Interesting.

Personally, it doesn't bother me unless they get pushy and then I tell them that I will leave if they keep hovering around me.

The reality is YES, stores do hire "spotters" just like bars and restaurants do. And it is a low paying job. So not the brightest people know how to "spot" and can get hooked on the feeling of being powerful over others.

I've had many experiences being watched but I'm not as sensitive to it as IP is. If I owned a growing business I would hire "spotters" too.

Just the other night I was at WalMart buying some cheap paint when I saw an older woman stuffing her old shoes into a brand new shoe box . I looked at her feet and there were brand new athletic shoes on her!!! She walked confidently by me and I watched slip by the check out people without anyone doing anything. I mentioned it to one of the clerks and they said it happens all the time.

The bigger businesses like WalMart and Target have video machines as "spotters" today. I remember when those distorted round mirrors used to be everywhere.

bottom line: when people stop stealing and destroying other's products, things that don't belong to them....then maybe we won't be so paranoid or made to feel so paranoid about our shopping experience. It always comes back to who we are as a people doesn't it.


bravetwilight

#37 Tigereyes

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 09:46 PM

As I was reading these posts, I thought the same exact thing. I get very anxious when I am shopping, but it has nothing to do with stealing. I've never stolen or even thought about stealing anything in my life. However, shopping always makes me anxious because I get easily overwhelmed by all the choices, or I get stuck on details of products. Sometimes, if an employee asks "May I help you?" I am appreciative and really do need their help. Other times, the anxiety makes my depression that much worse, and then I cannot stand if an overly cheerful salesperson comes my way and I just want to be left alone. And yes, at times, I have wondered if the salesperson thought I was going to steal something, which I find to be extremely insulting.

I think it is absolutely awful that store personnel are not taught how to differentiate between a potential shop lifter and a person with an anxiety or depressive disorder. This really makes me angry.


...perhaps we stick out on the thief radar because we look uncomfortable, nervous, stressed, etc. They don`t understand or know about the social anxiety so they take the signs we give out and mistake them for something else?


Chrystal, that's an excellent point. :wwww: I never thought about it like that, but I think you're on to something here. :shocked:



#38 americandownunder

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 09:27 AM

I think it is absolutely awful that store personnel are not taught how to differentiate between a potential shop lifter and a person with an anxiety or depressive disorder. This really makes me angry.


I've worked in retail - and I guarantee you, there is no way to differentiate between a potential shoplifter and a non-shoplifter - and even less of a way to distinguish between people experiencing anxiety because they're maybe going to steal something, and others who are experiencing because they have a mental illness. You'd be amazed at the people we've caught shoplifting, people you wouldn't think look like shoplifters - whatever that means - and because of that, even though it seems unfair, actually the only fair thing to do is to consider everyone as a potential thief.

So it's well possible that if you are being targeted, that everyone else is too.

All of that said, I do think there are alternate explanations to the situations you describe. I don't mean to say you aren't right, there's no way for me to know. But I can imagine other possibilities.

A lot of what you talk about actually seems way more complicated than we would normally deal with someone suspicious. The easiest way to do that isn't to shadow someone or play a recording - it's to ask the person if we can help them. That'll send most customers running, shoplifters or not!

In your example (1) - shoplifters generally hang out in quiet, empty parts of the stores, so if you were spending a lot of time there, that might be a justification for the workers becoming suspicious. The thing that makes me think they didn't suspect you is that you say multiple employees show up. No place I've ever worked could spare more than one person to go check on a potential shoplifter - and there's no need to, one person can do the job of discouraging a shoplifter on their own.

In (2) - I'm all the time in grocery stores where they don't have enough people manning the check-outs, and they don't send anybody until the line gets backed up. That's particularly true near closing time, when the employees are mostly trying to get the place cleaned up. If they really suspected you at that point, what good would having someone bag your groceries do? The only way you could steal at that point would be to have something hidden - and if they thought you did, they'd ask to see in your bag etc.

In (3) - well, maybe they are suspecting you - but I don't think there's any way for you to know. They could just be talking on their walkie talkie! I think that once we believe we are seeing a pattern, it's easy to find ways that things fit the pattern.

In (4) - like I said above, if we suspected somebody, we would just ask if they needed help - or if we were watching to try and catch them in the act, we wouldn't come near them - because then they wouldn't do anything. There's nothing gained from their perspective by standing near you like that.

In the almond story - after the person got the phone call, did they check your almonds? Why do you think it was about that? Did they do something that suggested that it was?

I hope you don't take this the wrong way - like I said, I don't have any way of knowing the truth - it just reads to me like you're taking a lot of things personally that, to me don't sound personal. For instance, in the bell-ringing story, you say that the bell rang a few times after you were in the store already. Doesn't that mean it wasn't about you? If it was ringing to say you were coming in, why would they ring it when you were in already? To remind the staff you were still in the store? There are easier ways to deal with a suspicious customer than that.

I also think - and again I hope you don't take this the wrong way - that if you've put in complaints repeatedly, that would mark you in most employees' minds as a difficult customer - and one to watch out for. People often protest their innocence when they're not innocent. I'm definitely not saying that you are anything but innocent - it's just that saying you're innocent might ironically make you seem not innocent - if it turns out they hadn't been suspecting you in the first place.

Same with what you say about coming in to stores and not buying anything - justified or not, that can peg you as both a nuisance and a potential thief.

It's a vicious cycle unfortunately - what started as something innocent on both sides turns into you feeling like you're being targeted, and you change your behaviour because of that, but if they weren't actually targeting you, then you start to stand out to them as someone who is acting in a suspicious way.

Anyway, I'm not saying any of this to attack or criticise - more as a way to present other options. Maybe if you tried to come from the opposite perspective - that is, that there's nothing suspicious or personal about anything that happens in a store until proven otherwise - maybe that would make shopping a less anxiety-producing experience - 'cause what you're going through sounds horrible.

Edited by americandownunder, 03 September 2010 - 09:34 AM.

Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
in dark woods, the right road lost.
To speak about those woods is hard,
so tangled and rough and savage
that thinking about it now
I feel the old fear stirring.
Death is hardly more bitter.

-Dante

#39 jimbow15

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 09:37 AM

Well my point of view is simple - it is the price we have to pay or having supermarkets and places where you can serve yourself, which I am all for.

If you don't want to go into a supermarket you can always shop at the small expensive local shop, and even they need CCTV and get attacked.

I have 3 alarm systems on my house and a big sign to tell people it is alarmed, and still burglars try and get in (without luck) so security is essential.

Best Wishes

Jim Bow
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." Albert E.


Information supplied on Depression Forums by members should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for medical advice from a health professional or doctor.

#40 ocarina

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 04:11 PM

Being watched like that causes me huge anxiety and I usually have to leave the store (which I'm sure looks suspicious, oh well.) I've never even considered shoplifting and I feel very bad being watched like a hawk.

(I understand that it is probably necessary, I am just answering the question of how I feel about it.)
Melancholic depression, 3 severe episodes, feel pretty good in between episodes though. Currently on 2.5 mg/day Lexapro and supplementing with fish oil, vitamins, tyrosine, exercise and light box. Whew!

Any advice I offer is just that - advice and opinions. I have no degrees that are at all related to the medical field.




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