Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat.com's founder and "Content Guy" filed this story today:
"The Northwest Florida Daily News reports that an Albertsons customer has been charged with petty theft after he was seen sampling jelly beans from an open bin of candy.
Let’s quote the story directly:
“The 34-year-old Fort Walton Beach man was buying groceries at Albertson’s when he stopped at a bin of candy and put an unspecified number of jelly beans in his mouth, according to an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office report. The deputy, who was working an off-duty detail, confronted the suspect after he had paid for the rest of his groceries and asked him if the candy was good. ‘Yes,’ the suspect replied, according to the report.
“The deputy told a manager that the suspect had taken about 10 of the ‘raspberry flavored’ candies. The man denied taking more than two. He added that he’d been shopping at Albertson’s for 30 years and that he was just trying the candy to see if he wanted to buy it. The deputy ‘advised him that Albertson’s did not have free samples of candy and he should have known that if he had been shopping at Albertson’s for 30 years.’
“The man didn't buy any of the candy. The store manager on duty told the deputy that he wanted charges brought against the suspect, who was also issued a trespass warning. The jelly beans were priced at $6.99 a pound. The deputy estimated that the 10 jellybeans would have had a value of about $2. A store manager contacted Thursday confirmed that the store has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against shoplifting.”
KC's View: Let’s start by acknowledging that shoplifting is a crime, that it can lead to organized theft, and that shrink is a major issue for almost every retailer. It also is fair to say that there probably are some public health issues that need to be considered here. (There also are “serial samplers” out there … a recent “Curb Your Enthusiasm” vividly expressed Larry David’s annoyance at such people.)
That said, it is hard to imagine that this case – and the resultant newspaper stories – will do Albertsons much good.
If a customer tastes a couple of grapes when considering making a purchase, would that same customer be accused of petty theft? I’ve never bought grapes in my life without sampling a couple to find out how sweet or tart they may be … and I would be shocked if after doing so I felt the long arm of the law on my shoulder.
Now, I’m lucky. I happen to do much of my shopping at a store – Stew Leonard’s – where liberal sampling is encouraged … and in fact is a core value. (I can remember Stew Leonard Sr. making this point in a speech years ago … that if his store was doing its job right, the cost of such minor sampling would pale compared to the transactions that might be generated as a result of people liking what they taste.)
Don't want to be accused of being soft on crime. But I do have to wonder if this demonstrates a lack of focus on what ought to be important – getting the customer to feel engaged with the aromas and tastes of the foods being sold by the supermarket."
We added the italics to Kevin's comments because we happen to agree with him. Stories like this one do take the focus off of what's important, and they have a tendancy to come back and bite the retailer.
Stew Leonard's has been called the "Disneyland of Dairy Stores". As shoppers load up their carts, they are likely to meet store associates dressed in costume, plus animatronic characters throughout the store. And that's just the beginning. Stew's gets the whole "It's not a store, it's an experience" thing; in fact they probably started the trend. Check out Stew's website to learn more: http://www.stewleonards.com/
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