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Shoplifting causes a dilemma
( 2003-10-27 14:45) (Shenzhen Daily)

An unidentified woman was caught red-handed stealing fish and yogurt at a supermarket in Shenzhen near Hong Kong. She was forced to parade outside holding a poster reading "I am a shameless thief."  [newsphoto.com.cn]
A middle-aged woman was caught stealing four fish and several containers of yogurt in a supermarket in the Meilinyicun housing estate Wednesday. Security guards at the supermarket had her wearing a sign reading "I'm shameless. I'm a thief." outside the shop.

The head of security said the woman was willing to be punished as she was more afraid of being sent to the police. According to a lawyer, however, the supermarket has no right to punish the shoplifter privately. In addition, public humiliation of the thief might constitute a violation of the law, the lawyer said.

Lu Wenjie

manager with Shirble Department Store

We have just detected nine potential shoplifters this morning (Friday) and drove them away. They are apparently a gang. Shoplifting is a great headache for our retail business.

We cannot be so radical as to adopt this form of punishment. What we do is to place loss prevention agents inside the store. The monitoring system does not work well as most shoplifters are already aware of the cameras.

When the thieves are caught, normally we'll fine them and try civil recovery. For first offenders, sometimes we call their parents, friends or relatives to come and educate them.

It is incredible that many normal people shoplift. Once my public servant friend was caught for pocketing a shaver worth about 50 yuan (US$6). The guy wears a Rolex and cannot be poor. This kind of person should be sent to a psychologist.

Prosecution is not an efficient deterrent as shoplifters are not severely punished by the law. It was reported that the loss incurred accounted for as high as five percent in the total revenue of some retail business.

Mrs. Yang


Did you see the picture we took of a shoplifter last time. I put it in my drawer so that our people will recognize him if he dares to show up again.

He was found stealing two cartons of cigarettes valued at more than 500 yuan. A small shop like mine has a very narrow profit margin. If he had succeeded, it would have been a great loss to me.

I don't think there is anything wrong with having the woman wear the sign. She deserves it. If she really cared about self-esteem, why did she steal in the first place.

The last time I found two women trying to steal ginseng tea from my store I scolded them harshly. You know what I really wanted to do. I wish I could have stripped their clothes off.

We did send a shoplifter to the police station but they just freed him after asking some questions. So why bother. We have our own way to deal with the issue. We'll scold or even beat the shoplifter until he promises not to do it again.

Douglas Symss

manager, Tando Indian restaurant

I think shoplifters and pocket-pickers as well shall be sent to a kind of boarding school where they can be taught to be law-abiding citizens. These shameless thieves should have their brains washed to learn the ABC of respecting working people.

They should also do some labor such as painting, sewing and cleaning. They must be trained to make a living through hard work and learn to respect others. If shoplifters are caught twice or more, the shopkeepers should sue them. They should be sent to jail depending on how serious the crime is.

May Liu

project manager, a finance company

It does not seem proper to punish the woman with public humiliation. The woman might be poor, judging by what she had stolen. I think the retailer should handle the issue separately if the shoplifter is a first offender.

In this case, the retailer should warn her and ask her to write a statement promising not to shoplift again in the shop.

If the woman was a frequent offender, they could send her to the police. After all, shopkeepers have no right to enforce the law.

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