Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fine idea, but...

Figures, now that I’m not trying to crank out 2,000 words a day on the novel I now have an abundance of blog ideas. I will get back to the book, I promise. But the feeling I have right now when not writing it is similar to the one I have when I’m not banging my head against a concrete wall.

Anyway, this CBC story on impending legislation regulating flea markets caught my eye. I did a series of stories a couple of years ago about flea markets in the St. John’s area Many were selling junk, but many were also places for stolen goods to be sold. The Avalon Mall flea market was notorious for it years ago. However, they cleaned up their act when the mall threatened to close them down. It’s now run with a much tighter fist. I’m not saying there are no stolen items there, but it’s certainly not blatantly obvious like it was years ago.

I’m obviously a bit out of touch, so I don’t know where all the flea markets are these days. There was one that operated in Mount Pearl that shut down shortly after I did a story about it. It wasn’t exactly a crack piece of journalism. All that was required was to ask how vendors could be selling a dozen copies of a DVD that had just come out that week for about 50 per cent what they were being sold for at Wal-Mart. Same thing with cologne, razor blades and other toiletries. The people running the market shut it down rather than go through the hassle of trying to enforce things.

I also know there was one in CBS, but that operated only during the summer months since it was outdoors. But there was certainly no shortage of suspicious items there either.

Which is the problem. And which is going to be the problem, I suspect, even after this new legislation is passed. How can you tell something is stolen? Sure it might look awfully suspicious, but you can’t know for sure. And asking for receipts might be a slight deterrence, but that’s it. Because very few people keep receipts.

If I went to the flea market to sell my comics and a cop asked me to see receipts for all of them, I would break out laughing. Same thing with DVDs. I might hold onto them for a month, just in case there is a problem and the item needs to go back, but that’s it. It would be almost impossible in a court of law to prove that the items on a flea market table were stolen unless the people were very stupid.

Which is possible, but not likely. They’re not the brightest tools in the shed, but there’s no denying most of them are fairly cunning and brazen. I pity in-store security these days. I did some of it years ago when I worked retail. The rule was if you lost sight of them for a second, you couldn’t hold them because in that second they might have ditched it. And trust me, most of the shoplifting rings know the rules. The leave town when things get too hot and head out to Clarenville or Gander for a spree.

They know what to take, how to avoid being caught, how to distract people and what places to hit.

My mom works as a cosmetician at Shopper’ Drug Mart. Despite security cameras, extra staff, locking up the expensive colognes and other measures, they still lose thousands at this time of the year in shoplifting. I’m convinced that either she or the store manager is going to snap and kill one of them one of these days.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on enforcement for flea markets. The police do not care. Low priority because of the resources they have.

So the legislation is a good idea, but I don’t know if it will work. And like all things, if there is no money to put some teeth into it, then it’s just more paper collecting dust.

1 comment:

SkylarKD said...

Hubby works at Shoppers too - amazing how much gets stolen year-round!

I agree about the receipts. Although there may be a way to enforce it for bulk purchases (like the people selling dozens of unopened cologne bottles or 20 of the same brand new DVD). Chances are the cops are only going to focus on the big, bulk sellers, not the ones who only have 2 or 3 suspicious items on their table.