Shoplifters, swindlers and crooks have had us on the lookout for some time now.
Consider an episode recently at Marshall’s in Charlotte. I went there on a lark, not looking for anything in particular. As most shoppers know, that’s when good buys abound. Sure enough, before I left the store, I’d found three garments with my name on them including a gray sweater dress with a stylish cowl collar and a pricey Anne Klein label. Not only was the price right ($29.99) but it fit perfectly.
Ladies, you know what I mean. Sweater dresses are the world’s worst, but this one hung perfectly. The price was right. What wasn’t to like about this purchase?
I took this keeper to the checkout. Soon, the clerk was wrestling with the dress collar and one of those plastic security tags. The more she tried, the less the tag wanted to budge. The knit fabric had worked its way into the tag removal mechanism build into the counter.
“I’m going to have to call the manager,” the clerk said. But she kept fiddling with the tag attached to my soon-to-be-bought dress. “You need to stop. You’re going to tear a hole in the fabric.”
And of course she kept on tugging until she tore a hole in it. Did I mention that this was the only dress of that type in my size?
The store manager was willing to cut me a deal, but I refused. I know what happens to knit fabric when the treads have been cut. Think ladders in your tights. Nope.
I left the store, fuming. If only I’d been more adamant, insisted the clerk stop jerking on the fabric. If only she’d listened to me. Isn’t the customer always right?
The more I thought more about this, the angrier I became. Who puts a security tag on a $30 dress? Shouldn’t anti-theft devices be reserved for more expensive merchandise?
The next morning I told myself that surely that wasn’t the only bargain-priced Anne Klein sweater dress on the planet. Of course not! There must be another one at another Marshall’s. In my crazed obsession, I checked on-line for “Marshall’s and “Anne Klein.” No luck. Then I drove to new Marshall’s in Lincolnton, imaging a clone of the sweater dress hanging enticingly from a rack, or better yet on a mannequin. Not only did they not have the dress, they had no dresses, period.
A friend who heard about my ink tag incident (who hadn’t?) said she’d do me a favor. She was going to Raleigh that week and would stop at Marshall’s down there.
Turned out there were two such stores on her way. And of course there were no gray Anne Klein sweater dresses to be had.
Now in full-obsession mode, I checked TJ Maxx, Kohl’s and Belk. The Hickory Belk had a similar dress on sale for $50. Of course they didn’t have my size, but it could be ordered. Free shipping. I like the free part.
Of course I ordered the dress, but it wasn’t the same as that perfect one in Charlotte. No, this dress ran a little large. I know, better than too snug. The alternative dress wasn’t exactly the same, and cost $20 more than the first, thanks to that devilish security tag.
I know, those tags have been around for years. They presumably deter shoplifters by beeping when you leave the store with a tag attached. If you get home with the tagged merchandise and try to remove the device yourself, the tag will eject ink onto the garment. Yes, I know you can take those tags off yourself. I’ve seen the You Tube video, but why risk ruining the perfect Anne Klein sweater dress?
A few days later over lunch I told another friend about the Klein that got away. She could sympathize. She used to work in retail, so she’s well aware of the ink tag aggravation and the shoplifting that we all pay for. “The bottom line is, the crooks are in charge,” I said. “They’ve been in charge for years.”
Yes, just think about what thieves cost us. Higher prices at stores which are already struggling to compete with on-line retailers.
But thieves affect life in far more ways than that. Consider home security systems, identity theft services.
And then there’s security software we buy to protect our computers from hackers out to steal whatever they can.
And the “protection” to insure our cellphones from theft and other calamities. We try to fool burglars by installing timers on the lamps and leave the radio on.
We purchase RFid shields to prevent our credit and debit cards from being compromised by crooks with remote scanners. We rent post office boxes to keep our mail secure.
Yes, security is big business these days. We can barely afford all the gadgets and systems it takes to keep the thieves at bay. The errant ink tag seem inconsequential, except for the heartburn and wasted time and … the extra $20 I had to pay for the Belk dress which still doesn’t fit as well as that first one, which goes to show how a crazed shopper can never be satisfied when a perfect bargain gets away.