Founded over a century ago and acquired by the John Lewis Partnership in 1937, Waitrose is a retail grocery chain located in the UK. Like most retail chains, Waitrose doesn’t have an upfront shoplifting policy, at least not something you’ll find in the “About Us” section of their website.
Waitrose’s recent actions are revealing, however, indicating the chain’s shoplifting policy. This includes placing security guards at specific locations, “love-bombing” suspected shoplifters, lifetime bans, and consulting with BlueSeed Retail.
BlueSeed Retail is a Performance Improvement Company that works with retail chains to improve their business strategy overall, with shoplifting policies a small part of the package.
With the revelation that Waitrose is working with BlueSeed, there’s little doubt that shoplifting is a part of the discussions.
Waitrose Love-Bombing Suspected Shoplifters
Whether or not the term “love-bombing” came from Waitrose isn’t clear but the term is associated with Waitrose’s recent changes to how they deal with shoplifters. For instance, several news articles on the subject use the term front and center.
Regardless of where the term comes from, the concept is exactly the same as actions taken by retail chains all over the world. Some retailers call it “exceptional customer service” or “overwhelming customer service.” No matter what it’s called, the theory is the same.
In the case of Waitrose, one or two selected employees will essentially follow the suspected shoplifter throughout the store, “love-bombing” them, or being overly nice, accommodating, and providing a superior customer service experience.
In other words, aggravate the potential shoplifter to the point where they are either guilt-tripped out of shoplifting or just leave the store entirely. From the standpoint of Waitrose, the company is basing it on the theory that smiles and fantastic manners will make a shoplifter feel guilty.
In reality, it probably just aggravates them to the point where they leave, coupled with the fact that they are under constant observation. According to Bristol Live, this is the course of action Waitrose decided to go with to kick off 2023.
Since the strategy is so recently employed, there’s little to no data available on its efficacy. However, it’s doubtful that Waitrose is enacting “niceness” as their only shoplifting deterrent. The article also elaborates on Waitrose engaging the services of BlueSeed Retail.
Thanks to the timing, we can safely assume that the love-bombing originates from BlueSeed, though there is no data to back that up.
According to BlueSeed Retail’s LinkedIn page, BlueSeed is oriented toward improving the service and operational standards at whatever company engages its service. In this case, Waitrose has done just that.
Waitrose employs a Security and Operations Manager who oversees a number of loss-prevention agents throughout the company. Like many larger retailers, Waitrose utilizes CCTC and various levels of facial recognition technology to track and build cases against shoplifters.
It’s doubtful that Waitrose started doing this as a result of its consultancy with BlueSeed Retail. However, it looks as if Waitrose feels that its previous measures to deter and/or capture shoplifters are not enough.
Read also >> What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting Under 18?
Waitrose Shoplifting Deterrents
The Security and Operations Manager is the tip of the pyramid, with all loss-prevention operations and employees falling under the manager’s scope. With enough LPs, Waitrose is capable of monitoring their CCTV footage as it happens, rather than viewing recordings down the road.
The proof is in the pudding. Online forums are full of conversations concerning lifetime bans from all Waitrose and John Lewis stores. For instance, see here. Plus, Waitrose has been in the news fairly recently for handing down lifetime bans to Christopher Seddon (author) and Paul Chambers.
Both of the bans brought a ton of attention to the store and also proves that shoplifting isn’t the only thing that will get you banned from John Lewis stores. In Paul Chambers’ case, he returned 12 TVs to Waitrose over a three-year period.
That many returns were apparently enough to earn him a lifetime ban from all John Lewis stores in the UK. There was a sizeable public outcry over the situation. According to Paul, he is epileptic and none of the TVs were capable of meeting his needs.
The icing on the cake, however, was the fact that he also has a lifetime ban from Electrical Home Technology, over issues with electrical tape. In the case of Christopher Seddon, Waitrose security accused him of stealing £102 worth of meat.
However, Seddon was at home at the time of the theft and ended up spending roughly £9,600 on legal fees to settle the matter. In this case, the security Waitrose was using at the time was a Thames Valley Police Officer.
Waitrose found itself in the news in a big way back in 2020, when it issued a lifetime ban to the Great British Bake-Off Winner, Francis Quinn. Francis did indeed have items on her that she didn’t pay for. Since Waitrose was currently employing undercover store associates, she was caught and the police were notified.
Frances returned the items but it was enough to receive a letter from Waitrose, informing her that she was banned from shopping at all Waitrose locations and all John Lewis stores in the UK.
Read also >> What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting Under 18?
Read also >> What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting Over 18?
What Does This Tell Us About Waitrose Shoplifting Policies?
Well, it’s certainly revealing of changes going on throughout the company, especially as shoplifting across the world is skyrocketing.
While the underlying question behind the cause of shoplifting is a political debate for another day, the reality is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Waitrose is responding to the rise in shoplifting and they’ve done so in the same way as many other large retail chains across the country and the world.
While many places of business have CCTV cameras in their stores, not all of them have the employee capacity to sit around and review tape or even watch the footage as it occurs.
Waitrose is not one of them. They have the manpower and the capacity to employ an entire department of Loss Prevention services, with an overseeing manager.
CCTV, facial recognition technology, data analysis, case-building, and in-store customer service (love bombing) are all in the cards.
In the case of Frances Quinn, Waitrose was clearly using undercover store associates (the article called them “undercover investigators”) to sniff out anyone who represented a threat as a potential thief. They zeroed in on Francis and the rest is history.
What it all boils down to is that it’s clear Waitrose is taking a far more aggressive stance against shoplifting. They’re sugar-lacing it with the idea of love-bombing, which was probably a welcome bit of pro-marketing since Waitrose engages in far more than just that.
With Waitrose’s engagement with local law enforcement and consultation with BlueSeed Retail, the retail chain seems destined for an overhaul that’s mostly complete at the time of this writing.
Final Thoughts on Waitrose Shoplifting Policy
Like most retail stores, Waitrose doesn’t really have a public shoplifting policy, mostly because it’s just a bad look and the best marketing is always positive marketing.
However, it seems like Waitrose is taking the same steps that other retail chains are also embracing.
Increasing their use of off-duty police officers, consulting with makeover companies like BlueSeed, installing CCTVs and facial recognition software, and initiating the love-bombing method that has gotten them a lot of positive attention in the press, are all part of the process.