Friday, August 14, 2009

Liquor Store Bans Purses

I was in Lamar last night, but there was no internet. Woe be upon the Tubby Trucker - he don't do well without his fix. Ahh, well, it seems I survived.

This morning I heard about this tidbit on the news:
If you want to buy booze here, hand over your handbag.

Colorado’s Liquor Outlet issued a “no purse” policy, plastering warning signs in front of the store with the sobering ultimatum: Leave your purse in the car or at the door -- or else.

“If they try to shop, we won’t sell to them,” head cashier Laurae Langello said.

No exceptions, ladies. No sweet talk. Workers at the door are no-nonsense purse enforcers.

This isn’t a shady part of town, this is Briargate, by golly. It’s across the street from Chapel Hills Mall.

I figured the store was in a bad neighborhood, but apparently not.

The total purse ban was implemented three weeks ago to combat the increase of thefts this year at the store.

Shop owner Wayne Harris said inventory reports were showing a loss of $2,000 a week due to shoplifters. Big purses were a big part of the problem.

“We decided we had to do something to protect what is ours,” Harris said.

Traditional security measures weren’t working in the 18,000 square-foot store.

Cameras are everywhere. A live feed plays on six big flat-screens TVs. At the checkouts, LCD monitors flash images of shoplifters photographically caught in the act who are still at large.

As if the store’s exterior isn’t forboding enough, steel grates cover the windows — the aftermath of an April break-in when thieves made off with liquor haul valued at $17,000. Adding to the fortress effect are the row of concrete barriers to keep cars at bay. A driver smashed into the wine section last year.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and I have never seen it like this,” said Harris, who opened the Briargate store 12 years ago.

Harris blames the economy for the rise in thefts, which increased at his wife’s store, Springs Liquor Outlet, 6010 N. Carefree Circle, where purses also are banned.

That makes sense to me - financial pressure can make people justify doing all sorts of things that are a bad idea.

Harris said he filed a few shoplifting reports last year. “We used to handcuff them until the police showed up,” he said, but he got in trouble for doing that.

Now, he said, he almost never files reports because it takes too long to deal with the process, and cop cars in the parking lot are bad for business.

“It’s not worth the trouble and the effort. If we catch them, we let them go. We get our bottle back and tell them don’t ever come back in the store again.”

The purse ban started out targeting big bags. “It made the women carrying the large purses upset because we were still allowing women with small purses,” Harris said.

So, medium purses were banned. The purse war raged on.

“It made the women carrying medium size and large purses mad at us. We thought, ‘What the hell, if we got 60 percent mad at us we might as well get 100 percent mad at us,” Harris said.

Man purses and backpacks also are not allowed.

So far, the purse ban has paid off for Harris. “I think we probably cut it (shoplifting) in half,” he said.

Customer count is down about 5 percent. Some storm out. Some toss their discount cards in the trash. “One woman threatened to call the state attorney general,” Harris said.

Most shrug and shed their purse after the initial disbelief.

“I didn’t really think they were going to actually not let me take my purse in,” said regular Briargate customer Jaime Hilligrass, a 21-year-old college student buying peach schnapps for her girls’ night book club. “I was kind of like, ‘Um, it’s a purse, it’s personal.’ It was kind of weird they wouldn’t let a woman take her purse in the store.”

The only vessels left for the five-finger discount are coats and baggy pants, but Harris has no plans to ban those.

“We can’t make people leave their pants outside,” he said.

The reporter I saw this morning has a blog, and she posted her opinion:

Is the liquor store owner in Colorado Springs justified by instituting a no-purse/no backpack policy in his liquor stores?

First, the store owner has every right to prevent shoplifting in his store. However, I have a problem with the premise that even before I go into that liquor store, the policy assumes that I am going to steal. It says to me, I am guilty and untrustworthy even though I may have been a loyal customer for 20 years. But since I am not "sue-happy," my inclination as a consumer would be to take my business elsewhere. In short, I would close my mouth and let my money do my talking.

Second, if a person wants to steal liquor (or anything) bad enough they will put it wherever it will fit. So, if purses, backpacks and man purses are owners everywhere better start thinking about a new policy ban on pants, shirts, skirts and underwear! Pretty soon we could all be shopping naked...and that would no doubt hurt the economy!

She also said in her report that she was sure there would be lawsuits.

I'd say she's right.

I dunno, I've gotta go with the store owner on this one. He's got video proof that the purse ban works. He's got plenty of experience with the law enforcement and justice systems. Both have been no help. It would seem he's under siege - cars hammering his building to break in - $2k/month shoplifting losses - he's obviously tried to reign in the hemorrhaging with more traditional means.

I don't think he's trying to discriminate against women - it's just that women are the largest subset of the demographic he's affected with his purse, backpack and manpurse ban. It's very similar to business establishments banning concealed carry - they have the right to do so, even if it discriminates against gun owners who carry. And, the analogy isn't the same, because the odds are that the people who carry concealed are "safe," regardless of the prejudice the store owners/managers and hoplophobe customers might think.

The solution is what second amendment supporters would say - "I won't spend my money there" - and that is what Gloria Neal recommends. Were I a woman who carried my gun in my purse, this would really concern me.

But, overall, I guess I don't completely get the uproar. Either you leave the purse in the car and bring your billfold, or just don't go.

So, what do y'all think? Am I all wet - why? Convince me. I'd really like to get some feedback here.


threecollie said...

I can understand the store owner, but odds are I would shop somewhere else just to avoid the aggravation.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one, Jeffro. $2000/week is $100,000/year - i suggest there aren't many businesses that can stay afloat with that kind of loss. Since the ban includes backpacks and man purses, it isn't discriminatory, (although I'm sure that argument will be made). Sadly, there will be someone who will forgo the obvious, "I'll take my business elsewhere", lawyer up and sue - always some who are looking to make a different dollar........


Kathy B. said...

I'm in total agreement with you Jeffro. Leave the purse in the car. I don't believe it is discrimination and I'm a girl. Heck, I do this all the time at the QT when I grab my ice tea - no need to lug in the big bag.

ptg said...

Its his store; he ought to be able to ban anything he wants.

Now that Nebraska has the CCW law, many businesses have posted "No Weapons" signs. I think these places ought to make provisions to check the banned stuff while you shop, but I haven't seen any that do.

I thought the liquor store cat was being very accommodating, offering to check the potential shoplifter's purses.