What electronic eyes see in supermarkets

VETERINARY Cash and Carry Supermarket where a woman allegedly shoplifted


SOMEWHERE along Mandela Express Way in the city of Dar es Salaam there is a supermarket you could miss for a filling station. The tiny mall which also houses a confectionary is called Vet Cash and Carry, perhaps for a good reason.

The shopping house, tucked away at a corner of this road, just where the road takes a gentle bend to the left as one travels down to the sea from Tazara Railway Station, is my favourite mall. Out of sight behind Veterinary Oil Com Filling Station, the mall does a rosy business I have recently become part of.

Not that I am a gentleman of leisure. I may not be a burgher either, but I try to keep up with jonasess when my pocket allows. After all, supermarkets are not for fat cats alone these days. Today, even the bourgeoisie and the hoi polloi too can also dare frequent them albeit for keeping up appearances.

Moreover, our land is not one of apartheid and once in a while, it is good for a John Doe who wants to live relatively well, not to just exist, to visit the place. Last Monday I, a John Doe, walked to the place to buy some items and sit pretty.

A couple of days previously, I had merely existed, wadding through an ocean of cries of ‘Mungu anasaidia’, ‘life is hard’, and all the winning like that of ‘money has gone to the dogs’ BECAUSE OF President Magufuli’s government etc, etc.

Now, after bumping into some honourable cash I thought it was not a bad idea to see once again, the inside of Vet Cash and Carry and, to satisfy my desire to do just that – buy and carry away.

That day though, I was not go ing to do much shopping as I previously did. I was going for some brown bread in accordance with the recent change in my diet. As I approached the mall I saw a rare mob at the door of the supermarket.

It was charged with rage. A middle-aged woman was at its centre and by all appearance was the cause of all the fuss. The woman was not pleading for anything despite the rage blasting her. On the contrary she was trying to get away.

Pushing and pulling her, the mob was giving her one heluva time. I stopped temporarily and took a look. The woman appeared to be the object of the crowd. Pulling and pushing her, they almost roughed her up.

By the look of it all, the incident would take a long time to settle and I did not want to be long at the mall as I had some work to do. Deciding to find out whatever had happened, from one of the workers within the market, I walked into the mall.

I hurriedly did my shopping for it was just little that day and walked to the payment counter. I used the opportunity to know what had just caused all the chaos. The cashier was an approachable lady.

The young lady, one Mariam Mohamed, said the poor woman outside was a hard core shoplifter. That day she had stolen a little lotion of Johnson’s Baby Oil costing 2,500/“She has shoplifted items here three times and we know her well,” Ms Mohamed said.

“She took the item and hid it in her breast, but our camera was watching and we saw her.” Given the woman’s previous shoplifting cases at the supermarket, they had banned from enter ing the supermarket lest she steal more items.

“We would ask her what items she wanted and tell her to wait by the door while some attendant fetches the items for her,” explained Ms Mohamed, who sat at her counter just by the entrance. “Moreover, she does not have a husband.”

Nevertheless, the single lady of about 40 had managed to walk into the supermarket and still unaware that some electronic eye observed everything she did, stole a bottle of ointment.

The personnel of the Cash and Carry failed to know why the woman had stolen the item because when they searched her, they found her with more than 200,000/- in cash. “To some people I think stealing is a second nature,” said Ms Mohamed.

Ms Mohamed says all sorts of people – not only women - have shoplifted at the supermarket. A worker of Asian origin of a threestorey building across the road had also shoplifted at the mall. “Just imagine, a person of such a standing class - a financial officer!,” she explained.

They reported the matter to the Asian’s employer and she was immediately fired and deported back to India. That stern measure apparently did not scare other potential offenders of the crime from committing it at the supermarket.

Supportive of Ms Mohamed’s second-nature theory, is a case of a seemingly well-to-do man, who shoplifted at the supermarket about a year ago. “Mzee, you would be surprised to know people who shoplift,” said Omari Athumani, an attendant at the mall for more than six years.

“A man of middle age came here in a car he drove himself and stole a small item. We told him to pay for the item to settle the matter.” The woman who last Monday fell victim to the Devil’s temptation command to commit the crime last Monday was ordered to pay for the ointment to end the quarrel.

Athumani says the suspects are always told to pay for the items they were suspected to have shoplifted to save time. “It is costly and a waste of time taking them to court,” he explains.

Perhaps such a measure is not deterrent enough and the woman might repeat the crime again there, given her previous record. Theft at supermarkets is common. To reduce shoplifting if not to prevent it altogether Cash and Carry Supermarket would need to equip the complex with an electronic eye technically known as Closed Circuit Television or CCTV for short.

What CCTV sees in supermarkets has shocked many. Dignified people, celebrities and the rich have all been seen stealing with this electronic device unaware. “Why do such important people who really are not in need steal at all?” asks Athumani.

As Ms Mohamed says that it is their nature to commit the crime, it is indeed their second nature to steal. At times such people crave to steal something, but when there is nothing to steal, they place their own belonging, say a spoon.

They then look this way and that to see if there is someone watching the way a thief does under such circumstances. There being nobody watching, they snatch that item and put it presumable out of sight, before giving a sigh of relief.

These people known as kleptomaniac will steal even if they have billions to buy several of the item they feel irresistible urge to steal. Omari says kleptomaniacs and other types of shoplifters may find it easy to steal from other super markets, but they cannot commit that crime at Shoprite of Mlimani City in Dar es Salaam. “Security there is very tight,” Omari says.

“Omari is wrong,” says one of his colleagues, who asked for anonymity. Thieves at Mlimani City’s Shoprite have devised a simpler means to steal the supermarket’s items. Different from shoplifting perse, the theft is facilitated by customers who forget their receipts or play generous to the cashier by not demanding for a ticket.

With the collusion of a fellow worker at the supermarket, the cashier and the accomplice get someone who comes into the market and picks up from the mall the items on the receipt. The person then goes to the cashier purportedly to pay for them. The bigger the cash total on the forgotten receipt, the bigger the shopping!

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