Undocumented shoppers, formally shoplifters, are rumored to be organizing to pressure retailers to treat them equally when returning merchandise for refunds. Many retailers still require some proof of purchase to accompany merchandise returns, but undocumented shoppers, who do not possess purchase documentation, or a sales receipt, say they are being unfairly discriminated against.
“These shoppers work just as hard, and often harder, than other shoppers and we should not deny them their consumer rights,” said Jose Amanda of the consumer rights advocacy group Sticky Fingers United.
Retailers are responding by pointing to the $13 billion in stolen goods they must absorb each year. “We’re talking $35 million worth of merchandise just walking out the door every day,” said Jason Michaels of Retailers America. “Sadly, much of that cost has to be passed on to paying shoppers in the form of higher prices,” Michaels added. “That figure may potentially double if that same merchandise is returned for refunds,” he said.
But undocumented shoppers’ rights groups are claiming that undocumented shoppers are valuable contributors to consumerism. “Undocumented shoppers do the work paying shoppers don’t want to do,” says Renaldo Skates of Five Finger Discount, another advocacy group in California.
“Retailers don’t take into consideration the time and effort undocumented shoppers must put into shopping. A lot of time and effort goes into concealing merchandise. The messy dressing rooms necessary for hiding clothing, somebody has to put all those items back on the rack, and that means jobs are created. Paying shoppers don’t have to use such tactics to hide their purchases and so they don’t want to take the time to make the same mess,” Skates said.
“It’s a fact of life that people have to shop in California,” said Skates. “There shouldn’t be any connection between someone’s ability to shop and whether or not they are undocumented.”
But retailers point out that there are no free jeans. “In the end,” said Michaels, “the cost is passed on to all the other paying shoppers. If the trend continues to rise, there won’t be enough paying shoppers left who can afford to subsidize all the undocumented shoppers. Prices get to be so high, nobody can afford anything.”
Skates calls that an empty threat. “Undocumented shoppers are decent, hardworking people. They will continue to shop no matter how high prices go,” he said.