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Worried I'll be falsely accused of shoplifting

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I've had a few experiences in the past of buying (non-refundable) makeup and finding snapped lipsticks, cracked palletes etc. when I get home. So nowadays I sneak makeup into changing rooms and open the sealed boxes so I can quality check before buying.

I did this today at a store on Oxford Street, but found one of foundation boxes was empty inside (presumably someone else had stolen it and returned the box). At the time I panicked about being accused of stealing, so just put the empty box back on the shelf and left as quickly as possible (which I now realise was stupid because they would have just searched me and found no foundation). Now I'm terrified they'll find the box, check CCTV, and identify and locate me from the footage.

Is there anything that can be done at this stage?

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Hi and welcome to CAG.

Don't even stress over this. The time to act has gone. They have no proof you took anything and if they wanted to trawl through hours of footage, that would not be cost effective.  If they did look through the footage, they don't know who you are and if stopped at any time in the future, refuse to go with them and walk out of the store. If they were foolish to drag you back, you would have a claim against them for assault

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Hi silverfox, i don't think you're right in saying that they can't physically stop a shoplifter.

Under the pace "any person arrest" any member of the public can detain a suspected offender for any criminal or triable either way offence, as far as i remember. 

Using reasonable force is also there.

So if someone has stolen make up and walk out of the store, anyone can prevent the shoplifter from leaving using reasonable force, until police arrives.

Key points: one must have reasonable suspicion of stealing, one must use no force at first and only reasonable force if the suspect "walks away".

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Whilst it may be true that any person can arrest and detain a suspected offender - that person using 'reasonable force' would be extremely unwise unless they have absolute certainty that a relevant offence has been committed. In the circumstances outlined in Post #2, it would be extremely foolish to detain somebody revisiting a store where an offence was merely suspected of taking place at some previous time, and no proof existed that it actually had 

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I just wanted to make clear that anyone stealing cannot simply walk away without risk of being detained.

What silverfox wrote could be misinterpreted and someone could try to steal and walk away thinking "they can't touch me".

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Hi Lym89,

Silverfox is correct in that the time to act has passed. The cost to benefit of viewing hours, maybe days of footage depending on when the empty box is found just isn't worth it.


King is also TECHNICALLY correct in that if you were being observed at the time taking the item from the shelf, taking it into the fitting room, and then returning the box to the shelf which is found to be empty, then I would suggest that would fall into the category of REASONABLE grounds for believing you had taken the item which is covered by PACE and gives the person observing you the power to detain you. 


HOWEVER; in the real world, retailers change their legal definition of an arrest from REASONABLE grounds, to '110% certain' before their security will execute an arrest.


In short, I don't think you need to worry about the retailer investigating this empty box and then detaining you for it at a later date.  There's more chance of you finding rocking horse droppings than that happening.


I do however need to address something else. 

I currently work for a retailer who also sells cosmetics, fragrances and health & beauty items amongst other things.  You mentioned in your post that you have taken to 'sneaking items into the changing room and opening the SEALED boxes' to quality check them. 


As you probably already know, cosmetic items are sealed for health and hygiene purposes, and the retailer will not sell them if they have a broken seal.  This is the reason retailers have testers. This is also the reason that cosmetic items are non-returnable. 


So what you are actually doing by opening the sealed boxes is committing the offence of criminal damage, which can also find you being detained / arrested.  All very well if you then buy the item, but if you don't, then the store has lost the ability to sell it no different to if somebody had stolen it.  I suggest the fact that you 'sneak' the items into the changing rooms to do this means you know what you are doing is wrong.


The above may sound harsh, but I'm just being honest and trying to give you the facts.  Remember, whilst you can't return cosmetic items if they aren't suitable (my employer allows this if the seals aren't broken), if the item is broken then it constitutes a faulty item which the retailer is obliged to at least exchange, under your statutory rights.


My suggestion to you is, if you are using the same retailer to purchase your cosmetic items from and you are constantly finding them broken, then either the retailer or their supplier aren't treating their stock very well, and I suggest you use another retailer. 

All the best


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