business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The San Diego City Council was unable yesterday to override the mayor’s veto of a law that would ban big box stores from being built within the city limits – which was seen by local observers as a major victory for Wal-Mart, which argued that the measure was anti-competitive.

• The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Wal-Mart has gotten tougher in its dealings with young shoplifters, “lowering the age at which it will prosecute and authorizing store managers to call the police if a parent doesn't appear within an hour to retrieve a child.

“The policies, which went into effect Monday, now include prosecuting first-time shoplifters as young as 16 years old, compared with the previous limit of 18. The company also will prosecute younger shoplifters whose parents don't quickly respond to a store's call, and children repeatedly caught stealing.”

The company cited rising shrink rates as the reason for the change in policy. It was just a year ago that the company said it was going to become more lenient toward such kids, preferring to focus on organized shoplifting rings. Company spokesman John Simley tells the Journal that store managers have discretion to be tougher or more lenient on a case-by-case basis.
KC's View:
I don’t want to sound for a moment like I don’t want these kids to remember getting caught shoplifting as a life lesson. Because they need to.

I just hope that discretion is used.

There’s a paragraph in the story that reads:

“Wal-Mart's new policy permits store managers to call police regardless of the age or amount of the theft if a parent can't be contacted by phone within 30 minutes or doesn't appear at the store within 60 minutes after being contacted. The same policies cover those accused of trespassing at a store. Formerly, parents were given 45 minutes to be contacted and 90 minutes to appear.”

It just occurs to me that some parents may be tough to reach because of their jobs, and may not be able to make it down to the store in 60 minutes. (Like, say, if they worked for a giant discounter and the call came at a busy hour and the manager couldn’t let them off work.)

Subjecting them to the criminal courts may not be the most effective use of discretion. Or the courts.