Woman shamed in front of shoppers

PUBLIC HUMILIATION: Tana Puru was the second Hamilton woman humiliated when supermarket staff wrongly accused her of stealing in front of other shoppers.
PUBLIC HUMILIATION: Tana Puru was the second Hamilton woman humiliated when supermarket staff wrongly accused her of stealing in front of other shoppers.

Countdown staff offered a sweet apology to a woman they mistook for a shoplifter at its Bridge St, Hamilton, store.

Tana Puru visited the Countdown shop last month when staff pointed at her and told her to leave in front of other shoppers.

Ten minutes later staff realised they had made a mistake and gave the Hamilton mum, who was shopping with her 13-year-old son, a box of chocolates to apologise.

Puru's husband, Dempsey, laid a complaint with Countdown head office.

In a statement, Countdown spokesperson Kate Porter admitted the store had made a mistake and had contacted the Puru family to apologise.

"When this issue came up four weeks ago we spoke with our customer and apologised; we'd made a genuine mistake. We spoke with her husband after he contacted our call centre, and we thought that the matter had been resolved. Obviously that's not how they feel, so we have made contact again [on Wednesday last week]."

Porter said thefts at Countdown stores throughout New Zealand cost millions of dollars annually.

"We have strict policies about how we handle different situations in our supermarkets, including when we suspect shop theft or any other anti-social behaviour. Our team is trained on how to manage a variety of situations professionally and respectfully."

Puru said the drama unfolded when she was scanning items through a self-service kiosk.

"I could hear [staff] talking about me and pointing. I thought ‘What the heck', and then one of them yelled at me ‘you have to get out'. When I asked why he wouldn't say."

Puru had just popped in to get some dinner at the time.

"[The staff member] was having a loud conversation with another staff member right by me and she was saying ‘Yes, the one with the pink hair'."

"He accused me loudly of stealing, he came right into my personal space. I opened up my jacket for him to check. I had no bag on me, all I had was my phone and my wallet."

The incident happened before Hamilton woman Rikki Cooper had her movements and ethnicity broadcast over the PA system at Countdown Dinsdale, where she was falsely accused of stealing by staff.

The soon-to-be mum was given a shopping spree by Countdown as an apology over the way she was treated. Puru said she had to endure the stares and whispers of other shoppers at the store.

"Right in the middle of all the commotion another lady with pink hair who looked totally different from me walked past. He then went up to her, grabbed her groceries and told her to get out."

Puru said it was a case of mistaken identity. However, she was still told to get out. Puru stood her ground and minutes later staff offered a box of chocolates to make up for the error.

Puru said the experience left a sour taste in her mouth, and she now shops at Pak 'n Save.

"They should get their facts right before they start accusing people loudly, and they should pull people aside and talk to them instead of acting this way. They need training."


Countdown has strict policies about how it handles suspected  shoplifters, spokesperson Kate Porter said.

Each week Countdown serves 2.7 million New Zealanders nationally and each year shop theft costs Countdown millions of dollars.

Waikato Times