Thursday, January 06, 2011

Macy's Loss Prevention Department Extorts Money from Parents

So, when a minor is caught shoplifting at Macy's department store, they send a letter from their Loss Prevention department that reads as follows:

"The state of Utah has a law permitting retailers to recover civil damages from you as a result of this incident. Specifically, Section 78-11-16 of the Utah Code provides that a parent or guardian of a minor who wrongfully takes merchandise of a merchant with the purpose to deprive a merchant of the merchandise or to avoid payment of the merchandise is liable, in addition to actual damages, for a penalty to the merchant in the amount of the retail price of the merchandise not to exceed $500 plus an additional penalty of not less than $50 nor more than $500, plus court costs and reasonable attorney's fees. IMPORTANT NOTICE: The payment of any penalty demanded of you does not prevent criminal prosecution under a related criminal provision. This claim is separate from any criminal punishment or penalties that may arise from this incident.

Full payment must be received by our office within 10 days of the date of this letter. Should payment fail to be made, we may review the file and request a higher settlement amount, and if we ask a law firm to follow up, the amount request [sic] may include a request for attorney's fees and/or punitive damages. Therefore, to avoid a higher demand request, please make payment in full according to the terms stated or call our office to set up suitable payment arrangements."

The actual Utah Code, Section 78-11-16 reads as follows:

"78-11-16. Joint liability of minor and parent or guardian for minor's shoplifting -- Exception.
A minor and the parents or legal guardian having legal custody of such minor, as the case may be, who wrongfully takes merchandise by any means, including but not limited to, concealment or attempted concealment in any manner, either on or off the premises of the merchant, with a purpose to deprive a merchant of merchandise or to avoid payment for the merchandise, or both, are jointly and severally liable in a civil action, in addition to actual damages, for a penalty to the merchant in the amount of the retail price of the merchandise not to exceed $500 plus an additional penalty as determined by the court of not less than $50 nor more than $500, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. No parent or guardian is liable for damages under this section if he or she made a reasonable effort to restrain the wrongful taking and did not fail to report it to the merchant involved or to the law enforcement agency having primary jurisdiction after he or she knew of the minor's unlawful act. No report is required under this section from a parent or guardian if the minor was arrested or apprehended by a peace officer or by anyone acting on behalf of the merchant involved. "

Without going into a lot of detail, a family member was caught shoplifting and we as parents knew nothing about it until we were called by Macy's to let us know that the family member had been arrested and needed to be released to a parent or guardian. If we had known the family member was shoplifting, we would have put an end to it. We would have had that family member return the stolen merchandise and face criminal charges for the theft. The way I read the law, a parent is only liable if he/she failed to restrain the act of shoplifting when he or she was aware of the act. If a parent has no knowledge of the shoplifting, and is informed "by a peace officer or by anyone acting on behalf of the merchant involved" then the parent still isn't liable under this law.

To all my attorney friends, am I reading this code correctly? and is Macy's Loss Prevention department knowingly extorting money from parents who had no knowledge of their child's shoplifting activities? It seems to me that this is a form of extortion (Extortion: the act of securing money, favours, etc. by intimidation or violence; blackmail).

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work As a loss prevention officer in the state of California...you are right in the fact that if your kid stole something and I caught him I need to contact a parent or guardian to release the minor to a parent/guardian. IT IS NOT the parents responsibility to lay the fine for the minor. It is the minors responsibility to work out an arrangement with the parents for payment of such fine. BUT in my company we have a legal division that handles receiving payment/sending out the fine letter...I would contact Macy's and ask for their corporate number and ask to speak with their legal division...

7/30/2012 12:21 AM  

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