DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - A Minnesota lakes country apparel wholesaler has taken a different approach to punish people who shoplift from their store. Rather than the usual route of catching the culprits and pressing charges, Detroit Lakes-based Lakeshirts let a few teens who were caught stealing a good amount of merchandise this summer work off their crimes.
"It was enough to prosecute ... we could have done that, but we chose not to," said Frankie Hutchinson who has been managing the Lakeshirts store since last spring.
She said they haven't had a lot of shoplifting incidents, but the ones she has caught have mostly involved minors, and the company has decided to go this route as punishment to teach a lesson without putting permanent marks on young kids' records.
"These are kids that are part of the community. They're high school kids who are in activities. They are just having a hard time, obviously," she said, adding that after the kids were caught, she turned them in, and her father, Mike Hutchinson, who co-owns Lakeshirts along with Mark Fritz, decided to work out an arrangement with the kids' parents.
"I believe they spent a few days over at the plant," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said this method of dealing with shoplifters is something new. She isn't sure how these situations have been handled in the past, but she said she would take this same route the next time a shoplifter is caught, particularly if it involved teens.
"As far as I know, it worked well on our end," she said, adding that she believes the kids learned their lesson. "When they did return the goods back to the store, they did seem sheepish."
Hutchinson said that across the company, they choose to take similar approaches to these kinds of situations. They'd rather work with shoplifters, disgruntled employees, etc. than make situations worse by burning bridges.
"Overall, we really try to work with employees and past employees and disgruntled employees in the most gingerly and teaching manner ... I think that's the route everyone would rather take," she said.
Hutchinson said it's worked for them, and it's something they will continue to try to do whenever possible.
"We are a homegrown business, and so many kids either work for us or have a family member who works for us or has worked for us," she said. "Our outreach in the community is pretty deep...we want to reach out and work with people, instead of punishing people."