When we first arrived in France, we were constantly followed around shops by strange men. These solitary men in suits were suspicious. They did not carry shopping baskets like normal shoppers but lurked in the shadows sometimes fingering goods and pretending they were considering whether to buy something. I used to keep my watchful eye on them, ready to alert the store if I saw something suspect. Then the penny dropped that they were store detectives keeping an eye on us strangers speaking in unknown tongues. Even small businesses employ them. If you take a bag of shopping into a store you are expected to leave it by the till so you cannot slip something else inside your bag. I rebel against this especially when I have my work briefcase with me. If anyone stole it from an unwatched till, I would lose lots of things that cannot be replaced. Often in the smaller supermarkets there is no one at the till until you come to pay. I wonder what would happen if my goods were stolen, would I be reimbursed? In a small supermarket a store detective waited for me outside and wanted to see what was in my shopping bag, but I had the receipt from the previous shop, so I was OK. Once an English boy on a school exchange decided to be clever and to shoplift something to impress his mates. He was seen and prevented from leaving the store. The head teacher of the exchange school was not happy to be telephoned and to have to come and fetch him in ‘loco parentis’. The reputation of the English school was sullied. The boy narrowly escaped a night in the cells.

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