Fry’s Pilferage Problem

By  |  Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 4:05 pm

fryslogoIf you’re into digital gadgetry and live in the Bay Area, you probably spend a fair amount of time and money at Fry’s Electronics, the chain of ginormous electronics superstores that also has outposts in Southern California, Texas, Arizona, and a few other areas. And every time you buy something, you go through a moment of anti-theft kabuki at the exit in which you have to show your receipt to a guard who examines (or pretends to examine) the items in your shopping bag to see if you’re trying to steal anything. It’s a little example of ritual humiliation that irks me every time I go through it (though not enough, so far, to keep me out of Fry’s).

I couldn’t help but think of this when I heard the news this week that Ausaf Umar Siddiqui, Fry’s vice president of merchandising and operations, has been arrested in an alleged $65 million kickback scam involving charging electronics suppliers a commission in return for buying products at inflated prices. Prosecutors charge that it had been going on for almost four years, and that the money went to pay off Siddiqui’s mammoth Vegas gambling debts. Nobody at Fry’s noticed until recently, apparently, when an anonymous coworker dropped a dime on him.

If Fry’s has indeed been cheated out of a vast sum of money by one of its top executives, I’m not happy…but I might be just a tad more sympathetic if it weren’t long-standing company policy to obsessively treat every single paying customer as a potential thief. One wonders if the crime Siddiqui is accused of committing could have possibly happened if Fry’s put as much energy into auditing its supplier relationships as it does into hassling its shoppers…


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. fred Says:

    I have been avoiding Fry’s for more than 2 years. I buy something from Fry’s only if I can’t find it anywhere else. The prices are not that great, half of the boxes have been opened or returned from a previews buyers. Sales rep are useless even worst, annoying. Fry’s is not what it used to be.

  2. Dave Barnes Says:

    The kabuki is designed solely to prevent “your buddy, the cashier” from ringing up an item at an incorrect (lower) price and “passing the savings onto to you”.

    There is no other purpose for the door ritual.

    You have the legal right to walk straight out the door without participating in the ritual.

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    Dave: The door guards may indeed check for items rung up at lower prices, but they typically count the number of items in my bag, or pretend to, so I assume they’re also checking for “purchases” that were never rung up at all.

    I do tend to stop for the kabuki, but I long ago learned that if the cashier forgets to deactivate anti-shoplifting tags on an item (or you set off alarms for other reasons) there’s no reason to stop at the door. Just continue on your merry way,


  4. Richard P. Schmitt Says:

    The National Retail Security Survey, November 2002,, stated that employee theft accounted for 48.5% of inventory shrinkage at the retail level compared to 31.7% from shoplifting.

    Sad. Brings into question why a retailer would want to annoy customers by checking bags at exit.