The mother of a pregnant woman who was wrongly accused of theft over an instore intercom at her local supermarket said staff denied that the incident occurred when she called an hour later.
Cherisse Martin, mother of Rikki Cooper, said her daughter rang her in tears after a female staff member at Countdown Dinsdale, in Hamilton, used the store’s intercom system to track her movements.
Cooper went to the Countdown on Thursday for her weekly grocery shopping when over the speakers she and other shoppers could hear a female staff member describe her as a “Maori girl” who needed to be watched.
A female staff member using the store’s intercom said: “Quick CCTV down aisle one; two Maori girls are down there.”
Shortly after, she said: "The main one is the Maori girl with the big bag on her side."
Cooper continued shopping.
Then came: "The other Maori girl went down another aisle but the main Maori girl is still down aisle one."
Cooper said she surrendered her bag to be checked and revealed her pregnant bump after staff suspected her of putting store goods under her jersey.
Martin said after she received a call from her daughter she immediately got on the phone to Countdown Dinsdale last Thursday evening.
After explaining to the female staff member what her daughter had told her, she was shocked by the tone the manager took.
”I said why on earth did this happen over an intercom? She said that the incident didn’t happen; that she had been there all day and it did not happen.”
Martin believed her daughter, and was horrified at the lack of professionalism shown by the staff.
”I think anyone who has been in a situation where they have been followed, or stared at by staff of any store while trying to buy things will understand how unsettling this experience is.”
[Cooper] had been overwhelmed by the number of people who have had similar experiences throughout New Zealand.
"I didn’t realise how big the issue really is. Maybe something needs to be done to stop anyone else from having to go through this."
Countdown staff initially denied the incident had occurred.
Countdown general manager for operations Brett Ashley said he could not comment on Martin’s treatment because it was an “employment issue”.
About four staff members laughed at her as she left the store in tears, Cooper said.