Monday, 7 April 2008

Big Lidl is watching you

A couple of weeks ago, the magazine Stern ran an expose about the grocery discounter Lidl,
with allegations that they had been somewhat over-zealous in their efforts to cut down on theft and pilfering. In techniques recalling the bad old days of the Stasi and DDR, Stern journalists reported on mini-micro hidden cameras and weekly reports on employees which go into minute detail (with accompanying catty remarks) about how often they go to the loo, body odour problems, fashion sense, financial problems, snogging behind the washing powder racks and possible association with undesirables such as drug-takers.

Amusing as some of the petty detail was, this set off alarms, not just about co-worker but also customer privacy. Was a camera up there noting my PIN as well as spying on Frau T's flirt with Herr K , advising that Frau S would be better off keeping her (probably home-made) tattoos covered up and speculating why Herr N was in the store acting the idiot for three hours on Friday afternoon even though it was his day off?

Lidl have now come out with a full-scale explanation, if not exactly an apology. The cameras are a normal measure to protect against theft but the personal reports from the private detectives on specific staff were "not requested by us". A poor briefing, perhaps? Whatever the reason, trust has been broken here between management and staff, between the brand and the customer.

Maybe it would not be too much here for Herr Dieter Schwarz, the founder of Lidl, to come out and make a public statement. But it seems that the man is about as camera-shy as the yeti, ironically.

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