Thieves and Bad Actors

Red evil eyes of a bad actor.
Evil Eyes of a Bad Actor

Not to long ago a favorite yarn store was plagued by a shoplifter who made off with, among other things, a single mitten sample. What can you do with one mitten?

The local police found the thief and returned the stolen goods. Yay!!! It got me thinking about some of the bad actors I've encountered in my retail life.

Copy Cats

M. calls herself an artist, but is nothing of the sort. She is notorious for copying any work that appeals. There are no original thoughts in M's brain. Once I said, “That looks just like _______'s work.” M. replied (a bit too quickly), “I did it first.” Occasionally I encounter M. at a show and am always intrigued to see who's been ripped off lately.

Copy Cat stealing ideas.
Copy Cat

Your going to be copied sooner or later. The easiest, and quickest thing to do is just move on. Redesign the thing, or drop it from your line. Sometimes you might need to go further to recover your intellectual property, but I'm not going into that here. I've been copied a number of times, but one incident sticks in my head.

A woman walked into my booth (at a show) wearing a scarf that looked like one of my pleated scarves, except the workmanship was shoddy. She actually got in my face and said, “ It looks like yours but it's cheaper.” The nerve! Of course, she wouldn't tell me who made it, probably her. Most copy cats have no imagination. I just changed the scarf's shape, and beading pattern on the edges. Those scarves still sell today. I never saw the copy cat or her scarf again.

Beading detail on a Pleated Scarf.
Beading on a Pleated Scarf

During my wholesale days I had an assistant who knocked-off some of my designs and tried to sell them to my customers. I had no idea until a few buyers told me. They recognized her and the work. They wouldn't buy from her. She left shortly after my discovery. Later I heard she tried to cozy up to some other designers. No one would get near her. Karma?


Anyone involved in retail can tell you a number of shoplifting stories. It's an age-old problem.

I remember one show that was cursed with rampant shoplifting. I lost $750 in merchandise. So many artists were complaining about theft. There isn't much promoters can do. You're responsible for your own booth. If it's crowded, you can't watch everyone. Things disappear in the blink of an eye. In my case, it was easy for thieves to just slip things off hangers and into a bag. After that, I started safety-pining clothes to hangers. It worked.

Shoplifter putting a blouse in her bag.
Bad Shoplifter!

Some people steal just because they want an item, and feel they “deserve” it. One well heeled customer bought a jacket, and wanted a certain scarf to go with it. She expected me to throw the scarf in for free. I wouldn't. She was a bit ticked-off, but payed for the jacket, and stayed to fiddle with the scarf. I turned to help another customer, when I turned back the scarf and the affluent customer were gone. I should have known better.

Bad Actors

Over the years I've had some fabulous assistants, and a few, not so great.

A. won the award for worst bad actor in the studio, hands down. She was ok the first couple of months, then the bad behavior started. I was mystified at how brazen she was, and I think she actually thought she was fooling me. A. would take a 1 ½ hour lunch, and insist it was only 45 minutes. If I was gone, she got little done. She said the machines wouldn't work or the electricity was off. If these bizarre things happened why didn't she call me? A. wasn't terribly smart, and usually left evidence of what she was up to in the trashcan (scraps from Halloween costumes), or on my computer's history. When confronted, she would deny everything, like a four year old. I stopped arguing with her because there was no point. I put up with her shenanigans for a few weeks, until I found a replacement. She was a piece of work, and thankfully, one-of-a-kind.

Today, I happily work alone, except for my cat Loulou. She's not likely to steal my ideas, but you never know. I still don't have eyes in the back of my head, and am aware there might be bad actors lurking about. You just have to be prepared.

My cat Loulou in a box.
Loulou Keeping an Eye on Things

And...doesn't it make you happy that the mitten sample found it's way home to the yarn store. Nice to know there's a little justice in the world.

Watch out for bad actors,


October 1, 2021

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