Local liquor store bans purses

August 12, 2009
photo - Jaime Hilligrass walked out of Colorado's Liqour Outlet with just her wallet, as customer service rep.  Tom Vanderwerf  helped carry her purchases to her car.  Photo by Kirk Speer, The Gazette
Jaime Hilligrass walked out of Colorado's Liqour Outlet with just her wallet, as customer service rep. Tom Vanderwerf helped carry her purchases to her car. Photo by Kirk Speer, The Gazette 

If you want to buy booze here, hand over your handbag.

Colorado’s Liquor Outlet issued a “no purse” policy, plastering warning signs in front of the store with the sobering ultimatum: Leave your purse in the car or at the door -- or else.

“If they try to shop, we won’t sell to them,” head cashier Laurae Langello said.

No exceptions, ladies. No sweet talk. Workers at the door are no-nonsense purse enforcers.

This isn’t a shady part of town, this is Briargate, by golly. It’s across the street from Chapel Hills Mall.

The total purse ban was implemented three weeks ago to combat the increase of thefts this year at the store.

Shop owner Wayne Harris said inventory reports were showing a loss of $2,000 a week due to shoplifters. Big purses were a big part of the problem.

“We decided we had to do something to protect what is ours,” Harris said.

Traditional security measures weren’t working in the 18,000 square-foot store.

Cameras are everywhere. A live feed plays on six big flat-screens TVs. At the checkouts, LCD monitors flash images of shoplifters photographically caught in the act who are still at large.

As if the store’s exterior isn’t forboding enough, steel grates cover the windows — the aftermath of an April break-in when thieves made off with liquor haul valued at $17,000. Adding to the fortress effect are the row of concrete barriers to keep cars at bay. A driver smashed into the wine section last year.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and I have never seen it like this,” said Harris, who opened the Briargate store 12 years ago.

Harris blames the economy for the rise in thefts, which increased at his wife’s store, Springs Liquor Outlet, 6010 N. Carefree Circle, where purses also are banned.

Harris said he filed a few shoplifting reports last year. “We used to handcuff them until the police showed up,” he said, but he got in trouble for doing that.

Now, he said, he almost never files reports because it takes too long to deal with the process, and cop cars in the parking lot are bad for business.

“It’s not worth the trouble and the effort. If we catch them, we let them go. We get our bottle back and tell them don’t ever come back in the store again.”

The purse ban started out targeting big bags. “It made the women carrying the large purses upset because we were still allowing women with small purses,” Harris said.

So, medium purses were banned. The purse war raged on.

“It made the women carrying medium size and large purses mad at us. We thought, ‘What the hell, if we got 60 percent mad at us we might as well get 100 percent mad at us,” Harris said.

Man purses and backpacks also are not allowed.

So far, the purse ban has paid off for Harris. “I think we probably cut it (shoplifting) in half,” he said.

Customer count is down about 5 percent. Some storm out. Some toss their discount cards in the trash. “One woman threatened to call the state attorney general,” Harris said.

Most shrug and shed their purse after the initial disbelief.

“I didn’t really think they were going to actually not let me take my purse in,” said regular Briargate customer Jaime Hilligrass, a 21-year-old college student buying peach schnapps for her girls’ night book club. “I was kind of like, ‘Um, it’s a purse, it’s personal.’ It was kind of weird they wouldn’t let a woman take her purse in the store.”

The only vessels left for the five-finger discount are coats and baggy pants, but Harris has no plans to ban those.

“We can’t make people leave their pants outside,” he said.

Call the writer at 636-0253.

Call the writer at 636-0253.


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