Waterstones bookseller stole £11k through loyalty card 'tricks'

Waterstones bookseller stole £11k through loyalty card 'tricks'

A Waterstones bookseller has been given a suspended prison sentence after stealing more than £11,000 from the retail chain by tampering with its loyalty cards.

North Tyneside Magistrates' Court heard claims that “tricks” like the one Barry McCann, of Newcastle, carried out became common across the national chain - which has now scrapped its 'stamp and save' card for a more secure system, according to the North East News Chronicle.

Between February 2017 and July 2018, McCann took the cash at the Blackett Street branch of Waterstones using cards which gave customers £10 off their purchase if they collected 10 stamps on a paper card.

Stamps could be collected every time £10 was spent in the store; however a manager at the store discovered McCann was filling out the cards himself. So when customers paid for their books in cash, McCann had processed the transactions as loyalty card payments, slipping the falsely filled-out cards into the till and taking the £10 notes for himself.

After the police were alerted, an audit revealed he had processed an "alarming" amount of cards, McCann, 39, admitted what he'd done, and it was concluded he had taken around £11,140 in total from the shop. 

In August 2018, Waterstones unveiled a revamped loyalty card developed in-house by the chain’s booksellers.

Prosecuting, Rehana Haque read out a victim personal statement written by a Waterstones staff member who dealt with the accounts. He said the theft had not only affected the business, but caused him personal stress, and left some staff members' jobs at risk.

McCann's defence solicitor, Michael Crowe, added: "This was happening all over the country because it was easy to do, the staff would have unfettered access to the unstamped cards."

"He is genuinely sorry for allowing himself to do this. It is to his credit that when he suffered the shock of being at work and being taken to task over this he was more than cooperative."

District Judge Kate Meek sentenced McCann to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to do 240 hours of unpaid work and up to 15 days of rehabilitation work with the probation service.

McCann, who has now left the chain for an illustration course, will have to pay back the sum he stole from Waterstones within four years.

A spokesperson for Waterstones said the chain was unable to comment on details of a court case. However they added: "With the introduction of Waterstones Plus we have modernised how we engage with our customers, and they now have the advantage of a totally electronic method of collecting and spending their Plus Stamps, both in our shops and online.  For those who sign up to our marketing programme, we draw on the expertise of our booksellers to connect readers with books they will love through our own recommendations, as well as provide a growing offer of reader rewards, such as signed and exclusive editions, and prize draws."