The latest on the list of pesky petty theft? A case of check fraud, ringing in at just $87.
If you read retail news, you’re surely familiar with reports of shoplifting running rampant since the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off in 2020. While some companies, including Walgreens, have acknowledged crying wolf and doubling down on security after isolated incidents, small business owners are still struggling.
Jonathan Tse, co-owner of the 30-year-old La Boutique Resale (located at 1132 Madison Avenue at 84th Street), has noticed an increase in theft within this tony stretch of the Upper East Side. “During the [height of] the pandemic, there were less people coming in — but now they’re itchy to get whatever they can. With masks, people are not as easily recognizable. When you see someone with a mask, sunglasses and a cap, you have to be more careful,” he noted.
Given the variety of rare pieces available (including coveted accessories from Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton), this observation has led to some changes within the two-floor business, including the removal of upstairs dressing rooms. “People would go in with 20 items, and it was impossible to control it.”
Now, let’s get to the aforementioned check. As posted on La Boutique’s Instagram last week, Tse sent a check to a consigner in California who told him she never received the payment. Upon reviewing his bank statement, the original name was crossed out, replaced with another — and promptly cashed.
Though he can’t prove this theory, Tse has noticed that a few mailboxes in the neighborhood are “gluey,” alluding to the possibility of someone going through and snapping up envelopes stuck in the slot. Sure enough, mail theft via sticky substances has also been on the rise, and may account for this snafu.
Regardless of how it actually went down, the result has been a great deal of inconvenience — particularly for such a small sum. The account was immediately shut down, leading to bounced checks and plenty of paperwork. As the bank is handling the matter, Tse plans to remain vigilant — suggesting other small businesses follow suit by always having a senior staff member present. “You just need to be around,” he says.