It isn’t just businesses that often need a dose of public shame to stop acting awful — sometimes customers are taken to task when they’re behaving badly, as one video store owner in North Carolina has been doing. She estimates that she’s lost about $26,000 in unpaid late fees and videos that never returned in the last three years and is taking to social media and a Wall of Shame in her store to fight back.
The owner, Christie, has a white board scrawled with about 300 names of people who she says are at least six months behind on paying fines or returning her videos and vide games. She hopes the Wall of Shame will convince those lollygagging customers to do the right thing.
As of a few months ago, she took the wall and its list of names to the Internet, posting it on her store’s Facebook page just in case customers are feeling too guilty to even show their faces in person.
“It’s hard to replace an $80 video game if the first time you rented it, they don’t bring it back,” she told WRAL News. “It probably is harsh, but the way I look at it is – a lot of these people have cussed us. They have told us, ‘Who cares about late fees?’”
Her plan seems to be working, as she says many fines have been paid off as a result of the public shaming. But as one critic of her plan pointed out to the news station, her store is in essence a debt collector, which means posting customer names is a violation of the state law’s debt collection unreasonable publication clause.
However Christie says she made sure to check with her attorney before launching the plan, and claims it’s all on the legal up and up because renters sign a contract when opening their accounts.
“(The contract) specifies what our late fees are and it specifies how much you owe if you don’t bring the movies back,” she said. “(My attorney) says as long as you have an agreement with them, as long you have a signature,” posting the names is legal.
Her customers have a different view, however, including one woman who says she was never told that she had outstanding fines.
“It made me angry because that’s nobody’s business. It’s nobody’s business, and I’m sure a lot of people are embarrassed by it,” she said. “That’s why we’re trying to get it taken down.”
*Thanks for the tip, Richard!