"There have always been thefts in our shops even though people know that they are for charity, but the situation has intensified a lot in recent months," said Daniel Beaudet. He is responsible for the 25 establishments that Cudeca has from Nerja to Estepona, across the province of Malaga, through which the foundation raises funds for palliative care for people with cancer.
For Beaudet, this reality is as "sad" as it is "surreal". Cudeca volunteers often find labels that are ripped from the garments and strategically hidden in each of its stores.
Estimating the losses caused by these thefts is complicated, but as Beaudet pointed out, "Given that each item costs around four euros, on average, and that around ten are stolen from each store a week," the total loss of income would total 4,000 euros a month, a significant sum that should have gone towards the care of sick people.
The Cudeca spokesperson also revealed that some of the shops where there is a higher incidence of shoplifting are in Malaga city centre.
"Those in the Plaza de la Merced and Calle Compañía are quite problematic," he acknowledges, although there are also others located in different municipalities, such as Arroyo de la Miel, where thefts are frequent.
To make matters worse, some of the shoplifters caught on the spot often return to the stores after a while. "There are volunteers who have identified a few people and as soon as they enter the store they warn them to leave or they will call the police," said Beaudet.
The most frustrating thing about this situation, for Beaudet, is that the money lost due to the shoplifters should have gone to fund the care of sick people.
“Once I chased one of the thieves; I told him that the fundraising was to care for people with cancer and asked if he realised what he was doing," said Beaudet. The man didn't respond; he just ran.
Although the head of the Cudeca shops acted on instinct on that occasion, he always asks his volunteers not to put themselves at risk and not to chase shoplifters.
Sadly, shoplifting has been increasing since the coronavirus lockdown ended, said Beaudet, confirming that Cudeca is considering investing in surveillance and security systems.
"What stops us, at the moment is that equipping each store could involve an investment of around 3,000 or 4,000 euros, and that money would have to be diverted from the care of sick people," Beaudet declared with some frustration.
The charity shop head is aware that, as a result of the pandemic, many people have been affected, leaving them in a more vulnerable social and economic situation.
But he said that these people can go to Social Services and that, through charities such as Cáritas, they can access vouchers that can be exchanged for clothes in Cudeca stores, so that their needs are taken care of.