Mark Sainsbury: Rip-off cuts deeper when it's someone you know and trust

Court gavel
Court gavel. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: Getting ripped off is not nice.

You feel angry, you feel hurt, you feel stupid, but when you're ripped off by someone you know, it adds a whole new dimension.

Many years ago, I remember being sent, as a reporter, to Gisborne to talk to a dairy owner, who had installed a chair of shame. 

The business was having trouble, which the owners put down to shop-lifting, so they installed the chair of shame for anyone they caught to sit in, until the cops arrived. 

It created a bit of a stir at the time, but I remember following up with the dairy owner some time later to see how things had gone.

It turns out, as well as the chair of shame, their other weapon to foil the robbers was to install a secret camera over the till and, guess what, the people working for them - the people they trusted - were helping themselves.

It wasn't the dishonest customers, it was the dishonest staff - people they knew and trusted.

Which made it so much worse for the owners...

I was reminded of this, when I read of the troubles at the Maniototo Four Square.

This is a small business in small-town New Zealand - Ranfurly, central Otago.

It's the sort of place where owners Michelle and Martin Grundy knew their customers and knew their staff, especially Gina Spooner, whom they trusted so much they made her a manager.

It turns out that trust was misplaced. Spooner not only ripped off her employers to the tune of $25K, but also the customers - other people she knew and lived alongside - by loading things onto their accounts to cover her stealing.

When it was discovered, it was all the more devastating.

They told the court they felt their reputations had been tarnished as well, so how do you come back from that In terms of dealing with each other in a small town?

For Spooner, she will have to confront the people she ripped off... how is that going to work?

How many times do you read stories about lawyers and accountants ripping off their clients? It's about being a person in a special relationship.

Again, I covered a massive rip-off in Upper Hutt years ago. Local law firm Renshaw Edwards had a double problem - one partner was ripping off money to feed a gambling addiction, the other was ripping off the money to prop up speculative property deals that were going west.

It all ended in tears, but the clients felt so betrayed.

So is it worse getting taken by someone you know and is there any way back?

How do you remain in a community where you have betrayed their trust and stolen their money?

And should you be caught out, be careful what you wear.

In that same court that Gina Spooner had to face her accusers, the judge gave a serve to defendants that turned up far too casual.

Judge Michael Turner sent seven of them home to tidy up their act, after they fronted in jandles, shorts and singlets.

I wonder, is that any surprise? We have witnessed a growing casualisation when it comes to dress.

Been to a wedding or a funeral lately?  Noticed what people are wearing?

Once upon a time, we would put on a suit and tie to go to a funeral or a wedding.

Sure, times change, but I always take a second look when I see people arrive at a funeral - often immediate family - and they're not far different from those defendants in the Alexandra District Court.

I wonder if the issue is one of respect. Just as things have changed since the Victorian era, things evolve, but has casualisation gone too far?

If you're back at work this week and last, are people coming in more casual than usual?

Does the end of the holidays mean you can relax your standards, or are standards simply an old-fashioned concept?

What would you dress up for?

It's weird, isn't it? This weekend, you will find thousands of punters and race-goers turning up, dressed to the nines, to the Wellington Cup at Trentham.

So they'll dress to the nines for the races, but come in jeans and tee shirt to a funeral or wedding.

Does that seem right?

Mark Sainsbury hosts the Morning Show on Radio LIVE, phone 0800 844 747.