What’s a ‘Shop Your Neighbour’ policy?

‘Shop your neighbour’ means encouraging everyone to report breaches of rules to the authorities. It was in the news recently when Pretty Patel suggested it as a means of enforcing the latest rules for managing the Coronavirus pandemic. I have written before about risks connected with this pandemic. But I had not mentioned policing your neighbours.

Shop your neighbour at work?

Some employers encourage employees to report breaches of rules, especially Health & Safety and financial matters. Perhaps you might consider this as a way of managing risk? Do I recommend it? I’ll come to that later.

Why shop your neighbour?

  • The police and others in authority cannot be everywhere (especially when you need them, they say).
  • It is in everyone’s interest for the law to be obeyed (except for criminals).
  • The Covid restrictions are there to protect us all.
  • The likelihood of being reported is a deterrent.

Should you shop your neighbour?

Despite the reasons for doing so, there are drawbacks.

  • You don’t usually have the whole picture and can easily jump to wrong conclusions. Perhaps that person without a mask has one of those conditions that make it unwise to wear one.
  • The rules on Covid keep changing and are different in different places. Perhaps you are wrong in your understanding. Or perhaps your neighbour is innocently mistaken. A gentle reminder might be better. Or not!
  • At this time, a lot of us are under all kinds of pressures. We can easily be annoyed by things that normally we would hardly notice – the noise of DIY, music, children playing, people parking inconveniently, litter… It is a time for tolerance and support, not criticism.
  • It is easy for a mistake to generate bad feeling and possibly reprisals, or just damage a relationship, all out of proportion to the issue.

My experience of a ‘Shop your neighbour’ campaign.

When I was the insurance officer for a local authority, there was a surge in claims for personal injuries, mainly for trips on the pavement. Some firms of ‘claims farmers’ were encouraging everyone they met to make a claim, ofen when they had not had an accident. Some authorities set up ‘claims hotlines’ for people to inform on false claims. In my experience, very few of these reports were of any use.

  • Informants were usually anonymous.
  • The information tended to be vague.
  • Some of the claims in question were actually valid.
  • In other cases, the allegedly fraudulent claim was never made.

Most informants were motivated by personal grievances rather than public-spiritedness. We also found  that some who could be identified were people who made regular complaints to the council on a wide range of issues.

Cartoon man with big question mark. Wondering whether to shop your neighbour?

Wondering whether to shop your neighbour?

Do I oppose ‘Shop your neighbour’ ?

I would not advocate starting such a campaign, but I obviously cannot say it is wrong to report wrongdoing of any kind, especially if the breaches of the rules put others in danger. However, I say to everyone, ‘Just be careful not to jump to conclusions or to be too petty.’ Businesses and authorities need to treat such information with caution.

For more on managing Risk, including handling fraudulent insurance claims. you might like to read my book, Load The Dice.

Load The Dice: A Simple Guide To Managing Risks In Small Businesses. It does not advocate a Shop Your Neighbour policy.

Load The Dice: A Simple Guide To Managing Risks In Small Businesses. It does not advocate a Shop Your Neighbour policy.