TJ Maxx and Marshalls workers wearing bodycams

Clothing shops TJ Maxx and Marshalls are equipping staff with bodycams. The rationale is to prevent shoplifting—a phenomenon retailers often hype in press releases, then downplay to people they can't lie to such as shareholders and insurers.

TJX finance chief John Klinger disclosed the body-camera initiative on an earnings call last month. "It's almost like a de-escalation, where people are less likely to do something when they're being videotaped," he said. TJX isn't alone. In a survey of major chains by the National Retail Federation last year, 35% of US retailers said they were researching body cameras for employees. The manufacturer of Taser devices [Axon] and other security companies are now designing and marketing body cameras specifically for retail workers.

Thing is, that's not what bodycams are for.

"'I don't know how much this will stop someone in the act. They're already going in with the assumption they will be recorded,' said Ernesto Lopez, a research specialist who has studied shoplifting trends at the Council on Criminal Justice."

Workers dislike this because they know what bodycams are for. You just have to ask yourself: why do we require police to wear bodycams? Why do police unions spend millions limiting their use? Why do cops hate them and turn them off whenever they can? Because bodycams watch the wearer.

It's possible that these retailers' chief officers are so malleable that Axon sold them on $2789 crackhead deterrent badges, but it's far more likely that the long-term plan is "see what your employees' hands are up to every second of their shift."