I frequently hear stories about inventive crooks. Amjad Farooq, who runs a Booker Premier at Bolton in Lancashire, offered me a good example. He has traded in the Halliwell area for 18 years and has suffered plenty of petty thievery. But this one was different. A ‘gent’ came into the store, a big (18 stone) man with a beard and glasses, looking every inch respectable and claiming to require a few bottles of spirits to celebrate his son’s birthday.

He borrowed pen and paper to make a list and then piled bottles up on an unused till, while supposedly also waiting for his wife who was doing the banking nearby. The total came to £139 and the ‘customer’ asked Amjad to make the order up to £200 with the retailer’s own choice and he went off to find his wife and the chequebook.

He never returned and Amjad discovered that a 70cl bottle of Pernod and 70cl of Jack Daniels were gone, worth £33 altogether and representing the two most expensive things in store. No doubt it was sleight of hand into the fat guy’s overcoat pockets. Even the camera couldn’t spot it. Now, did he pinch it because he has expensive taste or because he could sell it on for, say, 20 quid? And to whom? I ask this question on behalf of an anonymous writer who had just watched a programme on Channel 4 that suggested shoplifting mainly succeeded because people are willing to buy from the thieves at knock-down prices.

My correspondent writes: “Shopkeepers are always complaining about the shoplifting, staff theft and missing products from delivery drivers. But then comes this double standard with drivers offering back-handed deals. “I’ve been approached by one of our regular delivery men who said ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours – cash for whatever you want’. He seems to be doing quite well out of it,” observed the writer, “ripping off the company that pays him.

”The driver tried to justify his position, claiming this was his ‘bonus’ that the company no longer paid him. I can’t solve this. It is part of the huge black economy that plagues us all and I would add one further bleak point. If the retailer did ‘grass him up’, the company would require all manner of proof before they dare fire the delivery man, or he would no doubt avail himself of the unfair dismissal tribunal. Truth is, there will always be those who follow the system and those who work the system.