Loss Prevention vs. the Merchant

I have battled the “us against them†mentality throughout my retail loss prevention career.
However, all I have to do is look at postings on the “Retail Loss Prevention/Retail Security†forum on SecurityInfoWatch.com and the “Shoplifting†forum at LPInformation to see the battle is still alive and well.

There has always been a divide between Loss Prevention protecting the assets of a store and the merchant’s ability to display and sell the merchandise. The secret is how well can the two partners work together to achieve a happy medium. At issue is what the Loss Prevention staff views as prohibitive policies that deter them from doing their job. Some of these policies include fitting room stops, chase, or no chase policies, the amount of force used in making shoplifter apprehensions, and under what circumstances a shoplifter is prosecuted.

Currently, there is a discussion thread going on at SecurityInfoWatch forums titled, “Security Loop Holes.†The discussion quickly turned to fitting rooms being “safe zones†for shoplifter apprehensions. Just reading the postings reveals a wide variety of opinions about the subject. The question is why potential shoplifters feel that fitting rooms as safe zones.

Fitting rooms naturally provide customers with sense of privacy, as well they should. Thieves steal because they are presented with the means, motive, and opportunity to steal. The number one deterrent to theft in retail establishments is customer service. There in lies the solution to fitting room thefts, as they are an area where customers can enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy. Therefore, the use of CCTV (cameras), mirrors, and peepholes to observe illegal activity cannot be used. What is very effective in reducing fitting room losses is the fulltime clerk who is assigned to provide customer service. The fitting room attendant duties should be greeting customers, attending to customers needs while in the fitting room; such as knocking on the fitting room doors to let customers know they are there to assist them, and keeping the rooms clear and free unwanted merchandise left behind.

Why LP policies are enacted – One of the posters on the “Security Loop Holes†thread wrote that they though it was unfortunate that all companies didn’t have the same apprehension policies when it came to fitting rooms. This never will happen. Companies develop LP policy and procedure based on; 1) what they think will best protect them and continue to serve what is in the best interests of their customers, and 2) litigation avoidance and cost controls. Unfortunately, the litigation avoidance part usually comes after something negative has happened and the company pays damages to a “wronged†party.

As an example, I’m familiar with the ‘chase – no chase†policies of many different companies. Meaning once the suspected shoplifter exits the front door, and decides to run to escape being apprehended; some companies allow pursuing shoplifters, many do not. There again retailers have learned that Murphy’s Law reigns. If something can go wrong – it probably will. Either the LP Agent, shoplifter, or an innocent bystander can be injured, resulting in a lawsuit against the retailer.

This blog topic, “Loss Prevention vs. the Merchant†is full of possible sub-topics. Some that come to mind are handcuffing policies, training of LP Agents, and internal theft. I’m sure we’ll explore them down the road.

Now for a BOOK PLUG:

A new book has been released for sale by Butterworth-Heinemann – Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention – An Encyclopedic Reference written by Charles A. Sennewald, CPP, CSC and John H. Christman, CPP. Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention (ISBN: 978-0-12-370529-7) is destined to become the "go to" source of crime- and loss prevention - related information in the retail industry. The author of this blog is a contributing author for this publication; writing on topics including:

Bank Deposits
Ethical Dilemmas and Conflicts of Interest
Grocery Loss Prevention, and
Product Tampering and Contamination.


Curtis Baillie, Principal Consultant     Security Consulting Strategies LLC