When Retailers Shouldn't "Catch" Shoplifters

Aug. 28, 2009

I frequently get the call from small "mom & pop" retailers looking for someone to train their employees on how to catch shoplifters. I always respectfully turn down such requests and take the time to try to educate them why they should not be in the shoplifter catching business. The retailer who does not have a trained, dedicated security / loss prevention staff should be in the business of deterring theft and making there stores unattractive to shoplifters.

Whenever I'm involved in the development and training of professional retail loss prevention departments, my message is there is nothing for sale in your store that's worth you, a coworker or a customer getting injured over. My message to the small retailer is the same, nothing you sell is worth your losing your life over. The daily news is filled with shoplifter apprehensions that have taken a turn for the worse, someone was severely injured or worse - killed while trying to apprehend a suspected thief. This includes innocent customers who "get in the way" of a thief trying to escape.

Many retail thefts are tied to drug usage and the perpetrator is desperate to convert their purloined goods into cash for drugs. Their focus is on their next fix and they are often not concerned about the safety of others while trying to escape from your store.

Instead of trying to catch shoplifters the retailer, without a dedicated loss prevention staff, should be focused on training their sales staff in providing excellent customer service. Take the time to greet every customer and make eye contact with every customer who walks through your door. The majority of shoplifters are opportunist, meaning they will only steal from you if given the right circumstances. The last thing they want is a store employee paying attention to them. They want to be able to slip in your door unnoticed, steal what they want and slip out the door without anyone knowing they were in the store. Good, attentive customer service will deter the vast majority of shoplift activity.

Organize your store giving it an open, uncluttered appearance, do not create a maze inside your store. By creating more open space potential shoplifters feel uneasy and have the feeling they are always being watched.

Never leave the sales floor unattended. Many times, as a customer, I have searched the floor for assistance only to find the sales associates huddled together talking about their Friday night plans, making the store a shoplifter’s paradise.

If your store provides a fitting room, keep it clean. Scattered merchandise from previous shoppers sends the message that you do not care. Remove un-purchased garments from the fitting rooms and remove any discarded price tags as they are evidence unpaid merchandise went out the door. Set and enforce policies that require associates to examine and count the items before they are taken into fitting room. When a customer exits have the employee examine and take the unwanted merchandise from the customer.

They are many more tips. Way too many to fit into a blog. The message here is to create an atmosphere that is not conducive to shoplifting. This tactic will go a long ways towards saving your bottom line.

Coming soon - ways to reduce your exposure to employee theft.


Curtis Baillie - Security Consulting Strategies, LLC





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