Having worked both the retail market and grocery market in regards to loss prevention, I’ve seen my fair share of incidents involving the direct theft of liquor, wine and other alcoholic goods. One case in particular however happened before bottle security had evolved but in hindsight, I can see how it could have changed the outcome.
One afternoon before work, I received an urgent phone call from my DLPM (District Loss Prevention Manager). He asked me to deviate from my normally scheduled store for that day and head directly to a different store instead. It was a store that our loss prevention personnel rarely had to staff for shoplifter surveillance. He explained to me that for the past couple of days, store management reported that the wine section of the store was getting ‘hit’ significantly hard with theft. It’s something that would have never happened if the bottle locks were being used.
The bottle lock, introduced to the market in 2002 by Alpha Security, is an ingenious device that prevents liquor bottles from being opened without destroying the bottle itself. A definite highly effective theft prevention tool. Anyhow, after rerouting myself to the problem store and speaking with management, I thought it might be best to ask if anyone had reviewed the CCTV footage of the wine department to try and identify the problem. Of course no one had thought of reviewing the footage so I thought I’d start there. Seemed to me that they should have been more attentive to overall bottle security!
Scanning through the video footage, I observed a male subject enter into the wine department and proceed to act suspiciously. I was alerted to him due to his excessive clothing (winter coat, even though it was June) and obvious glances up towards the surveillance cameras. He proceeded to the section of the wine department that housed the most expensive brands.
I thought for sure that I’d see him select the $100+ bottles of wine. He would look through the shelves, pretending to read the labels. However I could tell that he was actually examining the tops of the bottles. I assumed to see which bottles he could get into quickest. The store had most recently tried using a less sophisticated version of today’s bottle locks and it appeared that he was avoiding the ones that had those bottle lock devices on top. As it turned out, he stayed clear of the more expensive wine that we had in stock and proceeded to the cheaper product. I noticed that he began to select bottles off the shelves that didn’t have bottle locks installed on them. They were actually void of any bottle security whatsoever because those cheaper wines weren’t in the view of our CCTV camera placements.
This guy loaded up on five cheap bottles of wine and stuffed them all into a makeshift girdle sling that was situated underneath of his winter coat. After realizing that the coast was clear, he made a B line for the front of the store, passed all points of sale and exited. At the time I was thinking to myself that it was a normal, run of the mill case of a hobo wanting some alcohol to drown his sorrows in. Boy was I wrong!
I don’t know what made me think of it but I decided to take a look at the exterior parking lot camera. From there I could see the guy climb into a minivan parked along the far perimeter of lot. It was sort of difficult to make out but I could tell that there were other people in the minivan with him. The more I looked at the footage, it looked like there were at least 4 other people in the vehicle with him. I could tell from the shadows casting through the glass that they were passing around the wine bottles he had just stolen.
To make a long story short, I was able to uncover additional footage of this guy (and his drinking buddies) coming into the store and boosting around 10-15 bottles of wine each night for at least the past few nights. What they were doing was coming into the store, loading up on bottles and getting drunk outside in the parking lot. With no bottle lock security in place, it was easy pickings. Management decided to place the bottle lock devices on all alcoholic products thereafter. The guys never came back and loss was averted from thereon! No matter cheap or expensive; this is the way to go when bumping up your bottle security!
For more information about bottle locks contact us at 1-770-426-0547.