I’ve been in Retail Loss Prevention and retail as a whole for nearly 27 years. During that time I have obviously been involved in many efforts to prevent shoplifting from implementing merchandise protection strategies that use retail anti-theft devices like an Alpha Hang Tag to following and actually catching shoplifters. Over that time I found I changed how I dealt with the people I caught stealing from the stores I was working at. As a young man, even with my military experience, I probably was a bit more aggressive than I needed to be in some of my apprehensions. I didn’t yell or holler often, but in some instances I was a little meaner than I needed to be and that is the point of this article. Do you catch shoplifters, do you deter them and how do you deal with the people if you DO catch them shoplifting from your store?
Before I delve into that conversation I think it is important to discuss what I mean by merchandise protection strategies. Basically every store, regardless of how small or large, should have a merchandise protection plan in place. Is the store going to use lock-up cases or retail anti-theft devices like the electronic article surveillance (EAS) Alpha Hang Tag? The devices work with (EAS) radio frequency pedestals. They can be wraps, hard tags or cables that secure merchandise and prevent theft while allowing customers to walk around the store with the merchandise. As an example I already referenced, the Alpha Hang Tag has two pieces that clip together to reinforce packaging hang tabs and blister pack tabs. Merchandise can no longer be cut from locking peghooks and the EAS protection ensures an alarm will sound at the EAS towers if a thief tries to conceal merchandise and sneak it out the doors. Is the store going to install a closed circuit television system to record potential high theft areas? Perhaps cctv will be used to record cash registers to monitor for internal theft. All of these things need to be considered in a strategy plan to reduce merchandise shortage and improve profitability.
So to return to my point, if you are deciding if you are going to stop shoplifters (or maybe you already do) or have managers or a Loss Prevention Associate detain shoplifters how do you handle them? First, you have to be careful to remember that each situation is different. You must be ready to adapt to the person and how they respond when you stop them. When I started out in the business I was firm with everyone, I wasn’t rude, but I was not friendly with the suspect either. Over the years I modified my approach somewhat, taking into account the situation, the number of people I was dealing with and watching for reaction signals from shoplifters. I learned that the teenager who was alone might be much more compliant with my requests than the teenager with a group of friends. Frequently pulling someone out of a group causes that person to want to show off and present a “tough” image for their friends. That well-dressed “business” man or woman may very well be quiet and not want to be noticed or they may be the person that starts screaming and yelling and acting out in an attempt to embarrass you and hoping that you will back down. I learned over time that sometimes being friendly is a good way to disarm a tense situation. While a Loss Prevention Associate should always identify who they are when the stop someone, a manager can just say hello and offer their first name. Don’t forget, the shoplifter is always on edge when they approach the doors so the shock of being stopped amps up an already tense situation. Using a friendly approach can take the tension down a notch. It may get you your merchandise back even if the suspect chooses to run.
Maybe you are leaning more towards a deterrence approach to prevent shoplifting. Retail anti-theft devices and a prolific number of employees to provide customer service may be your answer to reduce shortage. CCTV cameras and public view monitors can add an additional layer of security so criminals are less inclined to steal.
For those business owners leaning towards the possibility of apprehending shoplifters, in Part 2 of this series I discuss some tips you will want to consider. Theft is not a joke and stopping thieves is serious business. Consider all the facts and consider consulting with Loss Prevention System Inc. Professionals who can provide training seminars that might help in your decision.
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