Work the Problem: Strategies to Combat Shoplifting
Strategies to Combat Shoplifting
Theft is a continuous problem. The best deterrent to shoplifting is giving the best customer service possible.
Preventative strategies we employ:
- Start customer service at the door. If you greet people as they come in-make eye contact with them, see what they have on and what they came in with-you’ll be able to identify if something changes before they head out.
- We require customers to leave both large purses and/or backpacks up at the register. We give them a tag and then pin a matching one to the bag in order to correctly match it up when they are done shopping. Sometimes people get upset when we ask them to leave their bag at the register; we let the customer know it’s the same policy for everyone (it helps that they don’t feel singled out) and that if they aren’t comfortable with that they are welcome to leave their bag in their vehicle. Some stores offer a bag search on exit as an alternative to the bag check for any customers who prefer to hold their bag.
- Jewelry, certain electronics, and other items of value are placed in a locked glass case. When a staff member opens it to allow a customer to shop, he/she will stay at the case until the customer is done to ensure that anything that comes out either goes back in or ends up at the register.
- We put up signs saying “this area is monitored by video surveillance and shoplifters will be prosecuted” even if we didn’t have a camera in that area. Inexpensive, fake cameras can be put up as a deterrent.
- Large corner mirrors has also helped reduce theft. Even if we aren’t able to always be monitoring them people are less inclined to steal if they feel like they can be seen.
- We strive to place small, pocketable items up near the register and/or in areas that staff are constantly located.
If we suspect someone is shoplifting:
- If we believe someone is shoplifting we stay close by. We will straighten a rack next to someone who is acting suspicious, continually ask them if they need assistance, and compliment something they are wearing so they know we know what they have on; making it clear that we are observing what’s going on, removing opportunity as much as possible.
- We have trained our staff to alert the manager or PIC of potential shoplifters. The line staff do not confront shoplifters. If the manager sees a customer trying to exit with items or believes the customer is shoplifting, he/she has the authority to permanently disbar them from the store.
- If we are able to discreetly take a picture of the customer we will; we will then distribute the image to our other locations so the managers know to beware of this customer. We will also post it in the office so that all staff working the floor knows this customer is no longer allowed in our stores.
People donate to us because they believe in our mission and want us to do well; it’s very important for that to be part of the message communicated to staff. We want to respect the value of the product the way the donor wants it to be valued. Most theft is caught by line staff so it’s important to train them on how to handle it. Our goal is not just to protect our product, but to also protect our staff. We tell our staff to never chase someone or attempt to apprehend them.
Tips from the American Alarm blog
- Greet customers as soon as they come into the store. Addressing customers removes their anonymity. Shoplifters are known to avoid stores with attentive salespeople.
- Watch for customers who avoid eye contact, seem nervous, wander the store, linger, constantly look at store employees or exhibit other suspicious behavior. Approach shoppers exhibiting suspicious behavior and ask if they need help, instead of walking away from them – that’s often enough to deter potential shoplifters.
- Encourage employees to walk around the store, down various aisles, particularly along the walls instead of just down the center.
- Maintain a clean and organized store, including racks, shelves and dressing rooms. A disorganized, dirty store tells a shoplifter the employees are not paying attention. Keep shelves and displays low, and install adequate lighting to maintain visibility throughout the store.
- Keep commonly stolen items in plain view to discourage shoplifters. Place items that are often targeted in an area in the front of the store, near the cash register or another highly visible area.
- Compare notes with your neighbors. Talk with other shop owners about any suspicious behaviors they might have witnessed. Ask employees to keep logs of suspicious behaviors to share with each other as well as with other shop owners.
- Hire an adequate number of employees – enough to give customers personal attention. Stagger lunch and break times among employees.
- Draft a shoplifting policy and enforce it. Post the policy so employees and customers are aware of it. Offer ongoing training for employees so they understand how to prevent shoplifting or how to handle a situation if it does occur.
- Install anti-theft devices including security towers at entrances, security cameras throughout the store, convex mirrors in corners and anti-theft tags on merchandise.
- Restrict the use of fitting rooms. Lock dressing rooms, and require customers to see a salesperson before using the room. Post signs in fitting rooms warning against shoplifting.
If you suspect someone may be shoplifting, never accuse him, rather ask if you can help him or ring him up. Keep the person in your sight and contact security or a manager immediately. Never try to stop the shoplifter. If the shoplifter leaves the store, provide security with a detailed description of the person, including his vehicle, if possible.