Cellphones On The Salesfloor – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of It

The use of cellphones in the workplace has become more prolific over the years. It used to be that managers could put out a policy stating that the use of cellphones was strictly forbidden. I used to be in this camp and to a certain extent, I still am. As a Loss Prevention Manager, I saw the negative impact phones could have on customer service. Employees would focus on the phone at the expense of the customers. When the culprit was a cashier I would see the violators of the policy hiding the phone next to the register and texting in the midst of a transaction. That was totally unacceptable and did on more than one occasion result in a register error. Either merchandise was not properly scanned or the wrong change was tendered to the customer. In several cases, I had cashiers texting family and friends telling them to come in and go through their checkout lane. This would result in theft through passing or “giving back too much change” commonly known as cash theft. Of course, using the phone as a means of stealing from the store was the ugly of the cellphone issues. 

     The bad side of the cellphone conundrum is the customer service issues they cause. You have seen it, the sales floor employee looking at their phone and texting or looking through their music. Eye contact is almost non-existent. As a shopper, this drives me up to the wall. If the employees would spend as much attention to shoppers as they do their phones I can only begin to imagine the increased sales stores would enjoy. Now, as a manager in a college library, I have student assistants working for me who all have phones and most carry the phone in their back pockets. We have policies restricting when they can use the phone but often I have to correct them when they violate the policy and pull the phone out and begin texting. We have the policy in place for the same reasons that stores have (or used to have) the policy; to ensure customer service is the number one priority. Making the enforcement of the policy more difficult is that other supervisors are pulling out their phones and using them. This seems a bit hypocritical in my view.  

     There is a good side to allowing cellphones in a retail or customer service environment and it has softened me just a tad to the arguments in favor of them. If a store employee is on the sales floor and sees suspicious activity from a potential shoplifter the employee can quickly get in contact with a manager without looking for a store phone. 2-way radios are not always the most effective communication devices. Some associates keep the volume on their radios turned up and even if an earpiece is in use conversations can be overheard. I have had shoplifting suspects hear employees talking and drop merchandise as I was preparing to stop them for stealing. I have also seen customers get angry when they heard employees talking about them over radios. It could be talking about the customer’s behavior or something the customer was saying that was causing a disturbance. For example, the customer could be causing a scene about a return they were trying to do that was refused. Radios are just not always the best communication tool from a safety or security perspective. Cellphones make a convenient and more discreet method of communication and can even include text messaging which isn’t heard at all.  

     Another pro-cellphone argument is the ability to summon help in a store in the event of an emergency. As we see in social media today there is hardly a significant event that can take place without someone(s) getting it on a cellphone camera. From natural disasters to vehicle accidents and even active shooters, right or wrong people are going to get video and messages out and post it. The more employees that are allowed to carry their phones the greater the likelihood first responders will be notified quickly from multiple sources in the store. Think about the advantages this could have in the event of an altercation or robbery. Someone is likely to get through to authorities much quicker than if a store phone is the only accessible communication device. 

     As much as they can be a pain in the neck to retailers, cellphones are here to stay. By laying out expectations and policies regarding when they can be used managers can try to manage the use of phones while being flexible in allowing them to be in an employee’s possession. Who knows, such a policy might be a lifesaver someday…literally.   

Caught A Shoplifter? Now What? To Prosecute Or Not

Do you go fishing? Have you ever caught a fish and had to decide if you were going to keep it or not? Sometimes there are limits to the number of a certain breed of fish you can catch and keep in a day. There are also size limits that are imposed on certain species, for example; a Large Mouth Bass might have to be fourteen inches long or longer in order to keep it in South Carolina. There are even seasons when certain fish cannot be kept if caught. As an example in Texas, according to texas.gov, Red Snapper season in federal waters closed on August 22 in 2018. In some situations where you can keep fish but only certain quantities you may have to decide if you are going to catch and release and keep the larger fish or take a chance and just reach your limit for the day. Shoplifting can be somewhat the same. You were wondering how fishing was going to tie in to Retail Loss Prevention weren’t you? 

     Now I am not talking about catch and release because a shoplifter does not fit the right height and weight limits. I am talking about whether a store management team makes a decision if they are going to prosecute shoplifters if they are caught period. Some store managers make a decision not to prosecute anyone for theft. The reasons are varied but may include the potential danger involved with stopping a crook or the risk of making a stop and the suspect does not have any merchandise (or says they do not and makes the manager question the decision to stop).  Sometimes the decision not to prosecute rests on a dollar amount. A shoplifter might be stopped for an item under $20 but will not be prosecuted for that particular theft. Let’s explore why such decisions are made.

     One of the major reasons for not prosecuting shoplifters, especially when the value of the item falls under a specific price point is that the amount of time spent on the case far exceeds what the value of the item was in the first place. If you choose to stop a shoplifter you will want the manager to write up some kind of report of the incident. In Loss Prevention we have incident reports to complete. There is also the time spent by the manager waiting with the shoplifter in an office for the police to show up. Depending on the jurisdiction police may issue a citation to appear in court for the alleged crime or they may take the suspect into custody. Follow all of this up with time spent in court prosecuting the case. By the time all is said and done a prosecuted case can be more costly to the merchant than just recovering the product and letting the suspect go.

     Before you think that you have made up your mind on the direction you are going to take I would like you to think about the other perspective on this subject. Why would you decide to prosecute a shoplifting case? If you catch and detain someone, decide to release the suspect and they get into an accident you could potentially be held responsible. That is unlikely but has to be taken into consideration. If the suspect is a juvenile and you detain them you absolutely cannot release them on their own. Yes, you could choose to release them to a parent or guardian but there may be reasons it would be better to contact the police. I have seen my share of irate parents and later wished I had released the child to authorities.

     While it may not seem like an important reason for you to prosecute a shoplifter I would ask you to consider one more thing. Each time a shoplifter gets caught, cries and gets cut loose with a promise not to steal again it is another crime that there is no record of being committed. Prosecuting a thief may not make a significant difference to you but in the big picture a shoplifter with no official police record is a shoplifter with a clean record. That minimizes any penalty they may get when they are finally caught and prosecuted. Shoplifters who get away with their crimes continue to hurt retailers until they do get caught and prosecuted. 

     Catch and release when fishing may or may not be your choice. Prosecuting a shoplifter or not is up to you. Safety, efficiency, productivity and ramifications must all be taken into consideration. Ultimately the choice is up to the store owner. Just remember, whatever you decide to do be consistent and be fair with everyone you deal with.

An Investment For Your Business

When new legislation passes in many states, the array of issues that come to new elected officials varies considerably.  

Shoplifting laws are one of the many topics legislators review to make sure the punishment is appropriate.  Businesses and small businesses in general need to be protected by the laws of the country to ensure the economic growth of a locality, the state and ultimately the country.

The punishment for shoplifting varies according to the state and in some instances the county where the business is located.  Laws are put in place to make sure these silent crimes are not committed with impunity, and the shoplifter is prosecuted according to the law. 

Unfortunately, many of these shoplifting incidents are not prosecuted for  many different reasons. Ultimately, it is up to the business to decide whether to prosecute the shoplifter or not.  As a business owner, they have to consider the costs associated with prosecuting shoplifters as a rule and whether it is economically sound to do so.

A lawyer’s fee for an hour or to prosecute a case depends on the region, the experience and the complexity of a case but, either way, their fee does not come cheap. 

 As a business owner, is it practical or economically possible for you to have a privately retained attorney? Is it your business practice to prosecute a shoplifter regardless of the quantity they steal?  There are many questions one needs to answer, and many options you have to make as a business owner regarding shoplifting.

Shoplifting in the United States have become a multi billion nightmare for businesses in the retail industry.  From the casual shoplifter to organized retail rings, the losses the retail industry suffers are staggering.  The small stores or shops in this industry have to fight and stop loses because their livelihood depends on their ability to stop the shoplifters. The profit margin from sales is too small for them to ignore the problem or to neglected it for too long.

For many of the small retail businesses, a loss prevention system that allows them to protect their merchandise and profits is one of the best ways to invest in their business.  Big retail chains have for many years now invested in loss prevention systems to help them minimize the losses and help them prevent shoplifting and employee theft. 

A loss prevention system that gives the employer or management of the store up to the minute information about the merchandise , allows them to do their job more efficiently and helps them prevent theft is an investment that will pay off sooner than you think.

Keep Shoplifters From Stealing Your Holiday Spirit

It’s here! The holiday season and there is a spirit of goodwill that hopefully we all share towards each other. For retail owners and managers the joyful spirit is boosted when sales are good as customers are buying gifts and purchasing foods for baking and holiday meals. For the most part people seem to be a bit more patient towards each other (except maybe in a mall parking lot where drivers fight for the best parking places). It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Unfortunately there are real Grinches out there who, for their own nefarious purposes have no compunction about committing crime that can steal your holiday spirit or that of your customers. These crooks create havoc for a store by stealing the hottest merchandise on the market or the most expensive merchandise. They may come in and take the latest video games off your shelf. They may be walking out in a new pair of sneakers or loading a couple of bottles of Grey Goose vodka under their coat at $70 a pop and waltzing out the doors. The impact is not isolated to the financial loss you experience from that particular item. The theft of your merchandise has a snowball effect that is magnified through the loss of additional sales.

I like to think of the impact of one shoplifter like the ripple effect of a rock tossed in a pond. The rock makes a splash that disturbs the water. The impact is immediate as the affect is seen with the splash. Then there are the waves that travel out from the point of impact. The water is disturbed far removed from the original landing point. When that shoplifter steals a video game you lose the $60 immediately. This is your cost plus the profit that you would have made. Now a customer comes in who wants to buy that game but it is gone and you lose a sale. You could make the argument you really have still lost only the $60 but wait a minute. You lost this sale and may have lost that paying customer from making future purchases at your store. This is the first ripple. Then no one on your staff notices that the empty spot for the game is there. They assume it was sold and wait for replenishment. How long does the store go before action is taken to replace the game? Now you have no idea how many other customers came in and did not bother to inquire about it because it wasn’t on the shelf? How generous is your return policy? Can the thief bring the game back unopened and get cash or a gift card? Now you are paying for the merchandise you already bought. You lose TWICE! The impact can be greater than even the confines of your store. Does the criminal trade it for illegal drugs and the drug dealer sells it online or to a mom and pop shop where you are undercut? That gift card may be sold online too by the way. In a sense one theft is supporting other illegal activities.

I don’t want to steal your holiday spirit but I do want you to understand that if you are not actively protecting merchandise from shoplifters they WILL steal your spirit and your merchandise. The sad part of this story to me is that many store owners could easily thwart shoplifters through a few relatively easy steps. First and foremost is a purchase of a Sensormatic security system. It is affordable! Too many owners look at it only as an expense and they don’t understand the benefits in shortage reduction. They work and they do significantly decrease theft in the store. The other step is to build a culture of customer service. We talk about it all of the time in retail but it has to be a genuine core principle in a store. Greeting customers as soon they walk into the building with a real hello is a start. Spending time finding out what they are in the store for is the way to sell and help accessorize purchases. The added bonus for the store is the deterrent effect that service has on shoplifting.

Retail crime does steal the joy from store owners and customers alike. The shopper is prevented from buying the special gift that a special person had their heart set on. The business owner is deprived of the merchandise and deals with the lingering effects of the crime. Take my advice protect merchandise with anti-theft devices, a Sensormatic security system and make customer service a priority in your store. You and your customers will truly feel the spirit of the season!


      

Suspect Signs Of Employee Theft? What Is Your Next Step?

Maybe you have seen it before and never gave it much thought, you walked by a cash register and saw a gift card lying next to it. A customer probably just changed their mind, right? Perhaps you saw your salesfloor person wearing a heavy jacket while working but you just attributed it to them being cold all the time. You may notice cash shortages periodically but they are under $10 and some people get busy and make little mistakes, it happens. Then there is the cashier that seems to be really interested in the store and always reports suspicious people he sees. He even asks managers if there might be security camera footage that could be reviewed to see the “suspect” in case they return. There is the saleswoman who finds a lot of empty packages on the floor and reports them to the manager and where she found them so managers would know about theft taking place in the store. These each seem like harmless issues on the surface but could there be something more nefarious going on under your nose? Is something starting to seem a bit curious after all? If you are suspecting something dishonest may be going on in your store what is your next step?

     You may be thinking this would be the time to call the police and report your suspicions. Hold your horses, what are you reporting, a gift card tucked next to a register? A couple of low dollar cash shortages? You won’t get very far with the police and they certainly aren’t going to do any investigation for you. The appropriate step is to contact Bill Bregar at Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. He will walk you through the next stages of what you need to do to look into this further. Sure you are busy and have a million things to do each day but if you suspect theft is taking place something has to be done before it gets out of hand. Then again maybe there is another way to tackle this. Yes, Bill will be happy to talk to you and discuss your case but it might be in your best interest to let Bill conduct the investigation for you.

     Why hire Bill to do the investigation for you? Well for starters Bill served in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman, a Military Intelligence Officer and he was a police officer.  He is no stranger to conducting investigations. He is a trained and licensed private investigator, skills that are well suited to a successful retail investigation. Bill has also been a Retail Loss Prevention Director at the national level which makes him uniquely qualified to conduct store-level dishonest employee investigations. Who better to have on your side as a detective unless you could hire Sherlock Holmes and I hear he is currently unavailable?

      Are there other signals you might be overlooking that may indicate dishonest activity other than those touched upon earlier? Do you know where to begin looking? Do you know how to look for indications of employee’s conducting fraudulent refunds? What are the signals of sweetheart deals taking place under your nose? You can have an inkling that theft is happening in your store but if you know what signals to look for you can be sure when it takes place. The critical piece to getting your merchandise and/or cash back and restitution is a successful investigation. Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. has training seminars and workshops that can educate you on how employee theft takes place, signs to look for and how you can prevent it. When it does take place you will know what is going on and can call on Bill to be your personal gumshoe.

     Investigating employee theft is no game. Private investigators are a dime a dozen but finding a reputable company that is experienced in retail theft investigations is a more difficult task. Hiring an investigator with the background Bill has may seem to be an unattainable goal. Fortunately for the small and medium-sized retailers searching for a sleuth is simplified with a single stop at Loss Preventions Systems, Inc. Theft is probably happening in your store, the question is, what are you going to do about it?


 Getting To The Heart Of The Matter, Hiring The Wrong People Can Dishearten Your Staff

Hopefully, your store is one of those places where employees look forward to coming to work. You know what I’m talking about it’s that environment where everyone is happy to be there. Employees know they are there to get a job done and take pride in the service they offer to the customers. It’s the type of job where people may have an off day but their co-workers are supportive and help pick them up. It happens to all of us. These jobs have a manager who interacts with the employees and takes a real interest in each of them. The boss may take time to say hello and greet everyone. They know their employees by name and may even know their families. Unfortunately, not every workplace has such a camaraderie amongst the team members. There is any number of reasons this can happen but a major contributor to an unhappy workplace can be the hiring of an employee with a poor attitude.

Unhappy employees don’t always start out that way. They can get through an interview without any problem and they may begin working and get along fine. It is after they are hired that their true colors begin to show. These people are the type who start to complain to their co-workers when they are unhappy about something. It could be a work schedule they don’t care for that triggers the griping. The complaints tend to be general and not geared toward any particular person at first. When no one addresses the complaining the employee gets more vocal over time and begins to find other issues they don’t like. They are never limited to one gripe and constantly find perceived problems and share those perceptions with others. The complaining spreads as this person talk to others and suddenly people who were perfectly happy with their jobs and managers are taking exception to things. Where someone was fine with working at night or on weekends in the past they now feel they should not be expected to work when other jobs don’t require these types of hours. Never mind that they chose to work in retail which does require night and weekend workers. People begin to show up to work in bad moods anticipating that a non-existent problem is going to impact them again.

Now that the workplace has been infected with the virus of negativity and people are coming to the job with poor attitudes the problem manifests itself in other forms. Those who used to smile and engage customers with pleasantries are now frowning and giving curt, “Hello’s” to patrons. Customers get annoyed and share their experiences with friends and family. The atmosphere of the store is poisoned and like any poison, people avoid it lest they become ill or worse.

Guess what, this is not where the problem for your business ends. When workers become dissatisfied their performance wanes as well. The person who used to take care to stock the shelves properly and put merchandise where it belongs now puts merchandise in the general area. Clothing on racks that were once sized and straightened are now fortunate to make it onto a hanger let alone the arm of a fixture. The appearance of the store declines and employees don’t care. There is a malaise that sets in and an employee thinks to himself, “Why should I bother to fix it if no one else cares why should I?” If customers refuse to come in due to poor service they certainly won’t come in to shop in a store that is trashed.

To get to the heart of the matter you have to look at the culture of your store and what it is that is causing your store to decline. If everything was going well until you brought in that new hire then you have to get rid of that infection quickly. Afterwards be careful in your hiring process. Take a careful look at the applications, resumes and employment stability. Coupled with background checks and pre-employment screening your workplace can get back to the place it was but it is never easy. Bad habits are easier to create than break and your team may now have a bunch to break. Have a heart and be thoughtful in your hiring practices, your employees will love you for it.


Sweethearts In February Are wonderful, Sweethearting Deals Between Employees And Their Friends Are Not

It is the time of year again when Cupid starts shooting his arrows and couples fall in love. What is more romantic than the marriage proposal in a restaurant and a ring presented in a glass of champagne? How about sweethearts strolling along the beach under a moonlit night? Is there anything more touching than the couple that has been married for a very long time and they still walk hand in hand wherever they go? Sometimes love makes us do something dumb to try to impress the apple of our eye. In one instance, a prisoner escaped from jail because he was worried how his wife might react to all the time he had been spending in jail. In another instance, a man robbed three waffle house restaurants and a 4th business in order to pay off his girlfriend’s probation fees (both from mentalfloss.com, “11 Strange Things Done in the Name of Love,” by Jennifer M. Wood, Feb 14, 2014). Perhaps it is the purchase of a ring we can’t afford but we are determined to show our love and commitment to the person we are enamored with. Love is fine and we may even excuse behaviors we might normally consider silly when two people are in love. What is not acceptable is when love and friendship turn into “Sweethearting” deals in a retail business.

 Sweethearting is a theft or fraud activity that transpires between two or more people who know each other. At least one is an employee who provides special deals to his or her friend(s) and sometimes co-workers. The transgressions often start out small. They may involve giving a small discount on a drink or snack. Maybe it is “accidentally on purpose” overlooking an item while scanning merchandise through a register. More often than not what starts off as a little gift or friendly gesture evolves into a big problem. That boyfriend or girlfriend starts coming to the store more frequently and checking out in their friend’s line. What may have started out as the occasional extra candy bar in the bag or a large drink at the snack bar for the price of a small drink quickly turns into outright passing and theft.

If the activity is going to take place at the register, the cashier may send a text message to the friend alerting them that they are on a register and will look for them to come in. There are a variety of ways the two can rip-off the store. The cashier can ring merchandise up and discount it so it appears the transaction is legitimate. The employee can fail to ring up merchandise and bag it which becomes a passing situation. There is also the tendering of money that can result in cash shortage. The friend hands over a cash payment and the cashier gives too much change to the patron. This is a difficult type of theft to see transpire because money does change hands.

Sweethearting also takes place when an employee intentionally looks the other way when her friend is in the store shoplifting.  This does not require the employee to take an active role in the crime. All that is required is for the employee to make a point of turning a blind eye to the theft as it is being perpetrated. There are times when the two parties plan out when the friend will come to the store and steal. This also means the employee is now an active participant and aiding in the commission of the crime which is much more serious on the part of the staff member.

Encourage your team to be friendly and courteous. Go above and beyond in the service you offer to customers. Love your shoppers, just make sure your employees aren’t being sweethearts in the process.


 

Employee Training And Shoplifting

After the holidays, you probably have a whole array of chores you must do to decide whether you had a good or bad year.  The holidays are behind us, and if you seem eager to have new strategies to put in place, it is not uncommon, and you are not alone.  New year resolutions are abundant during this time of year, and even though many of them are related to exercise, eating and health issues, yours can be directed completely to the business side of your life.

For a retail business owner, employee training is always an important issue they should not neglect.  There are many aspects of every business that owners must take care of to ensure a well-run business and employee training is one of those important issues they must keep in mind.

Employee training has been shown to help businesses keep more of the profits, and to reduce the shoplifting happening at their stores.  Paying for employee training is one way of investing in your business, and seeing the return of investment right away.

One of the many benefits of employee training is the certainty your employees will know what to do in case a shoplifting incident occurs.  From the way they approach the suspected shoplifter, to the way they apprehend them, their training can be the difference between a lawsuit for your store or not.  The guidelines they are supposed to follow are clear for trained employees when dealing with a difficult situation, and a dangerous situation is clearly assessed and dealt with before lives are endangered.

Employee training can also be a deterrent to shoplifters.  Shoplifters will be less eager to enter your place of business if they know they will be approached and even questioned or apprehended if they do something illegal.  Making your business a place where shoplifting is hard can get around to other shoplifters.  Sharing the names of “easy” places to shoplift is well known among them, make yours the “hard” place shoplifters are unwilling to try.

Trained employees know how shoplifters behave and how they try to get away with stolen merchandise.  They know which items may be a target for shoplifters, and which ones if the opportunity presents itself will be stolen without a second thought.


 

 

Loss Prevention Training Seminars

Preventing shoplifting is by far one of the major problem for big retailers. For the small retail store, shoplifting takes on a different meaning.  For those stores, shoplifting threatens their livelihood and the prosperity of their community.

Shoplifting Prevention seminars are not only beneficial for the management personnel of big retail stores, but play an important aspect for the small mom and pop stores across the country.  Knowledgable employees, management, and owners can greatly reduce the shoplifting incidents by being proactive and taking preventable measures to combat shoplifting in their stores.

Some of these preventive measures are:

1. CCTV cameras that are clearly monitored by trained personnel is an asset for every store. Positioning cameras with clear view of the aisles can deter the would be shoplifter from attempting to steal merchandise.  Spacious and well lit aisles can help prevent the theft, or at least make the theft more difficult to achieve.

2. Parking lots, and spaces around your store should be well lit.  Thieves like to inspect the place they are robbing.  Providing a well lit store can deter the shoplifter from even entering the place.

3. Do not engage in any physical confrontation with them.  The shoplifting issue can escalate and become one of life and death situation.  Remember that safety should be your first concern when dealing with shoplifting suspects.

4. Customer service has been known to deter shoplifting incidents in a store.  If your customer service is subpar, invest in the training of your personnel.

5. Facial recognition software can help you identify known shoplifters that are in a store’s database.

Preventing shoplifting incidents in your store is a difficult job that trained personnel should be specifically trained to deal with, and should be dealt with care.  There are many shoplifting incidents where there are lives lost because non-trained personnel felt they could take care of it themselves.  Lives lost, jail time,and lawsuits are some of the tricky issues stores around the country are dealing with year after year.

Training your loss prevention personnel is an investment the store, and you as an owner would benefit from having.