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!


 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, “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.


Starting A Better Year

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention-NASP-there are 27 million people that shoplift in the United States today. That is 1 in 11  people, and 75% of those people are adults.  Women shoplift as much as men, and in case you were getting ready to profile an individual, there is no such thing as a profile of a typical shoplifter.

The busiest shopping season has passed, and if you haven’t taken inventory or are in the process of conducting one, you will realized the losses you suffered.  For many stores across the country, the holiday season is the busiest season for sales and hopefully profits, but is also the busiest time for shoplifters. One will hope that shoplifting stops when the holiday season ends, but as always, shoplifting is a year long crime that never ends.

What is there to do then?  Vigilance and preparation can help you prevent some of the shoplifting that happens at your store.

Did you know that good customer service can help you prevent some of the shoplifting at your store?

  1. Greet every customer that enters your store and ask them if they need any help
  2. Place high value items behind registers or locked up.  If they want the item, they need to have a person helping them unlock it.
  3. Have visible signs alerting the customer you will prosecute in case of shoplifting.
  4. Make the promise  of prosecuting true.  Believe it or not, shoplifters know which stores are easy target. Which stores have poor security, and which stores cannot really prosecute the shoplifter.
  5. If you check social media platforms, you will realize that there are groups of individuals that ask advice about which store they should target.  The help from other shoplifters is amazing, but you can learn whether your store is targeted and how they go about it.

Prevention, trained personnel, and clear policies and procedures can help your store and profits stay afloat.  The policies and procedures from store to store will change, but the underlying goal is the same.  Prevent losses or at least minimize the amount your store losses to shoplifting and employee theft by having clear goals and exceptionally well trained employees.