Is Pre-Employment Drug Screening Worthwhile In Today’s Culture?

There are many ways for store owners to reduce the risk of employee theft and fraud. Background checks supplement interviews and screening questions on a job application. Manager training to know the signs and indicators that a worker may be engaging in theft activity of some sort is another preventative step. Electronic Article Surveillance systems and tags are helpful in deterring shoplifters and dishonest employees. Certainly Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Public View monitors and mandatory package checks before leaving work all play a part in preventing internal criminal activity. One of the best tools an employer can use to reduce the chance they will even hire a thief in the first place is the use of pre-employment drug screening. The prospective employee would go to the lab, fill the cup and labs would send off the sample to have it checked for illegal substances. That has been the most common of the drug tests and many employers have relied on it to help them keep their stores profitable and safe. 

     Is this still an effective method for owners to use? With states loosening their own laws surrounding marijuana use it is a mixed bag. Not all states are legalizing it and it is still a federal crime to use, grow, distribute or possess it. So if you are in a state where it is still a crime to use marijuana and an applicant applies to a job with your company but he/she comes from a state where it has been “legalized” do you have them take a pre-employment drug test? What happens if they take the test and results show they use marijuana, do you not hire them even though it was “legal” where they came from? This can pose a dilemma for store owners. If you do hire them, do you put yourself at risk for discriminating against someone from your own state who failed and did not get hired based on that result? 

     Leaving the marijuana out of the equation for the moment, there is still room for drug testing in the workplace, both pre-screening and random drug testing of employees. Drug screening can identify other illegal substances in addition to marijuana. According to thebalancecareers.com, “A typical drug test for employment purposes screens for drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.” While you may decide to overlook positive results for marijuana you can still turn down applicants for the other drugs. States may be legalizing marijuana but the debates about the safety and effects of the drug on behavior remain a concern. Just because it is legal does not mean you necessarily want someone who uses this drug or any other drug working for your business. Pre-employment drug screening is still an effective tool in your efforts to combat theft and safety concerns. 

     Why test for drugs in the first place? By testing and screening out applicants who test positive you significantly reduce the risk of hiring someone who very well may steal from your store. It may be cash or merchandise but they have a habit to feed and they still have bills to pay and they are not going to feed that habit on a retail job. Working in the store gives them access to money and merchandise that will provide the resources for their addiction. Another reason to test is to keep your store safe. Someone who is illegally using drugs or coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a cause of an accident or can be the victim of an injury in the workplace incurred while under the influence. Whether they cause the accident or are the victim of an accident, you can end up paying for it. There is also the safety of your other employees to consider. Someone under the influence of the wrong drugs can be unstable and volatile. What is it that is going to trigger a violent action on their part? Giving them a direction or task they don’t want to do? How about a customer that says something that sets off your employee. There is no place for violence or theft in the workplace and pre-employment drug screening can help prevent both from happening. 

Benefits of a Loss Prevention System

Most retailers in the United States end their fiscal year on December 31st. and begin the New year with a new budget, new goals, and new strategies to implement in their business.  

For the loss prevention team or management of the store, allocating sufficient funds to the prevention of shoplifting and security of their store begins anew.  If a store has not purchase a loss prevention system and the losses of the store are too many to ignore, the new year allows them to budget and purchase a system that will help them minimize their losses and prevent them from happening in the future.

Research has shown the budget for the prevention of shoplifting and loss prevention teams have been declining over the years with no plans to change it, while the problems associated with shoplifting, employee theft, internal clerical issues and lost merchandise continue to grow.  Every retail store has different problems associated with them, but shoplifting is a problem that is common for every one of them. 

Allocating enough funds to the prevention of theft in your store is vital. According to research purchasing a loss prevention system to help you minimize the losses in your store will return your investment within months. Reduction in merchandise losses, increase productivity, personnel reduction, and an increase in sales are some of the benefits associated with the purchase of a loss prevention system that will see more profits going to you.

Finding out what kind of loss prevention system your store requires will need the help of a seller that understands systems, training and prices. 

An EAS system can give the store an up to the minute understanding of what merchandise is in the store, what items have been sold, and what merchandise is missing. These systems can let you know up to the minute information about your store without having to do a physical count every time you need to know something about a specific item.  With an EAS or a point-of-sale (POS) system, information about the merchandise in your store is within your grasp within minutes.

Investing in technology that can help your management and loss prevention teams work effectively while minimizing cost will help your store succeed.  These systems not only offer help in deterring shoplifting but help you meet the needs of customers and their shopping habits.

Preventing shoplifting in your store with a loss prevention system is key to your success.

Sensormatic Systems Value

We just came back from a trip to Sensormatic Systems Head-Quarters in Boca Raton, Florida. What a fascinating, interesting and eye-opening experience. As anti-shoplifting systems are concerned, we clearly left with the knowledge that Sensormatic is the top of the line for value and quality. I have been in the field of Loss Prevention for over 35 years (I hate saying that, it makes me feel …. old). I rose to the top in a number of fine retail companies as the Director of Loss Prevention. I have had my own company now for many years. So, I have bought these systems as a Director and I now have the privilege of being a premier nationwide Sensormatic Dealer. For many years we sold another top brand. But it is very clear to me why Sensormatic is the world-wide leader. Let me throw out a few conclusions for you. 

Sensormatic invests a huge amount of money into testing. Not just making sure that systems ring the bell and flash the light. Testing is extensive. Research laboratories are used by Sensormatic Engineers to take something from an idea to a finished product. It starts with a team in design. They look at style and how it will impact the Retailer and their customers. Ergonomics are tested thoroughly. It is important that a retail employee can use a hand-held device for long periods of time with minimal fatigue. Drop tests are performed with high speed cameras to determine if devices will properly survive a fall with minimal damage and a low risk to the people around it. Stress tests are conducted on antenna systems to see how they will react to being bent until broken. Do the systems splinter? Does the electronics spark? 

Sensormatic is a massive company that operates on every continent, okay, well maybe not Antarctica.  Sensormatic Systems is part of Johnson Controls. And if you have not been hiding under a rock all your life know that Johnson Controls is one of the largest companies in the world with a serious reputation for quality and service in many fields. The Sensormatic division has that behind it. 

That is in addition to the testing of the antenna systems for detection of tags and labels. Sensormatic systems are tested and certified safe by the main testing agencies in the various countries all over the world. For example, in the United States Sensormatic systems are UL Certified among others. 

Sensormatic security systems are not going to be the cheapest. But it is like anything else you get what you pay for. However, the value runs deeper than just the highest quality commercial grade equipment that is made to last a very long time. These Acousto Magnetic (AM) systems perform much better than the competition for the price and much better than Radio Frequency (RF) systems. RF systems are very prone to false or phantom (no one nearby the system) alarms. Acousto Magnetic does not have that problem. This technology operates on a different frequency that is less prone to issues. Because of that we can easily get an 8 foot isle width. The very best RF can do is 6 feet.  

Acousto Magnetic technology has been around for over fifty years. It is proven and stable. Sensormatic brand hard tags and labels are very robust. The hard tags have clean, well “welded” seams that will not snag clothing. The genuine Sensormatic labels outperform any knock offs in both range and deactivation. Sensormatic security system deactivation performs at a very high level. When your cash/wrap associate kills the labels, it stays dead.  

So, the real question now is this: Are you going to go through all of the coming up year and again lose money, watching it walk out the door with shoplifters? Or are you going to fix the problem once and for all? Loss Prevention Systems’ proven process will significantly reduce your losses? All you have left to do now is contact us. 

Proper EAS Tagging Tips For Retailers

There’s no question about it electronic article surveillance (EAS) retail anti-theft devices work in every store they are used in. In fact they are so effective that according to the Sensormatic Global Retail Shrink Index, EAS is the most popular Loss Prevention and Asset Protection investment among retailers in the United States. 92.16% of retailers surveyed indicated they are investing in electronic article surveillance (pg. 45). Is it enough that EAS tags are used or is there more to making them an effective tool? 

     In order to get the most out of an electronic article surveillance system tags retailers should ensure they have effective tagging guidelines in place. It may not seem like it would make a big difference at first glance but the reality is a proper tagging program can make a theft prevention program stronger. Here is are some suggestions to consider as a guideline of where you should tag your merchandise: 

  • Keep visibility in mind. While hiding tags may seem like a good idea at first it can cause some problems for the retailer rather than a thief. Hidden hard tags may not be seen by a cashier and removed when a piece of clothing is purchased. That can cause an unnecessary EAS tower alarm and an embarrassing moment for your patron. A similar problem can occur with an EAS label if it is hidden. It may not deactivate properly at the point of sale and cause a false alarm. 
  • Location of tags is important to prevent concealment by a shoplifter. If a pair of pants is protected with a hard tag on the waistline it is not difficult to untuck a shirt and hide it. Keeping the placement where the tags are hard to cover improves the deterrent effect of the devices. 
  • Another thing to avoid is placing soft tags or labels on manufacturer hang tags if possible. I encourage retailers to place labels directly on merchandise packaging. For example a Sensormatic label is difficult to remove from a box of razor blades but if it is on a hang tag on a shirt sleeve a crook can pop the hang tag off and the label goes with it.  

So what do I suggest when it comes to tag placement? Here a few suggestions that I have found to be effective: 

  • When tagging pant or slacks a hard tag can be pinned through a seam near the knee. If that is a bit more work than you want to do, the next best solution would be a couple of inches above the cuff. Both solutions make it difficult to hide the tag and if the location is consistent on every pair of pants cahiers will be accustomed to looking for hard tags in the same place every time. 
  • If your store sells shoes people are going to want to try them on. I suggest tagging them through an eyelet. If there is no place to that a hard tag can be attached the next best solution would be a label on the bottom of the shoe. Tag both shoes as an extra precaution against shoplifting. 
  • Shirts should be tagged near the front of the neckline. The next best option would be the cuff of the shirt sleeve. The point is to keep the tags in as visible a location as possible. The problem with a cuff versus a neckline is that a cuff can be upturned and a tag hidden. Also when a tag is placed too close to the end of a cuff it is easier to make a small cut in the garment to remove a tag and repair it with a stitch or two. 
  •  Purses can be protected with a hard tag. If you are tagging purses the key to doing so efficiently and reducing customer distractions is to tag them as closely as possible to one place for all bags. Wallets may have an EAS label hidden inside because they are more difficult to tag with a hard tag. If this is the case for your store make sure cashiers are all aware of this and carefully placing the merchandise on the deactivation pads at checkout. 

These are the most common items of clothing and softlines merchandise to be protected. Hopefully the message you are reading is that the consistency of a tagging program is what matters. Do it properly and you will have minimal false alarms and customer distractions and the alarms that do go off will be real attempts to steal. When supervisors and employees respond to real alarms and fewer false alarms they will be more thorough in their receipt checks. That will result in more recovered dollars and less shortage for you. 

Advantages of AM over RF EAS Systems

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have to make a decision on a purchase and you have to determine what is going to be best for your situation? I know that car shopping is one of those purchases where I have to take multiple factors into consideration and it isn’t always just about cost. I have to be able to accommodate at least 5 adults and perhaps even 6 if my mother-in-law is included in a ride. I need to get decent gas mileage because I never know who may have to use it and all of our work so I don’t want to fill it every day. I need dependability, I’ve had too many vehicle break-downs and I don’t want a breakdown on my wife if I can help it. Before I make a purchase I search customer reviews of vehicles and automotive expert ratings on websites such as Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book. The vehicle has to meet my requirements or I have to pass on it regardless of how good the deal may appear to be. The same thing can be true for a retailer when determining the best Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) System and tags to use to combat theft related shortage.

     There are two choices that a store owner will have when deciding on an EAS system, a radio frequency (rf) system or an acousto-magnetic (am) system. But how do you choose? What are the advantages of one over the other?

RF Tags:

  • RF tags (labels) are easier to deactivate at the point of sale. These tags can be passed over a deactivation pad and the tags will not cause an alarm when the merchandise is carried out the doors.
  • RF label deactivation pads are less expensive to operate since the pad only “activates” when a label passes over it. The AM deactivation pad continually runs and uses more power (Wikipedia)
  • RF labels tend to be a bit less expensive to purchase than AM tags.
  • RF labels have made improvements over the years. Small, clear labels have been developed that can be placed on smaller packages without concealing as much important information. Wikipedia does state that small RF tags do cause problems with consistency in deactivation. This can be a cause for false alarms that can hinder the effectiveness of EAS systems.

AM Tags:

  • The highest detection rate in the industry.
  • The standard AM label has a smaller footprint than the standard RF label.
  • Based on their design AM tags have less interference from outside the detection band frequency they operate on.
  • These tags and labels have a greater detection range than RF labels.
  • Where RF labels may be affected by foils, metals, and liquids, AM labels are less susceptible to making them more effective against booster devices. (“Genuine Sensormatic Labels”, Tyco White Paper)
  • Where a metal shopping cart may interfere with the detection performance of an RF label the same shopping carts have no effect on AM tags and labels.

As you can see for yourself there are advantages to both types of systems and tags. The question is going to be which is the best fit for you?  We have worked with both systems and are a nationwide sensormatic dealer and we have worked with both types of technology extensively.

     From a Loss Prevention perspective, the biggest concerns involve professional shoplifters who use devices to try to circumvent a store EAS system and false alarms. Knowing that foiled lined bags and clothing can disrupt RF systems and having apprehended shoplifters using these devices I would tend to favor the AM tags. False alarms can be annoying to customers and have a negative impact on shopper attitudes and RF systems do tend to have a higher rate of false alarm problems. Whether a store manager chooses the RF system or the AM system the most important part is to make sure a system is purchased. It is a proven method of theft deterrence and shortage reduction.


Children shoplifting: how parents are using kids to steal for them and/or kids shoplifting on their own

I was once asked why I kept toys on my desk in my Loss Prevention office. I had two reasons, the first was they were collectible superhero figurines (The Tick to be precise) and the other was to keep children entertained. It is a sad fact in Retail Loss Prevention but there are children who shoplift, there are parents who shoplift and there are parents who use their children to help shoplift. As a Loss Prevention professional, it is not hard to handle an adult who steals. There may be anger, tears, and pleading but these are adults and they made a choice to steal so there should be consequences. What is not so easy to cope with is the child who has to sit in the office while the parent is being processed and does not understand what is taking place. There were many instances when I had to try to keep these young ones entertained as mom or dad were answering questions about the crime, providing personal information or trying to contact a family member or friend who would be willing to pick up the child. Add to the mix a parent who is throwing a conniption fit or making the scenario worse by bawling and wailing in front of the child begging you to let them go “Just this one time and it won’t ever happen again, I promise.” It becomes quite annoying. It also upsets the child who becomes a prop for the parent. The toys were my prop to entertain the children in a pinch.

     It may be hard to comprehend but aside from just shoplifting with their kids in tow, there are parents who use their children as tools or props to commit their crimes. What is worse than a parent who removes a price tag from a purse, straps it over their daughter’s shoulder and walks out with her and the purse? Well, it could be worse when the parent scolds the child and tells her she shouldn’t have done that when the parent is caught by Loss Prevention. Then there are the parents who walk through the store pushing a baby in an infant stroller with the little baby covered by a blanket. What can these doting mothers and fathers do with a cute little baby you may ask? It turns out baby strollers with blankets make great hiding places for designer blue jeans…MANY pairs of designer jeans. Aw gee, let’s not forget one of my all-time favorites, the pregnant mommy who gets more pregnant simply by walking through the store gathering clothing.

     If you aren’t shocked by now it could shake you up to know that some parents not only use their children as props or to disguise their own theft, some will steal while the children steal too. I caught two mothers and their combined five children ALL stealing in my store. The children wandered around areas of the store that interested them and the mothers did likewise. Everyone took their turn cleaning house. I once caught a father and his teenage son stealing jeans in a department store I worked in. It really gave perspective to the term, “Like father like son”… although I think the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” also came to mind. The unfortunate reality is, those cute, cherubic faces and tiny tots may not be just little cutie pies accompanying their mom or dad in your store. It is not uncommon for these youngsters to be covers for theft or potentially cranky crooks themselves.

     So how should retailers handle situations like these to prevent shoplifting family frolics? The number one deterrent to all shoplifters is customer service for everyone. Adults, as well as children, should be acknowledged and assistance offered. Electronic Article Surveillance systems will discourage adults from stealing. And while the systems may help prevent teenaged terrors from 5-finger discounts they will probably not have the same effect on young kids. It is probably not a good idea to try to stop a shoplifter if you do not have trained Loss Prevention Personnel working for you. Bad stops and aggressive shoplifters can lead to costly and/or dangerous situations. Aggressive, non-stop customer service is in order if you have a strong suspicion someone is stealing. Most importantly don’t let yourself be duped by those cute-chubby cheeked darlings. Those families might not be as charming as they look.