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.   

I Want Shoplifters To Steal From My Store!

Really?? Is that what you are thinking? Because if you do not have an active shoplifting prevention plan that you work, then you might as well put up a sign that says “Shoplift Here Because We Do Not Care!” That is what the shoplifters hear and see.  

So to have a great plan in place for shoplifters to steal, here are the things you need to do: 

  • Poor customer service. Shoplifters love it when they come into your store and the customer service is lax, mediocre or simply non-existent. They do not need your help to steal, just privacy. 
  • Make sure you do not train your employees to spot and/or deter shoplifters. Lazy, untrained store staff are the shoplifter’s best friend. You really cannot say “steal my stuff” better than that. 
  •  DO NOT BUY a Sensormatic anti-shoplifting system from Loss Prevention Systems! We are in the business of shutting down shoplifters. 
  • Make sure that you keep the lighting dim. Do not replace lights when they go out especially in dark, hidden areas of your store. It makes the shoplifter’s job easier. 
  • Do not put those pesky little Sensormatic hard tags and labels on your merchandise. It hurts the shoplifter’s ability to resell your stuff.  
  • Make sure that your staff never greets anyone when they come in. If you are not going to supply good customer service anyway do not bother to look up from your smart phone. You certainly do not want to have a low score in that on-line game you are playing. Besides, greeting shoplifters makes them feel uncomfortable because they have been noticed. 
  • Make sure shoplifters have a clear unobstructed path out of your doors. That way the arm load of merchandise they have in hidden or in plain sight does not get in their way. Actually it will make it more convenient for them to load up even more. 
  • If you want to at least feel a little better about all this put up signs that say “No Shoplifting” or “Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted”. This sends a clear signal to the shoplifters that you have no clue about what it takes to stop them. It is kind of like that old joke; putting up shoplifting signs is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You feel warm but no one notices. 
  • If you do spot a shoplifter, do not stop them. This is the best way to spread the word in the shoplifting world. They will flock to you like flies to….. They will clean you out just in time to move in next season’s merchandise. Hey, this also saves you time and payroll dollars in the inventory process since there is less to count. 
  • Make sure you have a CCTV system since shoplifters do not care about cameras. They know you do not have the payroll dollars to watch them full time and they know that they will be long gone before you would have any opportunity to review the recording. 

On the other hand shoplifting prevention is not all that difficult. Just do the opposite of the items listed above. We can help you with all of it from procedures, training and the installation of a brand new Sensormatic system.