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.   

What can a Loss Prevention System do for you?

Loss prevention technology along with the proper personnel training will allow a retail store to reduce loss, improve customer service and provide the data necessary to access up to minute inventory information in the store.

A loss prevention system is a preventable measure retail stores need to adopt to prevent the losses that plague the retail industry. A loss prevention system along with trained personnel can be a deterrent to shoplifting, vendor and employee theft that can save the retail store thousands of dollars a month.

A loss prevention system can protect the merchandise in the store while protecting customers and the employees as well. Incidents, where violence and sometimes deaths occur, can be avoided with the proper systems, training, and the continuous effort to ensure the safety of the employees and customers alike.

A loss prevention system can allow the employees and manager of a store to focus and ensure customers have a good experience shopping at their store. Good customer experience can translate to continuous business, and great customer satisfaction has been linked to less shoplifting in the retail industry.

If you are the owner of several retail stores, a loss prevention system can be adapted to each store’s unique layout and needs while providing the same information you need to prevent shoplifting or to take the necessary measures to prevent it.

A loss prevention system is an investment a retail store cannot do without, but along with an investment in a loss prevention system, trained personnel plays an important role in making sure the system can do what it is supposed to do. Data from the loss prevention system cannot go unchecked, and it cannot be ignored.

Employees have to be trained and knowledgeable of the stores’ policies and procedures regarding shoplifting to ensure an efficient and quick response if shoplifting occurs in the store. Violence can and must be avoided at all costs.

There’s research out there that clearly indicates the cost versus benefits of having a loss prevention system in place.  Profits in a business can be slim, losing them to shoplifting, employee or vendor theft can be detrimental to any business.

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.

Vendor Theft: Causes, Effects and Prevention

Having worked in retail for nearly thirty years I have found that more people work in the store than just the people directly employed by the store. My encounters have included working with various external vendors. I have worked with representatives for jewelry and accessory servicing, cosmetic reps, snack vendors and even cleaning vendors. I have checked in soft drink vendors and food vendors through our loading dock receiving procedures. Just like our store employees, the vast majority of vendors who service stores are honest and work hard to satisfy their clients. Unfortunately, just as there are in stores there are bad apples for vendors and they can cause shortage in stores through theft, fraud and even paperwork errors.  

     The good news for retailers is that in the big scheme of things vendor theft generally accounts for the smallest amount of shortage. According to the National Retail Federation 2018 National Retail Security Survey, vendor fraud or error accounted for 5.4% of retail shrinkage in 2017 (pg. 5). That said it is still a source of shortage that can be controlled thereby saving stores potentially thousands of dollars a year.  

     So how does vendor theft and fraud happen? Just like any other theft it requires the person committing the crime to have the opportunity to steal, the means to steal an item and the perceived risk of being caught or punished. Just like a three-legged stool, remove one leg and the whole thing falls over. You cannot control whether or not someone has a desire to steal but you do have control over the conditions that make theft appealing.  

     Depending on what the vendor is doing in the store can impact how they might steal from you. Having controls in place in the store and requiring vendors to follow those procedures or controls can influence whether that person decides to attempt to steal. For example, many stores have vendor log books and vendors are expected to sign in when they enter the store. They may even be issued temporary name badges once they sign in. When someone has to register when they enter a building there is a sense of accountability, anonymity is lost.  

     The type of vendor can also play a part in how theft or fraud transpires. I have seen cosmetic vendors in stores with large satchel purses and bags. Their paperwork and checklists are stored in the bags but they also make great hiding places to conceal merchandise if they are stealing. A store should have the same requirements for vendors as they have for their own employees. A vendor should be required to have their bags or packages checked before they leave following a visit.  

     A food or beverage vendor may have empty boxes broken down that they are carting out for reuse. An employee of the store should be inspecting between the boxes to ensure no merchandise has been concealed between the layers. A vendor should also never be throwing out their own trash. Store compactors should always be locked and only a manager or store owner should have access to it. The manager should be the one to inspect vendor trash and throw it away as they look for empty packages that could indicate a theft took place. 

     All store entrances should be protected with electronic article surveillance pedestals. This serves as a deterrent to vendors who may be reluctant to try to walk out with merchandise that might cause an alarm to sound. There are many businesses which set up pedestals at the front entrances and even at employee entrances but neglect to place them at vendor service doors. If a vendor has thoughts of stealing they are looking at the anti-theft strategies and will take notice of unprotected access points. 

     Vendor supplied merchandise should also be detail checked in. Validating what an invoice says is being delivered and billed to a store and what is actually received are important steps in the vendor process. It is possible for a vendor to short an order accidentally but that still counts towards the shortage for the store. A driver can also intentionally short an order if they know the merchandise is not detail checked in. The product that is not brought in can then be sold on the side and the profits pocketed. 

     As I stated in the beginning there are very few dishonest vendors but they do exist. Build strong partnerships with them but remember that some may try to take advantage of you. Make your vendor partners follow the same guidelines that your employees follow. Be clear from the beginning and you will run into few difficulties and you will have a relationship that fosters sales for both parties. 

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.

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. 

The Habit of Shoplifting

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention studies have shown that there is not a profile for a typical shoplifter.  Women and men shoplift as frequently, and the majority of the shoplifting is done by adults.  And although, shoplifting has been shown to start early in a person’s teenage years, as teenagers become adults, the tendency to shoplift stays with them.  Drugs, poverty, and mental illness have been factors for people who shoplift.  In other cases, the reasons are still unclear.  People from all walks of life shoplift.

Studies in the United Kingdom have shown that people who shoplift will do so again within the year.  That is the case in most developed countries.  Shoplifting can be a way of life for many of these people, and if retail stores across the globe do not find measures to mitigate the damage these shoplifters do, the profits these retail stores can count on at the end of their fiscal year diminish tremendously.

To learn more about this topic, follow the links below.


One in four criminals re-offend within a year

More than a quarter of offenders are re-convicted within a year, according to official statistics.

Figures from the Scottish Government show that in 2014-15, 28.2 per cent of the 43,634 people released from prison or given a non-custodial sentence such as a community payback order or fine had a further conviction within a year.

The overall re-conviction rate has fallen 0.3 per cent from 2013/14, continuing an 18-year downward trend.

But of those given a custodial sentence of six months or less, 57 per cent were re-convicted within a year and 39 per cent were back in prison 12 months later.

Offenders released from jail in 2014/15 had a higher re-conviction rate at 43.9 per cent than for any other type of sentence except drug treatment and testing orders.

Statisticians highlighted that offenders who receive short sentences typically commit “low level” crimes such as shoplifting, but often in higher volumes and are more likely to be re-convicted.

Sex offenders had the lowest re-conviction rate at 12.1 per cent, while people committing crimes of dishonesty such as theft or shoplifting had the highest out of the crime classifications at 42.5 per cent.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the figures showed that community sentences, including community payback orders (CPOs) brought in to replace community service, were more effective at cutting re-offending than short jail terms.


Former State Rep. Hurley pleads guilty to three shoplifting incidents

ROGERSVILLE – Local businessman and former State Representative Bruce W. Hurley, 83, entered guilty pleas in Hawkins Co. Criminal Court on Friday, April 28, to three counts of theft of property valued at less than $500.

Court records indicate that Hurley, who pleaded guilty before Criminal Court Judge John F. Dugger, Jr., will serve no jail time as a result of his pleas of guilty to what amounts to three shoplifting charges.

Judge Dugger imposed a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, but ruled that all but 120 days of that sentence is to be served on probation. The remaining 120 days is to be served on community corrections (house arrest), court records indicate.

In addition to a $50 fine on each count, Hurley was ordered to pay $4.02 in restitution to Walmart, one of his two theft victims. The other theft victim was the Rogersville Food City supermarket. All three charges were brought against Hurley by the victims, according to a Rogersville Police Department spokesman.

Court records indicate that the thefts took place on Aug. 25, 2016; Sept. 29, 2016; and Nov. 16, 2016.