LPMINSIDER magazine had an article that focused on the potential shoplifting tools stores may be unwittingly carrying on store shelves that could be used by professional boosters or shoplifters. In his article, “Are Retailers Selling Shoplifting Tools?” by Scott Womack, December 21, 2016, Mr. Womack describes an insulated can cooler he found on a store shelf that was aluminum lined. He discusses several types of EAS labels and tag he had tested when placed in the bag to see if the bag would disrupt the alarm. He found the cooler did make it more difficult for the towers to detect tags concealed in this particular bag. The writer did not say the merchandise should not be carried but possible merchandising alternatives could be considered. In order to stop shoplifting, it is sometimes necessary for retailers to evaluate how they merchandise some items and to consider if specific merchandise could contribute to theft.
Checkpoint labels are soft tags that have coils designed into them that operate on a specific radio frequency (rf) wave. This tag, when carried within range of electronic article surveillance pedestals, causes the pedestal to sound an alarm or loud beeping noise that attracts the attention of store associates. Associates or managers respond to the alarm and usually stop shoplifting from taking place, though on occasion it may be an EAS label was not properly deactivated at a point of sale. While electronic article surveillance towers continue to get better with improved range detection fields and their detection abilities they can have limitations when thieves try to use devices to interfere with the signals, particularly aluminum or foils.
One type of device professional shoplifters or boosters will use to try to defeat Checkpoint labels and an electronic article surveillance tower is the foil lined shopping bag, often called a booster bag. This was the concern noted by the author of the article. The cooler Mr. Womack found was almost a ready-made booster bag since aluminum was one of the materials used to keep product cold when placed in the bag. His article reminded me of another product I had an issue with during an encounter with a razor blade booster. In my situation, the criminal took a box of roasting bags, removed one of the bags and took it to our health and beauty department where he filled it with packages of razor blades. The roasting bags are made of aluminum foil by the same company that makes rolls of aluminum foil. I had a tussle with the criminal and did stop shoplifting of the blades but only because I had observed the theft take place, in this situation the roasting bag did defeat any EAS label and towers. Unfortunately, there was not a lot we could do about product placement because it would have required a shift of all aluminum foils and removed them from the aisle with bakeware, plastic wrap, etc.
In spite of the occasional use of shoplifting tools by professionals and the rare instance when merchandise your store sells can be used to try to defeat an electronic article surveillance system; Checkpoint labels are still one of the best means of preventing theft. It takes a lot of time to make a booster bag that doesn’t look obvious. Additionally, finding those few items a store sells that might be used to try to defeat a system can be difficult. While some product placement may be in order, an alternative is to make sure employees know to offer exceptional customer service in those areas. If your store uses closed circuit television a camera on these aisles could be of assistance.
As I mentioned earlier, electronic article surveillance pedestals are far better than when I used them. Systems have been upgraded and are better able to pick up hidden tags and defeat efforts to disrupt radio frequency signals. Find out for yourself just how effective Checkpoint labels and EAS pedestals can be to stop shoplifting in your business.
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