I focus a significant amount of my writing on my efforts to stop shoplifting. Having engaged in Retail Loss Prevention for about 17 years both as a Loss Prevention Officer and a Loss Prevention Manager you accumulate shoplifting stories. Some are funny, some are scary, some are bizarre and in some cases they are sad. When Loss Prevention professionals say there is no stereotypical shoplifter they are correct. In some cases shoplifters attempt to avoid merchandise that will set off a Sensormatic security system. Others don’t know enough to understand what they are attempting to steal will activate a system alarm. And well, sometimes the shoplifter is too drunk or drugged to know or care anyways. As I was thinking back on some of MY personal favorite shoplifting cases I had my own Top 10 list I thought I would share but not necessarily in any particular order.
1. My very first shoplifter! It was special for two reasons. This gentleman went into a high-end clothing department, selected a very expensive suede jacket and went around a pillar and stuffed it into a shopping bag. It was so quick I had to rewind the VCR and review the video…yes, VCR. Sure enough it went in the bag. Our office was on the second floor of the store so I had to rush down the stairs and catch up to him. As he was walking out our alarm tower, very similar to a Sensormatic security system, sounded. I identified myself and the suspect fled. I contacted our operator and she in turn called the police for me. I chased the suspect to an apartment building and the police arrived and got him out, it wasn’t even his apartment! The jacket was recovered and the suspect went to jail. Later I learned from my father that he was a co-worker of my dad and they were supposed to be on a lunchbreak during a mental health counseling services conference at a nearby hotel. My shoplifter never came back from lunch. My dad and the rest of the group did not know why he did not return, I was happy to fill in the pieces. Someone needed his OWN counseling service after that I am certain.
2. Near the top of my list of favorite shoplifting cases was a couple who were shoplifting clothing together. Not all of our merchandise was protected with clothing security devices to stop shoplifting. In this case the pair were stealing garments that were not protected. I followed them through the store on foot while my supervisor took over cameras. When it appeared the couple was ready to head for an exit I stopped them in the vestibule between the sets of exit doors. The guy ran out but the girl with him who had the merchandise ran back into the store. I locked the outer doors with my key and then walked back in the building. The girl still had the merchandise but did not see me and tried to exit the same doors again to meet with her partner. As she entered the vestibule the second time I locked the inside set of doors. She was trapped. The young man pounded on the outside doors demanding that I let her out. Chivalry died when he heard the sirens of approaching police cars and he fled. I can still picture the anger of this shoplifter as she paced inside the vestibule threatening me if I didn’t let her go.
3. You’ve heard of a fleeing felon? This favorite of mine, although not so much at the time involved a peeing felon. Our store had a big theft problem with Pokemon cards. The box sets were tagged so that a Sensormatic security system or other anti-theft system could detect if a shoplifter was trying to exit with stolen merchandise. Unfortunately individual packs were iffy since they had foil packaging. There was also the problem of thieves opening packages and just taking the cards they wanted. In this case a young boy perhaps 5 or 6 years old was in the process of opening a package near the back of the store. I walked up on him from behind, asked somewhat loudly what he was doing and startled him. He appeared frozen and then I heard the sound of liquid spilling on the floor. Yes, I scared him that much. I recovered the cards, took him to the front of the store and paged his mother. I think justice was served and released him to her custody.
In Part 2 we will continue this trip down memory lane as I relate some of my most beloved stories from when I worked to stop shoplifting and make our stores more profitable.
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