A comment from a library patron to me about our RFID system made me think about how the same issues take place in retail businesses with electronic article surveillance systems. I checked out several books to the patron that had been requested from another library. As I completed the checkout he asked me if the books were going to alarm when he left. I told him I was not sure and that we had no ability to deactivate the RFID tags from another library through our system. I told him I would be happy to walk them out for him and he said Good, it’s embarrassing when it goes off. We pride ourselves on providing outstanding customer service where I work and having something like this outside of our control is frustrating. As often happens I applied this to retailers and the customer service complaints that are associated with the failure to deactivate Sensormatic labels at the point of sale. As a Loss Prevention Manager I encountered the same types of problems and it was an unpleasant task.

The downside to unnecessary alarm activations in retail is the vast majority of those alarm events ARE avoidable and within the control of the store. When a cashier rings a transaction and fails to scan the item over the deactivation pad at the register it will cause an unnecessary alarm. When deactivation equipment is not tested at the beginning of the workday and a unit is malfunctioning alarms will happen that could have been avoided. If a cashier fails to remove an electronic article surveillance hard tag after ringing a piece of merchandise it will be the source of a false alarm. Then there are the phantom alarms that may take place at the pedestals when the alarm sounds and no one is around. If the equipment is not tested daily it may have been caught before it chirped when customers started coming through the doors to shop.

The impact on your business may be hard to determine but false alarms are problematic. As with the patron at the library there are people who will say they are embarrassed, distraught or upset by an unnecessary alarm. When this happened in my store I was often the person that had to speak to the customer about it. I would apologize for the error and had to assuage the patron’s concerns especially if they were raising their voice and creating a scene. In most situations I was successful but at least once I had to offer a giftcard to the patron for their trouble. Was I required to do that? No, but was it worth the $10 giftcard to send the customer out of the store a bit irritated but not belligerent over an electronic article surveillance failure due to cashier error. It also may have been enough to prevent it from becoming a main point of discussion in the next conversation with friends.

I had a different encounter with another shopper when a cashier failed to deactivate Sensormatic labels on some item he bought but this ended much differently. The alarm sounded and the patron started to raise a big stink which pulled in the Manager On Duty. She spoke with this customer but he started tossing around that he was a Security Manager for another retailer and was extremely embarrassed and was going to sue the store. Apparently he did not think store Loss Prevention was working this day. The Manager called for me and I came to the door. I introduced myself and inquired about his concern. He went into his diatribe and I stopped him. I pointed out that as a fellow Loss Prevention Manager he was well aware of mistakes that can take place with electronic article surveillance. I also reminded him that since he worked for a hardware retailer I knew he had more than his share of false alarms. He began to hem and haw a bit. For good measure I told him I knew who his District Loss Prevention Manager was and I would be more than happy to place a phone call about his behavior and lack of professional courtesy. The ‘gentleman’ backed off and decided to leave.  I mention this story because you never know who may be the “offended” party due to cashier or other errors.

Mistakes are going to happen. Proper training of cashiers on the deactivation of Sensormatic labels is crucial. The better they are the fewer the false alarms and the more you can be confident alarms are the result of attempts at theft. Train on proper alarm response and make recoveries that will put money back in your pocket. 


Get more information on Sensormatic labels, contact us or call 1.770.426.0547 today.