You’re going about your daily routine running your store, you’re on the salesfloor working to fill merchandise out of stocks on the floor, or you happen to be at the checkout lanes helping the customers and then IT happens! That’s right the power goes out to the store. I live and work in a beach/tourist area and for whatever reason we regularly get hit with some nasty late afternoon storms and sure enough power is bound to go out around here. We also have issues with power poles jumping into the path of oncoming vehicles with the result that power will go out for an entire block…or two or three or more. Stupid power poles! Anyways, I had one incident when I worked for a big box retailer that our power unexpectedly went out to our building. Normally this type of issue would be no longer than a couple of hours in duration and power would be restored and we would be back to full operations. During this particular incident our building ended up being without power for at least 5 hours. The upside was that we had emergency power through a natural gas operated emergency generator. The downside? Only limited systems were functional, that meant we were conducting business with barebones service. As the Loss Prevention Manager I had a number of concerns to deal with from a security and safety perspective. With the electronic article surveillance system not operating to read Checkpoint tags, how was I going to stop shoplifting? My closed circuit television was not on the emergency power so CCTV was out as well. Without an emergency action plan I would have been scrambling but we did have one and we were prepared.


Electronic article surveillance pedestals are part of a retail anti-theft system that can detect Checkpoint tags which operate using radio frequency waves to create a signal between the pedestals and the tags. Parts of a system include the tags which may be hard tags or labels, pedestals which, by the way, require power to operate and deactivation units at points of sale also requiring power. Deactivation units “turn off” soft Checkpoint tags so they don’t activate the electronic article surveillance pedestals at the doors when a customer leaves with paid merchandise. Hard tags don’t de-tune so they have to be removed at the point of sale. This is why hard tagged merchandise stop shoplifting, because they cause the alarm system to activate a loud alert noise and flashing lights that alert employees to the attempted theft.


Because the power was out I did reference our safety action plans and partnered with the Manager on Duty to make sure proper notifications were made and prioritize what needed to be done. Safety for customers and employees became my first concern. The store was operating on emergency lighting which meant we had dark areas of the store. Because scan guns could not pick operate on the store computer systems all “tasks” were suspended on the salesfloor except for some straightening. Employees were fully focused on customer service, walking up and down aisles, assisting at the fitting room and keeping an eye out for potential theft and safety concerns. Two-way radios worked so Loss Prevention staff switched to the store radio frequency in case we were needed somewhere. My plainclothes officer donned a “security” labeled jacket so customers would know who he was. Since the electronic article surveillance system was out of service and Checkpoint tags would not set off the alarm, I needed to stop shoplifting while addressing store safety so I stationed one L.P. member at the doors to conduct receipt checks and I assisted there while being available to assist with L.O.D. duties.


Guess what else doesn’t work when power goes out? Powered entry doors don’t work. Lighting was poor so many people were driving past the building thinking we were closed. We propped open the doors and I had a store employee stand outside to assure people that the store was open for business. Yes, the number of available checklanes was cut in half due to the outage and lines formed up but we were able to process customers so sales were only minimally impacted.


What do you do for power outages? Do you close your store? Do you wring your hands and worry or do you pull out a safety action plan? Have a plan and a back-up generator in place and though you may not be able to power an electronic article surveillance system you can still drive sales and use customer service to stop shoplifting.


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