Most of the time shoplifters dress, act and look like you and me. There is nothing that necessarily stands out about them except the behaviors they are exhibiting. They may be looking at the ceiling for cameras, they shoot glances at employees who walk nearby or they seem to be overly friendly with staff. There are also shoplifters who dress unseasonably for the weather, they wear multiple layers of clothes or coats and jackets when it is far too warm. Some will wear ball caps and sunglasses into the store to keep from being recognized or to prevent Loss Prevention from catching their face on cameras. In my early days as a Loss Prevention Associate for a department store chain I had two different shoplifting incidents when the perpetrators went in the opposite direction. In the first instance the suspect was ‘shopping’ in our misses department and looking closely at the tags. It was obvious she was trying to locate retail anti-theft devices that would prevent shoplifting. It so happened our store used some soft tags but the only hard tags we used were similar to the Alpha Ink Tags on the market now. At the time this was a brand new protection item on the market. When my thief did not find a tag she would ball an item up and put it in her purse. If she was suspicious that an electronic article surveillance (EAS) soft tag was present she would generally leave the item alone.
To clarify for those who may not be familiar with them. EAS tags come in hard and soft versions and both work with EAS towers, usually located near entrances/exits of stores. Tags operate using a radio frequency signal that transmits from the tag and is detected by the tower. When a tag is carried too close to a tower an alarm in the tower sounds and employees are alerted and respond to conduct receipt checks and recover merchandise. Some tags, like the Alpha Ink Tag have the EAS capability AND dye packs in them. If a shoplifter attempts to pry a dye tag off, the packets of dye break and stain the merchandise rendering it useless. This was one of the retail anti-theft devices our store had started to use on some high theft clothing like ball caps, swimwear and blue jeans.
Back to my story. So the shoplifter was being selective, looking for any retail anti-theft devices and filling her purse with items that were not protected. My supervisor maintained camera surveillance and I went to the salesfloor to be closer and to observe. When the would-be thief was done she walked towards the exit doors. I stopped her and identified who I was and asked a female area supervisor to meet me at the security office where I was taking the suspect. We arrived at the room and entered and I told the woman to take the stolen merchandise out of her purse. After hemming and hawing for a few minutes and trying to deny she had anything she said she had to go to the bathroom. Often shoplifters will try to use this ploy as an excuse to run or dump merchandise in the restroom. When I told her she would have to wait for the police she started to squat over a trash can and threatened to use it. The supervisor I had with me and I were both shocked but I told her I would add additional charges if she did (I’m not sure what I would charge her with but I was flabbergasted at that point). She stood back up (thank goodness) and I finally got her to give me the clothes out of her purse. It was at that point my boss, still in the camera room, called over my radio and said he thought she had also put merchandise under her clothes and to make sure I had the police check when they arrived. Well, that set the shoplifter off and she lifted her dress all the way over her head and yelled, “I don’t got nothing else!” Well, she wasn’t lying about that. I told her to put the dress down and sit in a chair. The police did arrive and took her to jail without further incident. She was a known crack addict and had multiple shoplifting charges on her record. Needless to say this was one of the strangest shoplifting incidents I have ever dealt with.
To store managers and owners today, I recommend you use Alpha ink tags on ALL of your clothing items to stop shoplifting. You’ll deter thieves and you will avoid strange and awkward encounters like mine.
Alpha Ink Tags are important and we can help you with it. Call 1.770.426.0547 and let’s talk.