I write a lot about the benefits of using labels to protect merchandise from theft but I realized I do not necessarily do an adequate job of providing guidance on how to respond to electronic article surveillance alarms. I am going to spend some time in the article talking to you about the do’s and don’ts of alarm activations. It may sound like it is easy to do but issues can arise if an employee does it incorrectly.
You may be new to the world of electronic article surveillance (EAS) and how it works so before I go too far into my article I am going to delve into it a bit here. Electronic article surveillance is used to protect merchandise through radio wave transmissions. EAS labels come in several versions but are basically peel off labels with circuitry built into them. The circuitry sends out a radio wave on a specific frequency and this radio wave can be picked up by EAS pedestals which are receivers. The pedestals are located near store entrances/exits or areas where merchandise is not to be taken into. When a tag has not been de-sensitized at a point of sale and the merchandise it is attached to is carried too close to a pedestal an alarm sounds. It is this alarm that requires a response and if a store is doing everything properly alarms will result in merchandise recoveries. In this way EAS labels prevent shoplifters from stealing merchandise in stores where training is a focus.
I am sure there are some of you out there who are wondering how anyone could mess up a response to an alarm pedestal. There are a several ways to do this and I think I can safely say that over my 27 years in retail and Retail Loss Prevention I have probably seen most of them. To respond to an alarm activation properly store employees must:
• Be trained – I have watched employees just walk up and look into a customer’s bag and start rifling through it looking for the piece of merchandise the caused a problem. You have to be sure that employees responding to EAS label alarms understand they have to respect the rights of the customer. The customer has the right to refuse to allow someone to look through their personal belongings. A store may reserve the right to look through a store shopping bag but it better be clearly posted in plain view. The approach to getting someone to give permission is key to having a successful deterrent program.
• This leads to my next point an employee must be personable and friendly when approaching someone who has activated an alarm. One thing that happens is that an employee may approach someone who is standing at a door waiting for a responder following an alarm. The customer waiting may not have been the one to activate the alarm. If multiple people are leaving about the same time, one person may set off the alarm carrying merchandise with active EAS labels on them. The person who set off the alarm continued to walk out while an innocent person may just be trying to make sure they did not cause the alarm. Walking up to that person and treating them like a shoplifter can lead to all sorts of problems. Politeness and tact are going to resolve alarms and in the majority of cases result in the recovery of merchandise.
• An employee responding to alarm activations has to be able to give excuses to a potential shoplifter. What I mean is this, when responding to a pedestal alarm if someone IS trying to steal there is a better chance of getting merchandise back if the responder can say words like, “Is there something in your bag the cashier may have overlooked?” or, “Sometimes people get their hands full and accidently put things in their pockets or purses intending to take it out and forget they had it until they get to the door.” Being smart and diplomatic can pay off in a big way.
• A responder must also be able to deal with angry and upset patrons. Someone attempting to steal may try to display an attitude and act indignant in order to embarrass or intimidate the employee and get them to just send them out the door. Training should include how to de-escalate a tense situation without giving in to the temptation to just get the person out the door. An employee who gets tense or angry can make a situation explosive.
How your team responds to alarms can be the difference between antagonizing people and making substantial recoveries. Follow these suggestions and you can be sure you are optimizing your electronic article surveillance pedestals and tags and staying profitable.
Need information on electronic article surveillance? Give us a call at 1.770.426.0547 now.
My current position as a shift manager in a library is sometimes very similar to my former position as a Loss Prevention Manager. In the library we use anti-theft systems that are identical to the retail anti-theft systems found in retail stores. We use tags here similar to EAS (electronic article surveillance) labels that we used in my store and they operate in a like manner. The tag we use in books and on DVD’s and music CD’s protects library inventory just as the EAS labels protected so many of the products we sold in our store. The systems are so similar that I recover materials on a fairly frequent basis using the skills I learned in retail to stop shoplifting. I also find I have to coach employees about the need to deactivate or de-tune labels properly just as I did in retail.
Stepping back for a moment I want to explain what labels are. These are soft tags that retail stores can place on merchandise that will cause an alarm in an EAS pedestal. The labels have a coiled wire in them that sends out a signal and when the signal gets in a specific vicinity of a pedestal an alarm is triggered. The alarm coming from the pedestal attracts the attention of store personnel and they respond to determine what caused the activation. Usually the only reason for an alarm is someone leaving a store with merchandise that has not been paid for. On a rare occasion an employee may fail to see merchandise in the bottom of a shopping cart that can then set off a pedestal. It is also possible that the employee does not use a scan bed or deactivation pad properly and this will cause an alarm. Both of these are rare instances and require follow up training with the employee.
The system in our library is similar to a EAS system with the difference being that we are preventing theft of materials while the store retail anti-theft system will stop shoplifting. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that sometimes we have failures to deactivate tags in the library just as we encountered in retail. For example, the other day I was at one of our desks and heard the alarm pedestal sound. I came around the corner and spoke to the patron who clearly could not figure out why the alarm sounded. She was insistent she had just checked out an item. Since we often email receipts I could not compare a receipt to anything to determine if she was telling me the truth. I nicely escorted her back to the counter where she had checked out and she told me who it was that checked out her materials. The worker confirmed that he had and I asked if he had used the deactivation pad when he checked out the items. It turned out he had used the hand scanner and did not use the pad and it caused the alarm. I had the materials checked in and out again properly and sent the patron on her way. I then explained to the worker what he had done wrong and the impact it had on customer service by not being careful. The EAS deactivation pad turns off an EAS label. When the handheld scanner is used but the materials are not laid on the pad labels are not turned off or detuned and this causes false alarms at the pedestals.
The lesson was learned and I may not have to address this worker again but as in retail you have to keep on top of these things. As a Loss Prevention Manager I had to speak to cashiers regularly about the customer service issues caused when they failed to deactivate labels. It is difficult to stop shoplifting when excessive alarms cause unnecessary distractions and employee response becomes lazy. In the library excessive alarms are loud and irritate students trying to study. It also causes staff to become complacent in alarm response in a library and opens up the opportunity for materials to be stolen. Whether it is in a library or a retail store be sure to train staff on how to properly deactivate labels to make your systems more effective and customer friendly.
Get more information on labels. Give us a call at 1.770.426.0547 now.
Does Inventory control involve more than simply retail theft prevention? It does but often that is the first thing retail managers look at when they are trying to determine causes of shortage. As a former Loss Prevention Manager I dealt with all of the areas that impacted shortage and worked to prevent those losses. There were issues related to theft and electronice article surveillance (EAS) was one of our methods of addressing that type of merchandise shrink. I made sure our store was tagging merchandise with hard tags and labels to deter and detect theft. I also ensured our Loss Prevention Team was staffed with personnel who would monitor the check lanes and front doors. I also had staff walking the salesfloor looking for shoplifters. While we made a significant impact on theft issues from our efforts to stop shoplifting to identifying and preventing internal theft, one of my largest recoveries of inventory had nothing to do with theft or fraud.
I will continue my story in a moment but I do think it is important to talk about electronice article surveillance because so much of the success we did experience overall was due in large measure to the effort we placed on theft prevention. An EAS system uses a combination of devices to deter and to prevent the theft of store merchandise. The operating parts use electronic article surveillance technology to protect products. Labels are soft peel off tags that can be placed on a variety of surfaces including plastics, cardboard even shrink wrap. Hard tags are pinned to clothing or through materials and in some instances plastic blister packs. Both types of devices send out radio waves that are picked up by EAS towers if they come into range. A tower that picks up a radio wave sounds an alarm that resonates through a store. A trained employee will respond to an alarm and determine what caused it through a receipt check. If unpaid merchandise is recovered (which happens in the majority of alarm activations) most stores will offer an opportunity for the person with the merchandise to purchase it or turn it back over. Tagged product also deters criminals since they know it will sound an alarm. Often the shoplifter will simply leave rather than chance being caught. You can see now how EAS tagged merchandise impacts retail theft prevention.
While our Loss Prevention team did make a significant number of deterred recoveries with the help of an EAS system and apprehensions for shoplifting I did make one very large recovery as I alluded to earlier. Our store had received our inventory results back and even though the results were good (well under 1%), I was not satisfied. I reviewed the detailed shortage results and one of the highest shortage departments was our shoe department. I knew some theft had taken place in this area we had made apprehensions of shoplifters and recoveries from the EAS system. We also occasionally found footwear that was old indicating someone had swapped out shoes. In spite of this I did not believe the shortage was primarily due to theft I believed the issue laid elsewhere.
I opened the store’s profit and loss (P&L) statements for the past year. I took each month and carefully reviewed the weeks for that department. Eventually I came to a line that showed a large charge to the P&L for the department in question. There was no reasonable cause that I could attribute for the spike. There was no seasonal change that may have prompted this size of a billing and there was no plan-o-gram change that I could think of that may have instigated this size of a bill. I ran the spike past my store manager who forwarded it to Headquarters. It took some time and our inventory booked. A couple of weeks afterwards we had a post-inventory adjustment and our inventory results improved. My store manager said he had never in his 20 years in the company seen a booked inventory changed. We received a $10,000 adjustment in shoes. I had identified a billing error in our P&L that Headquarters could confirm was an error.
I am proud of this paperwork recovery as it demonstrated that dollars are lost by more than just theft. However, if we had focused all of our efforts on paperwork errors and ignored retail theft prevention we would never have had the kind of results we did on a consistent basis. With an EAS and the use of hard tags theft can be significantly reduced and shortage kept low. Don’t lose sight of the other areas that impact shortage like administration and operations but to truly make a difference use EAS towers, labels and tags.
For more information about electronic article surveillance systems, contact us or call 1.770.426.0547
When working in retail, you put in strenuous hours to make sales and protect your bottom line. Each day you check sales and track how your location is doing. You do so much to get customers into your store daily, but what are you doing to stop the theft from happening? A lot of retailers do not realize how much theft is taking place, until their inventory numbers come out with an increase in shrink. Why not be proactive, and KNOW that you are doing everything you can to keep your merchandise on the shelf. With an increase in shrink, you have to cut hours and make adjustments due to the amount of loss that you have. This should not have to take place, after your entire year’s worth of hard work put in. A thief can wipe out a shelf within minutes, and you lose massive amounts of money. Stop waiting till the numbers show a clear increase in shrink, before doing something about it! You can easily stop shoplifting and protect your store’s assets by utilizing Checkpoint labels, on virtually any product you sell.
Whether you are trying to protect high dollar clothing or even food products, Checkpoint Labels put a stop to theft. As a Senior Loss Prevention Manger, I investigate several different types of thefts. A majority of my focus is specifically on high dollar thefts and organized retail criminals. Last month, I busted a group of 3 subjects, who tried to steal $4,352 worth of merchandise! This included expensive jackets, hoodies, and sportswear. The 3 boosters walk into my store, selecting the items quickly without any regard for the prices. One of the subjects did not even TRY to act like he was shopping. He pulled 7 of the coats right off the rack within seconds. I knew right then, it was going down! I purposely had these items tagged, due to the dollar amount and being a trending high theft product. These thieves were not use to having this type of product tagged from other retailers. They each select a backpack from one of our fixtures, after making all of their selections. They go into the fitting room, and come out with all of the items now concealed into the backpacks! If I wasn’t watching them on camera, associates would have never known they just concealed that much product. They were busy helping another customer, and never saw them even enter the fitting room. The 3 subjects now are finished and start heading for the exit. They had no idea we utilize Checkpoint Labels on our products! They concealed so fast in the fitting room, they didn’t take the labels off! As they exit, the alarm system starts sounding extremely loud! They drop the backpacks and go into panic mode! Then run into the parking lot very quickly. I then get their license plate and quickly grab all of the dumped backpacks for recovery. I came back into the store and we totaled up the merchandise they attempted to steal. We could not believe they almost got away with over 4k worth of merchandise in once instance. What if they hit us 4 times in a year? That would be on the low end of attempts. Think of how much you could do for your store with $20,000 dollars? Boosters normally target a location 4 times in a MONTH. If they target us that much, we would shrink out a massive amount just from 1 group when totaling the numbers. I am glad we use advanced merchandise protection to help keep our high dollar merchandise out from the hands of thieves. My store really likes that they can be used for a large variety of products. They are also extremely durable to stop shoplifting. I have investigated numerous amounts of cases just like this one. With the system alarming, it deters high dollar merchandise from walking straight out of the door. This is why, every retailer should invest in these products.
From petty thieves to organized retail criminals, Checkpoint Labels are an advanced form of security devices to stop shoplifting. After all of your hard work to make sales, you should not have to worry about thieves. Give yourself peace of mind, and put a stop to shrink in your store.
For more information about Checkpoint Labels, contact us or call 1.770.426.0547.
Dishonest employees are not always the smartest bunch of people. They get caught stealing from their employer, go to jail, get a criminal record and then return to the same criminal lifestyle. As much as I dislike shoplifters, I really despise employees who steal from their employer. I had my share of dishonest employees that I caught during my tenure as a Loss Prevention Manager and I don’t mind sharing that I had a lot of satisfaction in catching them stealing then prosecuting them. The only thing that would have been better would have been to catch them a second time but that isn’t likely. The next best thing is if you can almost catch them again. I had not just one but two incidents that were similar to that scenario and quite satisfying. In the first situation the employee had been a cashier, he and several other employees were passing and under ringing merchandise to each other. Since they were passing merchandise through the point of sale (not scanning them over the bar code reader) they were still able to detune any Checkpoint labels that were on merchandise used for retail theft prevention.
Checkpoint labels are electronic article surveillance soft tags that can be applied to many different surfaces. They can be placed on plastic or cardboard hang tags. Labels may also be placed on cardboard boxes and plastic shrink wraps often found on CD’s, video games and DVD’s. Labels have also grown to include specialized versions for cosmetics, shoes and meats. How do they work? The tags send out a radio frequency wave and if the wave is picked up by Checkpoint electronic article surveillance pedestal an alarm is activated. A pedestal alarm is very loud and is combined with flashing LED lights. These alerts let employees know that someone is attempting to steal and they respond to the alert and determine what the criminal is trying to sneak out the doors. Another advantage of using Checkpoint labels is that they can be concealed in merchandise such as purses, wallets, jacket pockets and under meat soaker pads if a retailer is concerned that a thief would try to remove the tags or what they are attached to. Knowing merchandise is protected but being unable to see the labels, makes the labels an ideal retail theft prevention tool. Shoplifters don’t want to have to hunt to find a tag or label, they want to grab merchandise and get out of the store without concern for an alarm sounding.
So my dishonest employee and friends were committing all of this theft and fraud and nullifying the retail theft prevention devices in the process. I eventually gathered enough evidence on all of them to conduct separate dishonest employee interviews and put them in jail. A few months later my wife and I were walking through a local mall and when we entered one of the clothing stores. I looked at the register stand and what to my wondering eyes did appear? My little thief friend looking like a deer staring at the headlights of an oncoming car. I couldn’t believe he was working retail again so I assumed they had not done a background check on him. I could only assume he was up to his old tricks again if he was in a retail shop. I looked at him and shook my head without saying a word. He left the counter, did not reappear and I never saw him in there again. No, I didn’t catch him again but I got close enough to scare him from ripping off that store.
In part two, I will talk about another employee theft case that almost turned into a double whammy. Employee theft cases can be more costly because employees have access to the tools that can remove or deactivate Checkpoint labels. By being careful in your hiring practices you can avoid the problems that they create, like lost profits. By being observant of employees you can prevent these thefts before they become too big.
Checkpoint labels are important and we can help you with it. Call 1.770.426.0547 and let’s talk.