How to detect shoplifters, pan-tilt-zoom cameras, closed circuit television and VCR’s (yeah, we didn’t have DVR’s then) and Sensormatic security systems were all the tools I learned to use as a Loss Prevention Associate. After four and a half years I moved into a position as a Loss Prevention Manager for a new store and found out how much I DIDN’T know about retail theft prevention. I also found I had to change my mindset about what Loss Prevention is really all about. Now, 28 years later I have my own advice to give that could make a leap into retail theft prevention a successful jump.
Security Officer, Police Officer or Something Else?
Let’s set the record straight right from the start. Do not go into Loss Prevention thinking you are a police officer. You may stop shoplifters and you might even put them in jail via a warrant or a police officer issued citation. You are not the police officer. You will have to learn to be diplomatic and you will have to sensitive. You may have to keep children from crying while doing paperwork on the apprehension of their mother. You have to be fair in how you handle every incident. You will have to keep calm while someone curses you out. Mess up and your actions can cost your store a lot of money. You should know that you are working to make the store and company more profitable. Go in with the mindset that you are there to reduce risk and optimize sales and profit. It changes how you will view your work.
Go into a Loss Prevention Manager position and be prepared to interview and hire people. As I mentioned in Part 2 surround yourself with people who can do what you can’t. If you don’t know how Sensormatic security systems work, hire someone who has experience with one. If you aren’t good at report writing find someone who has a background in clerical work or a degree in communications. This is not an easy step since it means you have to be honest with yourself about your own short comings. You may be called upon to help in new hire orientations. Be ready to brush up on public speaking skills. You will want to be the person that knows company policies and procedures because you may be investigating dishonest employee activity. You may also have to assist the store in investigating worker’s comp. claims, and accident investigations. Knowledge of company policies can help your store minimize the risk of costly lawsuits.
As a Loss Prevention professional, you need to know what affects the profitability of the store. It may be retail theft prevention, vendor shortages, operational errors on the front lanes or how empty shelves are influencing sales. YOU must know what stock shortage is and how it happens. Empty shelves mean lost money for the store. You should be the first person to notice and identify problems. Is there theft? Is there a breakdown in the stocking process? Are vendors causing issues? Learn about how a Sensormatic security systems can include a door counting sensor. Customer traffic counting data can be used to determine the time of day customers are shopping. Payroll can be more effectively managed to optimize customer service and sales (you could be a hero to a store manager). Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. can provide more details on how a door counting sensor can help a store if your manager is curious. You won’t know everything about shortage immediately but knowing that it involves more than just shoplifters and dishonest employees will prepare you in advance so you can start to learn it.
I know this may sound odd to you but trust me you will have many co-workers and managers coming to you with gripes, complaints, concerns and gossip. These people trust you because they believe you will maintain confidentiality. You must be able to listen and give advice. You may get tips that will be useful in retail theft prevention but through casual conversation. You have to listen closely. Know when to stop a conversation and how to tell someone you have no choice but to refer something to another department (such as a report of assault or sexual misconduct).
I hope all of these tips will help you understand that the role of a Loss Prevention professional is more than just stopping shoplifters. You will be a jack-of- all- trades and if you do the job properly, you will learn more than you ever dreamed you would about running a retail store. Now go forth and make a store profitable!
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