Recently I am seeing more drive and pick-up parking spaces and I got to thinking about how it relates to clothing security and other theft protection efforts. It only seems to be recently that I saw the delivery parking places pop up in locations like WalMart, Target, and even a grocery store chain near where I live. In the store I work for we have been doing what are called Omni orders over the past year or so. All of these are designed to make a faster shopping experience for customers so they can make purchases online and pick them up without having to go into a store. Personally I see good and bad aspects to this strategy. One of my concerns involves the handling of Sensormatic tags and labels used to prevent shoplifting.
As I consider the process of Omni orders in our store I can see where there may be problems for other retailers. Our store does not sell any clothing we aren’t that type of retailer but having filled orders I am in a position to see the potential pitfalls for those stores that do sell clothing. When stores like the one I work at are using Sensormatic tags and labels on merchandise we are trying to prevent theft. We are deterring shoplifters and even employees who would try to steal when we put retail anti-theft devices on products. Crooks are well aware that tagged goods are going to set off those electronic article surveillance (EAS) towers we have at the front doors. Before we finish a transaction we have to use deactivation pads to detune EAS labels or we have to use a detachment tool to remove a hard tag or wrap. In those stores where I worked as a Loss Prevention Manager or Associate and softlines products were sold we had to remove the clothing security tags at the points of sale. If labels are not detuned it is a nuisance to customers as they walk out of a store. If a hard tag isn’t removed a whole new problem is created for the patron. Aside from the alarm it causes if no one responds the patron may simply leave. If the patron gets home and a tag is still on the merchandise the product can’t be worn and then you have to deal with a very angry customer when they come back. As a Loss Prevention Associate for a department store I would see this problem as shoppers would walk into our store from the mall. I remember being involved with a number of situations when a customer had a proper receipt from another store but that location failed to remove clothing security tags. The shopper was embarrassed and after verifying the receipt and product matched I would escort the customer back to that store and seek assistance in having a tag removed.
That brings me back to my concern with these new online orders being shipped from stores. The process for our company goes something like this. An alert pops on our mobile device. We are prompted on the items to pull and we go through the list picking the pieces. We then box the goods up for shipment and print the packing list and shipping label and ready it for delivery pick-up. We also have in-store pick-ups for online orders that are processed in a similar manner. When these orders involve hard tagged merchandise we have to ensure the tags are removed before they are shipped off or turned over to the customer. Now what happens when the store is one that sells shoes, shirts, jeans, dresses, etc. and protects items with clothing security tags? Having been involved in the shipping process I can see where it would be easy to overlook the critical step of removing anti-theft devices. Ship off an article of clothing with the security tag still attached and you are going to have one extremely agitated customer who can’t wear the product. This can create a horrible customer service fiasco.
In Part 2 I want to talk a bit more about the advantages and disadvantages of the online shopping experience. I want to be clear that I am in total favor of the use of Sensormatic tags and efforts to stop theft. I am also in favor of owners finding new ways to increase sales and being open to finding new ways to reach additional customers. I only want retailers to be careful in their strategies and not follow a trend for the sake of a trend but to look for the potential pitfalls a strategy may carry.
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