Guest Author - Vance Rowe
This is one in a series of articles I will be doing about shoplifting and loss prevention. Shoplifting, stealing things from retail outlets and supermarkets, not only costs the stores billions of dollars each year but it has a trickle down effect to you, the consumer. Retailers have to compensate for the “shrinkage” in merchandise every year and this usually results in higher prices on most items. On average, anywhere from nine to ten billion dollars is lost due to shoplifting, employee theft and vendor theft a year. Shoplifting is more than just sticking a candy bar in your pocket and leaving the store and is a big business with a lot of people.
Let’s talk about the “gypsies” and different techniques of shoplifters first. The gypsies are any group of people that work together and go into a store and split up to distract store employees so their counterparts can steal items, normally clothes, without the fear of being seen. The more people that are in the group, the better the chances of them getting out of the stores with thousands of dollars in merchandise. They usually come into the stores with large, oversized shopping bags. Then when the employees are sufficiently distracted, the group will grab clothes and other merchandise and drop them into the open bags that they set on the floor by their feet. When their bags are full, they leave the store unnoticed and then move onto another one. Some shoplifters are brazen enough to grab clothes off of a rack by the doors and just run out.
The gypsies normally attack stores in indoor shopping malls because there is usually a minimal staff in there at any given time and they can use the crowds in the mall to disappear and there are many exits they can disappear into like the back service entrances and chances are, store employees are not going to chase anyone who steals merchandise through a mall because that will leave the store either unattended or minimally staffed and the store employee will take a chance on getting hurt. The mall stores will just notify mall security and give the security guard any information or descriptions they have of the thief or thieves and let them handle it.
Another popular way of shoplifting is a baby stroller. Baby strollers usually have a lot of stuff in them like toys, a diaper bag and usually a baby too. I say usually a baby because there are a lot of times when a shoplifter or shoplifters will go into a store with a stroller without a baby in it and steal. A lot of shoplifters also build a “false bottom” in the strollers too to hide merchandise and will normally not be detected if the stroller is checked. Umbrellas and newspapers can hide small items. Someone will come into a store with an umbrella hanging on their arm that is closed, but, not snapped shut and they can lean on a counter or something and push small things off and into the umbrella. A folded newspaper under an arm can conceal small things as well.
Store employees need to be more vigilant when they see people like this coming into their store. A lot of the bigger department stores will have a plainclothes guard walking around the store pretending to be shopping and will watch people they consider suspicious and the shoplifters will not know that these “shoppers” are store security so they will not know to distract this person. If you are a shopper in a store and you see someone shoplifting, don’t be a hero and confront them, but get a description of the person, what they are wearing and are carrying and let a store employee know what you saw. After all, you will be paying for that stolen item in the long run.