Posts Tagged ‘theives’

Shoplifter: How to Spot Them

June 1, 2010

Recently, some have challenged me, questioning how I can point out shoplifters–especially professionals. There are certain things you need to be a good shoplifter, partly I get this from observation, understanding, and my background in Psychology.

One of the most important things you need is a bag. You cannot steal unless you have a bag. I often give these people the opportunity to take off the clothes, mentioning it isn’t in the fitting room anymore, so I’ll save the room for them to finish changing. (Although there are some who will put on clothes and then walk out, but if you are aware in a fitting room, even on the sales floor, it isn’t hard to notice something isn’t right. I have also seen shoplifters walk out with entire piles of clothing. Once, a District Manager found her staff being lazy, so she actually moved an entire table out of the store, hiding it, then asked them, “What’s going on here? Why is there a table missing?”) I do not say people steal only with bags, but regardless, it is far easier to walk out of a store with stolen merchandise in a bag–unless it is a holiday or the salespeople are lazy, ignorant, or partially blind. I actually would think it’s disgraceful to steal from a blind person, but that’s my personal feelings.

As for bag-people, if they ask for a bag, you have zero-obligation to give them a bag unless they’ve made a purchase. Yes, I’ve made a shoplifter buy a pair of socks for a bag, just ensuring that he use his bag to steal from other stores than my own. A majority are left with the bags they have, which are generally easy to access with wide openings. Backpacks, yes, are left unzipped. Yet, others use shopping bags which are used and recycled far more than they should be. Others purchase special purses and bags for this purpose. Regardless, they should have a wide opening for easy access.

Secondly, a shoplifter has to know where you are. This is more crucial. If a salesperson is standing right next to a shoplifter, they can’t steal–and they can’t steal if they don’t know where all the salespeople are. (Once more we do have the blindness aspect, but that’s just crude.) This is one reason I move so quickly and randomly on the sales floor–you never know where I am or where I’ll appear. As some have told me, “You think there are people who generally don’t steal, but when they see no one is around, they are tempted to steal?” If no one is around, it’s our fault–or the fault of the staff on hand.

Shoplifters must pay as much attention to the salespeople as they do to the clothes, most often, they’ll spend more time finding out who works here and where they are located, before they can start stealing. Most customers don’t even see me coming, since I approach them from behind, surprising them with a greeting. Even shoplifters who are professionals, and know only to look for salespeople right before they steal something already catch the attention of a good salesperson–because that look almost always means, “I need help, where is a salesperson?” Giving the ‘look’, and then saying, “Oh, I’m just looking,” is already a warning-sign. If they are just looking, but not just looking at clothes, they have issues.

There are others who distract you by making you look away or get something for them. In this situation, it isn’t hard to ask someone else to get the item, while you wait with the shoplifter. I don’t know about everyone else, but I use my peripheral vision more than my center of gaze when looking at anything. One time shoplifters have distracted a coworker in order to walk out with a pile of clothing–literally, an entire pile walked right out of the store.

Shoplifters cannot help but act in a very particular fashion, even if they try to hide it. There are essential, basic needs they have in order to function, once you understand this, you understand the shoplifter. In the end, I still believe in the main idea–Treat Everyone Like Shoplifter. Give them good service, pay attention to them, watch them shop and help them by seeing what they look at, what interests them. Shoplifters can’t steal easily if you’re helping them the entire time.

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Shoplifter: Tag Team Torn

May 18, 2010

A new shoplifter came into the store, but he was about as obvious as any of them. He walks around with his backpack open. He won’t make eye-contact, but he will constantly look around and check out where every salesperson is in the store. He often puts his bag down right under a pile of clothes he’s looking through. For him, he is a bigger man, not in very good shape. He is dressed sloppy, with an over-sized, dirty shirt, tattoos, and sunglasses with a hat. He’s entirely ready to change his look, while failing all the while. If they did have a guild of shoplifters, they’d need a different look requirement.

A week before, one of my co-workers was furious, because a tag-team hit her. She was told to watch the man, and literally, right behind her, the woman was loading her bags. This is the effective tactic of the tag-team–one distracts and one attacks. Read the Art of War if you wish for more insight. Actually, I used to train all my co-workers from the Art of War tactics to deal with customers as well as shoplifters effectively, but I haven’t trained anyone in nearly a year.

So I’m standing helping him, actually my manager has put us all on alert saying to keep our eyes on him and watch him. A woman walks by, dressed decently, warmly, and actually looks like she’s a visitor from South America, since she doesn’t reply when I speak to her, only with a shy, polite nod. I think nothing of her, until someone says, “That’s the other one!” Now, their tactic is complete–she doesn’t dress or act like a shoplifter of lore. If I were a warrior looking for a dangerous monster, and I see a tiny white rabbit, I don’t think danger; yes, I admit looks can be deceiving. Caerbannong!

I immediately realize she has the actions of a shoplifter, but a new one. When I approach her again, I realize she does speak English. I do several of my surprise tactics, rounding corners to say, “Hello!” which admittedly makes her jump. I also appear out of thin air when she tries to run into a fitting room, and I count her items–one, two pieces of denim.

To make herself obvious, she puts her bag down, open, facing the door, so you can ‘obviously’ see she isn’t stealing. What makes it curious is that she is trying to steal; the fact of this is revealed later. Putting her bag like this just puts a stamp on her guilt, it just means she’s being tricky about it.

She emerges with her two pairs and says she wants them, and then quickly walks away. Using mirrors, as I always do, I track her movements until she’s about to disappear–and I point in her direction to another co-worker. This time I make an err, as my vantage point is actually her vantage point, yet one rarely used–she saw me pointing at her in the mirror. Now, it’s cat and mouse.

Remember all those poor customers we ignore when we’re dealing with shoplifters? Woe is them. I refused to leave my area to follow her, which the manager was mad about, but  don’t give me sop stories about customers needing help, then expect me to ignore them to follow a lady around the store. Of course, she disappears, but out of sheer luck, another coworker passes her near the exit asking if we can put the denim at the counter for her. The shoplifter turns, and the plastic sensors drop out of the pockets. The woman shoves the denim at my coworker then runs out.

There we find two huge, torn holes in the denim where the sensors used to be. She had ripped them through the pants, basically ruining them–including one which was denim short-shorts. Yes, she was an amateur. They also said by the time she left she was shaking and trembling. Congratulations, I don’t think she’ll be coming in any time soon. At least, she refreshed my views on watching how people look and how people act.