Posts Tagged ‘thieves’

Shoplifter: The New Kids

October 18, 2010

“Folded clothes will eventually be touched;
But buying customers are here right now.”

I might have been schooled today by young shoplifters who unknowingly played the stealing game better than I. For one, we’re having a big visit tomorrow, so many people were spending time folding–yet, as big managers have said before, “I don’t care if the store looks like a tornado hit, if there are customers, and you make money, I’m happy.” Who cares if you folded the entire store beautifully, if you spent the entire day ignoring customers? Seriously, I was working my butt off today, trying to make money–our store has been having trouble, people have been losing hours, and yet the people who could be helping coworkers earn more hours are just standing around folding.

This struck a huge chord once I realized there were shoplifters. One of the new coworkers later said, “Oh, I said hi to them.” AND? No announcement of their arrival? Not a care to keep an eye on them and treat them like customers? Shoplifters and thieves have a hard time stealing if there is actual customer service going on around them. I was amazed when I saw them casually walking in the back of the store with their bags full and they were smiling and having fun. Why? Because no one was around them, at all. I rushed by, because I was helping several customers at one time, and said on the walkie-talkie, “THERE ARE SHOPLIFTERS IN THE STORE! They are obviously enjoying themselves, because their bags are full!” Everyone else sprung to action, because they saw who I saw, and instantly recognized them as shoplifters. As I’ve said, it’s sad when shoplifters look like shoplifters. Even worse, there were four of them!

I tried to finish with my customers, but I was burdened with too many, while trying to keep an eye on these shoplifters–even though I’m not trained to deal with them, I’m expected to deal with them. So I’m searching for a bag to get the price, seeing three coworkers at the cash register as I groan to myself. I walk by the shoplifters swearing, saying I’m looking for a bag–which ironically, I know they picked up one of our bags and filled it with clothes. They started to talk to me, saying, “Whoa, you just swore!” I talked to them about ‘the bag’ and refused to leave the area they were in–it was quite obvious they wanted the clothes in the front of the store.

Eventually, I had to move. No one was helping me deal with them, and I actually had customers waiting for me in the fitting room. This always irritates me to no end. As I turn to walk away, they leave, with the bag. Here, they were in a win-win situation. There was no tag on the outside of the bag–they are inside–so I couldn’t say, “Hey, that’s our bag!” They can just say, “I already bought it!” Nor can I legally look into their bag, even if it beeped when they left–although, it didn’t beep because these bags had no sensors on them, nor did the clothes they stole have sensors. I was in a helpless position, and all I could do was stop them from stealing more clothes. Instead, I grabbed all the bags of the same type and put sensors on them immediately.

I then had to leave for my lunch break. In that time, they actually returned twice–with us communicating to all the other stores nearby that these people are shoplifters. I was amused to hear, they came and tried to steal something, but they beeped at the door. Later, I found they tried to steal another one of my bags, but threw it in a corner when it beeped. At least I saved that bag. It just becomes tiresome when I have to deal with these shoplifters, and work hard to sell to customers, while I have to watch other people walking around ignoring customers, folding, and generally not carrying the weight of their own paychecks. Retail is killing me.

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Shoplifter: You Got Schooled, Redux

October 17, 2010

Four months ago, I had a couple come in and totally out themselves as shoplifters, because they did everything you’re not supposed to do in order to get away with it. Let us rejoin the action now.

A decently dressed young man comes in, and I know he’s from another store. He asks for a manager. I tell the manager someone is here. They want to know who needs them, etc., but I’ve already started to look around. As soon as the manager arrives, the guy says, “I’m from another store, and my manager sent me…”
I cut him off, “Where are they? I don’t see them.”
“Oh, you know?” He looks at me curiously, but I’m already walking away.
As I search the store, I see no one out of the ordinary, but I know he came to warn us about the shoplifters. I suddenly hear the manager say, “I need you in the front.” I find out they entered, and my manager tried to approach them, but they were scary, saying they don’t want any help. So she called on me to intercept.
I quickly arrive, and I’m slightly disappointed, it’s the same man from four months ago–although I thought it was only three months, even though I recently wondered why I haven’t seen them for so long. The woman was totally different, but the man, I recognized him instantly. So I rush up to him and greet him.
“Hey, it’s been a long time. I was wondering when you’d come in again!”
“What? I don’t know you.”
“Oh, come on, we talked in your favorite corner the last time. It was three months ago.” I wave at the same corner they always go to, and was informed later, that’s where the manager found them.
“I don’t know who you are.”
I wave at his female friend who is trying to be invisible, “I remember you, but you have a different woman with you this time. I definitely don’t remember her!” At this remark, she quickly darts out the front door.
As he tries to leave, I stop him, “The last time you said you have an IQ of 290. And I told you it doesn’t go that high!”
“I don’t know what my IQ is.”
“Yes, you said it was 290, that’s really bad for your IQ if you’re forgetting things. Shame, shame.” I shake my head at him. He’s taking a defensive stance, but I stand my ground, even approaching him.
He backs away, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know you!”
“I know you, I remember you, I told you have a good memory.”
He steps outside, turning to the left, looking for his departed friend.
I yell, “I know which way she went, she went THAT way,” gesturing to the right. “Don’t worry, I”ll remember you when you come back again!”

Shoplifter: Too Brave?

June 18, 2010

Today was an interesting day. One of the new managers was closing for the first time, but she only had two people to help her–one for each side of the store, one for each register, and thus no eyes to watch the front of the store. I told her this as I was leaving, and of course, like magic, the tattooed shoplifter with the backpack walked by. I had the manager go look at the other side, and we saw him looking in, then walking back. Of course, he came into the store, and she went up to him, and I said hello, and said it’s funny, since I’m not working this time. He wandered around and then left, so the manager walked away.

Just as she left, two shoplifters came in from another group–the Tag Team that splits and steals. They came in, looked at me with my backpack and treated me like a customer. But I kept looking at everything they were looking at, until they hid in a corner. I looked around and waited for the manager to appear, but I waited too long and it was getting weird. I saw the other two shoplifters come in and knew it was the four of them. I could not stop them all, nor could I split myself into three people, so I had to improvise. I pulled out my cellphone and started to take pictures of them. One saw me and left. The other stood there and turned around. Still no manager.

By now, I had to vocalize my intents, “Okay, that’s a good picture of you. And the other two over there. Now I just need you.” The man looked at me and quickly ducked. I finally found my flashlight and put that to use as well, I can be quite irritating, to be truthful. If I was in a different store, I actually could have and would have gone further, yelling, “Hey, you have shoplifters here!” Putting the stuff back, the four of them met at the front of the store where I was standing. And I greeted the last one, who definitely stole from the store. Only with the man there, were the other women able to speak–which means in another situation, they would melt like butter facing me alone. With more coworkers, that would be a possibility.

Instead, the man came up to me, swearing at me, asking why I was taking his f-ing picture. Saying he didn’t do anything, and asking who I was. All I said is that I am an ‘officer’, nor did I back away when he came up to me, since he was not even as tall as I, having to stand higher and only weighed ten to fifteen pounds more than I. As I said, without him the women would be powerless, which is an interesting fact to consider.

Then, they left, as I called the manager over telling her what happened. She wanted me to stay in case they were waiting for me outside. She even told me to wait until the store closed and she’d drive me home, but I told her it was okay. As we stood there, yet another shoplifter came in–from my gallery of thieves–this was the ‘too goo to be a shoplifter’, because he looks clean, dresses nicely, and still had his old, empty shopping bag from a good store. I would really like to mark that bag with a permanent pen. Either way, as he entered I said, “There’s another one.”

They obviously know when to come, but not when I’m around. Seriously, I was so irritated and angry with those shoplifters my hands were shaking. I’m the kind of person, I’d go toe-to-toe, upping the ante with anyone, playing anyone’s threat. At least now they can think twice wondering what will I do with those pictures I took. Too bad they won’t know. Still, a wise piece of advice has always been, “What will the shoplifter do to stop you? This is how they make a living. How far will they go to make sure they can keep on stealing?” And, that my friends, is the real question.


Unless they are avid readers of my blog, they don’t know my camera is so bad, nor the fact I didn’t really get a good picture because my batteries were dying. Oh, where is my professional camera when I need it.

Shoplifter: Too Good To Be A Shoplifter

June 10, 2010

There is one guy who always comes in, no one suspects him to be a shoplifter. He actually dresses nicely, is clean-cut, and acts politely–if you consider ‘ignoring salespeople who trying to help you’ as polite. Yet, he has many of the traits of a shoplifter.

He comes in with a large, empty shopping bag from other prominent retail stores–I walk by and glance inside just after he passes me. I also use mirrors to my advantage, never underestimate mirrors–shoplifters watch you and you can watch them. As much as he tries not to, he pays too much attention to the salespeople. Simple glances say too much, when glances usually mean you need help–as I said, he ignores people who try to help him; so obviously he isn’t looking to us for help. Then, he goes to corners where no one can see him, and stands there. He never shops out in the open. Everyone says he doesn’t look like a shoplifter, but once you know how they act–you know he acts like a shoplifter.

One day, I was watching him casually grabbing clothes making a pretty large stack. I usually look away as he turns toward me, because if you are a good shoplifter you don’t get caught watching salespeople–that’s a freebie for you shoplifters! If he ever caught me watching, he wouldn’t try to steal–and that’s half the fun, right? He casually places the clothes at the base of a mannequin, which no one notices. I even ask a coworker to get the clothes, and they walk right by it. Eventually, I point it out to her when he isn’t looking, and she grabs it, asking loudly, “Is this anyone’s clothes? Anyone? If it is, I’m putting it at the cash register for you on hold, okay?” He’s standing right there, walking in a circle around the mannequin, but he says nothing. He just puts down the clothes he’s holding, and casually walks out.

From that point on, I have never taken my eyes off of him. I am disappointed whenever he comes in wearing our clothes like a trophy, because I have never seen him buy anything, nor has anyone else in my store. Of course, I can’t work 24/7. He never, ever leaves with clothing when I’m at work. What worries me more is the fact I see him sitting with other guys at a coffee shop in the mall. Are they part of a shoplifter’s guild?

Shoplifter: You Can Just Close The Doors

June 7, 2010

I’m learning the code-words of my coworkers who don’t use the general terms. Normally I hear, “Do you need back-up?” which means, “Do you need help at the register?” Recently, I’ve heard, “Do you need help?” The first time I heard this, I ignored it, but later found out it was one coworker’s way of saying, “There are shoplifters!” Normally, we say something like, “Our friends are back!” Tonight, I heard the same statement, “Do you need help up there?” At first, I ignored it, then I realize this might be a signal.

I step out into the front, and there I see the two drag-queens and two coworkers standing there watching the shoplifters rifling through piles of clothes. I actually don’t know what’s going on, since my coworkers aren’t doing anything–I later found out they froze and didn’t know what to do. Plus, they said they haven’t been that close or seen how scary these drag-queens are. I’ve seen the big one dressed as a man, and trust me, the drag version is far less scary.

I came in whispering to one coworker, “Yay, this is going to be fun! I haven’t seen them in a while!” And I shout to the other coworker, “You know, you can just close the doors!”

The larger drag-queen stands up and looks at me, turning to the other one, “Let’s go!” They both get up and leave. I’m a little surprised I have that influence, since I know they were there a while already. I actually do have more enjoyment playing mind-games with the professionals. Games like “Peek-a-boo, I see you!” and “Hide-and-Go-Seek!” are so much fun. I actually want to throw a sensor in their bags when I pass by them for my amusement. And I cannot wait to cover my eyes and say, “Okay, go! I can’t see you!” Then open my eyes, “Oh, I can see you now!” while laughing like a madman.

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.

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.

Shoplifter: Wire Cutters

May 16, 2010

Yes, I am a  busy-body. Yes, workers from other stores do come in to tell me about shoplifters.

A guy who works at a cosmetics store in the mall is standing at the counter. I know him, and said hello, since he hasn’t been in the store for a while. We start to talk about all the shoplifters, and he says they come in all the time. Just last week, they saw a guy with a bag full of our clothes–the man was standing in their store cutting off the hard-tags with a pair of wire cutters. Obviously, I asked if they are ever allowed to do anything. He says no, they can only watch. Now isn’t that comforting? It is so comforting, at least we have rules in place to encourage these thieves.

Shoplifter- Rule #1

May 14, 2010

The first rule I tell anyone I train, “Treat everyone like a shoplifter.” Before you back away and gasp in surprise, you need to understand how we treat a shoplifter. We pay attention to them, we notice what they’re looking at, offering suggestions so they know we’re there, we’re available. No matter where they look, they can always see us. How is that not great customer service?

I don’t just say hello to customers that come in, I watch what they look at, this way I get an idea of what they want, what they are shopping for. I generally ask if they need another size, but I also offer other alternatives, too. Whenever they hold something, I ask if I can put it aside in a fitting room or at the registers for them.

Some customers are utterly amazed when they walk into the fitting room and I ask, “I saw you looking through the pants at the front of the store, I see you didn’t find your size, did you want me to check if we have it?”
“How did you even see from here?”
I laugh, “I see everything, it’s okay.”

This is how you should treat every customer, because anyone could be a shoplifter. This is how you should treat every shoplifter, because anyone could just be a customer.

Shoplifter: Welcome to the Jungle

May 6, 2010

We have a group of shoplifters, they are basically drag-queens–at least one of them is, and we think they others are. They could be ugly, fat women or ugly, fat guys with boobs and bad make-up. I’ve seen the drag-queen as a man, and he’s better off as a woman, believe me it’s scary. The man, though, is over six-feet two-inches tall and weighs well over two-hundred thirty pounds. He also wears high-heels.

The one thing I am blown away with is that, as huge as this man-woman is, whenever they walk through the store, no one, at all, ever sees them. It can be ten seconds later, and I ask, “Did you see a giant, giant fat drag-queen just walk by with two other giant fat women?” “No.” It is utter insanity that these shoplifters are such masters of illusion that they are totally invisible to the naked eye, because to me, they stand out like a beached whale at a sushi-bar. Or, perhaps my coworkers are chosen for the fact they see about as well in bright-daylight as bats, whom only use sonar and would consider these shoplifters just gigantic stalagmites in their way, similar to pillars. Since they are such skillful ninjas, they often just steal entire tables worth of clothing, and then disappear, without a single person seeing them–other than I. Seriously?

One day, we had a major project, and nearly the entire staff was working. I’m talking about one person every ten-feet. The shoplifters chose a really bad day to come in. I greet them as usual, and they, as usual, decide to split up and walk away from me–I can’t follow them all, right? I laugh, pulling out my walkie-talkie. Each and every one of my blind-as-moles coworkers received a very loud, “Hey, turn to the left!” I call out their name. They look up and find a giant drag-queen or a fat woman, whom jumps in surprise, and starts to bounce away like a pinball. I continue doing this for a little while more, then call out to them, “Bad day to come in, the entire staff is here and they all know what you look like now. Congratulations!” I went on to announce the presence of our most infamous shoplifters, whom have stolen hundreds of work-hours worth of clothing from my coworkers bank-accounts to pay for rent, food, and survive. They all turn to look at the drag-queen and his cohorts as they quickly leave, scowling at me.

“Thanks for coming, please come again!” I tell them as they leave. “At least they know what you look like now.”