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The Store Room: “How do you deal with store theft?”

Our monthly column is devoted to what works and what doesn’t — for our readers, from our readers

“How do you deal with store theft?”

Trish Mihal
The Party Factory
Plattsburgh, N.Y.
I don’t care if it’s $5 or $500 — I prosecute. Growing up in a family business, I take it personally when people steal from my store. I used to let people go with a warning and tell them to stay out of my store, but I noticed an increase in theft. I got fed up and once I started prosecuting shoplifters, I definitely notice a huge decrease. When I put security cameras in place, I noticed it even less. 

Another preventative is to make sure you welcome the customer as they walk in your store. After a few minutes, go up to them and ask if they need any help or if you can set the items in their hands up on the counter for them. They won’t want to risk getting caught if they feel you might be watching them, and those who are not criminals will just think you are a very attentive and helpful clerk.

I also make a mental note of their purse or bag and how full/empty it is upon entering and leaving the store.  I once caught a man with 22 Yankee Candles in a duffle bag he had that was empty when he entered the store and surprisingly full as he was leaving.

Daniel Hazen
Ozzie Dots
Los Angeles
When customers come in our door we make an effort to greet them and ask if they need assistance finding anything. We also note mentally what they are wearing and ask to check any large bags at the counter. While the customer is casually shopping, we periodically observe them and watch if they watching us. If they are, we quickly go over to them and ask if they need help finding something.

If it is a group, we stay at a distance and try to observe the whole group and never let one try to distract our focus on them. We believe it is easier to prevent the theft than it is than to try to get the item stolen back from the customer.

Kathy Voss
T & K Novelties
Menomonee Falls, Wis.
We have signs posted throughout like, “WARNING. Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest. The fine is $269. Is it worth it?” We don’t have anything in our store that cost that much, so the signs were very effective. In 24 years we only had two small instances and we did catch both.

Kara Shearer
Rose Costume
Denton, Texas
We have the highest amount of security you can have at the store with our cardboard surveillance camera! This is actually a great joke that we made to put up by the dressing room. We are very proud of it, as it was featured on Jay Leno under his “Top 10 Favorite Redneck Repairs!”

We feel that checking in with our customer every step of the way cuts down on theft because they feel like someone is with them on their costuming journey. Also, we have installed ink tags on our “sexy” costumes and corsets, as these are the ones that we have found that tend to wonder out the front door from time to time. 

Denise Hagopian
Heavenly Choice Flowers & Events
Montebello, Calif.
Great service and chitchat drives shoplifters nuts! Compliment them about anything, ask a lot of annoying questions, and smile. It is easier to keep them busy until they leave. Groups of three with a plan are harder.

Make sure your high theft items are out of reach, locked up or behind a counter. My local police officers park their cars in my lot while eating lunch, and it’s a great help.

Robin Jamieson
Everyday’s A Party
Altoona, Pa.
Our best theft strategy by far (especially at Halloween) is to be proactive before something bad happens. I’m not suggesting that we don’t have theft, but by being on a regular hourly security plan we have cut our shrink down by at least 80 percent.

1. Obviously the most expensive theft deterrent is a camera system.  We have security cameras around the store and that wasn't all that effective until we hooked a TV monitor to the cameras and placed the monitors on the sales floor as customers walked in the store. We also positioned a couple more monitors in the back of the store and near the dressing rooms so customers knew that our cameras were real. You can also buy fake cameras for $10-$15 that look and act like real cameras.

2. Our Lost Prevention supervisor was pretty cleaver and came up with a few humorous but effective security signs that we placed around the store. They were just interesting enough for our customers to pay attention and read them (if you are a PCA member, they are on the Party Club of America website).

3. The cheapest and most effective plan that we used was our security calls over the store intercom system every 15 to 30 minutes. We would make these calls over the intercom so customers will hear them. A few examples that we would use were: “Security, please monitor camera 5 in section C” (never let the customers know what part of the store you were talking about) or “Security, Code Red,” which is my favorite because after you made this call, you would see customers unloading their pockets as they were checking out at register.

Originally posted Monday, Jan. 28, 2013