United States retailers lose as much as $50 billion each year due to shoplifting. Thieves have become increasingly sophisticated about their methods – instead of running out the front door with a stolen item, they might “forget” to scan some of their items in a self-checkout lane. They may also work in groups, with some group members creating a distraction so others can steal items without anyone noticing.
The best way to prevent theft-related loss is to focus not on catching thieves, but on identifying possible thieves. One thing shoplifters have never seemed to master is the art of acting like a “normal” customer, so train your employees to be alert to these behavioral red flags:
- No clear purpose – A customer who seems to be casually wandering the aisles but not actively searching for something may be waiting for an opportunity to steal.
- Looking for cameras or employees – Customers who look at the ceiling might be checking for security cameras, and if they look back and forth before grabbing an item off a shelf, they’re probably keeping an eye out for witnesses.
- Avoiding interaction or eye contact – Shoplifters don’t want to be noticed. If a customer won’t make eye contact with employees, refuses assistance, or scurries off as an employee approaches, that customer might be a potential thief.
- Visible anxiousness – In most people, nervousness is easy to see. People who seem jittery or wide-eyed might be apprehensive about being caught shoplifting.
In addition to training employees about shoplifter behavior, you should also emphasize the role that good customer service plays in preventing theft. A would-be thief might decide not to steal after a friendly interaction with one of your associates (which is why it’s a good idea to verbally acknowledge a customer the moment they walk into the store).
If your surveillance system should catch someone stealing, show employees the footage – it’s not uncommon for thieves to steal from the same store more than once, so you want employees to recognize thieves, should they return.
By Jim Close, DIGIOP National Account Manager
Before becoming National Account Manager for DIGIOP, Jim Close was a loss prevention specialist for more than 25 years.