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10 Tips to Beat Shoplifters

Studies have shown that, in the United States, as many as
one in twelve customers is a shoplifter, and that
shoplifters commit an average of 50 thefts before being
caught. That’s if they are caught at all; it’s estimated
that only 10-15% are apprehended.

There are vast numbers of tips circulating regarding how to
deter shoplifting. With over 20 years’ experience as a
shoplifter, I know which are effective, and which are a
waste of time. Here are a few battle-tested and inexpensive
things you can do to minimize shoplifting in your store.

In most cases, shoplifters require privacy in order to
conceal merchandise. This is especially true with small
specialty shops that the arrangement of the fixtures creates
many areas for the shoplifter to be hidden from sight.

Determine where your staff spends the majority of their
time. For many small stores this is near the cash register.
For others, it might be near the phone, or the office.

Arrange you fixtures with the goal of minimizing “blind
spots” on the sales floor. From their usual vantage point,
your staff should be able to look down almost every aisle.

Once you have maximized visibility by arranging fixtures,
consider installing a large convex mirror to view any
unavoidable hiding places.

Next time you are in a convenience store, take note of the
layout. Most allow direct visibility of the sales floor to a
lone clerk, and mirrors expose the remaining areas.

One way shoplifters can steal a tremendous amount of
clothing is to quickly grab as much clothing from a display
as they can carry, and run out of the store into a waiting
car, before your staff can react.

A simple way to thwart this is to alternate the direction of
each hanger on the display, especially on those near the
store exit. This makes it impossible to take an entire
armful of clothing off of a circular rack at once, and makes
it difficult on a tree rack. Make it part of the opening or
closing duties to have an employee “Set the Hangers”.

Many shoplifters steal with the express intent of returning
the merchandise to the store, the same or another branch,
for a cash refund.


This can be addressed by requiring a purchase receipt for
all returns. This creates some conflict, however, with the
interest in delivering quality customer service.

A compromise policy is to require a receipt for cash refunds
and general store credits, and to allow same-item-only
exchanges without one. This way, the legitimate customer
with a defective product, or with the wrong size or color,
is accommodated, but the thief is not.

As a general rule, the smaller and more valuable an item is,
the more attractive it is to a shoplifter; particularly to
those who steal with intent to either sell the merchandise
themselves, or return it for a refund.