Retail Policies Do Little To Curtail Shoplifters

Shoplifters drive up costs for law-abiding shoppers, and store policies tend to be stacked in favor of thieves, according to a UPI analysis that reports 92 percent of retailers were victimized in 2009.

Retailers discourage and often ban employees from stopping suspected shoplifters for fear of sullying the company image or putting employees in a position to be harmed and sue the company. Even when security guards catch shoplifters, companies often refuse to prosecute due to the cost.

From the story:

“Personally, I feel like the laws are made just to protect them,” said Jen [redacted], assistant manager of Arden B. in the Palm Beach Gardens Mall. “It’s not really for us.”

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, shoplifting has become one of the most prevalent crimes in the U.S, averaging about 550,000 incidents per day, and more than $13 billion in merchandise stolen from retailers each year.

What most people don’t realize is the impact shoplifting has on honest consumers. Many retail companies do not want to pay for the cost of prosecution after an arrest. Instead, they raise their prices to compensate for losses.

If you’ve worked retail, did you ever try to stop a thief?

Retail stores’ policies benefit shoplifters [UPI]
(Thanks, Aram!)

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  1. dreamfish says:

    “… putting employees in a position to be harmed and sue the company.”

    Is there actually any case-law or precedent showing that this has happened, or do companies just assume this because they’re too idle and scared to do the right thing?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I’m guessing these would fall under workers comp and blow up from there. I’m sure there has been been more than one, and then all companies started enacting these policies nationwide.

    • Polish Engineer says:

      Companies make it specifically part of their policy to not stop shoplifters so employees don’t feel it is part of their “job description”. In not allowing it, it makes sure people don’t endanger themselves and expect the company to back them.

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      It is (or was, I was in grocery store management in the 80’s) a safety and procedural issue. Regular employees and receipt checkers are not trained in the law like actual Loss Prevention staff. They are also not trained for the physical events that may take place. For example, did you know that if the shoplifter is out of your sight for just a moment, you have lost the case against them since you can not prove they did not put the item back and that carton of cigarettes under their coat was there when they walked into the store?

      Also, the physical events that can happen can have extreme consequences if you are not trained or ready for them. One time, I was just getting some carts in from outside and was walking behind someone with a 12 pack of beer under his arm. As I left the store behind him, he pulled a gun on me and told me to stop, which I did IMMEDIATELY. That is what the general staff was trained for, do whatever they say but try and remember any and all details you could about the person. I went inside and called the police about the gun being pulled. It turned out he was shoplifting the beer and later that night he actually had a shootout with the police.

      As far as shoplifters hurting the bottom line, back then, we were quoted figures of around 85-90% of loss is inside jobs by employees and shoplifters are a very minor portion of loss.

    • pot_roast says:

      Yes, there is. A cursory Google search will reveal plenty. Also, the *shoplifters* are often times the ones filing the lawsuits against the stores.

      Imagine that, you’re committing a crime, yet you’re the one that walks away with a huge cash settlement.

      • fantomesq says:

        EXACTLY! They are afraid of the shoplifter’s suits… not so much their own employees. All in all it is a cost benefits analysis that says observe but do not interfere.

  2. sqlrob says:

    I’m guessing 100% were victimized. The 92% is *organized* shoplifters

    • Dinhilion says:

      Ya its the pros that really burn you. Most Loss Prevention is just scare tactics. Making sure the amateurs are afraid they will get caught. The pros know are rules and abuse them.

  3. valkyrievf2x says:

    It is sad, but true. There are too many protections for a thief that shoplifts. I can have a get away car in the fire lane of walmart and remove the license plate. Get out of the car, go to electronics and swipe a computer in broad daylight. Walk, not run, out of the store. Show the item to the receipt checker, tell him I stole it. Leave the store, get in my car, and drive away, free to steal another day.

    Legally, there isn’t a damn thing they would be able to do to me. Best they can hope for is to catch my tags and report it. And any daring employee that tries to stop me forcefully will get fired from his job, and open to a lawsuit from me for assault or some other thing.

    Not endorsing this kinda of behavior, but in most states, this is what the reality can be like,

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      You’re wrong. MANY employees could possibly get fired. Not any. You forget LPO’s, off/on duty Law Enforcement, managers, etc… can still stop you. Have you never seen the video I took at Walmart? http://consumerist.com/2009/12/heres-a-walmart-perp-walk-in-action.html

      • valkyrievf2x says:

        I saw that video a while back. Very interesting. In any case, I would think those are the minority, though. A lot of the stores in my area have LP’s that only work during certain days. So, for example, Walmart has on LP that works 8 hours a day, 4 days a week. That is 32 hours out of a possible 168 where there is no LP officer. Off/on duty police officers–that is a luck of the draw kind of thing. It isn’t something one can count on. If they catch you running out the store, get your tags and call the PO, unless he is in the lot or extremely close, you are getting away.

        Now managers I don’t know. I always thought they were under the same “do not apprehend” rules everyone else at the store was working under. But if they can chase you, it’d probably be a store dependent kind of thing.

        Maybe I over simplified it, but it isn’t that hard to steal from the stores. The odds are heavily stacked in the thief’s favor.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Just remember they got Al Capone on taxes. And yes, it sounds so easy. But just remember, you can pull your plates, but they still have video of you. And all they have to do is put that on the news, and you now have thousands of people looking for you, or a few who know you and can ID you just by the way you walk. And it’s Wal-mart, so the computer you swipe will probably break, and then what do you do?

    • Kitamura says:

      I dunno, if the LPO can full fill certain conditions, they will arrest you as soon as you exit the store. True, they might ignore you and just note who you are if it’s something of pretty insignificant value because of the processing time involves in turning someone over to the police, but I’ve seen them nail repeat offenders after a while too.

      Where I worked, they didn’t want employees to “apprehend” people for 2 reasons. The first, they don’t really want to see the employee injured. It takes time and money to replace a worker if they get injured doing something like that. Second, they don’t want to deal with any sort of false arrests. LPOs have very strict conditions to actually make an arrest, not all of which an employee might know about.

  4. Scuba Steve says:

    Luckily I’ve never been in a position where I cared enough about a company’s product to stop someone from stealing it. But then I’ve never been a manager or loss prevention specialist.

    Also, you don’t lose too much if someone scams some fast food from you. Just your pride.

  5. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    When I worked at a supermarket, we had an innovative policy to deal with caught shoplifters. They had to pay us $150(there was a payment plan option). If they did not, we would press charges and charge them criminally. It worked out for us, because if there was a court date, our LPO, as well as any managers from the stores involved, would be forced to sit in court for possibly the entire day. We also had an impressive lineup of photos of the shoplifters with their ill-gotten goods laid out in front of them on a table. Nothing beats the broken look on a criminals face when they are caught.

    But really, the worst shoplifters were the employees sometimes. I still remember the kid they busted for stealing cassette tapes. I mean, it’s the freaking year 2000. Who still listens to tapes? Was he making an awesome mix tape for some chick?

    • MattAlbie says:

      What state are you in? Because what you described is illegal in a *lot* of them.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        NJ. Why is it illegal? They agree to it. We didn’t force them. If they wanted to go to court and have the charge on their permanent record, possibly serve time, and pay a civil fine, they had every right to. What’s illegal about it? Well, besides them shoplifting.

        • Emperor Norton I says:

          It’s called extortion & it’s illegal to use it against anyone, even a shoplifter.

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            So tickets are extortion? I mean, you either pay the fine or take your chances in court. Same choice we were offering them.

            • Philosoraptor says:

              You tell ‘em SteveDave

            • Tim in Wyoming says:

              Can’t call that extortion, there is a local ordinance or state statute that says if you violate the speed limit you will receive a citation which carries xyz penalty. If you feel you are innocent, you get to prove your innocence in court. No harm no foul.

              A store saying pony up or we’ll call the cops is clear cut extortion.

              • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

                Again, we CALLED the cops already. We gave them the choice afterwards to agree to pay us $150 or we would press charges. This was only for the small time offenders, BTW, like the couple of tubes of lipstick people. The big time players went to court.

                • ViniTheHat says:

                  sounds like “settling out of court” to me.

                  • RvLeshrac says:

                    “settling out of court” involves a contract, and a mutual agreement.

                    This is *exactly* the same as “Your money or your life,” or “Give me $150, I won’t send these incriminating photos to the news.”

                    If the police have been called, then the police can arrest them and fine them. As a private citizen, you have no right to threaten someone if they refuse to give you money.

                • coffeeculture says:

                  yeah i have to agree here…people aren’t reading the first comment, police are being called, sounds like a settlement that’s legal to me.

          • ChunkyBarf says:

            I did not know there were so many lawyers in the crowd. What GitEmSteve is describing is fairly common (and I can vouch for California). The shoplifter is given the choice of leaving the store with a cop or with $XXX less in their pocket. You guys are all trying way too hard in terms of bending this practice to your understanding of various statutes.

        • MattAlbie says:

          Its technically extortion. “You pay us money or we call the cops.” That’s not how it works. I’m not saying I don’t like that method, but a store here in Maryland that I used to work at and don’t anymore for maybe this exact reason went down HARD when corporate was informed of this little occurrence going on.

          But that’s Maryland – I have no idea about New Jersey, as I’ve never worked there.

        • MattAlbie says:

          The store that I used to work for took it FAR overboard, charging each shoplifter double the cost of the item they tried to steal – in cash – or they’d call the cops. I’ve seen them get $600 out of people before. Very few of them work there anymore, though.

        • Difdi says:

          It’s called extortion in most places. “Pay me or else!” It legally does not matter what the “or else” is. It could be the big Samoan stock guy in back, it could be filing charges, it could simply be the stink eye, but the legal problem is the fact of the threat.

          The key difference between extortion and paying restitution is that a court is involved. If it’s just the store demanding payment “or else” directly to the alleged shoplifter (and we’ve seen stories here of it happening to people who didn’t steal anything before), that’s a crime in most states.

  6. Kryndis says:

    I’m curious what the reasoning is behind redacting Jen’s last name when it’s right there in the article you link to? Even if you were somehow trying to protect her identity (which, again, it’s right there when you click through the link), how many Palm Beach Gardens Mall Arden B. assistant managers named Jen can there be? I’m really confused by this editorial choice.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      He’s protecting her sister, Carmen. Everyone is wondering where in the world she is.

    • Southern says:

      I’m kinda getting the impression that Consumerist is [Redacting] a bunch of stuff at the request of the site owner, Consumer Reports.. They didn’t do a whole bunch of this until CR bought ‘em. Perhaps CR is attempting to stay on some stores good side, or is trying to prevent any libel/slander lawsuits?

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        That explains redacting the locations but IIRC Consumerist has always redacted people’s last names.

      • Paladingo says:

        People also tend to be idiot internet vigilantes and harass people featured in the articles if they’re not fully redacted, because people have nothing better to do than take OP-blaming to the next level of stupidity.

  7. FatLynn says:

    Depends what you mean by “bust”. I worked for [redacted] that had a slogan of “prevention, not apprehension”. The non-professional types will back off as soon as you let them know you are up to something, i.e. “Hey, that hairclip you were just looking at, those are buy one get one half-off today”.

    • burnedout says:

      Ha! I remember that! Or my favorite – “We have some great t’s buy 1 get one to go with the shorts you put in your bag.” They’d be so surprised they’d pull out the shorts and play along!

      • burnedout says:

        I remember one, I didn’t even realize she was shoplifting – she had a really full Gap bag so I asked if she was on a spree and she said yes, the Gap got some new stuff in. So I said “oooh, let me see, maybe we can match up some stuff here,” and I don’t know if she just got into it or what, but she pulled out the stuff from her bag and most of it was shoplifted from our store. She got red and left with all the stuff sitting on the table. No receipt for anything.

  8. Tim says:

    First off, the article you linked to is extremely poorly written. It’s not an “analysis” in any sense of the word. The author (a journalism student, not an actually UPI staffer) just walked around a mall and talked to employees about shoplifting. From the looks of it, UPI didn’t even pay her; they just have a web site where anyone can post content, sort of like Examiner.com. There are missing periods, run-on sentences, sentence fragments … it’s horrible.

    And the 92% figure isn’t from the article. It’s from the National Retail Federation, a special interest group.

    The article also uses a ton of weasel words: many, most people, experts … yeah, quality journalism right there.

  9. Ebriosa says:

    When I worked at the Gap at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, we didn’t have many shoplifters. The occasional teenager pocketing some panties and stuff. My favorite example was a nice looking blond woman coming in, trying on a top in the dressing room and then brazenly just walking out with it on. We were all kind of shocked. It must have been under $20, because the alarm didn’t go off.

    The mall catty corner to us, Lenox, had serious shoplifting. But it was kind of sad that every time some idiot did a hit and run, cops would just wait outside the marta station and nab him.

    Of course, the serious problem wasn’t kids shoplifting IN the store, it was when shipments never made it into the store. “Fell off the back of the truck” kind of theft. I did displays and was often there at 5am to get shipments and that’s when we were super tight on security, and I got to see how much stuff never made it to us. I think that’s why most places don’t let sales staff deal with shoplifters – they’re petty and insurance doesn’t cover heroics.

    • CaptainSemantics says:

      Yeah, Phipps doesn’t really have to worry about theft as much because of the clientele. I hope this doesn’t sound classist, but it’s higher end stuff there. Lenox, however, has a wider array of stores, and higher foot traffic.

      I work at Perimeter and it’s not as bad, but we’re constantly on the lookout. We have some high end items that just scream “Steal me!”

  10. discounteggroll says:

    I worked as loss prevention at my university’s bookstore (UConn) and it was our policy to never lay a hand on people observed shoplifting. That generally wasn’t a problem as campus security was actually a state police barrack located about 1/4 mile away, and the fact that I had only 1 person bolt when I confronted him. Bastard

    in contrast with this article, it was the store’s policy to press charges against every theft, whether it be a laptop or an eraser

  11. Shervey9 says:

    I worked in retail for 4 years and the company I worked for did nothing to prevent shoplifting. It is sad.
    The honest consumer is getting punished for NOT shoplifting.

  12. Angus99 says:

    The drug store I worked at for years in high school and college (it was a major chain type store) had LPOs, and let me tell you, they were there to catch thieves. They had a strict protocol – and in many cases let suspects walk out because they could not verify the merchandise was on them, but they had no hesitation in stopping those that met the criteria for proof. I saw dozens handed over to the cops in the years I was there. I was a stocker; many of us were routinely drafted to assist the LPOs by either posing as shoppers to get into placed to make a better observation, or to assist when one got unruly. About one quarter of the time it was found out to be organized (full time) thieves, and three quarters of the time it was typically bumbling amateur types.

  13. MattAlbie says:

    Nine times out of ten it ends up being more fun if you just call the cops right away. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a cop pull a gun on someone running through the parking lot who just tried to steal a couple of Xbox games.

    We had one guy who tried to steal a Wii, but we stopped him and called the cops. The cops came in, assessed the situation, and let him go. We were like “What the hell? We have him on camera!” and they were like “No, we know, but he just told us he drove here and his license is suspended so we’re going to let him drive away and pull him over for that.” And they did. Cops rule.

  14. Etoiles says:

    When I worked retail (CVS), we had a guy come in and walk out carrying $260 worth of Gilette Sensor cartridges (at the time, the most expensive ones). Douchebag somehow didn’t realize the store was next door to the police station and fire house, so our big intimidating-looking pharmacist went and stood outside the door on the left, and the guy hung a right… straight into the cops.

    And I remember it was $260, because in MA the cut-off for different levels of theft (maybe misdemeanor vs. felony, though I don’t remember anymore) was $250.

  15. Marlin says:

    I stopped some many times. Of course when one pulled a screwdriver out on me I did not go as out of my way to catch them after that. That and Wal-Mart did not care if I did it or not so there was little to gain for me.

    But one other place I worked 3 out of 7 employees had to go to court because of 1 shoplifter and we pressed charges. So it hurt us that day. Lucky it did not go past a 1 day trial.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      The trick is: If you prosecute shoplifters, you will have fewer professional shoplifters. The “teams” that make up the bulk of high-dollar shoplifting aren’t going to shoplift from the company that prosecutes when they can go to all the Best Buys, Micro Centers, and Fry’s of the world and shoplift with impunity, no fear of any punishment.

  16. john says:

    Bass Pro shops have no LPOs anymore. A family member used to work as an LPO until Bass Pro got rid of the whole department company wide. Whether they have off duty cops in plain clothes, I couldn’t say.

    • MrEvil says:

      How much high dollar merchandise does bass Pro keep out in the open though? The Outdoor world in Grapevine Texas seemed to have all the cool stuff under lock and key. Then again my friends and I didn’t wander past the firearms counter a whole lot. (That and it was closest to the walkway back to the attached hotel we were staying at)

  17. balthisar says:

    Really, it comes down to cost of being a bit permissive with shoplifting, versus the costs of preventing it altogether. Call it “overhead.” Sure, it drives up the retail cost of items for everyone, but in the end it’s the same as all other overhead. Whoever can competitively limit their overhead the best will have the ability to offer the lowest purchase price.

    I’m not suggesting that a chain not try to prevent shoplifting; clearly they can’t just allow it! I’m also not suggesting that my attitude is permissive of low-life, shoplifting scum, but only that like running the A/C system, it’s a cost of doing business.

  18. evnmorlo says:

    I bet that $13 billion is retail value. Cost of merchandise is probably more like $3 billion, and stores probably end up spending more on damaged or non-salable items.

  19. littlemoose says:

    I worked retail for many years at the same company. We were not to accuse people or physically detain them. The objective was simply to provide excellent customer service, to deprive people of the opportunity to shoplift or to cause them to ditch the items.

    There are a lot of potential legal ramifications for physically detaining a shoplifter. Obviously the employee or bystanders could get hurt. Or, the shoplifter could get hurt, and then could sue the retailer. I know it sounds ludicrous, but it’s a definite possibility. Either way, chances are somebody will have grounds to sue the company. I understand why retailers would rather just take the loss. (It did not surprise me at all that Sprint fired those guys who tried to stop shoplifters from another retailer. From the perspective of the company’s lawyers, all they did was open the store up to potential serious liability, and not even to retrieve the company’s own merchandise.)

    I also wanted to point out that other store policies (especially return policies) are also affected by theft. I’ve seen return policies get more and more restrictive. While some of that is due to bad customers (returning stuff that has been used or worn, returning merchandise purchased over a year ago), it’s also to reduce the potential reward for shoplifters. This, of course, negatively affects our legitimate customers, and frustrates employees who want to provide good service to them.

  20. Why is this on Consumerist? says:

    I work at a non-chain grocery store, and we’re not allowed to do anything except alert a manager so they can ask the person to stop. If the suspect wants to leave, they can just walk out; we’re not allowed to detain them in any way. The cops will take an hour to show up, so we’re generally out of luck. Generally the best bet is to just keep asking the person if they need assistance and watch them, and hope they leave.

    Yeah, shoplifting losses are all worked out in the margin, just like broken/spoiled merchandise. The average shopper supposedly pays like $500/year to make up for shoplifting losses.

  21. tchann says:

    When I worked for a red-shirt retail company (that is now defunct), I was placed in the books section. This section was the trickiest because it had high shelves, and subsequently was a popular place to ditch the byproducts of stolen merchandise. Instead of customer service, I was expected to spend most of my shift patrolling the section in order to prevent theft.

    I remember two occasions in particular that I ended up halting some manner of theft. Once was a pair of teenage girls who were nervously unwrapping the first season of Dawson’s Creek by the audio books. They scattered quickly when I approached them – obviously not battle-worn shoplifters.

    The second was a pair of guys who had been return-scamming other stores of the same chain. We had heard of them only peripherally, and the most we had of a description was that one of them had a name tattooed on his neck. So when I realized that the guy with a tattoo on his neck in the video section had a friend up front waiting for over $200 of returns to go through, I quickly informed my manager and he managed to stall them long enough for the police to arrive. Of course, no arrests – just a formal document they signed acknowledging they were banned from the chain permanently. >.

  22. Veeber says:

    When I was at Apple you generally confront them like a customer. Obviously doesn’t work for the ones who snip the wires and bolt from the store. But if you saw people coming in with oversized jackets or head buried in a hoodie you try to approach them and make eye contact, say hi, see if they need help. A lot of times they get nervous because they have been noticed and will leave the store.

    Some are getting bolder. We watched one guy who “accidentally” set off the alarm on an ipod. When one of us went to disarm the alarm he snipped the cable and ran.

    The one guy I actually confronted had placed a few copies of software into his bag. I just walked up to him with the EZ-Pay station and asked if I could help him check those out. He just handed the bag over and walked out. From Apple’s stand point this is probably the best resolution.

    • Alter_ego says:

      We used to get accidental alarms all the time on computers, because people would lift them too high and pull the alarm. But geez, if you’re going to steal something like that, why wouldn’t you take something like a computer. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me for an iPod.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      That was what was in our manual at Amoco and 7-11. Make eye contact and say hello/howdy/hi/etc… As Batman said, criminals are a cowardly bunch, and just knowing they were seen will stop many things.

  23. Commenter24 says:

    I don’t really understand the cost of “post-arrest prosecution” being a deterrent to pressing charges. So the store has to send an employee to testify, I don’t see much of a cost beyond that. I suppose lots of charges means lots of employees going to court.

  24. fatediesel says:

    When I worked as a hardware associate at Sears we were not allowed to take any action against shoplifters. We were supposed to call the LPOs if we suspected someone, but most of the time the LPOs weren’t in their office so we had to watch the suspected shoplifters leave.

    One thing people loved to do in the Sears hardware department was switch the most expensive box of drill bits (around $120 set) and put them into the box of the cheapest set of drill bits (around $20). All the boxes were the same size and the cashiers did not know to take all drill bits out of the box to verify it was the correct set. Once a week we had to go through all the drill bit boxes and verify they contained the correct set and at least half the time we found the cheapest sets in the most expensive box.

  25. kidincredible says:

    I never tried when I worked retail, but once when I was sixteen, I tried to stop a fellow customer.
    We were nerding it up at a shop that sold warhammer figurines, magic the gathering cards, etc. In the middle of a magic game, we noticed that the clerk had caught two people stealing warhammer figurines. He had them sit down at a table while he went to the counter to call the cops. They both kinda looked at each other then got up and started walking toward the exit. The clerk yelled “Where do you think you’re going?” and one of them replied “We’re not waiting for the cops” and they bolted out the front door. A friend and I immediately shot up from our seats and ran out the door after them. We chased them through the parking lot, just basically trying to keep up with them and keep them in sight. We caught up and convinced them they weren’t going to get anywhere without someone knowing where they were and we followed them back to the store.
    I remember hearing a bit later on that nothing was really going to happen to those two guys for their attempted theft. But it’s still an interesting story of my life.

  26. DurkaDurkaDurka says:

    Sony policy in regards to theft essentially allows a person to steal. From what I understand of the policy you have to maintain 100% visual contact of the person, the item they took, and then watch them attempt to exit. You can ask them about the merchandise in their possession and require that they pay for it, however you cannot hold them or grab them (assault) or detain them to keep them from leaving the store, and you cannot follow after them after they leave the store.

    That simply leaves security guards on segways to chase them down, and while the thought of overweight security personnel catching a person on a segway is a funny thought, that’s only if you know where that person went to, and if they get mixed up in a crowd you can kiss merchandise goodbye

  27. DigitalShawn says:

    Shoplifting, no, stealing a car, yes. Well, I have but wouldn’t now.

    On one occasion in Toledo Ohio (aka Hell), while visiting my wife’s family, we stopped at a Circle K to gas up and get some soda’s. As I was walking into the store, I was “bumped” by this obviously drunk woman who looked to be in her 40’s. She didn’t apologize and I went in and handled my business. Out the window, I notice the drunk woman walk over by my car, look at my wife, then walk back to the front of the store.

    As I left the store and began walking back to my car to put the gas in, some young girl pulls up and run in the store while her car was still running. The drunk old woman runs over to the car, jumps in, and starts backing up at a very fast rate, straight towards the pumps.

    I ran over the car, yelling at the woman to stop, all while she is trying to put the car in gear to take off, my instincts took over, and I reached through the slightly open and did all I could think to do: I punched the old lady in the face to get her to stop. Twice, actually, the second coming after she finally got the car in gear and was trying to swerve towards my car. Probably better ways to handle (and I’m all open to how others would have reacted), however, I was thinking of my safety and those around.

    The car rolling, the carjacking woman is dazed and on the verge of passing out, I reached down to the door handle, rip over the door and put my foot on the brake. The young girl was out the store by now screaming and crying, I pull the old lady out of the car and put it in park.

    At this time, I was surrounded by two big guys, one who grabbed me, the other grabbing my face. I wiggled away, and clocked the guy who grabbed my face. The young girl got between us and began explaining the situation to them (they thought I was just out beating up old lady’s in a gas station parking lot, so they came to her “rescue”) meanwhile the old lady composes what energy she had and ran off during all of this. The two guys apologized, the one I had to hit was more than apologetic than the other, the young girl thanked me for helping her keep her car in tact, and I pumped my gas and left.

    Crazy situation indeed, I do not know why I got involved and do not know why my solution was violence, it was all pure instinct. In hindsight, I feel really bad for inflicting harm on two people that day in order to prevent a crime, and today I probably wouldn’t get involved.
    Hopefully that young girl realized that leaving your car running while inside a store, no matter how little time inside, wasn’t a wise choice.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Just so you know, only in Hollywood does running over a gas dispenser(the pumps are underground and located over the UST’s) cause a massive explosion. IIRC, at most, there is about 3 gallons of gas in the dispensers, and hitting one may result in a small fire, but the systems in place will not allow the Hollywood-esque result to happen.

      • DigitalShawn says:

        If the car catches fire from the result of the car hitting the pump, does it not cause issues? What if said car hit someone, and took their life, is that not a major explosion in someone’s life? Or what if the drunk women actually pulled into the busy street and slammed a few cars?

        I don’t understand your comment. Are you saying maybe I should have just used my cellphone to shoot a video of it?

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pV4ryM8R-g doesn’t look like Hollywood, kinda looks liek real life.

  28. ellemdee says:

    When I worked at Best Buy, security wasn’t allowed to even confront shoplifters unless they saw them pocket an item and never lost sight of them the entire time they were in the store in case they put the item back. However, every employee was searched by security before they could leave the store every night. They also told the closing employees to park in a dark alley behind a store down the street since our parking lot was so small, but that’s a whole different issue. The shoplifters seemed to have no problem finding the cameras’ blind spots, as I would often find those security cases that go on tapes (it was the mid 90’s) and video games cut open and empty in a pile in one of the blind spots. I would take them to security and they would just shrug.

    I worked at a discount store where people wouldn’t even try to hide the fact that they were shoplifting. One woman thought that we would let her shoplift because she was in a wheelchair. She would open quilts while an employee was standing right next to her, lay them on the back of her chair and across her lap and try to roll out of the store. An employee actually filled carts with merchandise and rolled them out the loading dock door to her friend waiting to load them into her car. Customers would try anything – trying to get electronics for $1 because with the price tag they obviously pulled off a pair of socks (with fuzz still attached) that they insisted we “had to” honor, trying to change the routing number on their checks and driver’s license numbers with *blue* ink, thinking that we wouldn’t be able to cash their check if they did that. My favorite was “Oh, I left my wallet in the car, I’ll go ahead and take my merchandise to out to the car and come back in to pay for it”. No, no you won’t.

  29. 24NascarDude says:

    In my state, I’ve been told that they can automatically consider you a thief if you so much as: (1) conceal the item while in view of an employee, or (2) alter the price tag, among others. I don’t know if the stores can arrest you before passing the checkout, though. Any one want to chime in on this one?
    T.C.A. 39-14-146
    http://www.michie.com/tennessee/lpext.dll/tncode/1191c/11e91/11e9b/11f8c?fn=document-frame.htm&f=templates&2.0#

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Shoplifting in many states is dependent on “intent”. Many stores would like their LPO’s to meet a list of requirements so that if it makes it to court, it’s easier to prove. Just pocketing something can be shoplifting. However, you need to prove the intent, “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal court, and “by preponderance of the evidence” in civil. So if you can convince the jury/judge that you put something in your pocket by accident or because you didn’t have a court, the store will lose. Because of that, many want their LPO’s to maintain constant visual contact because if you catch someone but they put the item down, it’s hard to prove they intended to steal it. And no, you don’t have to pass the checkout lane or leave the doors, etc… to be considered shoplifting, but it makes a better case if they let you, because it’s easier to prove your intent.

    • fantomesq says:

      At least at common law, shoplifting only requires concealment plus aspiration (movement) but LP at most retail stores have substantially higher requirements imposed by corporate to seal a slam dunk case.

  30. Costner says:

    Here is why I know loss prevention people are clueless. I worked in a retail store back in high school and college – and I witnessed a fellow employee stealing CDs on a nightly basis.

    At first I wasn’t sure although stuff kept turning up missing from the stockroom (CDs that were not even released yet and were still in factory boxes waiting for release day etc). Time and time again when this kid worked a evening shift, there would be empty CD cases in the trash the next morning and CDs would be missing.

    Long story short, once I confirmed it was him stealing the goods, I contacted our loss prevention manager and reported it. It was my impression that he might actually setup a hidden camera (since he used one from time to time) or that he would simply keep an eye out for the guy…. but no. Instead, he decided that I must be trying to pin my theft on a fellow employee, so I must be the guilty one. Nevermind that I wasn’t being investigated or that I am the one who approached him… nevermind that I hadn’t been stealing CDs or even accused of theft. Nevermind that I was only asking him to look into the situation… for whatever reason, this chucklehead thought it was a good idea to shift blame to me instead of doing his job.

    That was the last time I ever reported theft anywhere in the store. Prior to this incident I had personally been responsible for reporting and identifying numerous shoplifters to the tune of several thousand dollars worth of merchandise, but once this idiot decided the whistle blower was the problem someone could have walked right past me holding $500 worth of jewelry and I wouldn’t have said a word.

    Two years later, the assistant loss prevention manager finally caught the employee I reported red handed and he was fired. Makes you wonder how many thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of stuff that kid made off with thoughout his time there all of which could have been prevented if the idiot LP manager just did his job when I alerted him to it.

    A few years ago one of my former co-workers who still works at that store told me the LP manager was finally fired – but it wasn’t for failing to do his job or making false accusations against employees (I wasn’t the only one). He was actually fired because he started stalking one of the 19 year old cashiers (this guy had to be in his early 40s at the time) and he was using the security cameras to record her every move. There were even accusations he put one of his hidden cameras in the locker room to catch her in uncompromising positions… and he was keeping a personal library of video of her.

    If this is the type of guy that stores can hire as Loss Prevention “experts”, then it stands to reason why they lose billions every year.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      While I like your story, I think it’s a little wrong to say this one guy is the template for all LPO’s, and they are all ineffective. I also have trouble figuring how you say he blamed you but never investigated you. So how did he blame you? Did he report to the manager that he saw you stealing?

      • Costner says:

        During my discussion with him, he just basically ignored the topic and turned the conversation around at me accusing me of being the one to steal the CDs as if I was blaming the other employee for my theft. I’m not sure what purpose that would serve as it wasn’t like he approached me and accused me of stealing anything…. I was the one who approached him in some silly notion of doing the right thing and reporting what I knew to be employee theft.

        He even went so far as to make a comment to the effect of “let’s talk about your theft”. It turns out I had returned a universal remote control a month or so prior but I didn’t have a receipt (the store didn’t require one), but because I was an employee he was notified. He somehow assumed that if I didn’t have a receipt and was an employee… that must automatically mean I stole the remote, and therefore by association I must have stole these CDs as well.

        From that point forward the guy always acted like he was watching me… which never bothered me since I had nothing to hide, but I just found it odd that he would focus on me but yet ignore the incident I was reporting.

        Also, I’m not saying all LPOs are this way, but clearly the wages being paid for this type of job don’t suggest they are going to get high quality employees at a retail store of this caliber. I’ve known several LPOs in my lifetime and been involved in various levels of retail – and it seems that in most cases the LPOs are nothing more than wannabe military or police officers that for whatever reason never qualified… so now they use their positions as a loss prevention officer to weild a very low level of authority over whoever they can whether it be fellow employees or the occasional shoplifter. I hate to stereotype, but I’d say a well educated, intelligent, and respectful LPO is the exception rather than the rule.

    • setfiretoyuppies says:

      Last time I ever decided virtue wasn’t it’s own reward: I worked for Best Buy in high school. One day while in the restroom I discover a wallet underneath one of the stalls so I naturally pick it up and check it out. There’s about a thousand dollars in the wallet and frankly no matter what the circumstance I won’t take the money. There’s only one option in my mind; take it to loss prevention and hope the guy comes back looking for it. I turn the wallet in and am thanked for my honesty, the guy comes back and is relieved to find everything intact. I had no idea the loss prevention guy (the guy who’s job it is to be honest) proudly informs the customer that he found the wallet. The customer praises him for his honesty and gives him a hundred bucks!! Okay, so I am really pissed…but you know what? I’m happy I did the right thing, I’m glad the guy got his wallet back and I never had any intention of returning the wallet for some kind of reward. Now comes the worst part…

      The customer praises this guy up and down, talks with the managers and eventually at the next “Team Meeting” we are all introduced to this model employee as employee of the month. He gets $200 worth of gift cards and we’re all told that we should follow his example.

      Disgusting…

  31. quaidan says:

    Most companies actually won’t let you stop a shoplifter because they’re afraid the SHOPLIFTER might sue you, NOT the employee.

    It’s also because they don’t want the employee to get injured, but, honestly, they care more about the first one.

    It’s frustrating being in retail because the cost of prosecution is pretty much always higher than the cost of the merchandise. Catching someone in the act doesn’t help much. If someone gets caught shoplifting, even if the cops are called there will rarely be charges pressed. The store just wants their stuff back and then they just ban the thief from the store, not like that actually means anything.

    • ellemdee says:

      Stores are pretty paranoid about not getting sued. One store I worked at told us to never say the word “sorry” if a customer was injured in the store, because that was an admission of guilt and would be basis for the customer to sue the store. My mother slipped and hit her head in a hotel and the manager just told her to fill out a form and didn’t even bother asking if she was ok. I have to wonder if they had a similar “show no concern for the injured” directive as well.

  32. pfepher says:

    I actually once had something stolen from my store (I was a co-owner) right under my nose. Later in the day, I saw the thief on the street with the product. I confronted him and convinced him to return it to me. Also, I didn’t call the police, but I did publicly shame him.

  33. MarkVII says:

    It’s ironic that some retailers are so aggressive about enforcing receipt checks, but so passive about stopping shoplifters. Sounds like they’ve got is bass-ackwards.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Not really. Employees are usually the biggest value shoplifters because they have inside knowledge. Also, just knowing there is a physical presence that may stop/see you will deter many thieves. Cameras not so much. I worked in a room with 4 cameras on me while I was working, yet I would routinely take an hour long nap almost everyday. I knew that unless something happened, the chances that someone was watching me and/or checking the tapes was rare to nil.

      • Angus99 says:

        That is awesome.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          That’s the thing people don’t think about with a massive camera system. There is brief watching/viewing by human eyes, because you don’t have the personal to watch them all the time. The rest of it is stored and never watched unless something happens. Like with Times Square. A person parking a car is not suspicious. So no one watching the action live. However, when something went down, they could go back and scrutinize all the footage. In my case, the two buildings in the complex I worked at had over 150 cameras, and at most two people watching them at any given time. But they weren’t watching every camera all the time. They had some high priority cameras that were always on screen, and others that did the change every x seconds, and were looking for things out of the ordinary.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          I meant to say that in Times Square, the person parking wasn’t out of the ordinary, so no one was watching it intently.

  34. angienessyo says:

    I did at my old job. I worked at Suncoast video for 2 years before they went bankrupt. There’s “Dillard’s people” that bring Dillard’s bags to stores in various malls around here. They would line the bags with stuff that would prevent the alarms from going off. The thing was, they were very easy to catch because there is no Dillard’s within 100s of miles of my store. One time around holiday I spotted one in our store and chased them to the mall doors. I’m not stupid enough to follow them *out* and considering it was holiday season it’s unlikely they would have done something inside the mall.

    In the end there was nothing I could do as I’m a very tiny girl and this dude was huge, but at the very least he was out of the mall even if I couldn’t actually stop him. I wasn’t about to tackle the guy or anything over some movies haha

  35. burnedout says:

    I managed an American Eagle in the Chicago area and we caught shoplifters fairly often. We couldn’t prosecute people we caught in our store – the goal was to get our stuff back and to get a pic of the person to keep at the register (but didn’t if they refused). We caught folks in a few ways:

    1) Kept a strict count of what went in and out of the fitting rooms (usually with one person assigned to 2 rooms). If counts didn’t match we asked the customer to show us “where you put it away so we can make sure it’s properly re-folded” and they’d suddenly realize it “fell in their bag” and return it.

    2) We’d keep someone stationed at the front door (even when it was slow) and often caught people who were trying to snatch and run with stuff from our front table and occasionally they’d do a “receipt check” if another employee saw something. There was a roving band of thieves at our mall who could run of with $40K of stuff in one swoop, and we were able to get security after them a couple of times.

    3) And we’d station someone across from the registers and they often spotted people sliding stuff in their bags without paying when the cashier wasn’t looking which was fixed with a quick “I don’t think she’s scanned that one yet, but thanks for trying to save us a bag!”

    Altogether the ONLY time I know of when AE would prosecute was if the person was stopped shoplifting at a department store (caught on camera) and had our stuff – and even then we weren’t kept updated so likely they just supported the department store’s case. I’m pretty sure they’d prosecute hard if they caught one of those shoplifting rings. Those people are like a plague of locusts and NEED to go.

  36. FlashFlashCarCrash says:

    I’ve never tried to stop a thief but I’ve had someone steal from my store and then try to come back later. I said “Hey how’re you doing? By the way, I have you on video stealing 3 copies of Guitar Hero Metallica. Unless you’re bringing those back, you better get the fuck out.”

  37. Jaws_Victim says:

    When I worked at Safeway, the rule was that you can’t engage someone when they step outside the store after having stolen merchandise. I blatantly ignored it in this one incident:

    I gave some food to this one guy (I worked at the Deli) and he had a box of donuts and some other stuff with him. I watched him walk right out the door with it. I followed him out and he was stuffing everything into his backpack, and had food out on the curb because he had so damn much merchandise.

    I asked him if he was going to pay for it, and his face immediately went “busted!” And he tried to stammer a lie like “Oh yeah, I can pay you for it right now! How’s 10$!” And I said, there’s no way in hell all of that food is worth just 10$. Get your ass back in the store.

    I rang him up and it cost like 30$, and he pulls out a wallet with HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS, in 100$ bills to pay for it. I disgustingly told him he was a waste of space for stealing when he had more money than I did. He paid for it, and I leaned over and told him that if he ever came back, I’d call the cops. The he left.

    Here’s what I did wrong (Although it felt so right.) For starters, I was in the wrong for catching him and forcing him to pay for the food (I could have been hurt and Safeway would have been deemed responsible, and I would have been terminated immediately.) Second, I threatened him.

    That was at the worst Safeway in Washington State, however. I also stopped a bunch of teenagers from running one of those motorized carts into a wall dozens of times, with LOTS of profanities. Jesus Christ people at that store pissed me off, could not be any more poor white trash if you had seen it on TV.

    Needless to say, that place was not good for my blood pressure. I quit a year or so after (And miraculously was never fired or disciplined.)

  38. Poisson Process says:

    Its the same thing in our schools. I’ve caught numerous students cheating only to by told by my supervisor that there is nothing we can do. One time I even took the students cheat-sheet. When I showed it to my supervisor and insisted that the student fail, I was laughed at.

  39. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    One store that I frequent has a chalkboard prominently displayed at the entrance and on it are the stores shoplifting statistics for the month… “27 Shoplifters Caught… 27 Shoplifters successfully prosecuted”

    I think this is a great advertising campaign… It tells me that they are working hard to keep their prices low and discourage theft.

  40. DarkPsion says:

    At my old store, if we caught them red handed, we would prosecute. Otherwise we would issue them a Trespass Notice.

    Once you have written one and sent a copy to the Police. You can have them arrested for just being on the property and nobody has to go to court to testify.

  41. pittstonjoma says:

    I’ve tried a few times, but they got away too fast.

  42. u1itn0w2day says:

    I think alot of these stores should have clearly identifiable or uniformed security on the sales floor. Perhaps a more prominent presence would deter a few amatuers anyway. And it might actually make catching a shoplifter easier because as soon as they feel they are clear to steal covert security could tape the theft and catch them at the door.

    Alot of these places have prominently displayed cameras and monitors etc but it’s still not an actual person that will have to catch them.

  43. D in Buffalo says:

    I worked a home improvement store for almost 3 years. One day this guy comes in and wants to buy 3 $1000 gift cards. No big deal – but I can ask why not just 1 $3000 gift card – he gives me his whole life story and then about how he’s having work done and he doesn’t entirely trust the contractor and doesn’t want to give him all the $$ upfront, etc etc.

    So I ring the three gift cards – he hands me a credit card. It looks kinda weird, so I ask for ID. He shows me an out of state ID – okay fine, we’re allowed to take IDs from any state, DC and whatnot.

    Card is denied. He hands me another. Denied again. I now call over to the manager’s phone, but she’s on the phone so I hang up and carry on. So the guy hands me another card. That one finally goes through. He signs for the cards and starts to walk out when…BAM! he’s tackled to the floor by our plain clothes security guys.

    I started freaking out and just stared at the whole scene, wondering “WTF IS GOING ON?!”

    Come to find out – he had fake credit cards and pulled the scam on other stores. They knew he was at our store, informed the front end managers who informed every cashier – EXCEPT ME! I was go ‘lucky’ because he showed up at my register just as the manager was going to call me and inform me to keep an eye out.

    I did get a congratulatory slap on the back for keeping my cool (Uhhh..didn’t know anything about the special ops, so I was just doing my job..) and a third paid 15 minute (woohoo?) break.

    So while it technically wasn’t ‘shoplifting’ and more like ‘credit card theft’ – it was still a freaky thing to have happen. And the security guys..they totally tackled him.

  44. goodfellow_puck says:

    At one retail job I had, the most we were allowed to do was harass a potential thief with customer service. We could literally ask them if they wanted help and they could say, “Nope, I’m just stealing all this.” and we were allowed to do NOTHING. We had pros who would come in and fill an entire cart, knowing we couldn’t do anything. I knew one girl who left on bad terms and the next day all her friends were in the store, stuffing their bags. As far as I know, that’s still the policy. Can’t even follow them outside.

    Conversely, my brother worked for a shoe store where the manager once got in his car, followed the thief to their house, sat outside and called the cops. Got his shoes back, but that was definitely beyond what I would do for the abysmal money they got paid.

  45. jimstoic says:

    “Many retail companies do not want to pay for the cost of prosecution after an arrest. Instead, they raise their prices to compensate for losses.”

    Wouldn’t they raise their prices either way? If they don’t prosecute, they cover their losses. If they do prosecute, they cover the cost of prosecution.

    Also, isn’t a huge portion of shoplifting done by store employees?

  46. Johnny_Money says:

    The grocery store I worked at just hired a big bald biker to be the LPO. HE looked like Stone Cold Steve Austin. After he caught you the first time, you never really went back the 2nd time.

  47. setfiretoyuppies says:

    I used to work as a store manager for a large National clothing retailer, I will be honest and say I was never really clear on the proper way to address shoplifting. We had “secret shoppers” in the store and they would occasionally drag teenage kids into my office for shoplifting. On one occasion we called the kids parents and when they came to pick him up a fist fight broke out between the kid and his father in our tiny little backroom. They both drew blood on one another and the cops ended up hauling them both away…crazy.

  48. backinpgh says:

    Where I work, unless you personally view the person stealing something, nothing can be done. So even if you see a guy with twenty DVDs stuffed down his pants, if you didn’t see him put them there you can’t even say anything about it. If you DO see them, you’re supposed to alert a manager. From there I have no idea what happens.

  49. insidiouskermit says:

    I work for a grocery store with a pretty standard policy towards shoplifts: only department managers or loss prevention employees (which we don’t actually have) can confront shoplifters. If anyone else notices a customer concealing merchandise, they have to keep the person in sight while notifying a manager (not easy since there’s only a few phones in the store).

    Well one night a guy I knew had been in shoplifting a few times that week came in with his usual backpack. He put some yogurt and english muffins in his basket, and everything else went into his backpack. He paid for the 2 items and walked out of the store without picking up the bag with the groceries he had actually paid for.

    I grabbed the bag and ran off after him, shouting “Sir! Sir! Wait up!” When I had almost caught up with him he started to run. I managed to stop him on the sidewalk in front of another store. He was beet red, embarrassed, and stuttering. I handed him the plastic bag and said “Sir, you forgot this.” Then I walked away. Never saw him in the store again.

  50. SaraFimm says:

    Had one customer who helped or tried to help catch shoplifters. Then he became an employee. Got up to manager status and then was busted for over $50K worth of merchandise he (did NOT) ring up for his friends and $$$ he stole out of the bank safe at night during his shift for closing.

  51. sopmodm14 says:

    alot of stores do have silent prosecutions. all video is recorded, and sent to detectives.

  52. sopmodm14 says:

    but what proof does the thief have of any assault, maybe they “fell”, and i doubt they have any witness if they “tripped” while running out with stuffs

    on the other hand, the store does have credible taped recording

    which do you think would hold up in court ?

  53. Razor512 says:

    common practice to stop people from stealing.

    fire half of your staff and put more of the remaining workers stacking boxes in the back or working the registers, leaving very few people to catch the man or woman in the electronics department pocketing headphones.

    then to improve your stores image, put everything behind glass cases so customers cant touch them and have to call a worker to come over and open the case (keeping in mind that due to the cutbacks, you may end up waiting a very long time for a worker to come)

    then because of the cutting back on staff, you have to join a really long line because out of like 10 lanes, only 4 are opened.

    then when you finally pay for your item, you have to join another line because people are lined up at the door waiting for their receipts to be checked. then due to this hassle less people shop at your store and because you now have less customers, instead of removing the annoying factors, they instead increase prices to make up for lost customers which further reduces customers and the downward spiral to going out of business takes place.

  54. BytheSea says:

    No, you don’t ever try to stop a thief. The thief could have a gun or a knife or he could be high or desperate. I’m sick of this blog acting like you’re all supermen. You think your big scary manly bodies could stop a bullet to your brain? Is your life worth a $20 cd?