How did the Shoplift Prevention Program Begin
I am frequently asked how I got into the Merchant Loss Prevention business and why I am now considered one of the foremost experts in Retail Loss Prevention and Loss Reduction.
I would have to say that one major event a number of years ago led me to where I am today. About fifteen years ago while working in a Natural Food outlet, I witnessed a shoplifting incident. To be more specific a woman in her early twenties who appeared to be disorientated perhaps strung out on drugs pocketed a bottle of natural soda pop that was valued at maybe a buck. My initial response was a bit of disbelief followed by some nervousness and anxiety. How was I to deal with this unfamiliar situation? This was all relatively new to me; I had never received any store training on how to deal with theft. Nobody had ever told me if there was any specific store procedures or policies in dealing with shoplifting. As my mind raced, I kept on wondering how to best deal with this young woman. Should I look the other way? After all it was only a bottle of pop. Should I confront this person and do my job and get the soda back? Should I call the police? I had all these questions on my mind, but I never imagined what was about to occur. Never had I imagined that my safety would in any way be in jeopardy because I was 6ft tall, 180lb and in great physical shape and the suspect was a petite little woman maybe 100lbs. As the shoplifter exited the store with the soda stuffed inside her handbag, I was right behind her. I was intent on doing my job and at the very least getting the merchandise back. When I attempted to stop her, to my surprise she resisted. Her yelling obscenities at me should have given me a clue that there could be a problem. But instead of backing away, I persisted on attempting to detain her. This was a big mistake on my part because a few seconds later I was sitting on the sidewalk with blood streaming down my face. In a flash this tiny shoplifter had grabbed the stolen bottle of soda and smashed it on my forehead causing a gash requiring several stitches. When the police arrived, I could only give the briefest description of my attacker and as a result the soda pop thief was never apprehended. Weeks later as my wound healed and my embarrassment subsided, although grateful that my attacker did not use a knife or gun, I realized that I had never been properly trained in how to handle shoplifting incidents. I had never been instructed how to handle a potentially violent situation nor how to reduce potential theft.
A few months after this incident I began researching how to better prevent, detect and deal with shoplifting. I vowed that I would learn as much as possible about shoplifting and other crimes against retailers and then teach retailers and design training programs to better equip management as well as all staff members on how to safely and effectively deal with an increasing number of shoplifting incidents. For more than two years I had worked closely with various law enforcement agencies, loss prevention experts and security companies. Just when I thought my program was complete, just when I thought I could learn no more, a chance conversation with a convicted shoplifter made me aware of how much more there was to learn. As with most training programs that are currently on the market, I had taken the perspective of law enforcement. Although a tremendous amount of valuable information was obtained from law enforcement and security personnel which I’m grateful for, the actual shoplifters gave me a totally different perspective into this crime and a new understanding of how to better prevent shoplifting. To better understand retail shrinkage, I have interviewed more than 300 shoplifters, both professionals and amateurs and still continue to interview shoplifters. Due to the fact that this crime is continually changing and becoming more sophisticated we also continue to learn more about their techniques. Today there are more resources, including books, websites and network groups that instruct professional as well as the “would be” shoplifter on how to steal more and get away with this crime.