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Home > Services > Loss Prevention  > Shoplifting > Dealing w/ Major Problem

Shoplifting: Dealing with a Major Problem

Shoplifting: Dealing with a Major Problem, Loss Prevention, Training Seminars, Security Equipment, Video Monitoring Systems, Electronic Article Surveillance

Shoplifting (theft) is an enormous issue in the retail world that results in hundreds of millions of dollars in loss each year. In addition, companies spend tens of millions of dollars annually on Loss Prevention Departments in executive salaries, store-level personnel, training seminars and equipment such as video monitoring systems, electronic article surveillance and other products designed to deter shoplifters and provide Loss Prevention personnel with tools to combat the issue.

In addition, each year thousands of employees will be injured by a shoplifter directly or in some other way as they are attempting to detain a shoplifter while at work. The medical, insurance, and legal expense related to treating these injured employees is staggering.

Add in the administrative expense and lost productive time involved when a theft case is prosecuted and payment of settlements when a case turns 'bad' and you begin to get a true picture of the overall cost of this crime.

What to Do About Shoplifting

Business has little choice but to pass these expenses along to consumers with price increases. Crime index statistics and business surveys conducted all reveal that the problem is growing steadily with each passing year, despite the expenditures to combat it noted above.

Let's examine the response alternatives that a business might consider relative to the problem of shoplifting. Each of the alternatives has positive and negative ramifications, so it's important to thoroughly consider all response options and find a balanced approach that suits your business. We'll start with a couple radical options and move on from there.

Shoplifting Policy Option #1 - 'Do Nothing'

Initially, you might think this is ridiculous and not an option at all, but consider the positive ramifications before you move on. By 'Doing Nothing' to prevent shoplifting you will:

  1. Incur no expense for Loss Prevention personnel, employee training or equipment related to shoplifting deterrence or apprehension
  2. Eliminate the risk of having an employee, or suspect, injured during a shoplifting 'stop' or incident
  3. Avoid all court appearances, non-productive administrative time and legal expenses associated with prosecution efforts
  4. Never be sued for a 'bad stop'

Does this option still seem ridiculous? It is. Officially adopting a policy of 'Doing Nothing' to fight shoplifting is unrealistic and will almost certainly result in the following negative consequences:

  1. Shoplifting losses in your store will increase dramatically as the 'word on the street' gets out and probably cause you to go out of business
  2. Many employees will quickly rationalize that you "don't care about stealing" and internal theft will increase radically in frequency and severity
  3. The few employees who don't become involved in internal theft will become frustrated, disheartened and their moral will significantly decline
  4. All other forms of external crime and those who perpetrate it, such as ‘quick change artists’, counterfeiters, and other con artists will begin to frequent your store looking for an easy target

‘Doing Nothing’ to fight shoplifting has certain benefits, but as you can see, it is a formula for disaster and will never be a successful strategy in today’s business environment.  Let’s examine another approach.

Shoplifting Policy Option #2 – ‘ Do Everything’

Now that you’re convinced the ‘Do Nothing’ policy option will not work, let’s consider the opposite end of the spectrum.  By promoting a ‘Do Everything’ anti-shoplifting effort within your store you can expect certain positive ramifications such as:

  1. Shoplifting losses will decline in your store

  2. Employees will be deterred from involvement in internal theft

  3. Other external crimes will decrease to some degree and the perpetrators of those criminal acts will be more likely to avoid your store

Now let’s consider the downside of the ‘Do Everything’ shoplifting policy:

  1. High Expenses for Loss Prevention personnel, employee and management training, and security equipment will be significant and ongoing.  These costs will reduce bottom-line profits
  2. The likelihood of personal injury increases due to over-zealous employees, frequency of apprehensions and shoplifters fighting back while attempting to escape
  3. The administrative costs of the program will greatly increase.  As shoplifting apprehensions and arrests become more frequent, repeated management and/or employee court appearances will increase and result in additional non-productive time
  4. The incidence of ‘bad stops’ will rise, resulting in legal expenses and possible settlements which are damaging and costly
Shoplifting Policy Option #3 – ‘The Optimal Approach’

After reviewing both ‘extreme’ alternatives, hopefully you are now better able to understand why, as stated earlier there is no single best way of responding to the issue of shoplifting

Now we need to examine the factors that should be evaluated when attempting to find the optimal approach to fighting shoplifting in a retail store environment.  For information on this subject, read Evaluate Your Shoplifting Policy Strategies.

Shoplifting will never be completely eliminated, but it can be deterred and decreased with appropriate effort and professional loss prevention know-how. For information about bringing this know-how to your company, call 317-363-8312, send email to or submit the short form below:

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