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.