Shoplifting Prevention Tips

The Seattle Police Department offers tips for business owners to help prevent shoplifting.

Prevention Measures

  • Keep shelves and displays low and aisles clear to increase visibility.
  • Install annunciators on all unlocked doors.
  • Provide adequate lighting and eliminate blind spots.
  • Where appropriate, utilize security staff, convex mirrors, CCTV, electronic sensors, cables, tags, locks and chains.
  • Make it difficult to steal merchandise. Bolt racks down; alternate the direction of hangers on the racks, tie appliance cords together; lock small valuable items in cabinets and keep other valuables away from store exits.
  • Limit the number of items allowed into dressing rooms.
  • Post signs warning that shoplifters will be prosecuted.
  • Encourage employees to greet customers as they enter the store. One phrase every shoplifter hates to hear is "Can I help you?"
  • Maintain a neat, orderly store with tight inventory controls.
  • Develop a store policy and provide training for shoplifting incidents.

What To Watch For

Shoplifter Traits

  • Nervousness or unusual actions of any kind.
  • Aimlessly walking up and down aisles.
  • In store longer than usual, loitering.
  • Handling many items of merchandise.
  • Dropping articles on the floor.
  • Concealing merchandise in any way.
  • Asking numerous questions or refusing the clerks help.
  • Looking into surveillance mirrors at the sales clerk or other customers instead of the merchandise.

Common Shoplifting Situations

  • When an employee is suspicious of someone.
  • When an employee thinks someone shoplifted but is not 100 percent sure.
  • When an employee actually sees someone shoplift.
  • When another employee reports an incident.
  • When a customer reports an incident.

Employee Response

The best basic employee response should be acknowledge the customer and make a statement, such as:

  • "I saw you looking at the (item). Did you find what you wanted?"
  • "The (item) you selected is a great buy."
  • "Is that (item) for you or is it a gift?"
  • Will that (item) be cash or charge?"
  • That (item) you selected should go on sale soon."

When you are suspicious of a customer's intent, ask if you can help them find something. If they respond "No, I'm just looking", tell them to just nod if they need'll be watching. That's just what a shoplifter does not want. You will find providing good customer service goes hand in hand with shoplifting prevention.

Some shoplifters will fail to respond to your statements and exit with the stolen item(s). Allow them to leave the store unless the store employee is trained in detaining and apprehending shoplifters. Personal safety should always take priority over retrieving property or detaining a shoplifter.

Report the crime to the Police Department by calling 9-1-1.

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