This week, we’ll talk about a topic that no self-respecting human being should ever know about: the art of shoplifting without getting caught.

The Milkshake Secret

A fellow goes into a jewelry store and tries on all kinds of rings, bracelets and watches. After browsing, he thanks the proprietor and leaves the store.

If the proprietor then notices something missing and calls the police, chances are they’ll never find anything on this clever fellow, which gives him the chance to sue for false arrest.

Where are the goods? I’m glad you asked. He dropped the diamond ring into his milkshake, from where it can be later retrieved. Unless he gets too thirsty and drinks the milkshake too close to the bottom of the cup.

Anti-theft devices

Some stores only have the anti-shoplifting devices, placed at exits, activated when the item being shoplifted is above a certain amount.

Other stores don’t do anything about shoplifting because the expense of dealing with this problem and the required security personnel is expensive, and it also places employees at risk if the shoplifter has a weapon.

Shoplifters know the internal regulations of most major chain stores and “practice their craft” accordingly.

The Bag Swap

A fellow goes down the aisles and drops the goods that he would like to “possess” into a new bag.

He does this fast and often enough to purposely attract security. Then on the way out of the store, he switches his bag with an identical bag from an accomplice.

The accomplice leaves with the goods, and our fellow gets stopped at the exit, except his bag is totally empty of any items from this store. (Again, this usually results in the store giving a gift card to the shoplifter as an apology for accusing him of theft.)

Re-receipting

Ever buy something in a store and leave the receipt on the counter? Or perhaps in the empty cart near your parked car?

Some thieves will take those receipts and go back into the store, pick up the same items you bought, along with some other small item, and then go to pay for the small item, and show the cashier that they have already paid for the rest of the stuff and had just “forgotten something small.”

In another version, the thief will simply pick up the item you bought and go straight to returns to get cash for the item they are “returning.”

Barcodes

Some enterprising thieves will go into a store with pre-printed barcodes for low-priced items, and (sometimes with the help of a cashier who will get a cut) buy expensive items after covering the existing properly priced barcode with a low priced one.

Now wait a minute.

Am I trying to teach you how to go on a shoplifting spree? I’m so glad you asked.

The answer is no.

The truth is that many readers of my columns own retail stores and are affected by losses from shoplifting. The very same information that is “bad” when looked at as “A Guide to Shoplifting” is very, very helpful for storeowners who want to prevent what is called “shrinkage,” an industry term for theft when they buy 100 of a certain product, have sold 90, and find two left in stock. (The other eight are the shrinkage.) Supermarkets and stores are laid out in a very specific way to generate maximum purchase per square meter.

This goes for aisle width, why the milk is in the back and why fruits and vegetables are in the front where the colors, smell, and texture heighten your senses so that when you pass the (smelly and dingy) pet food section a few aisles later, you still feel that “this store is well lit and a pleasure to visit.”

Another hidden reason why fruits and vegetables are placed in the front of the store is that if someone wants to come in, steal some goods, and dash away, the items closest to the door that one could grab without being caught would be some low-priced vegetables and not high-value items, which are kept in places that require “a harder exit” for shoplifters.

It’s worthwhile to think more strategically about your business instead of the commonly adopted just “winging it” approach.

Why should your store have a certain layout? Why is one location better or worse than another? Why is the reception area here instead of there? Why should your ad have a certain image, size or target audience? People spend boatloads of hard-earned money to start and grow a business, or take all kinds of advoce to try to reach a better rung in the corporate ladder, or do more sales.

But how much time do they invest in trying to see the view from above? And how often does their judgment lack objectivity, to the extent that they attempt the improbable? I don’t care that much about why an architect says to place this item here and that item there. Are they thinking space-wise, or because that’s the place closest to the existing electricity? Without insight from the right people and serious thought, things can be done all wrong, which is not the way to allocate your funds.

issamar@issamar.com

Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi.


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