I remember my training as a new loss prevention officer about 10 years ago. My trainer, who I still talk to today, told me that I should never judge a potential shoplifter based on their appearance. Whether they look homeless, hopped up on drugs, or dressed in their Sunday best, you should never profile. That stuck with me for the past decade and is something I train all my new agents on. You look at product and behavior. Normally, a legitimate shopper won’t try to remove the security tags on clothes.
Just last week, I was working with one of my agents at a high theft store. It was a weekday, but had already been a busy morning. It wasn’t lunch time yet and we had already made 4 shoplifting stops. I think there were some solar flares, or something that had people thinking it was a good day to come out and shoplift. As we’re walking the sales floor, an older gentleman in a wheel chair caught my eye. He was being pushed around by a younger, attractive female. I figured it was a nurse and went on with my routine. I failed to recognize that the gentleman had a dozen high end articles of clothing in his lap. (I failed the first step that I train so vigorously on).
A few minutes later, my agent calls out over the radio that he’s watching an individual removing the clothing security devices from some apparel. He said it was an older male wearing a white shirt and jeans. I began walking towards the front of the store in order to wait outside and my agent continued relaying what he was observing. He stated that once the Checkpoint Tags were removed, a female accomplice opened her purse and the male placed the merchandise inside. He warned me that the pair was approaching the exit and to make the stop.
The older gentleman and his assumed nurse were exiting the store as I was waiting outside. I spoke to them briefly and thanked them for coming in. I didn’t see the shoplifter though. Moments later, my agent comes bursting through the doors, questioning why I let the shoplifter go!! It was in that moment, I realized the shoplifter was the customer in the wheelchair! They were only a few steps away and we attempted to make contact. Out of nowhere, the female began running at a sprinters pace through the parking lot… pushing the wheel chair right along with her. The old man’s arms and legs were flailing side to side and I could hear him yelling “Faster, faster! I’m not going back to jail!!”
The police caught up to them sprinting down the highway and brought them back to the store. In their possession was over $1,000 worth of my store’s merchandise. Turns out that it was all planned. The gentleman was a wealthy man who stated that he wanted a little excitement. He told me that he researched how to remove the clothing alarms and that he had no desire for the product he was taking. The female was his nurse and she said that at the salary he was paying her, she just did whatever made him happy. I swear, I wish this was fiction…
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