Police chief leads workshop on stopping losses due to theft and fraud
The best way that shop owners and employees can prevent shoplifting and theft is to provide excellent customer service.
“Greet them when they walk in the door. Look them in the eye. Engage them in conversation. Pay attention to them,” Salado Police Chief Rick Ashe told local businesses gathering for an Oct. 19 morning workshop on loss prevention prior to the Salado Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting.
Chief Ashe spoke to the group for more than 30 minutes on what businesses can do to prevent loss due to shoplifting, theft and fraud.
Shopkeepers can prevent shoplifting by keeping their stores well-organized and lighted, eliminating blind spots in the store and having checkouts close to the store exits.
“This way you can see people coming and going,” he said.
Blind spots can be eliminated or reduced by planning the store layout. You can use mirrors to reflect back to the register hidden areas within a store. Also, putting tall racks and shelves against walls rather than in the middle of the room will help eliminate spots for shoplifters to hide.
“Small, expensive items obviously should be locked and behind glass,” he said.
Dressing rooms and restrooms can be locked so that people must ask for a key. Stores can also implement policies on the number of items that can be carried into a dressing room.
All of these help, but being aware will help even more.
“Pay attention to body language,” Chief Ashe said. “If someone is intent on looking at you more than they are looking for stuff to buy,” he explained that “they may not be there to buy anything.”
Pay attention to strollers, umbrellas and large bags that can quickly and easily hide items. Also, “if they are wearing a really loose and bulky jacket and it’s 80 degrees or more outside, you may want to look out for that,” Chief Ashe said.
Shoplifters will sometimes work in pairs or groups. One will engage the shopkeeper to distract them from the other person who is taking things.
Shopkeepers should also be on the lookout for other forms of theft, such as price switching. This is easier in a small shop that handwrites price tags than in large corporations that have anti-theft devices on valuables. “Make sure that your employees are familiar with the prices of items and that they pay close attention when ringing up items,” Chief Ashe said.
Shopkeepers can also help prevent fraud and identity theft. “When someone uses a card to pay for something, ask to see their ID,” Ashe said. He added that the few times anyone asks him for ID he thanks that business “for looking out for me.”
If you still take paper checks, Ashe said, “Make sure the name and address on the ID match the name and address on the check.”
The shopkeeper should write down the ID number and info, rather than relying on the customer to do that.
Video surveillance will also help prevent theft and fraud. “It used to be very expensive to have cameras and surveillance but technology is making it very cheap to do so,” he said.
If you do have surveillance, Ashe asks “leave it on overnight so that if someone does break in you might catch them on video.”
With alarms, there is always the possibility of false alarms going off. Some cities have nuisance ordinances for repeated false alarms, but Salado does not.
“If it becomes a problem, you will probably get a visit from me so that we can prevent it from going off,” he said.
He quickly added that despite some false alarms, “We would rather you have alarms on your shops than not.”