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Shoplifting - when customers steal

All shops occasionally experience customers that steal products. If the stealing takes place without violence or threat of violence, it’s theft. If the customer makes threats or uses violence, it’s robbery. Read more here about understanding shoplifting and what you can do as an employee, a manager or a member of the health and safety group.

Understanding shoplifting

How to prevent and deal with shoplifting

How to deal with shoplifting

Prevent early on and keep calm in the event of shoplifting.

For employees

For employees

Prevent shoplifting

The most effective means to prevent shoplifting isn’t technology, it’s YOUR effort and alertness.

Suspicious behaviour is an important sign that something may be going on: But what is suspicious behaviour, and how can you be aware of such behaviour?

Suspicious behaviour

Sometimes it can be more obvious than others, and sometimes it might just be a gut feeling. Typical signs can be that the person:

  • Seems nervous
  • Returns to the shop without buying anything or to a specific area of the shop
    Carries a big bag
  • Looks around a lot.
Confidence tricks

Confidence tricks often involve several people, in which some of them try to distract the staff, while others steal goods. They often come into the shop one-by-one and walk around the shop for some time looking:

  • At the products
  • For cameras
  • For places to hide
  • For the best place in the shop to collect products together and put them into bags etc.

However, it can also be a person who asks you to show them so many products that you lose track of them, or who in some other way tries to confuse you or divert your attention.

Talk to each other about what you understand as suspicious behaviour, and about your typical customers. This will help you become better at spotting the customers/thieves you should keep an eye on. However, some thieves are so professional that they can steal openly without getting caught and without behaving suspiciously.

How to help prevent shoplifting

Securing products
  • Always lock doors to display cabinets/showcases, backdoors, doors to back premises and cloakrooms, etc. – even if you’re nearby.
  • Make sure to tag products and place the most popular products close to where you spend the most time, where you have the best view of the shop, and away from entry and exit doors.
  • Keep track of how many products you show customers, especially if they are not tagged. Perhaps agree on how many products you can show at a time, and always stick to this agreement. Never desert products you’re showing to customers. Perhaps ask a colleague to get other products that the customer wants to see, or take the product with you.
Tidiness and alertness
  • Keep the shop tidy. This provides a better overview, so you can keep an eye on what’s going on.
  • Pay attention to what’s going on in the shop, especially areas away from the cash register, areas with popular products, fitting rooms, behind tall furniture and similar.
Approaching a suspected thief
  • Make sure to stay close to the suspected thief, or signal that you’re aware of him or her. In some situations, you can make a potential thief give up by just watching him or her.
  • If a customer seems suspicious, approach the customer immediately to make him or her feel seen and observed. For example, say: “Can I help you?” or “Let me know if you need help” or “Are you looking for something specific?” You can also offer the customer a shopping basket or to look after their purchases. For example, you can say: “You’re welcome to use one of our baskets” or “Do you want me to hold that while you’re browsing?”
  • Stay close to the suspicious customer and approach him or her several times, if possible. For example, say: “Do you need help now?”
  • If you can’t stay close to the suspicious thief/customer, keep following him or her with your eyes – especially keep an eye on the thief’s/customer’s hands.
Help each other
  • You can also help each other be alert to a suspicious customer or confidence tricksters. Point out the person to the others. For example, agree on a code word for what’s going on and where in the shop.

Read more

Related pages on Det du mærker

 

For managers

Your responsibilities as a manager

Find supplementary information about this topic in the sections If you are an employee and For health and safety groups.

Systematise prevention

Start by assessing the scope of shoplifting. Go through the shoplifting incidents you’ve experienced: What happened? Which products were stolen? Who was the thief/thieves, etc.?

Once you’ve gained an overview of this, it will be easier to assess the scope of the problem and decide how to prevent theft. Based on this assessment, you can launch initiatives to help prevent shoplifting. This could be initiatives focusing on how you handle products, the layout of the shop, technological equipment and staff alertness. Read more in the How to prevent shoplifting section above.

Subsequently, it’s important to draw up a plan for how you want to deal shoplifting and instruct the staff, so that everyone knows what to do.

Instructing employees

Employee efforts are crucial to ensure proper prevention. Therefore, employees need to know what to do in everyday situations. This is where instruction important. Talk about what you understand as suspicious behaviour, and what the staff should be aware of in this respect.

Talk about what you understand as suspicious behaviour at the shop, so that everyone can become better at spotting the signs. You all probably have experiences to share.

If you’ve caught a shoplifting incident on the shop’s video surveillance, you can watch the recording together and discuss what you can learn from the incident.

How do you deal with thieves?

Furthermore, everyone in the shop should know how to deal with a suspected shoplifter. How do you approach a suspicious customer? Agree on when and how you can refuse a customer admission, for example when a person is known for previous theft.

Detaining a shoplifter requires thorough instruction. Moreover, staff must feel confident about detaining shoplifters and exercising the necessary authority. Remember that it’s OK to not get involved if you don’t feel up to the task, for either physical or psychological reasons.

No matter what, there is no reason to expose yourself to strong verbal or physical abuse or the risk of such abuse. In this case, it’s better to let the thief get away or call the police.

Clear guidelines

Clear guidelines for dealing with shoplifting help create a sense of security for the staff. Such guidelines should describe:

  • Where and when you can detain a suspected shoplifter, and how.
  • How and when to call the police.
  • What to do if the shoplifter puts up resistance or refuses to come with you.
  • How to interrogate a shoplifter.
  • What to do if you’re wrong and the person is not a shoplifter.
    What to do after the shoplifting incident: reporting etc.

The sector guidelines on shoplifting prepared by BFA Handel include a checklist of the questions you should remember to answer in your guidelines. See link above.

Adjust the guidelines to your shop

Situations with shoplifting can differ considerably from shop to shop and at the shop itself. As a manager, you should consider how you want to the guidelines for your shop to be worded.

There are many different types of shoplifters, including children/adolescents/the elderly/women/men, and they can work alone or in groups. They also act very differently when they get caught.  Some become embarrassed and ashamed, others become aggressive and resist verbally or physically, and yet others may break down in tears.

Staff also differ, for example adolescents/the elderly, woman/men, years of retail experience. There is also a difference in whether you’re the only employee at the shop, or whether several employees are present.

Moreover, it’s about being able to act and be authoritative and assertive. But it’s also about being able to show sympathy, for example when the thief is a child, an old person or a sick person.

Reaching a common understanding

Guidelines should be prepared in collaboration between management, employees and the health and safety group if you have one.

You should ensure that your guidelines on shoplifting are discussed regularly, for example at a staff meeting, and make sure that new employees become familiar with them. This will secure a common understanding and thereby greater certainty that the guidelines will be followed.

Tools and links

Sector guidelines on shoplifting: BFA Handel has prepared sector guidelines on shoplifting: Shoplifting – sector guidelines for employers, management and the Health and Safety Organisation. This describes how you can prevent and deal with theft at the shop, and how you can prepare using fixed procedures and guidelines.

Related pages on Det du mærker

For health and safety groups

The work of the health and safety group

When you want to take measures against shoplifting, a natural place to begin is by assessing the scope of shoplifting. Based on this assessment, you can launch initiatives that can prevent shoplifting. Subsequently, it’s important to draw up guidelines for how you want to handle shoplifting situations and instruct the staff, so that everyone knows what to do in these situations.

Read more about tasks to prevent and manage shoplifting in the If you are a manager tab.

Involve the health and safety group

The health and safety group has a natural role in efforts against shoplifting. Shoplifting and any conflict with suspected thieves can cause uncertainty among employees and thereby impact psychosocial working conditions.

It’s also important to involve the health and safety group and employees in work on preventing shoplifting and on preparing guidelines for how to deal with shoplifting.

Finally, the health and safety group can help ensure that all employees (also new employees, young workers and temps) receive the necessary instruction in how to act in shoplifting situations.

Tools and links

Sector guidelines on shoplifting: BFA Handel has prepared sector guidelines on shoplifting: Shoplifting – sector guidelines for employers, management and the Health and Safety Organisation. This describes how you can prevent and deal with theft at the shop, and how you can prepare using fixed procedures and guidelines.

Related pages on Det du mærker