BrainTrust Query: Could Santa Steal From Your Store?

Dec 03, 2010


by Doug

Fleener, President

and Managing
Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group

While running errands with my children during a
recent weekend, the topic of shoplifting came up. When I said that just about
anyone could be a shoplifter, my youngest daughter decided to challenge me. "How
about that woman over there?" she
asked. I replied that it’s possible but unlikely. "How about that old
man there?" I repeated my response of possible but unlikely.

Then she smiled
and said with that gotcha look, "How about Santa Claus?
Santa couldn’t be a shoplifter, could he?"

Santa as a shoplifter? Santa
would make a great shoplifter if he decided to turn to crime. Think about it.

1. You’d never suspect him. The people you suspect the least are some
of the most productive (from their perspective) shoplifters. That’s why stores
should never attempt to identify shoplifters by what they look like, but by
how they’re acting in the store.

2. Santa’s bag is perfect for shoplifting. Empty, or nearly empty,
large bags are the perfect tools for the shoplifter. In a matter of seconds,
a person can go from browsing to stealing by dropping the products they’re
looking at into a shopping bag.

3. Santa wears bulky, over-sized clothes. Customers wearing oversized
coats, especially if other people are not wearing coats or at least carrying
them, could be doing so for nefarious reasons.

4. Santa could have a very effective method for distracting sales associates. Shoplifters
often work in teams and have one person distract the employees while the other
steals products. Imagine if Santa was in the store and in walked six elves.

for a few reasons Santa would make a bad shoplifter:

1. Santa would never be left alone to steal. Shoplifters are always
quick to decline help since they want to be left alone to do their dirty work.
That’s why great service is the best deterrent to theft. Since everybody wants
to talk to Santa, he would never be given a chance to steal.

2. Those gloves make it tough to palm products. Shoplifters steal small
products by palming them and then placing them in their bags/pockets before
employees and cameras can pick them up. I’m thinking the gloves would make
that pretty tough.

3. Santa is so big he can’t stand extremely close to a fixture. This
is one way that shoplifters quickly moving products into their pockets
or bags.

4. It’s Santa! While there seems to be less civility in the world today,
I’m sure the real Santa isn’t a shoplifter. Then again, there are a lot of
other Santas out and about at this time of year.

Discussion Questions: What are some obvious and less obvious signs of a
shoplifter in action in a store? Are there shoplifter prevention strategies
stores often don’t utilize, but should?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

7 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Could Santa Steal From Your Store?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ryan Mathews
10 years 5 months ago

Loss prevention has become something of a joke. Here in the economically troubled Midwest for example, it’s getting increasingly common to watch pros “sweep” merchandise into a bag and walk out of a store.

Do they set off all the alarms? Of course!

Does anyone do anything about it (besides resetting the alarms)? Rarely!

Since many major retailers forbid employees from challenging or following shoplifters malls are becoming easy targets for professionals.

Oh…please … no comments on the ever efficient mall security forces. The fact is that theft is becoming routine and only the new, inexperienced, or seriously deranged boosters are getting busted.

Ralph Jacobson
10 years 5 months ago

Larry Miller, a well-known retail shrink expert, has shown that more than half of all theft is done by employees, as opposed to shoppers. The opportunity and temptation are always present. Few employees follow up on theft after the fact to deter future instances. Whether it is Santa or any other employee, the busier the store, the more opportunity there is to be dishonest. There are enough tools in the marketplace to prevent theft. Retailers simply need to take advantage.

Ryan Mathews
10 years 5 months ago

All props to Larry–an old and close friend–BUT–the model is different for different types of retailers. Supermarkets? I buy it. Mall retailers? Getting hit by the pros.

Robert Straub
Robert Straub
10 years 5 months ago

Now I have to get Bad Santa on Netflix.

Steve Montgomery
10 years 5 months ago

I agreed with Ryan–the break out between the causes of internal and external shrink varies by industry. External forces are less likely to steal from c-stores, supermarkets, etc. simply because the value per unit is small. Internal forces however have perceived motive, opportunity, and ability to avoid detection. For higher value items the internal may have the same perceptions but “customers” now have an incentive they did not have before–value per item. Regardless of the retail format, advances in software such as Profitect are making it more difficult for the employee to steal.

Craig Sundstrom
10 years 5 months ago

But wait a minute, did Santa have those gloves on when he came in??? (Better do a quick count over in men’s wear!)

As for the question du jour: unprepared; unfortunately this is right when stores have the highest percentage of untrained and distracted help…right when the risk is highest.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 5 months ago

Santa as a shoplifter. Oh banish the thought. This was a fun article to read and then comment. Thanks for the bit of levity on a still serious subject.

There are so many “invisible” people in the malls and stores shoplifting this year it makes one wonder. Here in South Florida the news channels are often reporting the ways people come in, steal and leave. It is sad. However, I would never want anything these shoplifters steal after watching them hide it on film.


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