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Common shoplifting techniques

Hiding the Merchandise

A More Brazen Approach

Favorite Shoplifter Devices

A large open bag is a common shoplifter tool. It is placed at the thief's feet, and objects are casually dropped into it. Be on the lookout for the "bad bag" -- a paper bag that is dirty and wrinkled. Also keep an eye out for shopping bags that are not from local stores. Preventing this is why many stores staple bags shut. Other stores require customers to leave their bags by the front door when they come in.

Women sometimes use purses to hide stolen items. There is little you can do to stop women from carrying purses and handbags. The best prevention in these cases is to watch the customers very carefully.

The baby carriage or stroller is a great tool for shoplifters. There are always blankets, toys, and other things in strollers (including the baby) that merchandise can be hidden under. Some thieves have even built false bottoms in baby carriages.

A newspaper can be used to hide small objects.

Umbrellas with handles are handy for shoplifters trying to steal small items. A common tactic is to keep a closed (but not snapped) umbrella hanging on one's elbow or leaning against a counter, and then to drop items into it.

Favorite Shoplifter Clothing

"Crotch-walking" is a technique used by women wearing full skirts and dresses. They simply place the merchandise between their thighs and walk away. Thieves who are good at this have been known to steal hams, typewriters, and other large objects.

Baggy clothes in general are good places to hide stolen items. Some people have extra pockets or hooks sewn into coats and jackets.

Beware of the customer with a large coat who keeps his hand in a coat pocket. Some shoplifters have cut slits in the pocket lining, so they can reach for items without being seen. They may make a big deal out of inspecting an item while the other hand slips out and grabs something.

Some shoplifters just grab stuff and walk out with it. They rely on the gullibility and slow response time of sales clerks.

Some shoplifters grab garments from racks close to the door and run off. This can be prevented very easily by alternating the directions of hangers. This makes the hangers "lock up" when someone tries to remove many at once.

The really brazen thieves simply walk out with large items that are not ordinarily put in bags. Prevent this by making it unusual for legitimate customers to carry out their large purchases, with a policy that all large items must be picked up at a location physically separate from the saleClick here for a warning about this policy!s floor, or that employees take all large items out to customer's cars. Or you could put big bright stickers on purchased large items. This at least makes it easily for employees to tell if the merchandise is being stolen.

A common technique, especially if your fitting rooms aren't well monitored, is for the thief to steal garments by putting them on under her own clothes and wearing them out of the store. Others will just put the clothing on and walk out. It's tricky to catch one of these people, because if they haven't concealed the item, they technically haven't stolen it until they exit the store without paying. (Click here for more on preventing shoplifting in fitting rooms.)

Tricks to Distract You

Most shoplifters cannot succeed unless they get some privacy. This is why one of the best ways to stop shoplifting is to greet customers as soon as they walk in, then be attentive to them the rest of the time. But skilled shoplifters can distract sales associates using the following tricks:

They enter the store in groups, then separate, so there is no way the employees can watch all of them.

A pair of shoppers comes in, and while one distracts you with questions, the other steals.

A single shopper sends the only employee in the store into the back room to find something, and then steals stuff and leaves before the employee comes back.

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