Thursday, March 13, 2008

Shoplifting Costs Honest Athens Consumers

by Julie Cannold

It’s a chronic problem in Athens and throughout the United States: shoplifting. Local and corporate stores are losing thousands of dollars a day in stolen merchandise. And how do they combat these losses? Athens police say by raising prices-causing honest consumers to dig even deeper into their pockets.

What Kind of People Shoplift?

• Mostly amateurs who steal to get the “thrill” or see something they really want.
• Some professional thieves who make their living by selling stolen goods.
• Drug addicts who steal to support their habit.
• A small percentage are kleptomaniacs who cannot overcome their urge to steal.

What Stores do to Prevent It

Jonathan Moreno, a shift supervisor at the Athens CVS, says, “there are some locations that we can’t cover, we just can’t cover everything. We try to do the best we can.”

Moreno is echoing a common problem faced by businesses owners everywhere. Small business owners, who don’t have the cash flow of corporate retailers, face an even bigger problem. Amanda Hamilton works at the Athens boutique, The Other Place. She says, "Since we don’t have a higher technology system to prevent people taking things out of the store.”

In an attempt to prevent shoplifting, businesses employ some or all of the following techniques:
• Having customers leave large bags at the front of the store
• Limiting the number of items customers are allowed to take into a dressing room
• Keeping more expensive or smaller items in glass cases, locked cabinets, or behind the counter
• Stores that can afford it, put in technology such as security cameras

Intern Amanda Hamilton talks about security issues at The Other Place.

What Happens After Shoplifters are Caught?
If a store employee in Athens catches a shoplifter in the act, the employee is supposed to confront the person and try to keep them talking to them sop they'll stay in the store. They are not allowed to force the person to stay in the store. Another employee is supposed to call the authorities so they can come and take the appropriate actions.

But store owners aren’t always so quick to approach shoplifters and actually deal with the problem. Moreno explains "if someone stole something, they can say that we're accosting them and sue us, so we have to be careful with that."

In some cases, it would harm the store more and cost it more money if an accused shoplifter then turns around and sues the store for slander. In order to avoid expensive law suits, many stores just count their loses in stolen merchandise.

CVS Shift Supervisor Jonathan Moreno talks about the problems associated with trying to prevent shoplifting.

Shoplifting by the Numbers
• About $10 billion is stolen from stores every year in the United States
• 25% of shoplifters are between the ages of 13 and 17
• Shoplifting costs the American public $33.21 billion a year through price inflation
• Retail inventory losses average 1.7% of gross sales

Shoplifting causes problems for business owners and customers, but it is not an easy problem to control. Business owners do the best they can, but even if they take the initiatvie to confront a suspected shoplifter, it could end up doing more harm than good. The best way to prevent it is for business owners to keep an eye out, but also for customers to recognize that shoplifting affects more than they might realize.

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