Theft by customers costs a typical retail business on average between .7% and 2.2% of annual product revenue. While this can vary by type of retail business, the band of .7% to 2.2% are considered a reasonable guide in costing this to the business.

Things you can do to reduce customer theft in your business …

  1. Greet customers as they enter and leave. Make eye contact.
  2. If you have a security system, have a screen on the shop floor in plain sight showing that it is on and filming.
  3. Have a notice at the door indicating that you have video surveillance.
  4. Be wary of people in bulky clothing, anyone constantly looking behind or around them, any group of shoppers, anyone distracting attention of staff members, someone looking for too long at an it or someone who is uneasy with an offer of assistance.
  5. Make a mental or written note of the description of anyone fitting patterns noted in 2.
  6. Have a policy of reporting suspicious behaviour to the most senior staff member in the shop.
  7. Consider asking the suspicious person to leave.
  8. If you are successful in catching someone, let your local newspaper know and post it on Facebook – without identifying the person.

If you suspect that theft has occurred:

  1. Immediately you are aware of a theft, call the police. Make a clear and concise report.
  2. Note down everything you can remember including date, time, description of the person(s) involved, what they looked at, your notes about seeing them entering, what they looked at, what they took and that they left without paying. Get all staff involved to make noted without referring to each other.
  3. If you are comfortable, considerer approaching the person (only after point 1) and saying you think they may have an item they did not pay for. Invite them back to the shop to resolve the matter. If you decide to do this: approach them from the front in a non-threatening way, do not touch them, say something like: Excuse me, I’m with newsXpress XXX, could I speak to you about the merchandise in your coat/purse/bag? Would you please accompany me back into the store? If they run, don’t chase them.
  4. If they accompany you back to the store, invite them to show you their bag, coat, purse or anything where your goods could be hidden. If it looks like you made a mistake, apologise and let them go. If the goods are found ask what they would like to do about it. If the goods are not found and you remain suspicious, ask them to wait for the police.

If the person left the store with no opportunity for you to speak to them, consider carefully what you may do with any video footage or photos. While the law varies state to state, police and lawyers advise retailers against publishing photos of videos, especially if there is an accusation that the person identified committed a crime. Such publishing could be used to have the case withdrawn. When you speak with your local police, ask their advice on this.