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Shoplifting Policies and Procedures

Be Prepared


Young woman shoplifting alcohol (focus on woman)
Fran May/ Taxi/ Getty images

Does your store have a shoplifting policy? At the end of this article, you can Share Your Policy with others.

It is important to plan policies and procedures for shoplifting early in the business planning stages. We all hope it will never happen in our store but in the event it does, retailers and staff should be prepared to handle the shoplifting situation. Take the following questions into consideration when writing your shoplifting policies and procedures:

  • Is your goal to prosecute or get the merchandise back?
  • Does your store have a zero tolerance policy for shoplifting?
  • Will you prosecute shoplifters under 18 or over 65?
  • Is there a minimum dollar amount before prosecuting?
  • How will you confront and detain the shoplifter?
  • What will you do if the shoplifter shows remorse or offers to pay?
  • Who is responsible for calling the police?

Consider a shoplifting policy that is fair but firm. If your store chooses not to prosecute shoplifters, word will get around and your store may become a target. If shoplifters know your store takes theft seriously and is not afraid to prosecute, many thieves will avoid stealing from your business.

Stopping a Shoplifter

Store design, customer service techniques and technology go a long way at preventing shoplifting. Post signs saying that shoplifters will be prosecuted, if that is the store's position on shoplifting. If you see someone take an item, alert another employee and then approach the person. Ask "Can I help you?" or "Can I ring that up for you?"

Learn your local and state shoplifting laws. Contact the police station and they should be able to answer any questions you may have.

Laws vary by location, but most places require that one person must see the shoplifter take the item, conceal it and exit the store without paying for the merchandise, all while never taking their eyes off the shoplifter. Only then can that store employee apprehend the shoplifter without force.

When approaching a suspicious person, try to remain calm and professional. It is possible that a misunderstanding has taken place and the person is not actually a shoplifter. Treating the suspect in a polite, discrete yet firm and professional manner will help you and your store avoid a slander, false arrest, or discrimination lawsuit.

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