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Are Retailers Selling Shoplifting Tools?

Boosters are savvy in their methodology of offending. They often find creative ways in which to conceal property when shoplifting—in their clothing, via a special “booster bag,” etc. However, occasionally they capitalize on resources provided by the very location they intend to victimize.

While shopping in a nationally known chain drug store, I found an inexpensive, insulated six-can cooler bag, which appeared to have an aluminum lining, sitting on an aisle shelf out of view of the customer service area. When I saw this, I found it to be an aluminum-lined potential booster bag, the use of which is a felony in many states. This sparked my interest; is it possible that retail locations unknowingly stock booster supplies and shoplifting tools?

I purchased the cooler bag and went to one of my corporate retail colleagues to test the bag with two different types of electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags; the classic hard tags and UPC-style sticker tags. After a series of tests, I noted the following results:

  • Effective in disrupting the UPC-style EAS stickers. I would have to hold the bag flush against the tower for the alarm system to activate.
  • Limited success with security hard tags. The alarm would activate, but the bag had to be closer to the tower than usual for activation. At times there would be a delay in activation.
  • When doubled around the hard tag, the bag was almost 100 percent effective in disrupting the EAS device.
  • The bag was almost 100 percent effective in disrupting the control test tag used to test the EAS towers for operational ability.

The conclusion is that the bag would provide for at least some success in EAS disruption—and probably much better rates of success should someone add more lining (aluminum foil, for example) to the bag. So, it does appear that I found a retail establishment unknowingly stocking shoplifting tools.

- Digital Partner -

The question remains: how does the retail industry address this issue? This can be done with some simple but effective strategies. First, identify those items in your inventory that could be used as shoplifting tools or aids. Then determine the best manner in which to store and display them. I am not suggesting that one secure an inexpensive cooler (I purchased it for $3.99) on locking pegs; rather, given the price, this item would make a great complementary item for any business to place at the customer service area as an impulse buy, especially in warmer climates.

By being aware of your inventory, using simple marketing techniques and, when necessary, deploying security tools, you can vanquish the opportunity of a shoplifter to use your inventory against you. The retail environments that encompass your area of responsibility can be your own worst enemy.

Shoplifting and organized retail theft victimizes everyone. Let us continue to collaborate so that we can identify and apprehend those responsible for our losses, and make our areas of responsibility safer places to live and work.

This article was originally published in 2013 and was updated July 24, 2018.

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