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By Jack Trlica
Bob MacLea, one of the retail industry’s longest tenured and most respected loss prevention executives, lost his battle with cancer March 1. Beginning his career as a security officer in 1975 with Marshalls Department Stores, MacLea steadily rose through the TJX corporation ultimately retiring as senior vice president of loss prevention in October 2016 after forty-one years. Asked why he worked as long as he did, MacLea reportedly said, “I’ve always been told that when you retire, you should do something you love. I love my job and can’t think of anything I’d rather do. So why should I even think about leaving?”
News of MacLea’s passing prompted a chorus of emails, text messages, and phone calls between the many men and women touched by MacLea, who was known as much for his compassion for people as his competency as a retail security practitioner. One of his direct reports at TJX explained that he coined the phrase “relationships before tasks” to describe his philosophy for building the loss prevention mindset both inside the LP organization and throughout the TJX culture.
His focus on people was recognized in LP Magazine‘s first Magpie excellence awards in the January-February 2017 print edition when he was the first Excellence in Community Service recipient. The article noted, “He has always believed you must be involved with both your community and your profession, and he has lived up to that belief. Over the years MacLea has also given of himself to philanthropy, supporting many charitable initiatives such as the Youth Business Institute, Minority Suppliers, the NAACP, Lazarus House, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.”
MacLea was also an active proponent of advancing the loss prevention profession as he served in various organizations across the industry, including the board of directors, executive committee, and audit committee for the Loss Prevention Foundation; the loss prevention advisory council for the National Retail Federation; the editorial board of LP Magazine; and the Loss Prevention Research Council, of which he was a founding member.
Many individuals throughout the loss prevention profession have expressed their heartbreak at MacLea’s passing. Perhaps his close friend and former colleague Jim Lee, LPC, executive editor of LP Magazine, summed up the feelings best when he wrote, “Bob felt very fortunate in what he had achieved in business and family, and he wanted to share and give back. I feel very fortunate that I knew this exceptional man. He enriched my life and was an example to follow for everyone he touched.…Much has been chronicled about his accomplishments in work and family. I am so happy I did not miss the chance to tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to others and me. Eternal thanks to you, Bob.”
By Bill Turner, LPC
Got your attention, right? After five years of development and fourteen months of testing, Amazon opened a new, cashierless Amazon Go grocery/convenience store in downtown Seattle on January 22. There is no waiting in checkout lines because there are no lines-and no cashiers.
In order to shop, customers must download the Amazon Go app on their cell phones, connect it to their Amazon accounts, and choose a payment method. A QR code is generated, and the customer scans it at a station located at the front of the store. Once the customer is scanned in, multiple sensors and cameras throughout the store track items that the customer takes off the shelf. All prices are posted on the shelf. Items selected are automatically charged to the customer when they leave the store.
Amazon has described the technologies in the store as “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.” The system not only tracks people in the store but also associates the customer with what they buy. Accuracy is critical to be sure the system identifies the right customer selecting the right product. It could be tough to do in a very crowded environment, but so far, it seems to be working.
All the data collected allows Amazon to figure out what products are bought at what time and what is the optimum location of the product in the store. There is much speculation as to whether or not Amazon will migrate this system to Whole Foods. And Amazon may be first, but they are not alone. Walmart is rumored to be working on a similar concept. The industry is abuzz.
But wait. What does loss prevention look like in a cashierless environment? An honest customer has to download an app and “sign in” at a station, so they can shop and be charged for their purchases. What if they “shop” and don’t sign in?
Amazon Go Vice President Gianna Peurini told CNBC, “Accidental shoplifting happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened.” The fact that there isn’t even a feature to tell Amazon something has been taken is interesting. It says that the company is so confident in its system that it hasn’t developed protocols to safeguard against missing items. In addition, Amazon apparently isn’t distinguishing between those customers who “accidentally” steal and those who are definitely trying to steal.
It appears that Amazon is counting on the fact that the majority of customers are honest, and huge sales more than make up for some losses. With all of the cameras and sensors in the store, all but the boldest of shoplifters may be deterred. But then again, what about organized retail crime? With one test store, maybe it’s not a huge concern. What happens if the concept explodes and becomes a model for shopping in the future? Who knows?
To that point, it will be interesting to see how the public adopts this concept and how profitable it is for Amazon. After all, ten years ago it was predicted that self-checkout stations would “revolutionize” retail. Many studies have shown that self-checkout has not been all it was cracked up to be in terms of shrink, throughput, and labor savings. Instead of expanding the technology, a lot of retailers have bypassed the concept entirely, and others are removing systems already installed.
Not to mention, with Amazon’s new concept, there is always the fear of “Big Brother” watching our every move. Time will tell for Amazon Go. It should be interesting.
In what one former prosecutor termed “historic,” a habitual shoplifter who was set to be arraigned on a misdemeanor petty theft charge had his bail increased from $5,000 to $50,000 based on information provided to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office by ALTO US, a risk management technology company that provides retailers an innovative approach to stopping retail theft repeat offenders.
On October 25, 2017, Justin Riles was stopped by undercover loss prevention agents for allegedly shoplifting multiple items of shampoo and toothpaste at an Albertsons grocery store on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. Riles was booked by police and released on $5,000 bail. The ALTO Alliance legal team supporting Albertsons researched Riles’ lengthy retail theft background and compiled an extensive case report that was presented to Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Keith de la Rosa.
When Riles’ arraignment hearing was held on November 17 in Los Angeles Superior Court before Judge Christopher K. Liu, the defendant did not show up, but the ALTO team did. The team, consisting of an attorney, paralegal, and regional operations director, were in court as “friends of the victim”-an almost unprecedented action for a misdemeanor shoplifting case. Based on the ALTO research and their presence in court, the deputy city attorney asked for and received the significant bail increase on the shoplifting charge as well as an increase to $26,000 for each of two outstanding warrants on Riles.
“I have seen victim representatives in cases involving large sums of restitution but never on a petty theft case where the victim was asking for relief from the incessant pain caused by a recidivist defendant,” said Loren M. Naiman, retired career prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and member of the advisory board for ALTO US. “This is a first for the rights of retail victims and a first in the pushback against unanticipated negative consequences caused by the passage in 2014 of California’s Proposition 47.”
“We are extremely pleased and encouraged by the progress ALTO has made in our efforts to identify and prosecute the habitual offender,” said Kathleen A. Smith, CFI, vice president of asset protection for Albertsons-Safeway. “Removing this type of negative element from our stores, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates, and increasing sales is exactly why we partnered with ALTO.”
Karl Langhorst, CPP, CFI, executive vice president for ALTO US, said, “This is an excellent example of how retailers can provide the additional intelligence needed to assist our criminal justice system to hold recidivist retail theft offenders accountable. ALTO Alliance provides retailers, law enforcement, and prosecutors a state-of-the-art technology solution, supported by concierge-level service, that bridges the offender information gap to ensure justice is served.”
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