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Saturday, January 30, 2016

To Catch a Thief...

Some of you may know that I've recently taken a part time job outside the home.
It's the first time in over 15 years that I've worked away from home, and the first time in over 20 that I've worked retail. It's been quite an experience.

This looks more familiar to me than the computerized register I use now.
It's been awhile since I've worked as a cashier!

First, I'm not giving up writing. I'm still a full time freelance writer and editor. I still feel that my teens need me more than the corporate world, and prefer my home-based work for full-time employment. This job provides supplemental income, but I'm not seeking a potential career, even though there are numerous opportunities to move up within the organization. Retail can be an excellent career path for those who are willing to work hard and who enjoy both the challenges of business and customer service. To be perfectly honest, I enjoy both. Yes, customer service has its moments, and we all like to groan now and then and share horror stories from the trenches about unreasonable customers or the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in, but overall, our regulars will be some of the nicest people we know.

Unless they're not.

There's an ongoing situation at my store right now that is surprisingly exasperating, and, I suspect, is representative of the root of most retail resentment. Our store is  being plagued by a thief. Not just any thief. We have the usual spate of children, teenagers, and even adults who think nothing of opening a package, pocketing the contents, and leaving the tell-tale trash tucked behind some product on a shelf. What they don't seem to know is; we'll find that trash within hours or even minutes of their theft. Every time.

Is it worth it? Seriously? Dude that DVD costs $2. Grow up. 

This particular thief has proven to be more nervy than most. He or she isn't just pocketing the items. They are consuming them in the store. While it's not technically "stealing" if you open and take a sip of your Coke before you get to the register, it's generally considered improper shopping etiquette. A lot of internal eye-rolling goes on in retail, but we stifle it. As long as the customer pays for their items, even if they're doing some illicit sampling first, the customer is always right.

Seriously. Nobody cares about a couple sampled grapes, or an open soda- as long as you're
not actually opening packages, taking a bite, and returning it to the shelf. 

The Ensure Bandit, however, does not bother with trivialities like actually paying for the items they steal- that's why it's stealing and not just bad manners. This person has apparently decided they are above petty considerations like the law, courtesy, or just plain common sense. They've been coming into our store every single day, and stealing a single bottle of expensive supplements- the kind that were designed for cancer patients and the elderly who have trouble getting enough nutrition from normal meals. They simply take one bottle from a 4 or 6 pack, leaving the opened package behind. They then drink their stolen loot while walking around the store browsing or shopping, and simply stash the bottle behind things on the shelves. I've worked there for 2 weeks and I personally have found four of these bottles. My manager tells me they've found one every single day. Since each package costs between $6-10, that's a hefty hit for a smaller store like ours to take.

Added up over time, thieves cost our store thousands. Not just in stolen
merchandise, but in extra personnel for security, as well as those expensive, annoying
little security tags that set off the alarm when you're walking out. 

Here's one of the things you might not know about retail- we're constantly checking shelves. It's called "recovery" and it's a big part of my job. I go around every day and straighten the product on the shelf, bringing things forward when someone's taken the first one on the shelf, moving things back to their proper space when someone's changed their mind and tossed it carelessly down.
(A hint for shoppers- if you've carried something half way through the store, and change your mind, bring it to the register when you check out. Never leave it out of place- it creates more work for the employees. We don't mind putting rejected items away, we all shop, too, and have changed our minds. We roll our eyes a LOT, though, when we find things out of place due to laziness. It's frankly a pain in the butt.)

Those annoyances are minor, however, compared with the anger that bubbles up when we find those empty packages. We tag everything with security tags for a reason. We are not amused when the tags are circumvented by "clever" thieves who think they're hiding their crimes by stashing the evidence behind product on the shelves. And we do find it. The theft never goes more than a day without being discovered.

We do inventory frequently. It's the only way, in a mid-sized store like ours, to ensure that we have enough of popular products on the shelf, and we don't over-order things that haven't sold. Even with today's electronic inventory systems, these counts are necessary for accuracy. We WILL find the empty package, and we will wish the fleas of a thousand camels to infest the thief's crotch and their arms be too short too scratch.

So beware, thieves. We know about you, and we are plotting your downfall.
Especially you, Ensure Bandit.
You're going down.

Pretty sure they don't serve Ensure in jail. 

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