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    Shoplifting Results in Billion Dollar Losses

    Customer service may be best deterrent to stop shoplifters.

    WESTCHESTER, N.Y.--In a year, there are more than 400 million shoplifting incidents nationwide, which create losses of more than $13 billion, according to studies by the University of Florida and Jack L. Hayes International, a loss-prevention firm.

    According to the study, people walk out of U.S. stores with items they haven’t paid for, causing retailers to lose up to $25,300 every 60 seconds, reported Westchester, N.Y.’s The Journal News .

    And about the only way retailers can recover the losses is to raise prices.

    "Everybody pays for shoplifting," Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores, told The Journal News . "You’re not stealing from the store; you’re stealing from everyone who shops there, because it forces the store owner to raise prices to cover the loss. It’s essentially a hidden tax."

    Chris E. McGoey, a security consultant, said shoplifting has run many stores out of business.

    "Some studies on the cost of shoplifting to retailers put it somewhere around $11 billion per year. It’s probably closer to $13 billion," McGoey told The Journal News . "That’s just a huge amount. If you keep losing year after year, you will go out of business. If you lose one item, sometimes, you have to sell 20 more just to recover."

    McGoey said in the report that shoplifters may be teens, professional thieves or people who steal to support drug habits. The National Crime Prevention Council says about a quarter of people caught shoplifting are between 13 and 17 years old.

    Professionals take expensive items--clothing or jewelry--they can resell quickly. Amateur shoplifters can be teens who steal something they can’t buy, such as cigarettes, or people who simply take advantage of an opportunity, according to the report.

    "Shoplifting spans all age groups, sexes and races. People just want something for nothing," McGoey told The Journal News . "They feel the store is making money and they’re not, or they feel they were overcharged."

    Capt. Nick Kralik, who commands the detective division of the White Plains, N.Y., police department, told the newspaper serious shoplifters use a variety of tools, including wire cutters, "girdles" with secret pockets and "booster bags," which might be lined with metal to fool store sensors. He said pros often work in teams or small groups.

    "They’ll usually hit a smaller store with fewer employees," he told The Journal News . "One person will come in and look around a little, then ask the clerk for help, while a group comes in and spreads out in the store."

    McGoey puts some of the blame on stores that display too much merchandise, according to the report.

    "Everything is out, open and available. It’s stacked higher and higher as retailers try to deal in more volume to increase impulse buying. It makes it easier for the shoplifter," he told The Journal News .

    Mark Doyle, president of the Florida-based Jack L. Hayes International, said in the report that most people would never think of shoplifting, regardless of what’s displayed.

    "Customer service is still the best deterrent to shoplifting. A shoplifter wants and needs privacy," he told The Journal News . "Ten to 15 years ago, it wasn’t unusual to get into a store and have a sales associate greet you and ask what you need."

    Doyle said salesclerks should greet shoppers and look them in the eye.

    "If they say they’re just looking, the associate should say, ’Then I’ll keep my eye on you and if you need anything, I’ll be right there,’ he told The Journal News . "Most people will appreciate that service. But it’s the last thing the shoplifter wants to hear."

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