LP Magazine

SEP-OCT 2018

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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WHY DO PEOPLE STEAL? I nterviewing activeshoplifters is the most interesting part of my job. For an hour, I speak as seldom as I can. Instead, I listen and observe. What they have to say is fascinating. Their actions and mannerisms weave together with their words like a code waiting to be cracked. Whydopeople steal? The interview starts with me doing most of the talking. I attempt to make them comfortable and fill them in on what I'd like to know, were I in their position. I speak and watch carefully as they try to decide whether I'm an authority figure or a guy who just wants to shoot the breeze and hear about their craft. Jokes help. Compliments help even more. I make it clear that this isn't a confessional. They don't need to apologize to me, or fear me, or even try to impress me. I just want them to relax and talk to me like I'm an old friend. Once they settle in a bit and are convinced that I'm not a cop, I shift the primary speaking role to them. Ten-second questions and prompts are met with two-minute responses. I try to unravel the true meaning behind their words and actions. Through hundreds of interviews, a common theme emerges. It's Us versus Them In other words, it's normal, hardworking, everyday people versus rich, greedy corporations. In fact, I began to realize that the primary function of calming a shoplifter down during the beginning of an interview was convincing the individual that I wasn't one of "them." That I wasn't part of the corporate machine. That I could understand their plight. Here's an example of this interchange with an active shoplifter we will call "Bob." Mike: Thank you for being here today! We do research on this kind of thing, and your honest feedback is incredibly helpful to me. Could you tell me a bit about your shoplifting experience? Bob: Um, yeah, I just mostly took things that my family needed…uh used to—I don't anymore. Tylenol when the baby had a fever, you know. Just what we needed. This would usually start with a testing of the water. They would tentatively throw out a comment about the price of what they stole being unfairly high or that they had a family to feed. I'd respond compassionately, then down the rabbit hole of the underground corporate complex resistance we'd go. Mike: Sure, I can definitely understand that. Tylenol is expensive! I'm not here to judge anyone or to take sides. Tell me more about that experience. How would you go about taking it? What would have stopped you? Bob: Its crazy expensive! Uh, I'd just grab it and put it in my pocket, then buy a pack of gum or something and leave. Mike: Oh, okay, that's smart. You wanted to avoid suspicion, so you'd buy something. What time of day do you like to shop? Long checkout lines are the worst! The person started this interview out as an apologetic wrongdoer answering to an authority figure, downplaying the severity of their habit, and claiming they no longer do it. Then after a few minutes, we were just two guys trying our best to get by in the world. Bob: Yeah, I like going in the afternoon when everyone's still at work. These stores, man, there's never any employees around, and they pay them so little that the ones who are around could care less. It's adding insult to injury, gouging us on prices and making us wait in line to pay them. Like yesterday, I put a pack of condoms in my pocket; there was an associate twenty feet away from me, busy stocking shelves. I didn't even exist to them. I could have been a normal customer. I could have needed help, you know? Mike: I can definitely understand where you're coming from. Do you ever take items for people other than you and your family? Friends maybe? Have you ever sold something after you got it? Some would take it a step further. Greedy corporations are the real wrongdoers here, right? I stick it to them by taking from them, right? What do you call someone who fights wrongdoing? Who steals from the rich and gives to the poor? Their body language tells the story—from closed and embarrassed, to neutral, to proud, condemning the condemner with vindication. Bob: Oh, yeah, all the time. My friends, I mean the neighborhood, It can be frustrating or even comical to watch the mental gymnastics someone will go through in order to avoid negative feelings like guilt. However, it's important to keep in mind that all of us use defense mechanisms to alleviate negative feelings and resolve cognitive dissonance. 52 SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM

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