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? you know? It's run down. They can't afford to pay thirty bucks for laundry detergent. My girlfriend and I opened up a little store in our garage. Detergent, household stuff, things people need every day—we sell it to them at half of whatever the store is charging them. It's great for both of us. They save fifteen bucks on a $30 bottle of detergent, and we make a little money for our time. I'll take shopping list orders from some elderly people in the neighborhood. Again, I ask for half of what the store charges. I'm not greedy. These people rely on us to get by. Mike: I had no idea! What do you think those people would do without you and your girlfriend? Bob: I mean, they'd go without basic necessities, right? Why Do People Steal? Robin Hood? Really? Let's break down what just happened, aside from Bob illustrating that he isn't aware of off-brand, inexpensive laundry detergent options. Every decision we make has a decision-making process. I believe we arrived at the end of the interview at a genuinely held belief of how a series of events making up their decision to steal unfolded. The belief goes, as follows, in order of where they believe it appeared in their decision-making process. Decision Process: "Robin Hood Complex" as Motivation 1. I believe corporations are evil, and I'm going to do something about it. 2. I believe shoplifting is the best way to act on my belief. 3. I might as well take products I need or desire. 4. [theft occurs] This process specifies a desire to act on a moral principle as the motivation for their act of theft. Anyone who buys this account of events can stop reading now. For the rest of us, here's our best guess of what is really going on, formulated through our own scientific studies and a review of existing literature. Decision Process: "Robin Hood Complex" as an Excuse 1. I need or desire this item. 2. I'm unwilling or unable to pay for it. OR I simply enjoy the thrill of stealing. 3. [theft occurs] 4. [guilt and cognitive dissonance set in] 5. I feel bad about this. How can I make that feeling go away? 6. [seeks defense mechanism; chooses "Condemn the Condemner/Justify Actions"] 7. I believe corporations are evil, and I'm going to do something about it. What Can We Do? 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. If we meet an offender's mindset with a desire to understand it, instead of frustration, we can harness that knowledge and turn the tables on them. Below are proposed actions we can take as retailers, followed by an example of what "Bob" and his band of Merry Men had to say about these interventions throughout multiple interviews. Please note that quotes from "Bob" are censored, abridged, and otherwise cleaned up to improve the understandability of their primary points. ACTION 1: Greet Them at the Door. Employees are innocent, normal people. In the story the offender has fabricated, they're a righteous person, and righteous people don't harm the innocent. Bob: That person recognizes me now. They could pick me out of a lineup. It also makes me feel guilty, like I'm stealing from them. The store put some effort in. When they show effort like that, I reward it by going somewhere else. ACTION 2: Focus Signage on Guilt-Based Messages. Has anyone tried a sign that just says, "Please don't steal from us"? It won't work on everyone, but some may feel obliged to reward your courtesy. The Loss Prevention Research Council Retailers are already doing an incredible amount for their communities. They care about their customers and would help them nd a meal or a shelter if the customer asked. Our challenge is making that positive impact impossible to miss and ignore. We need to work together to push that narrative. 53 LP MAGAZINE | SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2018

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