LP Magazine

MAR-APR 2019

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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THE IMPROBABLE HISTORY OF THE INK TAG 44 MARCH–APRIL 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM AUTHOR'S NOTE: The year 2019 represents the thirty-fifth birthday of the first "ink tag." I have had the good fortune to have been immersed in retail and the EAS industry for over four decades. Since I participated in the early days of the benefit-denial phenomenon, I thought it important to chronicle some of the original history. The whole story would be book length—everyone has an ink tag anecdote. Many thanks to the people who contributed, including Jacques Hendrikx, Tom Nicolette, Link Charlot, Jim Wyatt, Natalie Friend, Janet Dennis, Rob Noeth, and Read Hayes. Bravo to all those brave retailers who took the initial risk. L et me get this straight. You're asking us to spend over $3.00 on a tag with a scary warning label and glass vials filled with indelible dye. How will my customers react? You're telling me that if a shoplifter tries to remove it without the right detacher, the vials will explode, and the dye will ruin the garment. And don't worry because nobody will try to steal anything with this type of tag on it. You've got to be kidding!" The time was around 1990. The preceding passage is a paraphrase of comments made by dozens of US-based retail loss prevention executives after they had been shown an ink tag for the first time. Flash forward to the present day. Ink tags and their derivatives can be seen in almost all stores in which electronic article surveillance (EAS) protects apparel and in many stores without any EAS at all. Why Did This Happen? By the mid 1980s, first-generation EAS products had matured and were losing potency. Shoplifting losses began to rise precipitously. Retailers were realizing that the deterrent qualities of EAS were diminishing to the point where only the rankest of amateur thieves were being stopped. Why? Two main reasons. First, the original microwave, electromagnetic, and radio frequency EAS technologies were old, tired, and easy to defeat. The next-generation acoustomagnetic technology appeared promising, but its reusable tag—pre SuperTag—was easy to defeat, and its disposable label could be emasculated with a "squeeze." Second, and more importantly, an EAS alarm was no longer a "call to action" to store sales associates, so shoplifters faced little risk of being approached at the door, much less apprehended. The rewards of successful theft had begun to exceed the consequences from the EAS alarm. Loss prevention executives began clamoring for better item-level solutions. They were willing to try something radical. The ink tag was "it." Decades of experience teltls us that thieves routinely steal personal property or retail merchandise either for personal use or to sell for cash. The radical idea behind the ink tag is "benefit denial"—a term coined in 1992 by Read Hayes, PhD, the well-known retail security consultant. Benefit-denial devices provide physical protection that would damage or destroy an item instead of allowing thieves to obtain any utility or economic benefit from it. The certainty that no benefit will be gained by a theft actually creates a better, more lasting form of theft deterrent than with conventional EAS. There are a few noteworthy examples of benefit-denial devices The radical idea behind the ink tag is "benefit denial"—a term coined in 1992 by Read Hayes, PhD, the well-known retail security consultant. Benefit-denial devices provide physical protection that would damage or destroy an item instead of allowing thieves to obtain any utility or economic benefit from it.

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