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 48 MARCH–APRIL 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM testing confirmed that the cradle worked. We incorporated the change ASAP. From then on, those bearings were called "Hogan's balls." He had developed the first ink tag "breakage mechanism" for which he received a patent. This was our eureka moment. A built-in breakage mechanism was going to be crucial to the success of the deterrent. We never manufactured an Inktag or Inkmate without one. In addition to designing and building high-quality, user-friendly products, we tasked our marketing organization to develop a working definition of the deterrent qualities of the products and a compelling sales pitch that would overcome any objections that we encountered. Since the theory behind the deterrent was brand new and evolving, we decided that publicity would be an important means in creating awareness. We wanted to stimulate demand for the products and educate the public, so they understood the product's purpose and the reasons why retailers were resorting to such drastic measures. We put out a press release, and an enterprising Associated Press reporter published a small story about the Ink Tag that was picked up by over 400 US newspapers. As a result, we received requests to appear on a number of radio and TV shows. Armed with goggles, an apron, and a screwdriver, I unsuccessfully tampered with Ink Tags and ruined garments on a number of broadcasts, including the Joan Rivers Show. Joan autographed the ruined tee shirt for me, and it hung in my office for years. In order to warn shoppers, we offered plastic hangtags, window stickers, trifold rack toppers, and bag stuffers with bilingual warning messages and a picture of a large green ink blot surrounded by the international sign for "don't do it"—a red circle with a slash through it. Over the next three years, Security Tag introduced second- and third-generation Inktag and the Inkmate products designed to integrate with any brand of EAS tags. Each new model incorporated changes based on customer feedback. "Blue dye doesn't show up well on jeans," recalled Link Charlot, Security Tag's senior vice president of engineering. "So we developed a yellow, air-activated polymer that hardened on fabrics. The contrast worked very well." "If you turn the tag with the vial side parallel to the floor, you can tamper with the tag, crack the vials, and the ink will simply fall into the bottom," groused a few customers. So we placed a piece of compressed rubber under the vials. When the vials cracked open, the stress was released on the rubber, and ink was forced onto the garment, no matter which orientation the tag was held. We called that feature a "diffusion pad" and included one with every subsequent ink product. In the first couple of years, we received very large orders from JCPenney and The May Company Department Stores, among many others. After years of obscurity, we were finally on the map. Buoyed by our success, we applied the benefit-denial deterrent concept with locks, rather than ink, to protect other merchandise such as leather goods, jewelry, neckties, eyewear, and swimsuits. The program became so successful that we had almost tripled our business by the time Security Tag was acquired by Sensormatic in 1993. At that time Security Tag was the world's largest producer and seller of benefit-denial devices. During this time, several other security equipment providers, including Benefit-denial products had penetrated more department store locations in nineteen years than EAS has penetrated in forty years.

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