I took my boys to the mall this Saturday to get haircuts. While I was waiting, I walked down to Books-A-Million to look around. I spent a few minutes looking around and then as I was about to leave the store, I noticed two kids. They weren’t really doing anythign suspicious but I still had the urge to see what they were up to. One of the boys was wearing a fairly large camouflaged jacket. As I watched them, I noticed that appeared to be up to something. They kept peering over the aisles. Usually people looking for books aren’t so concerned about what’s going on around them. So, I decided to pursue this further.
The boys left that aisle and went towards the mall entrance of the store. I noticed one of the boys was carrying a paperback book. They walked to a secluded part of the store by the cash registers. Meanwhile, I followedacting like I was just browsing. I lost sight of them for a few seconds. They appeared again and headed straight for the exit. The kid with the jacket hesitated before he walked through the sensors, which threw up a HUGE red flag in my mind. I followed them out into the mall. They were walking kind of fast but they were still close enough that I saw the boy pull the book from his jacket.
I ran up behind him and put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Did you steal that book?”
He was startled and let out a little yell.
He said, “No.”
I said, “Yes you did. I saw you. You need to go back to that store and pay for that book NOW!”
He shrugged his shoulders and headed back to the store. He walked in and put the book on a shelf and walked back out again.
I shouldn’t have let him off so easily. I should have taken him to the manager and humiliated the thievery out of him. But, I didn’t. Hopefully, he learned his lesson.
So, how did I know he was going to steal? Well, I’ve had a lot of experience catching shoplifters. I worked 9 years in the grocery business and during that time, I made it a game to catch crooks. Over those years, I learned what to look for. Here are some of my pointers for catching shoplifters:
1. Body language – shoplifters will often times appear nervous. The boy had the book in his hand and he wasn’t looking for anything else so there was really no reason for him to be hanging out at the store. He was looking around a lot, which is a pretty good giveaway that he was up to something. If you want to deter a shoplifter, make eye contact with them. That will freak them out.
2. Look for bulky clothing or big bags. It was a little chilly here Saturday so his coat wasn’t out of the ordinary. But, it did make me suspicious. Afterall, a shoplifter has to put their goods somewhere.
3. Look at what they’re carrying around. Shoplifters usually go for the small, high-dollar items. In this case it was a book. Most shoplifters go for stuff like batteries, cigarettes, cosmetics, or medicine. If they’re walking all through the store with these items in their hands, look out.
4. Try to see them actually hide the item. If you don’t see them hide it, then you have to be careful in making an accusation. Sometimes they get cold feet and dump the item somewhere in the store. I never got burned by this but I could see how it could happen.
5. Watch for the exit. Once the shoplifter has stowed the goods, they aren’t going to want to hang around. So, they usually make for the exit pretty quickly. The boy on Saturday hesitated before he walked through the sensors at the exit. This was a huge admission of guilt. People who don’t have stolen goods on them, aren’t going to hesitate to walk through sensors.
I only approached this kid in the mall because I saw him take the book out of his jacket. I knew that he hadn’t gone through the check out line so I was pretty sure he had stolen the book. Knowing that, I just couldn’t let him get away with it. I’m hoping that it scared him straight.
I really wish we had some sort of public humiliation for thieves. Pillories would be nice.