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Thieves are taking money out of your pocket

I live in a town of 25,000, and as I watch stores close, I’m aware of why. Much of it has to do with the dramatic increase in online shopping. Some, however, can be attributed to thefts which decrease profit margins.

You might believe that if persons chose to steal, short of pulling guns and knives, that it is not your concern, and that stores need to do a better job of theft prevention.

Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak has a different perspective, “As citizens, we all have a duty to call it out if we witness a crime. Call 911, give an excellent description of the thieves, and we will dispatch officers to the location to address the issue once the alleged thieves leave the store. Shoplifting is no different from any other crime in terms of citizens’ reporting responsibility. Also, stores have the option of not allowing thieves who steal regularly to trespass on their property. And these persons can be arrested if they enter the store once this option is exercised.”

Stores are attempting to curtail theft, but thieves have no end of maneuvers to bypass these strategies as they steal high-ticket items to sell them for cash or exchange them for drugs. And you, the honest customers, pay the price in the end with higher prices at the stores you frequent – or you learn that a store you frequent is closing its doors.

As I left a large store recently with $147.24 of groceries in my cart, I was taken aback when an attendant at the door asked to see my receipt. I had told the cashier I did not want receipt because I didn’t need any more clutter in my purse. She insisted I take the receipt, so I did.

I said to the attendant, “Why are you doing this?”

His response was, “I have to check anything not in a bag.”

I didn’t argue with him, but I had a week’s supply of two kinds of soft drinks (diet, of course), and huge packages of paper towel and toilet paper in my cart — not the kind of items that readily fit in smallish plastic bags.

When I arrived home, still provoked that my honesty had been questioned, my pragmatic husband said, “He was just doing his job, doing what he was directed to do.”

I worked for different Kroger stores in Toledo to pay my expenses at the University of Toledo and later at Eastern Kentucky University, so I had some understanding of theft. My last job was at a new store in a low-income neighborhood, and the manager, Bob Lynch, was diligent in making sure the store was in tip-top condition in all respects. When he caught thieves, he banished them from the store after he delivered a firm scolding. That store is long-gone as are several of the Kroger stores in low-income neighborhoods in Toledo.

Corporate headquarters will not reveal what their plans are for reducing theft; however, I’ve spoken to a few clerks and customers, and anyone who observes large stores — designed to give us shopping options — can see rather quickly what strategies are in place.

High-ticket items are close to the cash registers or even in secured places as in the case of cartons of cigarettes. Cameras are strategically placed throughout the store. Some items have electronic tags.

An associate at a retail store told me this morning that her store uses a sticker of a particular color for items that are difficult, or impossible, to bag. She also indicated that body language is a prime indicator that customers intend to steal. They may take a large number of items in the dressing rooms where they discard tags and hangers as they layer their clothing or stick items in their purses.

A former student of mine is working at a large store, and she indicates, and I concur, that customers can tell store associates when they observe suspicious behavior. She also asks that when associates are attempting to curtail theft, customers need to be more understanding and polite when they are asked to show a receipt or wait for a price to be verified (Someone could have changed the price tag on something you are purchasing, and you just happened to have picked it up).

This former student also indicated that when individuals steal, they are at times sabotaging the plans the store has for making it easier for customers to shop. Examples are bags of water softener or, as spring comes on, heavy bags of fertilizer or other items for your yard work. These are best placed outside the store, making it easier for you to load them. Some thieves may pay for two bags of fertilizer and take three or four, thinking no one will notice. Stores have excellent inventory systems and know what they purchase and what they sell.

Customers have reputations, she says, good or bad. And the bad ones require stores to hire more employees to curtail their thievery. One such store, she told me, has an accounting system , or point system, for those who return items without a receipt. Some thieves at that establishment are so brazen that they even inquire about where they stand with this system so that they can resume stealing and returning items without a receipt. I’d do what the sheriff of the county recommended and get a no trespassing order on them.

In conclusion, I want to have stores in my area so that I can have choices. I don’t want to buy clothing online as I’m tall, and I need to try on clothes for fit before I buy them. I want store profits to go into wages /benefits for employees and store enhancements. I don’t want to subsidize drug habits of those who shoplift to pay their dealers.

Need clothes? Need food? That’s why we have food banks, special assistance programs and organizations to help those in need. Those in need can go to their local library where employees will help them locate services in their area. And library personnel will do so with understanding and respect.