Technology aimed at reducing rampant shoplifting is far from degrading

He was a Caucasian in his 40s.

Average build. Somewhere between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10.

He had dark hair, wore Dockers-style trousers and a light pastel short-sleeved shirt.

If it sounds like I’m describing a criminal suspect, I believe I am.

It was noon Saturday at Manteca Food-4-Less.

As I was entering the “entrance” that leads directly to the produce department, the man I described was coming toward me, past the central apple display.

I noticed that he had a selection of produce, some canned goods, and things that looked like bread.

There was also a cartoon of plastic milk in the “child’s seat”.

He caught my attention by his somewhat fast pace.

The man passed me as soon as I walked in the door.

It took a few seconds to register.

He didn’t come from my left which is the passage leading from the box office.

None of his belongings were in the trunk.

However, in California paying for a bag doesn’t mean anything, as some shoppers who don’t want to bother with bags or pay for plastic ones will walk out of stores with merchandise without a bag after paying for it. placed back in their carts.

It registered with me after a few seconds. I stopped, turned around and said out loud “I think he just stole those items” just as another shopper was entering the store.

The guy behind me said “huh”?

I repeated what I said as I watched the boy in question reach the edge of the aisle of parked cars.

I ended up doing nothing.

For the next few minutes, I wrestled with it in my mind.

I concluded that in all likelihood he stole the items I also concluded by the time I found a store employee nothing would be done.
I also know that many stores advise their employees not to confront shoplifters.

Besides, even with rampant inflation, the items he left the store with were less than $950, meaning it’s only a misdemeanor in California. This is a citation and a pat on the wrist with a possible light fine if caught and successfully prosecuted.

I could have gone after the guy and asked him if he had paid for the items
I didn’t because I was running on Saturday with a bruised or torn hamstring. But to be honest, I’m not too sure if it wouldn’t have been if I had done anything anyway.

Rest assured that I was probably more to blame for my inaction than the boy was for his action.

Coincidentally, Yahoo News that evening posted an essay titled “Now Grocery Stores Are Punishing Us For Not Buying Anything” by the stunned Laureen Harkawik.

She told a story of a trip to a grocery store in Vermont looking for a specific item with her 18-month-old child strapped in the baby seat in the shopping cart.
When she couldn’t find the item, she decided to leave to go to another store. She crossed the threshold with the baby still in the stroller at what she described as a normal pace when the wheels were locked.

It was an unexpected shock. And while the child was not hurt and a store employee came and “unlocked” the stroller without question, she had problems with the security measure designed to stop shoplifting.

The wheelchair she was using used a device that locks a wheelchair when it crosses a doorway. There are sensors in the baggage collection areas of each checkout lane that disables the locking device after a scan of less than 30 seconds.

Her meat included the following items:

*There was no way for customers to return a cart to the carts located outside the store without the help of a store employee if people decided not to buy anything.

*If there was an incident where there was a fire, an active shooter, or some other emergency where people had to leave the store, it would jeopardize their safety, especially if they were pushing a child in a stroller.

*She did not believe the cost of the technology was paying its way in terms of the losses it prevented,

*This makes the shopping experience “degrading” not only for shoppers that employees have to “run” and free shoppers’ carts that are locked at the door.

Stores have become low targets for shoplifters.

This includes professionals who steal items for resale to support drug habits and such, and amateurs who often claim to get a bigger fee from the theft process than anything else.

While specialty grocers like Whole Foods, Sprouts Market and such have profit margins of 5 to 15 percent, mass market grocers like Safeway and Food-4-Less have 1 to 2 percent profit margins. This is data collected by the National Retailers Association.

Retail stores in 2020 lost $3 billion through shoplifting. That’s $35 million a day according to the National Shoplifting Prevention Association.

This translates to 2.2 percent of gross revenue for stores.

That’s higher than the 1 to 2 percent profit margin for supermarkets, which have the lowest profit margins in the retail industry.

The shoplifting prevention group also claims:

*There are 27 million shoplifters in the United States.

*More than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the past five years.

*Three quarters of all shoplifters are adults.

*Many shoplifters steal items during the same visit that they are purchasing items.

*Shoplifters say they are caught on average only once in every 48 times they shoplift. After being caught, they are handed over to the police only 50 percent of the time.

*About 3 percent of shoplifters are professionals who resell what they steal for cash. They account for 10 percent of the total dollar value of all shoplifting each year

*Habitual shoplifters shoplift 1.6 times a week on average.

It is clear that the technology is the best that defense shops have, as well as vigilant customers.

A few years ago, while standing in line at Target, a woman in front of me placed a number of items on the conveyor belt to be scanned.

I noticed that she was missing a pair of sandals on the bottom shelf of her shopping cart. I brought it to her attention.

She glared at me, grabbed the sandals and tossed them onto a candy rack as she told me with contempt dripping in her voice and an icy look, “I didn’t want those goddamned sandals anyway.”
I didn’t think he was stealing them.

I just thought she was noticing them when she unloaded her cart.

After her response, I’m pretty sure I was the strange stranger who ruined her plans.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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