Added by on 2012-09-26

Sniffing out shoplifters

When it comes to security, the biggest thorn in the retail industry’s side has to be shoptlifting.

Small business owners should have a definite policy regarding shoplifters. A store with a reputation for good security and a tough prosecution policy is a less likely target.
Although the average loss may be small, the amount of lost stock, and in turn money, can add up.

It is unrealistic to think you can stop all shoplifting, however you can limit your losses.
A keen eye and knowing what to look for is important. The following are pointers:

Watch the customers’ hands and eyes. Fleeting eyes and trembling hands often indicate a shoplifter.

Watch customers who wander around the store trying to avoid staff attention.

Watch for people wearing baggy clothes or heavy outer garments, particularly out of season.

Ask that all bags, boxes, cases, etc. be inspected before customers leave the store.

Watch for customers who try to distract staff from a particular part of the store. Often an accomplice will do the stealing.

Checking customer bags

One way of deterring would-be shoplifters is to conduct bag searches. A customer should know before they enter a store that they are liable for bag inspections upon departure.

Customers entering a business which displays a sign are effectively consenting to this as a condition of entry. Whether the customer has seen or read the sign doesn’t matter as long as the sign is there and can be seen clearly. An example sign:


However, the rules surrounding bag searches vary from state to state. For instance, in WA, if a business doesn’t have a sign displayed it cannot insist on searching someone’s bag.

However, the South Australian Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA) ( says businesses are quite within their rights to conduct bag searches and customers are also within their rights to refuse such a request.

If you ask to search customers’ bags and they refuse, you may:

  • Ask them to leave
  • Refuse to sell them any goods
  • Call the police if you believe they have been shoplifting.

Remember: Avoid accusing customers, directly or indirectly, of stealing. If you are wrong you could face legal action.

OCBA has the following tips on how to handle a possible shoplifting situation.

Monitoring a suspect:

Before apprehending a customer, be sure that the merchandise has not been paid for.

Know what has been stolen.

Be sure the customer has not disposed of the merchandise.

Wait until the suspect has left the store.

Approaching a suspect:

Try to have someone present as a witness.

Remain calm and identify yourself.

Never touch or search the person otherwise you may break the law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *