when a customer thieves


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Jul 28, 2004
marquette michigan
It's never happened yet... but let's say you actually SEE someone stuff something in thier pocket... Would you ask them outright "What did you put in your pocket?" or maybe say "That'll be $4.95 plus tax..." (we carry art supplies)

what would you do?
How 'bout, "Would you like a bag for that?"

In 28 years, I lost a Nikon camera body (when I still sold cameras) and one of a small pair of Raphael cherubs in a nice Roma frame that was hanging too close to the front door.

I figure I was either very lucky or didn't have much worth stealing.
I can give you advice from a store in a mall,

If your local authorities will let you press charges (some will not depending on the $ amount and age of the person), then do so. Once a person steals from you and gets away with it, they will try again and tell others what they got away with.

We se many stores that have huge shrinkage (theft) and they don't know why, yet the never press charges.
Fortunately, we are located about a block from the police department. We have called a few times for a walk through if we were suspicious of a customer.

Although we have missed a few small items, only once have we had someone literally load a bag and a purse. Obviously, this lady had some major problems. The police came, called her husband, and she is never allowed in our store again.

If you don't know the customer but know something was taken, I would get a tag number and call the police. We have been told that you cannot press charges until the person walks out the door with the merchandise.
I should probably wait for Captain English to weigh in here but, regarding the topic title...

Thief is most commonly used as a noun to describe a person who steals(a verb) and thieves would then be a group of people who steal.

A better construction might be "when a customers steals - what to do with the dirty thieves?.

That said, my experience has been much like Ron's and theft has not been much of an issue over the last 20 years.

Saline Picture Frame Co.
I had a very nice, very quiet young female employee. She worked in various locations. One day she was in the downtown mall location and saw a pretty big guy put a Caithness paperweight in his coat pocket. She demanded it back and he ran. She FOLLOWED him, chased him to the mall doors and again demanded it back and he gave it to her. I couldn't believe it! I had to tell her that I was very impressed at her courage but never do it again.

The most often used method of theft involved multiple people. One or more persons will engage any employees in the store with questions about product that are across the store from the area they want to steal from. Then someone else will load up while the employees are distracted or sneak into the back room to look for employee's purses.

And then again I've had people walk out with framed work without paying. Someone brought in something to frame - a very rich developer who is a lousy customer, refuses to leave deposits and leaves her work here forever. Well, we refuse service now. Anyway, she brought something in and we said ok, but you'll need to pay in advance and pay for this now, bringing out her previous piece that was here for months. She very angrily said that she won't prepay while at the same time saying that her previous piece was prepaid - picked it up, picked up her artwork, and walked right out the front door. And boy was she pissed! Go figure.
Best deterent...greet a customer as they enter the store. Indifference from employees fosters theft.

Several personal experiences...

A customer who had been coming in for several years browsing for art supplies and asking intelligent questions on their usage would always buy $ 10.00 - $ 20.00 worth of product. One day he was by the Winsor-Newton watercolor rack just after I had pulled all the tubes to the front of the rack. He had a handkerchief he kept wiping his face with and then stuck back in his pocket. When he came to the counter to pay for two tubes, my gut told me he was stealing. I casually walked over to the rack and noticed three tubes were missing as the first slot was empty. I wrote up the sale for five tubes of paint and he asked why I was charging for five when he only had two. I told him I had to charge him for the three in his pocket. He asked "don't you want my business?" I said, "Not if you're going to steal from me." He never denied having the tubes in his pocket, paid for five tubes of paint and never darkened our doorstep again. He had been stealing for years.

Two very different white guys came in seperately and each engaged a clerk and drew them to far corners of the store. A black guy came in with a basketball under his arm and proceeded to the gift section. The basketball had a slit in it and he proceeded to fill it with expensive Italian pewter plates and other items. We didn't realize we were robbed until we noticed the items missing and reviewed our security tape. The police said they were a gang in the area hitting a bunch of retailers. They were never caught. The only reason I pointed out their race was to illustrate how differing these three were. One was well dressed, one was in shorts and a t-shirt and one was in jeans and a polo type shirt. I would never have associated the three together if it wasn't for the tape and police information.

One more true, but sad sad story...

A mom and dad came into the store with their 5 year old son and eight year old daughter. While the parents engaged the sales clerks on the floor, the kids were stealing the most expensive sable brushes we had on display. I noticed them and called the police who came while they were still in the store. The family was arrested and taken away, but I never heard anything about it again.

Professional thieves usually steal by distraction. Most of us tend to trust people and most people are trustworthy. Thieves depend on our trust and good nature to rob us blind.

It's sad, but true. :(

Dave Makielski

PS I've uncovered more employee theft than customer theft, but that's not the subject of this thread...