Gallery H
Page 2
Page 3

Wal-Mart Adventures: Store Security

By James Donahue

As the economic crisis descended around us like a thick dark fog and people began losing their jobs, the shopkeepers in our town noticed a major increase in stolen merchandise. The local Wal-Mart started hiring additional security guards after discovering that thieves were walking out of the door with wide-screen televisions, DVD players and other costly items.

We know this because one of the elderly store greeters told us all about it when my wife, Doris, struck up a brief conversation with her as we were entering the store.

While Doris did her shopping I hobbled over to my usual seat on the bench at the front of the store. From there I began watching the usual human carnival that occurs in places like Wal-Mart every day of the week. This day there was an obvious difference. The newly hired security guards stood out like sore thumbs. It was so obvious it was hard to believe they were put on the job without some kind of training.

There were two of them that I saw immediately. One was a middle-aged woman with short cropped hair and stern facial expression. She made herself look like a police officer, even to the point of dressing in a black skirt and white blouse. She patrolled her area of the store pushing an empty shopping cart, her eyes busy scanning every person passing by.

The other was a young man dressed more casually, but obviously hired as a watchdog. He walked the floor as if he were a store manager, although not doing anything more than watching everybody in the store. He even approached me, looked me over and made a friendly comment before passing on. It was easy to see that he, like the woman with the empty shopping cart, was hired for one thing only. That was to catch the shoplifters.

After that first day the security people apparently learned how to go under cover. I now find it harder, but not impossible to pick them out from the real shoppers packing the isles of that store.

Store security people apparently look for a certain profile when they scan for shoplifters. We have always found humor in the fact that my wife, who is extremely meticulous in her shopping, often attracts the attention of the store security. There is usually one if not two security guards pretending to shop but never buying anything within a few feet of her as she works her way through the store.

We have often laughed about the way they spend their time watching Doris read labels the carefully weigh how she wants to spend the money we have for that week, while the real thieves are cashing in on the other side of the store.

There is no humor in the crime of shoplifting, however. It has been a problem for all storekeepers for as long as there have been stores offering things to buy. Now that bad economic times are upon us, the problem is intensifying. This is a crime that affects everybody. It forces store owners to raise prices to compensate for the things that are stolen.

Statistics show that theft not only by casual but professional shoplifters, but by store employees is costing U. S. retailers an estimated $41.6 billion a year, according to the National Retail Federation. The federation says the rate of theft is increasing every year.

Store theft also is shown to be the most common of all property crimes now handled by police and the courts.

To combat the problem stores are not only hiring security people who blend in with shoppers, but they are installing security cameras and one-way glass windows on overhead rooms where people watch the movements of people in the store. They also are resorting to a check-out at the door where customers produce receipts for all of the items in their shopping cart.