Monday, July 21, 2008

Shall I show you to the cash register?

Rachael works as a security officer at a book store; it's one of the big chains, but I won't mention names. She is not an employee of the store, but rather a company that provides security officers.

She came home upset the other night because she had had a run-in with a loss-prevention specialist for the chain. Here's the weird thing; the problem wasn't that Rachael wasn't doing her job, she was chewed out for doing her job too well.

I need to tell you two things before I finish this. First, Rachael worked as a corrections officer, when we lived in the Florida Keys, so she's a fair hand at spotting suspicious behavior. Second, she's been at this store since last November, and in those eight months, her store has gone from having a close-to-average loss rate to having the lowest in the Seattle area.

So, this "specialist" came into the store and headed for music and movies, which is a separate section. She set off the alarm, when she exited a short time later, with five DVDs, and so Rachael, informed her, politely, that all DVD and CD purchases had to be paid for at the music-and-movies register.

A short time later, she walked out without paying for two more DVDs; Rachael followed, at a distance, and watched her drop the cassettes into a tote bag tucked back into a corner. When she moved away, Rachael checked out the tote and found not only the DVDs, but a handful of paperback books and a stack of Manga [Japanese graphic novels].

While Rachael was checking the stash, the woman returned. Rachael asked if the tote was hers and the woman said it was, and then revealed that she worked for the chain as a loss prevention specialist. During the subsequent conversation, she revealed that she had walked out of three other stores that night -- with full bags and without getting caught.

And then, instead of offer congratulations for catching her, she chided Rachael for not doing her "real" job.

"You're supposed to be at the door, greeting people, not walking around the store," she said. "A greeting is our best tactic against theft."

Say what? I always thought the best tactic against theft was to keep thieves away from the merchandise; second best is catching them in the act.

One bright note in all this. The store manager, who was not working the night all this happened, spoke with Rachael the next day, and told her he wanted her to keep doing just what she has been doing.

It's nice to know one member of the company's management team has some sense.