Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alarming Developments

by Stephanie Black

I find it embarrassing when I set off store alarms. Not that I make a hobby of setting off alarms, but it has happened numerous times. And in most cases, the only person it seems to bother is me. If any store employees are bothered, they politely keep their opinions to themselves, even as the alarm beeps the message that I might be escaping with the Crown Jewels tucked in my purse. When an alarm goes off, I usually hesitate and look around to see if any employees are charging toward me waving police batons. If no one seems interested, I go my way, feeling like a fugitive.

What’s the point of having an alarm if no one reacts when it goes off? Case study: my oldest daughter and I were at the mall several years back. We wandered in and out of stores, purchasing things and browsing. Then alarms started going off. We’d walk into a store and the alarm would sound. We’d leave the store and the alarm would sound. We rooted through our bags, trying to find a security tag left on a blouse or something. Finally, after setting off multiple alarms, we found the problem—a security tag attached to a ring my daughter had purchased. With all the alarms we set off, not to mention our shifty eyes and ski masks, you’d think someone would have approached us at some point. But they didn’t.

Today I went to the mall with my two-year-old daughter to pick up some software at a computer store. I made my purchase, sailed merrily out of the store and headed back toward our car. I’d parked outside Sears, so I went back into Sears. When I crossed the threshold, a noisy alarm went off. Hmm. No alarm had gone off when I left the computer store; what was Sears’ problem? But no employees approached me. I walked through the store and set off the alarm again at the exit door. In fact, I set it off three times—step out, step in, step out. If anyone cared, they weren’t fast enough about it, so my toddler and I headed out to the car and drove to our criminal lair, cackling all the way.

I’m assuming that stores simply don’t have the money to hire employees to linger near the exits and deal with everyone who sets off the alarm. Wal-Mart is an exception. They often do have someone near the front and I have been stopped at Wal-Mart a couple of times. Maybe I should quit dressing all in black and carrying a flashlight and a coil of rope when I shop.


At 2/28/2007 5:28 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I also find it strange how in dressing rooms, if there is an attendent, they'll carefully count how many items you have to try on and even give you a little tag with that number on it.

But, when you leave, do they re-count? No. If the idea is to stop shop lifting, what good does it do to count on the way in and not on the way out. Someone walks in with 5, sticks 3 into her diaper bag, takes the remaining 2 items out hands the tag to the employee and walks off.

No one would stop you! (Note, I do not recommend this at all.)

At 2/28/2007 8:27 PM, Anonymous Cameron said...

There are a number of problems with LP (Loss Prevention, as it is called in the retail biz) for small stores (and big ones, I guess too). First and foremost is that even if a shoplifter is identified, all the employees can do is call the cops; legally they can't physically detain the shoplifter (though they can ask), and most stores have a policy of not following a shoplifter out into the parking lot, because there have been cases where either the employee has been hurt (or killed) or the shoplifter has been hurt and sued.

So why does nobody react to the alarm? That I don't know; I know in the store in which I work that we are to ask everyone in the entry way to walk through the gate thingy again and ascertain the reason why it went off; however, due to the reasons listed above, they are perfectly able to just walk right out and not heed our pleas to stop. The most we can do is get a liscense plate number (if they have a car) and call the cops; which doesn't lead to anything. So, yeah, there you go.

At 3/01/2007 12:28 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Cameron, thanks for the info. I had no idea that stores were so limited in what they could do in confronting shoplifters, but it makes sense that it would be dangerous for employees to tangle with someone intent on getting away.

At 3/01/2007 10:43 AM, Anonymous Josi said...

Car alarms are the same thing when was the last time you heard an alarm and fumbled for your cell phone? We become accustomed to these things and they lose their power, kinda like "If you don't clean your room I'm mailing you to china--parcel post!"

but I didn't know the stores couldn't detain you or even search your bag--but I guess knowing there's an alarm will deter a certain group of people from trying to walk out with that Barry Manilow album.

At 3/02/2007 5:42 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Wouldn't it be something if it turned out that they went off every so often, like every 50th person or so, just to warn other shoppers that hey, we have an alarm, and maybe to catch the occasional unintentional shoplifter? But then they'd have a different sound for when a hot item does go through and then the SWAT team would materialize and take down the shopper!

Yeah, I know, that's why we're into fiction!

Alternate plan: instead of a buzzer going off, how bout if they blared a single recorded word: WOLF!

(no, I don't know how my wife puts up with me)

--FHL, still having trouble posting


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