If you have ever worked in retail then you might be familiar with the practice of Loss Prevention. Loss Prevention is a policy set in place by the store to prevent theft and fraud. Each store has a different set of rules when it comes to this policy but generally they are all the same. The differences in policy practices and procedures can be seen in the size of the store. Each year 11 billion dollars is stolen from retailers large and small and some companies won’t survive from the amount of theft walking out their door. You may hear a common word called “shrink” or “shrinkage” This word is commonly used in retail environments to define any business cost. For example, deliberate human action or inadvertent human action will affect a company’s “shrinkage” count. Inadvertent human action to cause a loss in shrink is usually attributed to employees and customers following or not following poorly executed business practices. Deliberate actions are almost always theft, fraud, vandalism, waste, and misconduct.
When you walk into giant retailers you will find CCTV cameras just about everywhere covering every area of the store even the employee only sections. Companies can choose to monitor these by in house security personnel or contractually through an external security company. Some companies like Costco have a door checking policy where an employee will check the purchases against the receipt and mark them with a special marking indicating that they have passed inspection. This greatly eliminates return fraud, and big warehouse companies have this as a commonplace practice. Some customers feel the amount of security in a store is an invasion of their privacy. Common customer complaints are that they feel violated or invaded because they have cameras watching them, or employees asking to check their bags as they leave. Is any of this legal? Is it an invasion of privacy? Well, yes and no. Depending on the state most companies can put cameras wherever they want to with the exception of the restrooms. Most companies will have the restrooms located after the checkout points and if they are not then signing will be posted to not allow for merchandise to be taken into the restroom.
As long as the practice is voluntary then a business is allowed to check a customer’s bag. They cannot detain a customer and must let a customer go if they refuse. An employee can ask to check a bag if a suspicion of theft has occurred. A bag checker must always be located past the cashier and the employee preforming the bag checking must be looking to see if the cashier correctly rang up the items on the receipt. A properly trained bag checker must know that they cannot detain a customer without cause, or force a customer to consent to a search. For this to be handled correctly and to reduce customer complaints a bag check procedure must become routine just as the checkout process is. Most customers won’t think twice about it if they know it’s a part of the entire shopping process. It is helpful if most business has someone who is non-threatening in appearance and makes the customer feel like they don’t have to or want to comply. Also, if a customer doesn’t like it at all they can always shop elsewhere….this is America.