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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 17-Jan-07


Wednesday 17-January-07 

Stopping shoplifting -- nicely

Theft from retail outlets is a big problem for large and small stores. Security tagging, cameras and so on do help the retailer, but do not stop the determined criminal. Worse, they make the 99% of law-abiding citizens like me and you feel unfairly judged. We are all considered as potential thieves, it seems.

So how could shops dissuade people from stealing whilst not dissuading them from buying?

I came across a wonderful dissuasive method in Wal-Mart in Palo Alto, the de facto capital of Silicon Valley in California. As I entered the store, a little old lady smiled broadly at me and said, brightly, 'Welcome to Wal-Mart!'

What a brilliant strategy! The little old lady could easily be my grandmother -- in fact she looked like a universal Hollywood clone of everyone's favorite grandmother. By welcoming me to the store, it was like welcoming me to her home. And who would steal from their own grandmother? I even found myself putting things back tidily and smiling at other customers.

I don't know if Wal-Mart invented this one and maybe it's not important, but it's a simple and I bet very effective way of cutting crime and protecting profits.

Your comments

How very interesting!

I had a friend nicked for shoplifting in Palo Alto, many years ago.

He was stopped in mid step, as he nonchalantly looked to escape with his ticket to fame, and most daring of the crew status.

These idle dreams were put paid to by a pair of burly and very menacing looking Mexican store security officers at Fry's electronics. After shaking him down quite thoroughly, they apparently led him off in cuffs for a meeting with an officious looking sheriffs deputy.

I suppose every store has its own method of subtle persuasion, and profit protection.

-- Iossef Vassarionovic

 Would it work for young 'thugs' as it were. They might just think it stupid and even if they wouldn't steal from there grandmother they wouldn't think this lady their grandmother.
But it is interesting!

-- Lauren

Dave replies:
A lot of young 'thugs' are actually easily-influence kids who actually do like their grandparents (and probably more than their parents!). There are also the hardened ones who are pretty immune to most dissuasive methods. Fortunately, these are few.

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