While running errands with my children this past weekend the topic of shoplifting came up. When I said that just about anyone could be a shoplifter, my youngest daughter decided to challenge me. "How about that woman over there," she asked. I replied that it's possible but unlikely. "How about that old man there?" I repeated my response of possible but unlikely.
Then she smiled and said with that gotcha look, "How about Santa Claus? Santa couldn't be a shoplifter, could he?" Then I smiled, because I knew I had a blog posting!
Santa as a shoplifter. Now there's an interesting concept. And, in fact, Santa would make a great shoplifter if he decided to turn to crime. Think about it.
1. You'd never suspect him. The people you suspect the least are some of the most productive (from their perspective) shoplifters. Your regular customer could be a shoplifter. Your neighbor could be a shoplifter. That woman or old man my daughter pointed out could be shoplifters. Yes Virginia, even Santa could be a shoplifter. That's why we should never attempt to identify shoplifters by what they look like, but by how they're acting in the store.
2. Santa's bag is perfect for shoplifting. Empty, or nearly empty, large bags are the perfect tools for the shoplifter. In a matter of seconds a person can go from browsing to stealing by dropping the products they're looking at into a shopping bag.
3. Santa wears bulky, over-sized clothes. Another way shoplifters steal is by hiding products under their clothing. Customers wearing oversized coats, especially if other people are not wearing coats or at least carrying them, could be doing so for nefarious reasons.
4. Santa could have a very effective method for distracting sales associates. Shoplifters often work in teams and have one person distract the employees while the other steals products. Imagine if Santa was in the store and in walked six elves. Santa could steal a store blind in all the distraction of an elf invasion.
Now for a few reasons Santa would make a bad shoplifter.
1. Santa would never be left alone to steal. Shoplifters are always quick to decline help since they want to be left alone to do their dirty work. That's why great service is the best deterrent to theft. Since everybody wants to talk to Santa he would never be given a chance to steal.
2. Those gloves make it tough to palm products. Shoplifters steal small products by palming them so employees and cameras don't see them holding the products and then placing them in their bags/pockets. Santa does have some huge pockets for dropping products in to but I'm thinking the gloves would make it pretty tough.
3. It's Santa! While there seems to be less civility in the world today, I'm sure the real Santa isn't a shoplifter. Then again, there are a lot of other Santas out and about at this time of year.
Remember this: Customers act in a particular manner before stealing. Employees who act in a particular way are most likely to deter them. If you remain keenly aware of who is in your store and what is taking place, and deliver an outstanding one-to-one experience, chances are the dishonest customer will move on to the next store.
Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group LLC, a proven retail and customer experience firm that works with progressive retailers and other customer-focused companies.