Friday, November 17, 2006

Aggressive Security As Deterrence

In one of my past lives I was involved in retail loss prevention as an agent, a suburban-store LP Manager, and finally as Corporate Director of LP. Our company, a high-end retailer, used aggressive policies (I guess the current, more pc term is "assertive") in terms of apprehension and prosecution. For all practical purposes, we prosecuted all adults. This practice has recently fallen into disfavor with many retailers. But the benefits that existed then are still applicable now.

We wanted everyone - other bad guys, honest shoppers, employees, everyone - to know that we aggressively went after people that did bad things in and to our company. And it didn't matter if we were doing externals or internals - an employee caught stealing was treated the same as someone off the street.

What did that policy do to how we were viewed (our "reputation")? Well, among other retailers and among the bad guys who consciously cared about such things, we were pretty much known as the place NOT to go to steal. Among the casual, opportunistic thieves, we taught them a lesson about aggressive LP policies, which paid off as evidenced by the virtually non-existent recidivism rates in our stores (although the same persons were frequently apprehended at other companies. Among our honest customers, we were known as a good place to shop, because we cared enough to actively search out and catch the people who stole and thereby made prices higher. And those same feelings were pretty much mirrored among employees: the honest ones thought we were great, and wanted to help as much as possible, and frequently assisted us (we had a good reward program), and frequently wanted to move from the merchandising side to the LP side. Needless to say, the bad employees didn't much like us, and thought we were too active and aggressive - of course they did, they couldn't take advantage of us as easily as they could some other retailers.

I firmly believe that LP policies and practices generate a "reputation" just as surely as do good prices and value and customer service.

And perhaps it's just a coincidence, but after I moved on from that particular employer, the company (which had been bought by a conglomerate after being an independent for more than 100 years) and my successor (hand-picked by the new owners) started taking a far less aggressive LP attitude. And guess what? The first year after the change, shrinkage more than doubled, and never returned to the low levels that I and my predecessors had achieved.

Hmm.....maybe we few dinosaurs who are left should start propagating, and again rule the planet............ [smile]

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