Before I started work as a cashier at Banana Republic, I went through training on how to spot a shoplifter. We lose about five items per day, on average, and so the store managers are always looking for ways to cut down on theft. Two things caught my attention in relation to the conversations we had about shoplifters:
1) You can’t judge a thief by the cover. We were warned that shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes, and that looks don’t matter. Instead, we were told to pay attention to body language. We are to be aware of a customer who goes out of her way not to be noticed, stays in corners of the store or crowded areas, looks around for cameras, or doesn’t pay attention to sizes or price tags. By being observant and attentive, you can know a lot about a person. And it has nothing to do with physical appearance, but a desire and patience to understand what the customer needs and wants.
2) Customer service is the best way to avoid crime. As a manager told me, “Just customer service the crap out of them.” Giving customers a lot of attention, letting them know they’re noticed, asking them questions and listening to them can eliminate nearly all theft. Not only does it deter shoplifters (who are looking for a place they can enter and leave without being noticed), but it makes the other genuine customers happy. If we suspect a customer is trying to steal, we have been trained to ask specific, non-accusatory customer service statements or questions. For example, if a customer is walking out of the fitting room area with a BR shirt stuffed in her bag, I could say, “That blue shirt is a great choice. Allow me to steam it for you.”
It struck me that these ideas on how to deal with customers and decrease crime are also good pointers for how to treat people in general life. If someone is out to do wrong, usually a harsh and aggressive approach is not as effective as being polite and aware. Assuming the best in people doesn’t mean being taken advantage of, and often people can surprise us by being not what we expect. We should seek out to understand those we come in contact with, not assuming the worst, but being observant and understanding, wanting to serve them.