How to prevent shoplifting in your optical shop

July 15, 2005

Deterrence is effective only when every staff member pays attention to non-employees in order to deny shoplifters the opportunity to steal.

Dispensing ophthalmologists are concerned with many practice-management issues. Unfortunately, retail crime is not one they often consider.

The rate of shrinkage, or inventory loss, is about three times higher for optical goods than for any other product category-a 7% loss rate, compared with just under 2% for overall retail shrink.

One reason is that frames, contact lens solutions, and so forth are small and easy to conceal. Another is that this merchandise often has a high resale value on the black market.

These criminals burglarize or shoplift the most expensive frame inventory-they know which frames are valuable and steal accordingly.

The burglaries range from unsophisticated "smash-and-grabs" to more calculated occurrences. Shoplifting, however, typically takes place during busy times in the office.

Either a large group or an individual takes advantage of the staff's distraction in order to steal high-value frames. (Other items that are targeted include office equipment, such as fax machines and computers, stereo systems, and medical supplies.)

Security is everyone's job The most effective way of reducing thefts entails explaining the problem to the entire staff and getting them all on board. Once everyone in the office understands the importance of security and is committed to doing their parts to reduce theft, the job is more than halfway accomplished.

The error that many professionals make when it comes to dealing with crime is to assume that security is "somebody else's" job. Good office security is important to preserve the solvency of the practice and to protect everyone who works in the office, as well as the patients.

Because everyone has an investment in a properly secured practice, security is everybody's job.

The staff needs to recognize that shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes-there is no specific "type" of person who is likely to rip off an ophthalmic practice. Shoplifters can be young, old, Caucasian, minority, male, female, mothers, fathers, Girl Scouts, or someone who looks as though he just stepped out of a prison movie.

Forget the stereotypes. The moment someone gets caught up in paying attention to the person who "looks" like a shoplifter, the office is sure to be ripped off by the most unassuming-looking patient there.

Deterrence is effective only when every member of the staff pays attention to non-employees in order to deny shoplifters the opportunity to steal while one employee's back is turned.