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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Check My Bag? No, I think I'll check My Senses Part 2- Why Bag checks don't work in the Inner-City

Last week I wrote about bag checks as retail security in the inner-city and why I thought they were racial profiling. Now I’ll reinforce that data with some interesting facts.

According to national retail statistics, on loss prevention 31 percent of loss is done by shoplifters. However, over fifty percent of those shoplifters are MIDDLE AGED WHITE WOMEN. And another significant percentage of shoplifters are WHITE FEMALE SENIOR CITIZENS.

So why are there so many images of African-Americans shoplifting in the media? And why are so many retailers so eager to target African-American customers as potential shoplifters when they walk into their stores? If these statistics are true, shouldn’t retailers be taking a harder look at middle aged white females and white senior citizens when they come into a store instead of brothers and sisters?

No, because white females are considered the most coveted customer in the United States. They have the most spending power out of any demographic. To alienate this consumer base with such harsh security tactics would put a retailer right out of business. And it has in many cases.

But if most of the shoplifters are middle-aged white women as the data states and white women are more likely to shoplift than any other ethnic group, shouldn’t there be more bag checks in the suburbs? Shouldn’t there be bag check booths at the doors of places like Wal-Mart and K-mart? Target? Macy*s? Sears? Saks Fifth Avenue? Wouldn’t this prevent the crime before it’s committed like it allegedly does in the inner-city?

No, retailers in the suburbs say security tactics like bag check booths wouldn’t be effective in reducing loss at large suburban malls where a majority of white female customers shop. Too many people running around to effectively police whose bag is whose, which could lead to lawsuits. Also, stuff like bag checks seriously disrupts the relaxing environment retailers need to make money. Uncomfortable people who are forced to check bags at the door tend not to spend money. Not to mention the terrorism risk post 9/11. What’s not to stop a bomber from leaving a bag at the bag check booth and detonating it when they left the store in a crowd?

Oh yeah, and White customers would be the first to protest and boycott a retailer who implemented these security tactics at their retailers as Un-American. Many White women would feel these types of practices infringe on their Constitutional Rights as American Citizens. Retailers so fear alienating white female customers they’re actually willing to eat the costs of most losses through their insurance rather than giving them a negative impression regarding their stores or their products. No White American wants to shops at a national retailer who utilizes fascist tactics in policing their place of business, but this type of oppression is okay in the communities of color.

But if most shoplifters are Middle-aged White women shouldn’t sales people follow middle-aged White women around the store the way sales people follow black people around the store because they’re most likely to steal?

No, that would be considered harassment by the customers. Again, retailers do not want to make a customer uncomfortable because it means they’re less likely to spend money with them. Also, giving a customer a bad experience leads to word of mouth that can kill a retailer’s reputation. Not to mention it’s grounds for a lawsuit. According to the law, a retailer’s staff has to actually see the person take the merchandise and leave the store for them to be considered a shoplifter. But tell that to retailers in communities of color.

In addition to shoplifting, other crimes against retailers like credit card fraud, and the passing of counterfeit cash are usually perpetrated by white people than people of color. But if White people commit these crimes more than Black people, Shouldn’t retailers ask them for ID when they use a debit card or Credit card? Shouldn’t they ask them for a $15 minimum purchase? And on college campuses with white students are notoriously known to make “P-notes” with laser printers and flatbed scanners. Shouldn’t retailers check their $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills for legitimacy?

No, because that would be bad for business. And when it comes to credit cards it’s also against the law. That’s right in many states it’s against the law to impose minimums on credit card purchases. It’s also against the law to ask people for identification when they use their credit cards. And it’s not too favorable long-term for a business to scrutinize a white customer’s dollars to check for their legitimacy. Again It’s Un-American to think a good White American would be capable of counterfeiting U.S. currency!

But some paranoid retailers in communities of color think everyone who lives there are out to scam them.

And another fun tidbit? A whopping 41 percent of theft of theft at retailers is actually done by employees! And most of that theft is done before the merchandise even hits the sales floor! That’s right, most employees steal stuff right off the delivery truck because they’re familiar with the shipment schedules and know what merchandise is being delivered to the store. Others slip items out with the trash, and some less savvy employees steal merchandise right off the sales floor!

But in the inner-city it’s customers of color that are seen as criminals first and customers second.

Customers in the inner-city actually count for very little theft at retailers. And when that handful of brothers and sisters do commit these crimes, bag checks are totally ineffective in securing merchandise. A bag check won’t stop shoplifter who uses tactics like smash and Grab, (When a shoplifter smashes a counter and grabs merchandise) Grab and Dash (when a shoplifter takes a bundle of merchandise off a table and dashes out of the store into a nearby car), Crotch walking (when a woman in a long dress puts an object between her thighs and walks out), folded up newspapers (when a shoplifter hides merchandise between the pages of the newspaper), Umbrellas (when a shoplifter hides merchandise in an umbrella) or staged arguments used to divert employees attention while shoplifters who use a combination of these tactics.

Nor are bag checks effective against baby strollers, which are often allowed to pass these retail checkpoints. While everyone in the store is looking at lil’ Precious, Mom is hiding merchandise under the blankets the toys, and even the baby!

Dye packs? Shoplifters freeze the garments, wrap duct tape around the pin and break them with a hammer. And those wonderful magnetic alarms that make all that noise at the door? They don’t go off when a person is wearing a shirt or jacket lined with plain old tin foil.

So does this mean that retailers should do nothing to secure their merchandise? No, it doesn’t. But when retailers use tactics that utilize racial profiling to secure their businesses it actually makes them less safe. While they’re spending most of their time looking at customers of color, employees and white women are walking away with their profits. A comprehensive retail security plan doesn’t look at the color of the customer but the actions that define their character.

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