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How to Prevent Theft: In the Dressing Room

Updated on March 1, 2011

Theft prevention, also known as loss prevention, is a vital aspect to retail success. Whether you own your own store, or work at a chain store it's important to know how to prevent theft. There are several ways loss can occur in a store, including at the register, in the dressing room, on the sales floor. This hub will cover theft in the dressing room.

It Starts with Customer Service

Great customer service makes it difficult for a thief to be successful. If you and your employees are attentive and observant, this will deter some theft. Ensure there is always at least one employee monitoring the dressing rooms. If the dressing rooms are self-serve, station an employee near the rooms. Make sure every customer is greeted; this lets them know you have seen them and are aware of their presence. Many thieves will try to slip in unnoticed. Have the employee check on every customer while trying on clothes, letting the customer know there is an employee near.

What Does a Thief Look Like?

Anyone could be a thief! Do not use stereotypes when choosing which customers to observe. Make sure your employees aren't discriminating and that they are providing excellent service to every customer.

What's Your Weakness?

Thieves are smart, and will learn a stores weakness. For example, if the employee working the dressing room needs a restroom break, does someone cover the station? If not this would be a great opportunity for a thief to slip in undetected. Keep an eye out for customers, who are hovering near the dressing room, they might be waiting for an opportunity. Also review your policy on how to help customers who ask the dressing room attendant for help somewhere else in the store. Thieves often work in groups, one distracting the employee, while the other commits the theft. Have a policy where the dressing room attendant does not leave, but instead relays the customer to another employee who can go help.     

How Do They Do It?

Without being too detailed (I don't want to give anyone instructions on how to steal), thieves will steal what is of value to them. This may be the newest clothes, and shoes, or it could be smaller items, jewelry and cosmetics. Many clothing retail stores sell other products, including electronics and trinkets; these can also be considered hot items to a thief. They may try to sneak items into the dressing room under a pile of clothing, and then stuff products in a purse or bag. Though tag sensors will deter some thieves it will not stop them all. It is possible to pop these off using paper clips or pliers. A good way to look out for this is to have the employee listen for any popping noises in an occupied dressing room. Look for people coming out of the dressing rooms with bags or purses that are fuller than when they entered. Also pay attention to what the customer is wearing to make sure she doesn't leave in different clothing.

Keep it Clean

After every customer, the dressing room should be emptied and checked. It's much easier for a thief to hide popped sensors if there is a pile of clothing in the dressing room. Have a designated spot the employee places all merchandise so they can hang and fold items from the dressing rooms.

Lock it Up

If it's possible, consider having dressing rooms that lock so no one can go in without assistance. Make sure the customer does not leave the door parted when they exit, they may be leaving it to come back to later.

Employees Fired For Breaking Company Policy

I've Caught a Shoplifter, What Now?

This is the most difficult part of theft prevention, because now you have the law involved. Check your state laws on what is needed for an arrest of stealing. Some states require you to have visually seen the theft, be able to describe the products and know where the thief has them stashed. Without this information an arrest may not be possible. If any of the information you provide the officers is wrong they might not be able to make an arrest, so it's vital to have accurate information. Since the theft occurred in the dressing room it is almost impossible to supply this information. Ensure every employee understands the company's policy on dealing with a shoplifter. Many company's have in the policy that confronting a shoplifter is not allowed. Ignoring this policy may result in termination.


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    • profile image

      YKPhil 6 years ago

      I own a small clothing store and we are witnessing high incidences of shoplifting, mainly from the fitting rooms. Today, a young lady took 5 expensive shirts and pants from our store. Shoplifters have no conscience and do not realize how much this hurts a small business. Once all our rent, bills and other expenses and taxes are paid, I basically work for less than minimum wage. Today, I basically worked for nothing at all, and I am not exagerating. Reluctantly, we decided to implement a strict policy on the number of items a customer can take in a dressing room, and use a monitoring system. This is sad for us to do, because we genuinely like our customers and trust them, but we now have no choice. To all of you shoplifters out there, please think about the small business people you are hurting. We are not big corporations who make millions of dollars a year, but small business owners who earn much less than sales associates working in a department store or grocery clerks.

    • profile image

      .. 6 years ago

      Oh Justine, I truly hope you didn't go back. I used to work for Macys and I stole from them every chance I got. So did everyone in my department..and what do you know??? Their doors are still open and they are able to cheat customers out of money all year long!

    • profile image

      Justine 6 years ago

      I stole a $30 book from Barnes and Noble. I put it in my purse, put my Beats by Dre on my ears (headphones) and walked out. When the machine beeped, I pretended to not notice hear. I got In my car and before I started the car. I saw an employee rush out writing down my license plate number. I stealthily threw the book on the floor of my car out of sight and stepped out and I asked him if there was a problem. He said I walked away after a machine beeped. I told him I didn't shoplift and this is ridiculous. I said I would follow him into the store and open up my purse. Even after I showed him my purse, he didn't look satisfied and just walked away. I walked out and now I'm getting paranoid. Im fearing that the employee wash convinced and is looking through the surveillance tapes to see if I shoplifted. Should I just go back tomorrow, speak to the manager privately, return the item, and apologize as sincerely as possible? I am a minor and don't want this to go on my record. I definitely will not be doing this again..

      Will they look through the tapes and try to get me arrested?

    • Sarah Griffith profile image

      Sarah Griffith 6 years ago

      This is a tricky question Jadebluegirl. The laws differ state to state on the legality of video monitoring. You may have seen signs before in dressing rooms that alert the customer of monitoring. However it is illegal in all states to videotape in dressing rooms, even for the purpose of loss prevention.

    • profile image

      Jadebluegirl 6 years ago

      I've heard of surveillance cameras in dressing rooms. Isn't that illegal?


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