The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

The Shoplifter

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:37 pm on Monday, May 26, 2008

I stumbled upon the scene quite by accident, delivering some papers to the back room. I hadn’t been a pharmacist very long, maybe 2 years or so. She was sitting on the concrete floor with her hands handcuffed behind her back, and was wearing a pink shirt (why do I remember the shirt?). A police officer was standing over her writing something in his pad. Her face conveyed an expression of shameful embarrassment. She couldn’t have been older than 15. It was an awkward moment and I hustled thru quickly. She dropped her gaze when she saw me. She had been caught shoplifting. My employer prosecuted shoplifters and this one was no exception. He was the owner and shoplifting was stealing from his own back pocket in his opinion. Later on, I asked what she was caught stealing…..Makeup. I guess I could have guessed that. What else would a teenager want in a drugstore? Aspirin? At the time I also felt pity for her but now that I think about it, pity is the last thing I should feel.

20 years have passed. So, if she was 15, she is now 35. I wonder if this event altered her future? Did she feel shamed enough to never steal again? Or did she harden her heart and determine to never get caught again? She didn’t look poor. The place that I worked at the time was in a pretty swanky neighborhood–and she was a resident of this neighborhood. I wonder how that first evening back home went when she had face her parents after they learned of her arrest.

Now I work for a corporation. They hire security people that occasionally patrol the store looking for shoplifters. I have no official stats to share with you, only that which the patrollers (who patrol for several companies) have told me. What they told me surprised me:

Most of the shoplifters have money to spend, they just chose to steal. Most of the time they weren’t stealing necessities. They were caught stealing makeup, expensive cuts of meat, wine, beer, and high ticket otc items. They were usually suspected chronic shoplifters that they just happened to catch one day. I can attest that pregnancy tests rate high for theft, because I find empty boxes quite often on the shelf.

Everyday around 3:30, school lets out and a flood of students pour into the store. I don’t know what they are looking for in a drug store, but they hang out, poke fun at items we carry, play with the blood pressure machine, spill their Starbucks on the floor, and occasionally ask me if I have samples of Vicodin they can have. “ha ha, so funny….not” Their presence usually alerts the staff to keep watch. I don’t suppose that students are any more likely to steal than any other population group, but we catch more students stealing than any other group. Maybe we are more attentive when they are there, I dunno.

I do know this, we all pay for it. Everything we buy has some “shrink” included in the price. “Shrink” is that missing product that comes up when we calculate what we buy minus what we sell. The shoplifters have gone high tech too. Some bring box cutters to cut open items that have security features imbedded in the package. Some actually use their kids as a ruse or diversion. Others have been caught being “green” bringing in their own bag, but conveniently forgetting to pay for the items they have self-bagged.

Even our own employees haven’t been immune to the temptation. We tossed one employee who was caught stealing a tea bag. Sounds trivial until you realize they had been watching him for a year. The tea bag was what did him in. Another had been very creative in “refunding”. He was caught when he “refunded” an item that our reports showed we hadn’t sold in a long time. One employee even stole another employee’s cell phone. Geez, how low is that?

I am repulsed now when I hear about these people. Its because of them that I have a camera on my pharmacy 24-7. Its because of them that we have scanners at the door. Its because of them that I can’t hang my coat in the pharmacy anymore. It takes an act of congress to open the cash pan without a sale anymore. “Can you make change for this Ten?” “No, not unless you buy something”.

Its just too bad isn’t it? I often wonder what happened to the pink shirted shoplifter. She was part of the problem. I hope that if she is now raising children of her own, that she is raising them to be part of the solution.

1 Comment »


Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

May 27, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

My Dad was not a pharmacist-owner, but he was an HBA store owner–a pioneer, actually. Growing up around the store, I learned never to feel sorry for shoplifters. What’s surprising is the part about most shoplifting being pathological. With prices these days, I thought it would be done out of a perverted sense of hardship, or even entitlement. The expression “rip off” means, to me, removing something that the taker things someone else can spare, i.e., ripping it off from a larger, more prosperous source than onself.

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