Contrary to what you may have thought from reading this blog, there is a lot more to Walmart than evil customer stories. In my entry which was chosen as an Editor's Pick, one of the fine folks who commented pointed out that a large portion of the People Greeter's job was catching thieves and I thought I might address that subject tonight.
It is true that the position of People Greeter was created as an aid to what use to be called "Loss Prevention"; a euphemism for stopping theft. About three years ago some Home Office PC vocabulary deputy decided that the term, "Loss Prevention," had too many negative connotations and put forth the idea that from then on "Loss Prevention" should be changed to "Asset Protection." You see the difference?
Now we are merely PROTECTING our Assets, where before we were PREVENTING theft and God forbid we should prevent anyone from doing anything in this Politically Correct, We-got-rights, world in which we live.
The job itself has evolved and changed over the years as well. Now the AP officer has certain rules he must follow in order to make a successful apprehension of a shop-lifter.
First of all he/she must actually SEE a shop-lifter take something off the shelf and hide it on their person or in their handbag. Then they have to follow the suspect without being spotted, until the suspect has exited the store. That means through the inner-doors and the outer-doors and are outside the building before they can stop them and demand the merchandise back. If, at any time during the following process, the AP officer loses sight of the suspect even for a few seconds, they are not allowed to stop them.
If the shop-lifter SEES the AP officer following them and then reaches into their bag and removes the merchandise they had planned to steal, and drops it on the floor....the AP officer can do nothing to them.
Now even after the offender is caught stealing, if the amount of the thief is under a hundred dollars, all the cops do is write them a ticket and turn them loose. If the offender is under the age of 17, the cops will do nothing.
I know some AP officers who are more interested in merely scaring the offender off and making them dump their loot rather than try to make an actual arrest that will stand up in court. At least they have kept the merchandise from being stolen.
Now as to the duties and responsibilities of the People Greeter in the Asset Protection program, our roles have changed over the years also.
Some, but not many, stores do check every receipt that goes out the door, but most stores don't have the man-power to achieve this. It takes two people on each door. One to greet the customers, check in returns, hand out shopping carts and electric carts......and one to check outgoing customers. Normally, most stores have one person at the door at any given time, not two, unless it is a special day like Blitz Day or the day after Christmas....or any other holiday.
That ONE greeter is still required to greet customers, check in returns, hand out shopping carts and electric carts AND stop anyone who sets off the alarm AND check large items not in bags. I can tell you from experience that when we get a couple of hundred people in the store, the Greeter is often times busier than a one-legged man in an ass- kicking contest.
Now if someone exits my door and sets off the alarm....but they have no bags, nothing in their hands and no visible purchases....I AM NOT ALLOWED TO STOP THEM! I can not stop them and demand they empty pockets or purses. I can not in any way search them. If that person does not stop, but walks outside the building...I AM NOT ALLOWED TO FOLLOW THEM. I am not allowed, under any circumstance short of defending my own life, to lay hands on any person. That is grounds for immediate termination.
If I stop someone and they have no receipt for the items they are trying to get out the store with, I can NEVER indicate, by word or action, that I believe they are trying to steal the items....that is grounds for immediate termination.
Let me give you an example which happened to me a couple of months ago.....
We were very busy...first of the month...and I was at the door alone. A man walked up near the exit door and stopped. He was pushing a cart with a flat-screen tv in it. He stopped and watched me. The minute a customer walked in and handed me a large bag of returns to process, the man made a bee-line for the door.
I had seen the guy and was watching him as best I could and when the customer with the returns walked up to me, I expected the other man to make a try for the door, so I dropped the returns in a cart, stepped over to the exit and asked the man, very politely, to see his receipt.
He fumbled around in his pockets then said: "Oh, I think my wife has the receipt, let me go get it for you."
I nodded and smiled and told him to go right ahead and I would keep his TV safe over next to me at the entrance. The man walked hurriedly away and I was not surprised in the least when I saw him make his way to the other end of the store and exit through THOSE doors without his TV.
Now if you had spent $800 on a Flat-Screen would you leave it in the store and get in your car and drive off? But I was not allowed to call this man a thief...no siree. Who knows, his wife might have already gone to a different state and he would be back to claim his TV as soon as he found her and the receipt. You see, had I called the man a thief, even after he left, and he found out about it, he could sue Walmart for defamation of character and won a court settlement....THAT HAS HAPPENED TOO.
So you see, there is very little we can actually do to stop theft in the store. One of the main deterrents to theft in Walmart is the camera system. There are hundreds of cameras all over each Walmart which constantly monitor the traffic flow inside the store. They watch not only the customers, but the employees and I for one, am glad of it. I have, at any given time, at least five cameras on me throughout the day at the front door and they catch every thing I do, from four or five different angles. I have found this to be a great help for me personally.
I have had people who leave their purses in the carts and the purses are turned in to me and I then have to take them to customer service to our lost and found. On a couple of occasions I have had people come in to claim their lost purse and claim that I must have stolen all the money they had in that purse. They claimed to have had hundreds of dollars missing.
All I have to do is tell the APO to run the tape back and watch as I take the purse from the cart to customer service. They have it all right there for anyone to see. Personally I love having those cameras watching me.
The cameras are also a big help in catching employee theft. One report I have read stated that fully one-third of all theft in any large retail store is done by employees. It is not just the customers who steal, not by a long shot.
So you see, catching thieves is not as easy as one might think and there is a reason your people greeter at your local Walmart has to sometimes check items as you leave. It's not that they think YOU are a thief, but there are real thieves out there and it is those people who make it hard on all the honest people who shop at our stores.