• Fri, Mar 2 2012

You Can Shoplift All You Want From Gap

winona ryder shoplift

I learned how easy it is to shoplift the summer before I left California for college in New York City. Although I still believed that wearing flip flops all year-round was both cute and possible in all parts of the country, I figured it wouldn’t hurt my style or bank account to know a little about fashion retail from the inside. I took the first position I was offered at the local outdoor mall: a sales associate at a Gap Inc. owned retail store.

The first day was an orientation to the company for the group of recent hires, a gaggle of well dressed young ladies there to please their parents with a summer job and motivated by the promise of a ridiculous discount at all Gap Inc. stores. The manager showed us a video of a Gap Inc. CEO touring a well lit factory of healthy smiling workers stitching away at cargo pants, gave us a neat list of what to wear (no jeans except on Fridays, ladies!) and advised us on an acceptable number of accessories to own (a funky scarf or pin can take an outfit to the next level!). Then it got serious: A thick pamphlet on Theft Prevention.

According to Gap Inc. policy, sales employees are not allowed to stop a shoplifter (even if you saw them put that silk camisole down their pants), they can only “prevent it”.

Some ways to prevent shoplifting are:

  • If you suspect someone of theft, stand awkwardly close to them and fold sweaters furiously, smiling all the way.
  • If you see someone take something, lets say some tweed trousers, casually suggest an item to go with it. Ex: “This green cashmere turtleneck would look positively sexy-librarian paired with those tweed trousers you have in your bag right there.”
  • If the door alarm goes off, firmly suggest you take a look in their bag, just to make sure they won’t set off another alarm somewhere else. If they refuse, there is nothing you can do about it, even if the stolen leather wallet is sticking out of their bra.

Gap Inc. factors in the price of stolen goods into their business plan, so the amount of money lost on a stolen sweater or pair of shoes, though obviously well made in pristine factories,  would be much less than the cost of a lawsuit put up by a customer that was wrongly accused of stealing.

It’s been a few years. Maybe the rules  have changed. Maybe the rules are different for different stores. Maybe Gap Inc. just gives its employees this information so more Gap Inc. products can be stolen and worn, thus perpetuating the wear-ability of Gap Inc. products. [tagbox tag="stealing"]

Either way, if you choose to shoplift from Gap Inc., remember these three things:

  1. Smile at the employees so they won’t expect anything.
  2. Say thank you to every suggestion they give. Maybe even try on that turtleneck and say that it makes your neck a bit itchy, but it’s super cute, thanks!
  3. If you hear the door sensor beep, keep walking. Fast. And never look back.

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  • El

    She’s absolutely right. I was a manager at Old Navy (owned by Gap,) and we couldn’t do a single thing. And trust me: most shop-lifters know this. I actually had a woman walk up to me, shake some clothing in my face and say, “I’m going to take these and you can’t do anything about this.”

    And she was absolutely right. All I could do was tell my manager.

    As a note, most Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic stores are located in malls…and are good friends with neighboring stores who *can* do something about it. We had several stores on speed dial whenever we were hit.

    • Stella

      I was wondering…could you call the mall security once the shoplifter left the store? Could a stand-alone Gap call the cops (the shoplifter would be long gone, of course, but…)? Could you stop a known shoplifter from entering the store?

  • Lia

    When I worked at Urban Outfitters (it’s true! And it was less awful than you might expect!) we had to follow a nearly-identical set of guidelines. I stopped a shoplifter exactly one time, by tailing her around the store awkwardly until she “dropped” the sweater she had tucked under her coat.

    For employees, the rules of the game are a little different. We were checked head-to-toe every time we left the store, whether we were ending our shift or just shopping around. Coats, sweaters, boots went off, bags were emptied on the floor. Had to be performed by a manager directly inside the front doors, lest we be checked somewhere more discreet and then sneak something into our thief-pouches-come-shoes on the way out. Given what their stats on employee theft used to be, I’m not surprised that the policy was in effect- and it does seem to be working. Maybe it deters other would-be shoplifters by taking place in plain sight? Like, “let that poor spectacle of a girl remind YOU to never be suspected of stealing watery nail polish!”

    • porkchop

      I got searched at Urban, as a customer.

    • Stella

      Ha, I saw this happen at Urban the other day. I was wondering why the employee was being so friendly to the suspected shoplifter as she rifled through her purse, but then I realized that the “suspected shoplifter” was actually just a fellow employee getting off work, undergoing her daily humiliation.

      I’m sure it works, but sheesh, what a disrespectful, morale-bruising policy.

  • sl

    This is a common policy in most retail stores for the safety of the workers… Gap does not want to be held liable when you grab someone’s arm to stop them and they pull a gun on you.

    • LCT

      I worked on the BabyGap floor for a year and a half, and that’s what we were told as well. Our store was in a high end shopping area, but tended to attract a HUGE cross-section of people, so they were really careful about ensuring that no one got attacked as a result of a confrontation. It apparently happened once on my floor shortly before I was hired: a very gutsy employee stopped a shoplifter and got punched in the face!

      Our loss-prevention gal was pretty active at our store, though, and she worked with the city police a ton. I remember her talking about a sting operation once.

  • Lisa M

    When I was in retail management at a bookstore, I made sure to make it clear to my employees that stopping a shoplifter was not worth them getting hurt, because if they got hurt, I had to do the paperwork that something was shoplifted AND paperwork for them getting hurt on the job. The best that we could do is write down the description of the customer for mall security and keep an eye on them.

  • Tris

    I worked in retail for over a decade, and yes, you’ll find this is the case with every major retailer. Companies are more worried about potential lawsuits or an associate getting injured or killed in a confrontation gone wrong. I was told that if I noticed someone shoplifting, to go over and “customer service them to death”. I learned to be pretty aggressive about my “customer service” towards shoplifters. It worked, sometimes. I couldn’t actually stop them, but I could make them pretty damn nervous.

    I found it more frustrating that management would focus so intently on potential employee theft, and all but disregard actual shoplifters. Someone can push a flat screen TV out the front doors in a shopping cart with a jacket haphazardly thrown over it. But if an employee tries to use their discount AND a coupon? Fired.

  • Goldie

    Here’s a flip: A friend of mine worked a Lowes for a summer and if an employee stopped a shoplifter Lowes would give the employee the retail value of the recovered item(s) as a bonus. My friend stopped a dude trying to ride a lawnmower out of the store and earned a few extra hundred dollars on her check.

    At the time I thought it was brilliant– but looking at it from Gap’s POV this strategy sounds totally fucked up.

    I worked at a small department store for about 5 minutes in college and they encouraged us to stop them too. I’m pretty sure the whole chain went out of business.

  • NotThumper

    I worked at GapBody and yes, this is all true. As others have said it is also true in most stores.
    My last retail job was several years ago and it was for Bath & Body Works. The location I was in was hit ALL THE TIME.
    (Right, you there with your loud friends who all have HUGE purses…you’re not obvious, nope, not at all!)
    There was a story about a woman who came in and had put several candles in her purse. When the associate went to “customer service her to death” she could hear them obviously clinking together in the overstuffed bag. Of course there was nothing she could do and the thief left the store to go into another next door. Well the employee was PISSED so she marched over to the registers, clocked out, and walked over to the next shop. She pointed to the thief and in a very loud voice proclaimed “That woman just shoplifted candles from Bath & Body Works!”
    I’m not sure what happened after that but I always thought the story was awesome.

  • Sally

    This all makes sense now…I was in a Gap on a busy street a few months ago with a friend and a homeless man came in with a garbage bag and swiped all the jeans off the front display with an employee right there and walked out. All the employee did was say “can I help you? excuse me sir?”. I was confused at the time but now I know they have this policy…

  • Jill

    I worked at an Old Navy fairly recently, and while regular employees weren’t allowed to stop anyone – we were just supposed to awkwardly say nice things about what we thought they were stealing – there was a whole loss prevention team, with an office and security cameras and stuff, who we could notify if we caught someone stealing. And they totally went after people, even if they left the store – sometimes they literally chased them through the mall.

    Female employees like me even had to sit in when the LP dudes caught lady shoplifters, to make sure they didn’t threaten or harass the shoplifters. Do most Old Navys not do that or something? Admittedly the one I worked in was in a large urban mall known for having tons of shoplifting, so maybe it was an exception rather than the rule?

  • Jessica

    Years ago I worked at Montgomery Ward and they had the same policy. We could call the manager who might choose to call police, but that was it. They were too worried about a potential confrontation or liability issues.

    I also worked at PetSmart and their policy is very similar. If you think someone is stealing you’re supposed to just stand by them and ask if they need help and keep giving them information about everything they’re looking at.

  • Niki

    How is this news? Anyone who has worked retail for even 5 minutes of their life knows that you aren’t allowed to stop a shoplifter. You can report them to security, but you can’t do anything yourself. Its simply too much of a liability to the store.

  • Tania

    I don’t know how it is in the United States, but in Canada, if a store employee or even a mall security officer stops a shoplifter and doesn’t allow them to leave, the shoplifter can then take them to court for false imprisonment.

    Yes, even if the person shoplifted, the person who detained them can be arrested and taken to court twice, for both the government v. the detainer, and the shoplifter v. the detainer.

    • Odbery

      Are you sure about this? Just two years ago my friend was caught shoplifting a bag of candy from a Walmart in Ottawa. Myself and two others were with him but had no idea he slipped it in his bag, and were still stopped at the door, threatened into the back room by security and forced to wait for an hour and a half for our parents (we were 17) and the cops to show. Luckily the officer who came thought the whole thing was ridiculous and gave the actual shoplifter a warning while letting the rest of us off with nothing. Walmart on the other hand banned us all from every store in the country for the rest of the year. No idea how they’d actually check that, and none of us would ever want to go back, but they wouldn’t let us leave until we signed a contract saying we’d stay away.

      I’m not sure if our age had something to do with it or if Walmart has some legal immunity deal worked out, but some stores will definitely keep you from leaving.

    • Tania

      Yep, 100% certain, just took a law course (business law, so it’s relevant). The professor told us to never detain anyone, because if they sue, then you’re in trouble.

      Your friend could have taken them to court for it. The onus to prosecute is on the “victim.”

    • Tania

      Or rather, your friend, the shoplifter, had nothing to go on. I just re-read my chapter, and I was mostly wrong. If they had actual proof the person shoplifted, they can hold them. But they didn’t have authority to hold the rest of you.

      So, the shoplifter, yes, but you and your other friend could have (and should have, it’s Wal-Mart!) taken them to court for it, since suspicion itself doesn’t give them the authority to detain you.

  • Maris

    This happens at every retailer. It is sort of silly but my manager once explained that shoplifters could be armed and/or dangerous. Just as well to ask them “would you like to a skirt to match that cute cami you have in your bag?”

    I also worked at an upscale workout clothes store where we had an “honor system” with our customers. Nothing had censors. We didn’t count items in the fitting room. Great.

  • Amber

    I am legally bound by the company is work for to not respond to this article. ;)

  • Grace

    Wow, retail in Australia is so very different. Our security teams seem to have a lot more power, they can and will detain people. Retail staff cannot use physical force, but they can do things like block an exit. We can also ask to see inside anyones bag, and although we cannot reach in we can request for them to move or remove items. If somebody declines then you better believe exits are blocked until security gets there. I’ve busted more than one shoplifter personally and been involved in the detainment of more than I can count. To do any of this you have to be absolutely 100% sure they have nabbed something. While waiting for security, or after busting somebody who handed over the goods but didn’t leave the store, I’d just follow them around and talk out loud to myself about those horrible, selfish, self-entitled people who chose to steal from small businesses. Oh and my name is Grace, I will be the person whose wages are cut because of your theft today, your welcome! (note: my wages were never cut, but laying some guilt on doesn’t hurt)

  • D.

    Wow, glad to know that people aren’t just being extra friendly when they keep asking if I need help with anything when I go to the Gap. I haven’t shoplifted in my life, yet I can walk into a store dressed to my yuppie perfection and still get repeatedly asked, “Can I help you?” “Anything in particular?”. I love the store, but after reading this and the comments I can’t help but think maybe they don’t love me so much back. If ya’ll don’t mind me asking, what do they tell you a shoplifter “looks like”? Sometimes I do get that feeling they aren’t just being polite, but I don’t want to jump anybody’s case for no reason.

    • Tris

      I don’t know how other retailers do it, but we were never told to look for a specific “type” of person, just to look out for certain behavior. There are red flags. Large purses are one, or wearing a big puffy coat. Grabbing a lot of one kind of merchandise, like jeans. I always made sure to keep an eye on the people who were keeping an eye on me. They hate that.

      I’ve been to a few other stores where I got the Customer Service treatment. And I know I don’t “look” like a shoplifter, but I do carry a large purse. It’s a little aggravating, but then I remind myself that I had that job once, and it was shitty. So please think of that before jumping anyone’s case at The Gap. They’re just doing their job. :)

    • nanay

      Honestly we are not suspicious of everyone! (although we should be, it’s those you’d least suspect!) At least at my store, we are there for the customer. And it is our duty to make sure every customer is helped on the sales floor, which is probably why every employee tries to help you- they are just doing their job!! :)

  • Eileen

    I didn’t work at the Gap, but I did work at the Limited (back when it was still owned by the same company that owned Express, Victoria’s Secret, and Bath and Body Works). I think we were supposed to call mall security? But yeah, definitely the reason for all the extra customer service.

    On the plus side, explaining the reasoning made my boyfriend less annoyed by salespeople who ask him questions/offer help he doesn’t want.

  • Miss C

    Wow, I thought we in the UK had bad legislation regarding self-defence compared to the US, but with this it looks like the other way round – I’ve seen shoplifters physically marched back into stores (holding upper arms-type marching) a few times over the years, usually by one security guard plus a staff member or two. And if you get busted, the police automatically search your home, no matter what you stole.

  • OfficiallyRacistMOFO

    nope, still the same. I got threaten by a nigress today stealing and following the procedures you mentioned above and the manager did nothing. So I will be talking with the district manager tomorrow and hopefully she will do something about it. If not, I will have to take matters into my own hands. I will probably be fired but this job is not worth it anymore. The same shoplifters come and take stuff but yet no one cares to call the police because of the policies. Then Gap tells me that they have to cut hours for employees because they are not making sales. WTF?? Yesterday while I was coming to work, 4 niggress each ran out with a full bags of clothing. So I’m officially now racist. I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore. The shit we have to deal with everyday is no longer worth it. I have another job now and thank god I no longer have to deal with these obnoxious nigger shoplifters.

    • Sam man

      I love you so much, I’ve been there for 1 1/2 years and they say in the training video that you can’t spot a shoplifter, they can be anyone, but that’s not true because almost all shoplifters are fuckin coon niggers. I like black people but I fuckin hate niggers

    • Shaun smith

      Very true. Unfornatally i work there too

    • Shaun smith

      Its so true all of it!!!

    • RACIALPREJUDICEISNTFUNNY

      suspecting someone who was black to be shoplifting BECAUSE they were shoplifting = not racist. Calling women of color ‘nigress’ NOT OKAY. Prick,

    • NiggaSlappa

      I agree. They’re “vcking niqqers”, not “negress”.

    • BRITT

      very very rude. every race shoplifts! now you’re a racist because you saw a few plack people stealing? RIDICULOUS!……out of millions of blacks you are racist because of a few people? WOW.

    • Erica

      I think that you had a bad experience with a few bad seeds and I can understand why. BUT where I work it’s whites that did A LOT of shop lifting. Am I racist? No because I would sound like one ignorant motherfucker to say, “I fucking hate crackers they’re trailer trash thieves” That wasn’t nice, was it?
      Simply, there’s bad seeds in every race, it’s possible there are more bad seeds in a race than others DEPENDING on where you live because like I said it’s whites to do most of the shop lifting where I live so just remember that.

    • Black and Proud

      Fuck you crackerjack. Hating black people won’t make your penis any larger. May you die a painful death and your followers.

    • MassaDave

      There’s two kinds of niggers, boy.
      Ones with criminal records and ones that the po-po haven’t caught yet.
      Just a matter of time before you greasy spooks get sent to nigger university for 2 to ten.

  • nanay

    Things have not changed…. Now Old Navy sells video games so the crackheads can come in and jack those. And god forbid you ask someone for their damn receipt or ID for a store credit because then you are accusing them of stealing.

  • ihateshoplifters

    I used to work for the GAP and it was so annoying watching people steal so I just started reaching into their bags and grabbing the stuff back. I now work for a smaller store and I will follow people out/calling the police on my cell phone and have them arrested. Its the best feeling ever. Most of the people I have caught are 30-50 and rich. I’ve arrested 7 people so far. Sucks to shoplift at my store. :)

    • aevog

      nigger

    • Erica

      You’re so pathetic lol

    • aevog

      youre such a nigger

    • Shaun smith

      Must be nice you can do something about it!!!

  • Mira

    @541c4093149fb3aa5ea1cc56a8207557:disqus
    That’s pretty funny, because if you go to the backroom where the security is you’ll be able too see the majority of shoplifters are CAUCASIANS!
    I caught tons of red-neck honkies but do you see me hating on them? No!
    Them using their own children too! I dont hate caucasians though!
    I suggest you stay at The Gap, considering your uneducated, small-minded, ignorant and arrogant self won’t be able to get a better job considering how racist and bitter you are. =)

    • Shaun smith

      “them using their own”? Great grammar…

  • N/A

    This is so very accurate that it is so, so sad. They really haven’t thought it through at all.

  • MissC

    Just an FYI the Gap and its sister brands DO have loss prevention people to catch shoplifters. To the company it is not about law suits on false accusations, its about the safety of the employees. A $50 pair of jeans is not worth you getting attacked over or worse. So dont think its that easy to steal from the gap. We have cameras and law enforcement support.

    • wonderwonder

      After 5 years as a gap GM, i can tell you, MissC that the gap is WAY more concerned about lawsuits and bad press than employee safety. If you haven’t figured that out yet, give it time, you will–once the brainwash wears off and you realize that you are nothing more than a number. Don’t fall for the tricks to make you think you’re valued. You are not valued. If you had half a clue the stuff your DM/RM etc hide from you, you’d quit that job and never look back.

    • Shaun smith

      So true.. Its nothing but a bunch of secrets. And you are nothing but a number.

    • Erica

      “nothing but a number” GAP is just a “for now” job, if you feel so strongly about it maybe you should go back to college and get a real job.

    • Shaun smith

      Cameras yes.. do we do anything about it? no.. Just let people steal. When no one else cares.. why should anyone else care

  • ClassierThanYou

    Really ? Teaching people how and where to shoplift from? CLASSY

  • NiggaSlappa

    If we pack them greasy niggers up and send their monkey asses back to Africa, retail theft would drop by 70% overnight.