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.