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Home > Cases > The Over-Aggressive Big Box Floorwalker


Case Study # 2: The Over-Aggressive Big Box Floorwalker

Shoplifting Case Study # 2 – Over-Aggressive Big Box Floorwalker: Case Studies, Summit Loss Prevention Consulting, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana (IN)


Summit Loss Prevention Consulting's president, Tony Jarana, has worked on thousands of different types of cases during a quarter century of field work and loss prevention management. This is just one example of the many situations in which you may find yourself:

Case Study # 2

At a 'big box' home center store in Michigan, on the outskirts of Detroit, a Loss Prevention Operative, more commonly known as a 'floorwalker' was making his normal rounds. 'Floorwalkers' are trained LP staff members whose job entails posing as a customer and continuously walking, or shopping, the store for a six-to-eight hour shift.

Some stores have the loss prevention budget to have several 'floorwalkers' on duty at a time, others use only one, but have a LP Officer watching the surveillance system (CCTV) from a remote area. The 'floorwalkers' are trained that their job is to deter customer theft, but the natural instinct with many of these individuals is to 'catch' somebody in the act and apprehend them.

This is why designing and implementing Loss Prevention and Security standards and guidelines is an absolute necessity, and conducting Loss Prevention Training and/or Security Officer Training is imperative.

On the day in question, this 'floorwalker' had been observing a suspicious customer as he was shopping in the power tool aisle. What took place next is a chilling reminder of how costly one mistake can be:

  • The plainclothes LP Operative witnessed the suspicious customer select a cordless drill and conceal it on his waistline under a heavy winter coat. The suspect began making his way to the exit doors of the store with the 'floorwalker' close behind.

  • The store management team and many employees were familiar with the 'floorwalker' and he signaled to an Assistant Manager to let him know that he was 'on' a suspect involved with a theft attempt. The suspect departed the store without making any payment for the drill and the LP Operative, assisted by two alerted Assistant Managers, stopped the man, confronted him about the un-paid for item, quickly recovered it and escorted him back inside and into the LP Office near the front end of the store.

  • The man was rather small, wearing glasses, and appeared to be in his mid-sixties. As per policy, the LP Operative and one Assistant Manager stayed in the room with the suspect and the other Assistant left the room to contact the local police department to inform them a 'shoplifting stop' had been made and the store was requesting police response to press theft charges and have the man arrested.

  • The store had a high incidence of external theft of this nature and the local police had taken several dozen similar calls from that store over the previous year. The Police Dispatcher, as was the norm, asked if the suspect resisted or was presenting any physical threat and was told that the situation was under control, which it was at the time. Police Officers were dispatched to the store.

  • In the meantime, the clearly scared and very anxious male suspect asked the men detaining him in the LP Office to release him. As is common, he began to apologize for his actions, swear it was the first time he had ever stolen anything and promise that he would never attempt anything like it again. Soon, he was emotional and literally begging to be let go.

  • Following procedure and using his LP Training, the LP Operative requested that the man show him some identification. (Someone at the store level should always attempt to establish the identity of anyone that they detain and incorporate this information into an Incident Report documenting the event.)

  • The man, who had been sitting down, stood up and demanded to be let go. Clearly, the situation was escalating and the police had not yet arrived. In some circumstances, police officers who are dispatched to 'non-emergency' incidents respond more casually than to their other runs.

  • In situations like this very real example, a slow police response time can lead to very bad consequences with damaging results. The LP Operative made the decision to attempt handcuffing the agitated and unpredictable suspect. He approached the man from behind and was attempting to pull one of the suspect's arms back when the suspect lurched forward.

  • The LP Operative, about 6'1" and 210 pounds, was 26 years old and in very good health. When the suspect jerked forward, the LP Operative lost his balance and fell on top of the man, driving him to the concrete floor and landing on him with his full weight. The suspect hit face first, breaking his nose and shattering his glasses directly into his eyes.

  • When the Assistant Manager and LP Operative were able to turn the man over he was bleeding profusely from his face. Blood was flowing down the suspect's face and body, and had begun to spread onto the floor. The man sat dazed, head drooped forward, in a growing red pool.

  • At that moment, the police opened the LP Office door which struck the suspect flush in the head, knocking him violently backward. The police officers had arrived believing they were responding to a routine theft case and were immediately presented with a potentially life threatening ordeal.

  • Emergency medical personnel were called and the suspect was transported to the ER to begin the horrifying process of having glass shards removed from his face and eyes.

The bottom line? The cordless drill was valued at less than $100.00. The medical bills and resulting litigation settlement cost the company more than $1,000,000.00! While better training may have increased the company's Loss Prevention budget, it would have saved considerably in the long-run.

How to Prevent Situations Like This

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