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It’s that system of customer service and “security pages” that Mitrowke stresses to Everything 5.99 employees. He’s forbidden them from attempting confrontational enforcement. In a December 2007 intracompany newsletter, Mitrowke wrote, “Recently, we have had several situations where store employees and management have taken it upon themselves to go after shoplifters way beyond the scope of their authority. Some have chased shoplifters down the street and as far as a block away. This is not only against company policy but also very dangerous. Please take time to read the attached article and think about what you’re going to do next time a shoplifter takes off running. Is 5.99 merchandise more valuable than your life?”

The article Mitrowke attached was a July 26, 2007 Union-Tribune report on the fatal shooting of a security guard at a Kmart in Ramona. The guard, David Busby II, was shot by shoplifter Andrew Griffith, whom he tried to prevent from leaving the store with merchandise worth $86. “We have a saying in loss prevention,” Mitrowke says, “ ‘When in doubt, let them out.’ For me, if I have a feeling that I don’t like, I am going to let them walk. If you want to fire me, fine, but I am going home at the end of the night.”

Mitrowke wants his staff to stop problems before they get out of hand by spotting shoplifters. He teaches them to look for signs, such as people walking in with huge purses, shoppers wearing excessively baggy clothes, and customers sporting coats when it’s not cold outside. And he teaches them to read shoppers’ body language. He walks out of the back office into the store, which is supermarket-sized, though without the high shelves. The clothes hang on chest-high racks. Standing near the south wall, we can see the length of the store to the north wall. Maybe two dozen shoppers wind their way through the racks, while 10 to 12 blue-vested employees work the room. “If you look at these shoppers,” Mitrowke explains, “you see how they look at things. They spot something that interests them, they pick it up without removing it from the hanger, they lean back, and they hold it out in front of themselves to look at it. If they want the item, they either drape it over their arm or put it in a shopping cart. So when I see someone hug the rack like this,” Mitrowke steps up to the rack in front of him so that he’s brushing up against the clothes, “their eyes are up and looking around, but their hands are down — I know that’s a shoplifter. Someone who does this,” he pulls five blouses off their hangers in one motion, “is not a shopper.”

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Comments

rickeysays May 20, 2009 @ 7:14 p.m.

Really interesting article. I'd like to see more like this.

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