With Shopping on Rise This Season, Retailers Guard Against Theft

The winter holiday season is a time when people are pressured to spend more than usual, and with an increase in consumer spending comes an increase in shoplifting and theft.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that consumers plan to spend more than $738 billion nationwide on holiday gifts over the holiday season a 5.1 percent increase from last year.

Locally, as it gets closer to the end of the year, theft has indeed become a problem. A big department store, like Sears, can spend millions of dollars a year on security, but it may lose as much as $2,500 a day to shoplifters during this time, according to the Sacramento County Sheriffs Department.
Shopping malls and big department stores are usually a primary target for theft during the holidays because they are large in size, and people think that they can get away with crimes in spacious places.

Psychology major Jamar Sullivan has experienced theft himself as an employee at Casual Male Big and Tall, a retail store for mens clothing located near Arden Mall. A lot of young people come in to get urban wear, and sometimes you dont know somethings been stolen until you find the empty hangers lying around, Sullivan said.

Both Arden Fair Mall and Florin Mall have increased security in parking lots and stores. In addition, many stores have increased, if not doubled, its loss prevention teams.

Sears department store has always had a theft problem this time of year, said B.J. Gomez, a loss-prevention employee at the Florin Mall Sears location. Theres a lot to talk about when it comes to theft. Its like we lose so much merchandise and most times we never catch who steals from us, Gomez explained.

Increase in theft during the holiday season may have resulted from an increase in online shopping. Although identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, more and more people are choosing to order their holiday items through the Internet. A 2005 survey from BizRate Research showed that 43 percent of online retailers plan to offer special promotions and discounts, ranging from free shipping to gifts with purchase, intended to increase revenues online. It is expected that online shopping will be at an all-time high this year, according to the NRF.

A new survey of 1,005 consumers done by San Francisco-based Truste, a nonprofit privacy organization, shows that while 78 percent of U.S. Internet users plan on shopping online this year, more than 69 percent of those shoppers will limit their online spending because of concerns about data privacy, online fraud and identity theft.

Malls and Internet Web sites are not the only place where consumers and companies are at a loss this holiday season. Food restaurants and eateries are also susceptible to this problem.

During the holidays, people are uneasy and food complaints increase, said Deasia Jeffries, a manager at Carlss Jr located near Folsom and Coloma Blvd. Customers know they can get over on us and complain about food all the time, and all we can do is replace their food because the customer is always right. Sometimes I think they just make stuff up to get free food, Jeffries said.
Whether you are shopping online, in the store, or just grabbing a bite to eat, make sure you get what you pay for because the consequences for stealing are just not worth it.

Lisa Warren can be reached at [email protected]