The other day, I walked out of a hardware store without making a purchase because I couldn’t get a clerk to come unlock the anti-theft hook from which the item I wanted was dangling. My petulance came cheap because I knew I could buy the same item at any number of other places, but it made me wonder how often anti-theft devices do double duty as anti-sales devices.
According to the 24th annual National Retail Security Survey, American retailers lost $16.7 billion to shoplifters in 2014. Since the study looked at inventory shrink, it apparently didn’t factor in the cost of anti-shoplifting devices – or lost sales to customers irritated by them.
Nor, apparently, did it include the cost of chunky tags on clothing, swiveling surveillance cameras and the hiring of loss-prevention specialists, those retail employees whose jobs have nothing to do with selling or customer satisfaction.
We’ve grown accustomed to the sight of uniformed guards standing sentry near store exits and patrolling the parking lot the way cowboys once rode the fence line. According to federal statistics, private security guards now outnumber certified law enforcement officers by a 3-2 margin. Security, in America, is increasingly a product to be purchased.