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Common Grocery Store Shoplifting Techniques and How to Combat Them

January 10, 2018

camera security in shopping mall with supermarket blur background.Shoplifting is a recognized problem in the retail industry, costing American stores more than $45 billion annually. While much of this impact derives from the theft of big ticket items such as jewelry and electronics, grocery stores actually face significant losses as well.

Maryland Security Professionals works with clients like grocery stores and supermarkets to prevent shoplifting and reduce the serious financial drain on business owners. Understanding some of the most common shoplifting techniques can be the first step toward combating theft in your store.

Why do so many shoppers steal from the grocery store?

Studies show that most shoplifting is done on impulse and for a drug-like thrill, rather than being pre-planned, or done out of need. Shoplifters also know that many jurisdictions will not prosecute a theft under a certain dollar amount (like $50), so they see stealing as having no negative consequence.

The message is that grocers should stay on top of shoplifting maneuvers and take steps to counterbalance them.

Typical supermarket shoplifting methods

Most shoplifters will simply place items in their pockets or hide them within their personal property. However other common methods include:

  • Not paying for items under cart – Shoplifters go through the checkout and only pay for items in the cart, not on the platform underneath.
  • Switching price tags on items – The price tags of less expensive items are placed on more expensive items. Alternatively, bar codes of less expensive items are printed at home and placed over the legitimate bar codes.
  • Consuming on-site – Shoppers eat food items in the store and stash the wrappers in the aisles or discard them at the register.
  • Coupon fraud – From stealing newspapers for their coupons, to redeeming coupons on ineligible items, to reprinting bar codes, there is an abundance of coupon fraud that is estimated to cause between $300 million and $600 million in loss each year.
  • Gift card cloning – Thieves steal inactive gift cards from store displays, clone the bar code, and then replace them on the store shelves. When they are legitimately purchased, the cloned card is also activated.

How to prevent shoplifting in grocery stores

Surveillance technology and honest personnel are your most effective partners in the effort to thwart shoplifting.

Thorough employee background checks can help to reduce the risk of theft from within, while comprehensive staff training can teach all members to be more aware of suspicious activity.

Visible security cameras and guards are the most effective deterrent. Incorporating surveillance cameras and posting signs that promise prosecution against shoplifters can significantly reduce the chance of stealing.

Retail security in Maryland

Maryland Security Professionals offers a full slate of security services in Maryland, and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. We design and implement custom surveillance camera systems to meet the needs of retail clients, including supermarkets and small grocers. Other services include comprehensive employee background checks as well as highly-trained and skilled security guards. Call today to learn more about our security services in Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Maryland.

Additional shoplifting prevention resources:

  1. Jack L. Hayes International, Inc., 29th Annual Retail Theft Survey,
  2. Forbes, Why Do People Steal Meat From Grocery Stores?,
  3. Penn Live, Coupon fraud is crime, even if it feels harmless: Coupon Counselor,
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