Columnists Bob Carroll The Best Policy: Carpe Gem! Grab and run theft...is there a way to prevent it?

The Best Policy: Carpe Gem! Grab and run theft...is there a way to prevent it?

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The jeweler was showing expensive watches to a person he believed to be a qualified customer. There were no other customers in the store and the jeweler had control of his entrance with a magnetic locking system, and so the jeweler was comfortable in allowing the customer to take her time in comparing several items with one another.

Another customer came to the door and the jeweler buzzed him in.

As the second customer entered, the watch customer suddenly opened her purse wide, scooped several watches into it, and ran for the door, which was seemingly held open by the entering customer.

Almost before the jeweler realized what was happening, both customers were gone - and so were some very expensive watches.

In another event, it was a disturbance in another part of the store that drew the jewelry salesperson's attention away from her customer; and when the distraction was over, both the customer and several items of jewelry had simply "vanished."

Grab and run thieves just as often act alone - no secondary distraction, no conveniently opening door - simply a matter of grabbing the goods and bolting. If there is an automatic locking mechanism on the door, it may be just a matter of the thief being savvy enough to hit the release button as he or she reaches the door.

Event number three: The jewelry salesperson was a little unsure of his customer, and so as he was showing rings he was careful to hold the display pad of 29 rings in his hand rather than place it on the showcase surface for the customer to pick through and possibly grab.

The salesperson's instinct was correct, and when the thief was ready to act, he grabbed the ring he was being shown - and also reached across the showcase and grabbed the display pad out of the salesperson's hand.

And yet another example of grab-and-run crime: The jeweler was showing merchandise to an established customer - a person whom the jeweler knew to be completely trustworthy. Yet when several items of the customer's own jewelry were spread on the counter for the jeweler to take in for repair, another person in the store seized the opportunity to grab the customer's jewelry and dart for the door - escaping on a bicycle.

While some thieves act on opportunities to steal relatively inexpensive goods, many are more experienced and go to elaborate lengths to target expensive diamond and gem goods and very high end watches.

In order to establish credibility, a thief may even make multiple visits to a store, building confidence with a particular salesperson in order to get that person to relax the rules of showing merchandise.

Many jewelers reading this article are this moment recalling their own experiences with grab-and-run crime. Yet we often think of grab-and-run thefts in terms of minor losses, unworthy of great concern.

If a jeweler loses an item which cost $1,000 to theft; he may lose an opportunity to make a $2,000 sale. Which figure is the real loss to the jeweler?

The answer is neither.

While a jeweler may use keystone as a guide to retail pricing, the actual profit margin for the store after sales and overhead expenses is generally much lower than that.

If a jeweler's overall profit margin is, say 5%, then the store may have to make as much as $20,000 in sales just to make up the loss of $1,000 in merchandise that ran out the door.

Yet grab and run theft is perhaps one of the most difficult types of crime to prevent; some would say impossible.
It may be said that any time that a jeweler takes merchandise out of a locked showcase to show to the customer, there is the risk that that customer can steal the item being shown. Yet refusing to "show" merchandise to customers is clearly no way to sell jewelry.

So the answer is two-fold:
The first part of the answer is judgement. The more experienced a salesperson is, the more that salesperson is able to rely on certain difficult to describe "instincts" as to recognize risky situations.

As a reminder and as an aide to this, some jewelers have placards in their showcases which indicate that photo identification may be required for the showing of certain merchandise.

The second and most important part of the answer is limitation - one item at a time. While it may not be possible to prevent a person from running out of the store with merchandise - it is almost always possible to prevent the thief from stealing multiple items of jewelry.

Be aware that professional thieves know many ploys designed to encourage jewelry salespersons to relax their instincts and show multiple items of jewelry. It is important that jewelers adopt practices that tactfully explain to customers that it is store policy that only one item of jewelry can be shown at a time.

For example, if a customer wishes to compare two watches or two rings, the sales person might display a second watch or ring on his or her own wrist/finger - or on a display piece.

At least one insurance company provides, free of charge, small showcase signs which state it is an insurance requirement that only one item of jewelry may be shown at a time - although one item at a time may be a very strong recommendation rather than an actual insurance requirement.

There is also available to jewelers a short interactive on-line course entitled "Selling With Security," which is very good and is highly recommended for all sales associates in the jewelry industry. For details on accessing this course, free to many jewelers, go see www.jmuniversity.com.

Bob Carroll of Robert G. Carroll and Associates is a Certified Insurance Counselor who has specialized in insurance for the jewelry industry for more than a quarter of a century, representing Jewelers Mutual and other carriers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Tennessee. "Insurance isn't just what we do; it's all we do." Contact Bob at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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