Retail loss prevention

Virginia Retail Loss Prevention Conference centerpiece

Virginia Retail Loss Prevention Conference centerpiece

The crotch-walk was demonstrated, just before a strip-tease, at the Virginia Retail Loss Prevention Conference last week. We do get to see some oddball demonstrations, like how to steal a Rolex, the miraculous faro shuffle,  and how organized crime families work.

An armed robber bursts into a small retail shop in a mock robbery.

An armed robber bursts into a small retail shop in a mock robbery.

Thursday evening, attendees saw a comedic demonstration of pickpocketing—performed by the inimitable Bob Arno, of course. We all scooted out of the conference in time to catch the VP debates.

Friday morning began with an armed robbery—rather, a mock robbery—staged and acted in a corner of a hotel ballroom fitted out with the works of an entire discount apparel store. Within the mock shop, a real FBI agent played customer, looked after by an attentive shop employee. When a gunman burst through the door brandishing real blue steel and shouting for cash, the shop employee raised a baseball bat. (Wrong move.) The enraged robber emptied the till, waved his weapon about, and demanded the contents of the safe. When the cowering employee insisted there was no safe, we thought the robbery would become a murder. But the perp fled and a police detective showed up to quiz witnesses (attendees) for descriptions. Height, weight of suspect? scars? tattoos? clothes? hat? weapon? which way did he go? car? license plate? It all happened so fast it’s amazing what we missed.

Each woman wears eight outfits, layers applied in the shop\'s dressing room.

Each woman wears eight outfits, layers applied in the shop's dressing room.

After breakout sessions on till-tapping, sweethearting, environmental anti-theft design, and other esoteric topics, lunch was served, accompanied by a thieves’ fashion show. Brilliantly written by Susan Milhoan, president and CEO of the Retail Alliance, male and female models paraded across the stage to pulsing new-age music lying under Susan’s slick narrative. We were introduced to shoplifters with a variety of ingenious methods and containers for hiding their ill-gotten gains: a gift-wrapped box with a hidden flap, a loosely-closed umbrella carried upright, booster-bags slung about the hips under voluminous skirts, and many more.

In a thieves\' strip-tease, two shoplifters peel off the layers.

In a thieves' strip-tease, two shoplifters peel off the layers.

Finally came the crotch-walker: a woman in a dress who casually strolled before the crowd and, on command, dropped a small appliance to the floor from its snug position, gripped tightly between her thighs. Whole hams are frequently stolen this way, our fashion narrator explained, then sold at a discount for quick cash. Yum.

The thieves’ fashion show finale was a raucous strip tease starring two young, slim women who sidled onto the stage with slinky grace. Classic stripper music began and the women proceeded to peel layer after layer off of their bodies. Each wore eight complete outfits and, though they stopped stripping while still decent, stood among a mountain of garments, with a value of thousands of dollars.

95% of retailers in Virginia are small businesses with only one to five employees. The sole function of the Virginia Retail Loss Prevention Alliance is to provide these business owners with resources to help prevent “shrinkage.” According to Milhoan, only three organizations like hers exist in the U.S. Yet, what they offer is of immense value to small retailers across America. I’d like to see the Virginia Retail Loss Prevention Conference tour as a road show. Any sponsors out there?

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