Happy Dog Days of Summer
are a few articles of interest by some guest authors..
Inside a Bandit's Brain
Who's Stealing from Your Stores - And Why?
By Fred Minnick
prevention is one of the most important - and costly - components of
retail. Companies spend millions equipping stores with the best
surveillance equipment and theft deterrents, locking away
easy-to-grab goods that thieves pocket quicker than security can
react. The problem is so pervasive that there's even a reality TV
show - "Caught Red Handed" on TruTV - reaching 1.25
million weekly viewers.
like the retail executives who seek to protect their investments,
"Caught Red Handed" focuses on protecting stores. But lost
in all this fortification of retail outlets is the who and why of
steal for different reasons," says Terrence Shulman, founder
and director of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending
and Hoarding, which categorizes shoplifters into seven groups:
Addictive-compulsive shoplifters who suffer from anger issues;
professionals who steal for profit; impoverished people who steal
out of economic need; thrill-seekers who shoplift for the rush;
drug, alcohol or gambling addicts who steal to support their habit;
kleptomaniacs, who steal for no reason at all; and absent-minded
people who simply don't know what they're doing.
those seven categories, though, it's the professionals that get most
of the retail industry's attention.
retail crime syndicates steal for the same reasons as drug-dealing
gangs: There's big money in it. ORC costs retailers $30 billion
annually, according to NRF's 2013 Organized Retail Crime Survey.
FBI says retail theft is of great concern because it's a
"gateway crime" that leads to larger crime rings
"that use the illicit proceeds to fund other crimes - such as
organized crime activities, health care fraud, money laundering and
potentially even terrorism," says FBI supervisory special agent
ORC syndicates include South American theft groups, subsidiaries of
Mexican drug cartels and Cuban and Southern Florida criminal groups.
Organized retail criminals work in teams, use hand signals and don't
necessarily take high-value items - they simply steal what people
want. According to the NRF report, top ORC-targeted items include
baby formula, laundry detergent, energy drinks, high-end denim,
allergy medications and cell phones. The report also noted that
eight in 10 retailers believe ORC activity has increased in some
fashion in the past three years.
2007, NRF and FBI created the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership
Network (LERPNet), a secure national database for the reporting of retail
theft and serious incidents to allow companies to share information.
NRF has also lobbied to make organized retail crime a federal
offense; 28 states have already passed or enacted legislation
against organized retail crime. Florida governor Rick Scott recently
signed into law a bill that guarantees minimum sentencing period of
at least 21 months for convicted retail thieves.
crime causes retailers to pass losses onto other consumers through
higher priced goods, making it harder for businesses and consumers
to do business in Florida," Scott said when signing the bill.
"This new law continues to fight to keep the cost of living low
for the families of our state."
mental health connection
what about those other six categories of shoplifters? Professionals
are not the only thieves out there, and many cannot control their
actions: According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, kleptomania is an impulse control disorder, along
with pathological gambling and pyromania.
was included in the first edition of the DSM, published in 1952 by
the American Psychiatric Association, and has always been considered
an extremely serious issue. The DSM says kleptomaniacs have an
inability to resist urges to steal, feel an increased tension
leading to the theft and sense feelings of pleasure when stealing.
addition, the psychiatric community has discovered that compulsive
thieves suffer from many of the same emotional issues as hoarders.
In the book Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring: Therapist
Guide, written by Gail Steketee and Randy O. Frost, the authors
suggest kleptomaniacs and hoarders suffer a deep fear of what others
think and a heightened sensitivity to criticism.
all people who steal hoard, and not all who hoard steal ... but
people who steal often hoard the items and have a hard time letting
go of the things because of the pain and victory they
represent," Shulman says. "Often, too, the items may have
symbolic rather than actual value."
in a store may actually activate an emotional need to steal: If
someone had been abused by a parent, an in-store Mother's or
Father's Day promotion might trigger the urge to steal. According to
the Mayo Clinic, kleptomania may also be linked to problems with a
naturally occurring brain chemical or neurotransmitter called
serotonin, which regulates moods and emotions. The Mayo Clinic says
stealing causes the release of dopamine (another neurotransmitter)
and creates pleasurable feelings.
says he encourages people with shoplifting problems to avoid stores.
the stealing is a cry for help," he says, "a
counterbalance to over-giving and co-dependent behavior, a stress
valve, a way of releasing anger and a response to having one's
boundaries violated by others."
are those in the retail industry who do not buy into the theory that
psychological issues lead to theft. LPT Security consulting
president J. Patrick Murphy has worked in retail his entire career.
In the 1980s, working as an LP specialist for Sears, he caught
thousands of shoplifters.
"Every single one of them knew exactly what they were doing and
that it was both against the law and wrong," Murphy says.
"The mental health community wants to shift the emphasis to a
set of factors other than the person's own accountability."
disagrees with the seven categories of shoplifters as well, saying
that there are two types: "There's ... somebody who happens to
be in the store and gets the compulsion for some reason to steal
something," he says. "Then there's organized crime."
to LP efforts
most states, special merchant acts allow retailers to detain
shoplifters and search them until the police arrive; some states
even allow retailers to collect a fine on the spot and pursue a
civil lawsuit. But civil rights advocates have questioned the
legitimacy of these state laws.
a store owner says he'll call the police unless you pay up, that's
extortion, that's illegal," New York City community advocate
Steven Wong told The New York Times in 2010. "And
putting up pictures in public, calling someone a thief who has never
even been formally charged, that's a violation of their civil
also the possibility of LP tactics backfiring. Murphy was called as
a forensic witness in a major retailer civil suit. "The loss
prevention team was watching this young lady in the bra
department," he says. "She went into the dressing room
with four bras. She came out with what they thought was three. They
sent an LP person into the dressing room and didn't find an empty
the woman put three bras back on the rack, the LP crew detained her,
called the police and "made her pull up her dress and show her
bra," Murphy says.
woman sued the retailer and won. Cases like this are rare, Murphy
says, stressing the need for retailers to be responsible for their
own security instead of relying on local police departments.
"If I've got a video of you stealing four pairs of jeans and I
call the police and I say, 'Here's the video' ... it goes to a
detective [with] 500 other cases," he says.
most underrated retail thieves are employees, Murphy says, and they
steal because management lets them. Lack of cash register
accountability, policies and procedures about parking and cleaning
schedules make the difference in employee theft, he says. "Most
retailers have those [policies and procedures]. However, if you have
them and you're not enforcing them, employees quickly understand
that you are not a manager who is going to enforce policy. That
gives them the opportunity.
are fewer people who commit employee theft," he says, "but
they steal much more than the shoplifters."
See: Loss Prevention
When Retail Therapy Becomes a Shopping Addiction
Compulsive shopping can be a destructive obsession:
Learn the warning signs of this tricky addiction.
By Jeff Vrabel
a cardinal rule of grandparenting: Kids are for spoiling, with not
only attention and love, but also fun and gifts. But in extreme
cases, that last part, if left unmonitored, can mutate into an addiction.
The combined power of the Internet and mobile devices have made it
easier than ever to obtain almost anything one desires, which can't
help but contribute to a growing problem -- compulsive shopping,
which is categorized as a destructive, impulsive behavioral
addiction, much like gambling.
that Americans spent $202 billion online in 2011, according to
Forrester Research Inc., and that a recent survey found that 41% of
adults have memorized the three- or four-digit security code on
their credit cards--a strong indication that they shop online often.
addictions aren't always considered as seriously as other
addictions, which means people don't always find compassion for a
shopping problem - particularly in the case of women. In fact, it's
sometimes considered a "smiled-upon addiction," says April
Benson, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in the study and
treatment of compulsive buying disorders. "Consumption fuels
our economy," Benson says. "We never had a president
telling us to drink or take drugs, but we did have a president that
said we cannot let the terrorists frighten our nation... so go
shopping." Debbie Roes, who writes a blog called Recovering
Shopaholic that chronicles her own recovery from shopping
addictions, says it's culturally "expected" for women to
shop. "People joke about it, about 'retail therapy' and things
like that," she says, "It's not always taken seriously,
and that makes it harder for people to overcome it."
says she's spent nearly three decades battling her addiction -
moreso since the advent of online shopping. "I've struggled
since I was a teenager, and I'm about to turn 47," she says.
"It's gotten worse as there have become more opportunities to
shop online. Before there would be times when I'd get into debt and
go cold turkey, and even a few times where I had to be bailed out.
But it's harder and harder to go cold turkey when you can shop with
a couple clicks."
Problem For All Ages
Shulman, founder and director of the Shulman Center for Compulsive
Theft, Spending and Hoarding near Detroit, says that some of his
patients haved battled this problem as long as they can remember,
but some develop it later in life, often following a trauma or loss.
"People can have trouble with the aging process, health issues,
not working, feeling ignored or estranged from the grandchildren,
finding a loss of purpose or meaning," he says. And they're not
necessarily out there spoiling themselves. "After stressful
events, sometimes people get in trouble for overshopping for
children or grandchildren," he says.
Than Simple Bankruptcy
we age, we often have more money to spend, and that can create a
perspective problem, Roes says. When speaking of shopping addictions
people tend to focus on concrete, measurable problems: debts,
foreclosures, divorces and the like. Some shopaholics might not be
aware they have a problem, because they're not dealing with any of
those issues. But Roes says that while debt is the most visible (and
quantitative) of shopping addiction problems, it's hardly the only
one. "You can focus on a figure, and say 'I'm $30,000 in debt,'
or whatever. But there are subtle signs too. People sometimes say,
'Oh I deserve it, I worked really hard, I have the money.' They may
not see the consequences."
That You've Gone Spoiling Overboard
says there are obvious signs when grandparents are overindulging a
child: when the kid expects to get whatever he or she wants or when
the grandparents aren't honoring the parents' limits. There are more
damaging signs as well - forged checks, stolen credit cards - as
well as the emotional drain that comes from hiding things. "If
you're spending so much energy and time [buying things], you're not
spending it on other areas of your life, like relationships,"
Roes says. "People who have this problem often feel really
rates naturally depend on the amount of time and energy that's put
into solving the problem. But Benson completed a study, to be
published in early 2014, with what she calls "extremely good
results." "On average, everyone in the study started out
well into the compulsive buying range, and by the time the 12-week
group was over, they were solidly in the normal buying range."
Which is to say: This is a problem with a fix, as long as you put effort
into it. Shulman says another key is to unearth what's driving the
behavior in the first place. "You need to understand what is
fueling it, whether it's something emotional, or being deprived in
your childhood, or filling the void after a loss, or having low self-esteem.
If they understand the dynamics, they'll better understand
Need For More Resources
of the problems with compulsive shopping, Benson says, is there
aren't as many resources available as there are for other addicts.
"Almost none of the residential treatment centers in extreme
cases have a really good program for this," she says. "I
think there's a rise coming, but, if you'll pardon the pun, it'll be
a hard sell. We're all so geared to thinking that happiness is only
so far away as the next purchase."
to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Credit Card Addiction
cut to the chase: compulsive shopping and credit card addiction are
genuine problems, and they're more common than you may think. If you
suspect that you suffer from a compulsive shopping and/or credit
card addiction, it's important that you understand two things:
- You are not alone.
- There is a way out.
article isn't a substitute for professional counseling, but if you
follow the steps laid out in this article, you'll be well on your
way to gaining control over your credit card use.
you have a credit card addiction?
do you decide when your credit card use has crossed the line into
the following list, which cites just a few of the potential red
flags in the area of shopping and credit card compulsion. If any of
these apply to you, then you may suffer from credit card addiction.
- Frequent, unnecessary purchases
- Hiding purchases from spouse or other
close family members
- Holding several "maxed out"
- Frequently paying only the monthly
acute red flags might signal you're headed down the path toward
addiction - not to mention a lot of debt. These signs include:
- Using credit for everyday items - and not
paying off the balance every month
- Frequent balance transfers to avoid
maxing out cards
- Ignoring credit card statements
- Skipping one credit card bill to pay
- Relying on credit cards to buy things
that aren't in your budget
- Having past due accounts
any of this sound familiar? If so, your purchasing habits may
qualify as an addiction. Don't feel ashamed. This is an opportunity
to take charge and turn things around.
brain on credit cards
take a moment to discuss the science behind spending addiction.
of all, it's important to understand that shopping and credit card
addiction can often be concurrent with a variety of other
psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, drug or
alcohol addiction, or ADHD.
what's going on in the brain of a compulsive spender?
you ready to get really "science-y"? An MIT study found
that when people were asked to place bids on NBA tickets using
either cash or a credit card, the people using credit cards
"bid twice as high as the cash crowd."
right? Maybe not. Here's an explanation: There are two parts of the
brain involved in spending decisions. The part that loves the rush
of purchasing is called the nucleus accumbens, and that
"rush" you feel is dopamine.
part that feels twitchy about parting with money is called the
insula. Typically, the insula helps mitigate the chance that we'll
fork over a big wad of cash unless it's absolutely necessary.
there's a problem: for some reason, our brains aren't wired to think
of cash and credit cards the same way. In other words, the insula
doesn't know what to make of credit cards. Perhaps that's why it's
not as "painful" to whip out the plastic as it is to hand
over a stack of bills.
credit card dollars may not feel as "real" to our brain,
so we still get the dopamine rush of making a purchase, but we don't
get the push-back from the insula. The result: we spend too much
look at it from another perspective. It's safe to say that, when
faced with a purchasing decision, you have two options: a) spend the
money now, or b) save it for later.
is spending it now so much more appealing for so many of us? It
turns out that it may simply be the way our brains are wired - we're
primed for instant gratification. Now more than ever, we want things
right away. And with all the technology available today, we're used
to getting things right away. That feeds right into the parts of our
brain that prefer immediate payoff over long-term gains.
general, according to research published in Newsweek, "pleasure
now is worth more to us than pleasure later." But there's more
to it than that. Some people are apparently wired to be
"spenders" as opposed to "savers."
right. It might be your brain telling you to spend that money. The
Newsweek report notes that scientists "are discovering
measurable differences in the brains of people who save and those
who spend with abandon, particularly in the areas of the brain that
predict consequences, process the sense of reward, spur motivation,
and control memory."
you combine the tendency to spend now and the ease and simplicity of
flashing a piece of plastic, then you have a recipe for serious
mentioned earlier that some people make an association between
shopping/credit card addiction and other addictive behaviors. Jason
Hull mulls over this connection based on his own experiences with
credit cards. "Some people can try a drug and never become
addicted, and some try it once and become hooked."
got hooked on using credit cards to make purchases that he couldn't
afford. It wasn't until he approached it like someone who was
addicted to a substance like drugs or alcohol that he could overcome
the battle. That meant removing stimuli and having an
"intervention" in which someone else had to take full
responsibility for his money in order to prevent him from exposure
to the addictive behavior.
to Overcome a Credit Card Addiction
method to overcome credit card addiction worked for him, but there
are other strategies to consider. We'll take a look at several
strategies, broken into short-term strategies that you can employ
right away, and long-term strategies that can be developed over
- Putting them in your sock
drawer isn't enough; they need to be inaccessible. Note: do
not close the accounts; this can hurt your credit score. You
can keep one credit card for emergency use.
- Create shopping lists every time you go
- This includes retail
shopping. If you only need a shirt for a special event, you
should only buy that one shirt. Many people make grocery lists
but don't think to make lists for other shopping trips.
- Can't bear to go without
shopping? That's okay - just leave your wallet at home. You
can browse to your heart's content, as long as it doesn't
cause stress or anxiety since you can't buy anything.
- Start tracking your spending
- You may be stunned at how
seemingly innocent purchases add up (like those $5 lattes
every morning). Make a spreadsheet and track every penny you
spend. No excuses.
- If you're tempted to spend
money, replace the compulsive behavior with a positive
behavior. Maybe indulge in your favorite (library) book or go
for a walk instead. (Exercise is often the best way to curb
- There are many support
groups available for spenders, and opening up in front of
others about your addiction doesn't have to be an intimidating,
formal situation. Many groups meet regularly over an
(inexpensive) meal or gather to share stories and positive
advice with people facing similar obstacles.
- Everyone deserves the
security of an emergency fund. This is money you can draw on in
case of unexpected expenses without relying on your credit
card. Set a goal of setting aside money for your emergency
fund as well as money to pay off debt.
- Addictive behaviors are
often deeply rooted, and an expert is often required to get to
the bottom of the issue. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's
not a sign of weakness - in fact, it's one of the strongest
moves you can make.
- Meet with a financial counselor
- A financial counselor can
help you develop tailored strategies to get back on track and
move forward with healthy financial habits. It's hard to
overstate the value of a good financial counselor, so seek
recommendations and find a reputable counselor with whom you
card and shopping addiction is common, but it can be devastating.
There's a snowball effect that can grab hold and won't stop until it
has taken you - and your loved ones - down with it. This isn't
simply dramatized talk; shopping addiction has destroyed many lives.
first step to recovery is recognizing the problem. The next step is
doing something about it, and doing it consistently. Fortunately,
you don't have to face this problem alone. Ask for help and rally
your resources. You can do this.
See: Credit Card
is its own reward.--Anonymous
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