BAG CHECKS WITH BOB AND LISA: A SILLY, FREE, AND INCREDIBLY EFFECTIVE LOSS PREVENTION INITIATIVE YOU CAN LAUNCH TODAY
Do you know Bob and Lisa? Just about every store associate who has met me on a store visit has heard the question. The interaction is always fun (at least for me), a lighthearted moment that helps break the ice. Store teams can sometimes get nervous when LP walks in, it comes with the territory. So I’ll take any opportunity to lighten things up. Occasionally a brave soul will step up and admit that “we don’t know what the hell you’re talking about”. Then I get to introduce my two good friends Bob and Lisa.
If you’ve heard the terms before, you know that Bob and Lisa are not actual people, they’re in fact acronyms that remind associates how to conduct proper bag checks. B.O.B. reminds managers that they must observe the bottom of an associate’s bag (Bottom of Bag). L.I.S.A. stands for “Look in Small Areas”, meaning that all small pockets and containers must be opened and verified. Before getting back to B&L, let’s review what bag checks are, explain why they’re effective, and provide you some ways of introducing this process in a positive light.
The Bag Check Policy
The Bag Check Process requires every employee and visitor who enters a non-customer area, to present his bag to a manager prior to exiting. Before associates exit for any reason, the bag check is done, whether due to meal breaks or because their shift ended. This means that an employee visiting on a day off to make a purchase would not be checked as long as he remains on the sales floor. But should the associate enter the stockroom to check a schedule or use the restroom, etc... then his bag would have to be checked.
To verify a bag, the manager on duty simply looks inside the associate or visitor’s bag and verifies that no company merchandise is found inside. Every type of bag should be verified. From purses to back packs to shopping bags and tool boxes, nothing is spared.
Consistency on who gets checked is also important. This means that everyone takes part in this minor inconvenience. Corporate visitors, District Managers, Loss Prevention Managers, Electricians coming in to do work, you name it, everyone gets checked. Even the CEO’s purse will be checked when she visits stores. Everyone gets checked because it’s the company policy and no one is above it. This level of consistency empowers the managers to conduct the verifications and avoids anyone feeling targeted.
Note about Store Size: A bag check process is practical at a retail location with a small to medium footprint and a controlled number of associates scheduled at any given time. Requiring bag checks at a Costco may be possible but challenging to implement and possibly less effective.
The only People who should not get checked
How to do a Bag Check
Back to Bob and Lisa. The purpose of a bag check is to confirm that no store merchandise (or other company assets) is being removed from the store inside the bags of folks who have access to areas where these items are kept.
Two basic steps are required:
What if you find stolen merchandise in someone’s bag?
There needs to be clarity on what is expected from associates after an item is purchased. A best practice is to require receipts for anything that is kept in someone’s bag if it’s sold by the retailer. Many retailers institute E-Receipt features.. Whenever possible, work with your IT partners to require a hard receipt to print on every associate purchase.
If product is seen without a receipt, then the associate has a responsibility to provide clarity as to how the item was obtained. Of course if your store sells lip stick and an old lipstick is found inside, there is a lot less reason to suspect the person than if a brand new, still in the box and un-bagged Apple Watch is found as an associate exits an Apple store. In both cases the associate would be asked to provide a receipt or information about how the item was acquired. Although one might be more likely the result of theft than the other.
Do not accuse or detain
We never want to turn a bag check process which is meant to reduce risk into a liability-causing incident. All should go well if these basic guidelines are followed:
Why Bag Checks Work
When someone decides to steal, there are a hundred ways to do it and a just as many places to conceal merchandise without using a bag. It's not that bag checks stop anyone from being able to steal. They work because they make it that much more difficult to do so and thereby discourage impulsive theft of product.
Let's put it a different way, most of us have a need to think of ourselves as normal, decent and reasonably honest human beings. Associates who take something from a retail store do not generally suspend their perception of themselves as good persons. Instead, associates who steal find ways of rationalizing their actions. In a store which does not conduct bag checks, an associate may place an item in a bag while convincing herself that it will be paid for later, when her paycheck comes in. Similarly an employee may feel that no one cares if a small item is taken and this may offer enough justification to take merchandise for the first time (then more will follow).
The bag check removes a way to easily rationalize the theft. I may be able to steal from my employer, but if bag checks are in place, my actions will require me to plan and execute astute ways of bypassing this control (such as sticking stuff down my pants, creating hidden compartments in a bag, overloading my Ugg boots (yes I've seen it all). While these actions may allow me to take the merchandise, it will be nearly impossible to do so while not acknowledging that I am in fact a dishonest person engaged in unethical activity.
Over time, I have conducted several investigations where an associate who engaged in theft was transferred from a store with a strong bag check process to one with a weak process (or vice versa). Eventually I would find myself checking video at both locations, and more often than not, the same person stole continuously from the store with the weak process while somehow controlling himself when bag checks were in place. Most employees are not willing to do what it takes to bypass the bag check control and will accept the process as one more reason to stay out of trouble, do the right thing and not ruin their positive image of themselves. I like to say that bag checks keep honest people honest, and that's exactly what I think they do.
Keeping it Positive
As you introduce the process it’s important for your teams not to perceive it as a “got you” attempt by the company. When coaching others, I always focus on the fact that the process allows us to look out for each other. By doing an effective bag check (while remembering BOB and LISA), we put ourselves in a position to vouch for other members of our team about the fact that nothing was in that person’s bag. In that sense, a bag check becomes a protective process, we dig deep because the better the verification the more we can vouch for our friends and coworkers. If a significant loss occurs at a store, I remind that teams about the peace of mind that comes from knowing that others routinely check ones bag and can attest to their innocence (or at least the fact that they did not remove merchandise using their bags). This is why I ensure that bag checks are done thoroughly on me when I visit a store. It starts with me, and continues with everyone else.
Well I think we’ve come to the end. I hope you liked the article as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, feel free to Share and Like. Also either comment or contact me directly if you have any questions or feedback. Best of luck to you in all you do.
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