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This past Sunday while our booth was very busy, I caught a gray-haired woman with a pair of earrings in her hands, and as I approached her she pretended to be putting them back on our panels. Then I noticed 2 other pieces missing, a pink bracelet and matching earrings, from the same panel. She did not have them in her hands. I quickly looked around to see if anyone else had them or if my husband had removed them from the panels for a customer. The gray-haired woman said to me, "Is something wrong?". I replied, "Yes, a pink bracelet and earrings are missing." Then she proceeded to tell me that she saw someone remove them while she was standing there. She was carrying a large pink purse the same color as the missing bracelet and earrings and it was unzipped at the top, very easy to slip in some jewelry. She stayed in the booth for quite a while asking about every piece. Then she said she had to leave to go to church. She left going around the back of our booth. I followed and watched her go down the street, going through every jewelry booth, handling many pieces. I can't say I saw her steal anything, but the signs were all there. We looked for a policeman or a show organizer, but none to be found. My husband and I took turns watching her proceed though booths and she did not seem to be in a hurry to go to church. She was sitting on a bench for awhile, so my husband returned to the booth. Then I went back to the area and she was gone. What should I have done?

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Comment by Fran Hurst on March 30, 2010 at 11:26pm
We were lucky enough to have a Chief of Police( attending a show in plain clothes) arrest a couple as they left our booth. We had no idea they had stolen a couple of items. They had been suspected of theft in other booths and the chief had his radio and was on the lookout.
If you suspect someone is stealing, I would make them feel as uncomfortable as possible and try to alert officials of your concerns. There is a chance they will try again in another booth.
Comment by Douglas Farrar on March 30, 2010 at 10:32pm
As Michelle said, accusing someone of theft is a touchy subject. 1st of all, they haven't shoplifted until they leave your selling space. Ask any police officer and they will tell you that all they have to do is say that they just put it in the purse until they could pay. Once outside your store(booth) they can be arrested for shoplifting. The professionals no that you won't come back to the town to attend the trial and because of that they don't care if they get caught. Once when we were in Elkhart, IN we noticed a man casually looking at our jewelry several times during the day. Once when we were real busy selling, out of the corner of my eye I saw an arm come around the corner of the tent and grab a couple of necklaces. By the time I got out of the tent to chase him, he was gone. Because we had seen him casing the booth we were able to describe him to the police officer in our area. He told us he thought he knew who it was and would try to get our jewelry back. At the end of the show the officer came to our booth and told us he and his partner had approached the theif and he didn't have the jewelry on him so they hadn't arrested him. Did we want to press charges and return to Elkhart when the trial happened? We said no as 600 miles one way would eat up any profit from the jewelry anyway. If you catch them in the act and can get your product back then go for it. Remember that the suspect can sue you for slander if you can't prove it or don't press charges.
Comment by Michelle Sholund on March 30, 2010 at 10:14pm
Accusing someone of theft is a touchy subject because all it takes is accusing someone who didn't steal to have a real bad situation on your hands. You or your sales people/friends/hubby/etc. must see something happen to go up to someone and call them out on it. If you have other customers in your booth and they hear you accusing other customers of theft, it will quickly make them disappear. You want your booth to be a place where customers feel trusted and not watched or pressured or anything else along those lines. However, I do feel that if you do see someone doing something "odd" hover around them. Ask him/her, that you can help them find a piece for them, mention you have sales (if you do have sales).... I would not hesitate to mention that you saw him or her do something suspicious and ask should "I" - that's you the artist - have a reason to believe you would stoop so low as to steal from a hard working American? You can let them know you won't press charges if they give you anything they have taken without permission right now and leave to never return. At this point you would have proof that they stole something because I am sure they would opt to go the easy route and not go to jail. Also, having been with them long enough to get a good description, you can still report them to the police that they were about to steal from you suspect he/she might have stolen from others at the fair. And when I talk about description I am talking about things like missing a tooth, tattoos, nationality, eye color, etc.
Other than that there isn't too much else you can do. You just have to protect yourself - especially before and after a show is over - this is where I hear stealing occurs most often!
Comment by Jane Shaffer on March 29, 2010 at 10:24pm
We sell jewelry, mainly in the Chicago area. We never have shoplifting in the suburbs, but often have it at shows in the city of Chicago -- some of the most prestigious shows. At one, a customer told me that she saw someone put a ring in her pocket. So, I went up to the person and said "I heard that you put a ring in your pocket, I want it back." She gave it back to me and left. Later, I realized that she probably had taken more than the ring, but at least I got the ring back and she never came back to our tent.
Comment by Pat Falk on March 29, 2010 at 5:31pm
Michelle, All your ideas are great and and I take all the precautions you suggest. My higher priced pieces are all under glass, there are two of us in the booth most of the time to watch, and so on. These people are pros and they wait for the right oportunity. In fact they usually do it while the booth is full of people and you can't see everyone at the same time. I'm sure other customers wouldn't have a clue this was happening. I'm not sure what you mean by doing the right shows??? This particular show was my fifth year there and you would never suspect a well-dress gray-haired lady to be shoplifting, nor would you expect this in Englewood. I am very careful about the shows I choose. The real issue is I wanted to ask her to open her purse but didn't know how? Over the years I have only had a couple things dissapear and never did I have the opportunity to confront the suspected thief. I'm looking for the right words or a good line for future reference.
Comment by Connie Mettler on March 29, 2010 at 5:08pm
Ditto on Michelle's idea -- this is an excellent topic for discussion. You might also visit the Jewelry Genies group on this site where they have discussed display and protecting themselves from shoplifters.
Comment by Michelle Sholund on March 29, 2010 at 2:27pm
Great topic! I suggest posting it under the discussions area to get more of a response. However, my thoughts are you can't be on your guard all the time especially if the booth is a hopping place. You may find you might need to have your display less out of customers reach. I have found, in my days of retail, to crowd those you suspect could be shoplifting. But you have to be absolutely sure they might or have done the act. The best thing to do is give them so much attention that they will think twice about taking something being careful to not ignore others. Your husband did a good thing following her, but what might have been better at the time is for one of you to ring up customers and the other helping customers find what they are looking for or offering suggestions. Going up to suspected "thief" you may want to "say oh I see you like my xyz earrings. Aren't they lovely?... " and keep on going giving them an opportunity to talk. Don't forget you have the right to let people know they are not welcome or kick them out of your space if they are creating a negative atmosphere in your booth. You can simply say, I am sorry I cannot help you today, could you please leave. If they get annoyed tell them they have the count of 3 to get out or you will call the cops and start counting. A shoplifter always looks for an opportunity to find a quiet ill lit place - where no one is watching to quickly drop things in a coat pocket or purse. If a sales person is around them constantly, they will get on edge and get the subtle hint that you are there to make sales and if they are going to purchase, move onto the next booth. This is why many customers don't like it when sales people hover - they want space and freedom to look on their own. Just doing the opposite with someone who looks suspicious works very well without calling them a thief. One of the retail places I worked was Borders Books, Music and Cafe. We had a "family of gypsies" that came in every week and what you described reminded me of them. They did everything to get something for free and then some and the only thing we can do is keep an eye on them. I also stopped a teenager in a long trench coat from shoplifting a ton of cd's. Had the audacity to sit in the cafe - where I was working - and take the electric gadget off of them right in the cafe and put them in his coat - very obvious. So I sat at the table and confronted him (after letting the manager know of my suspicions) and he left the store only to be picked up by a cop waiting outside for him. I was a witness and our cameras caught him too. However artists don't have this luxury, but whenever anyone is open for business you are also opening yourself for the possibility of theft. If a thief wants something, they will find a way to do it - distracting a sales person to blatantly stealing.

In the future, do one or both of these following things. When you set up find out where the nearest staff member will be and ask if they can visit you a couple of times a day or point you in the direction of where you can find an on duty police officer in case something like that would happen to you. You can also have your most expensive items behind glass and ask if people would like to try an item on being there nearly at all times to assist people. The cheaper items can be more easily accessible yet displayed in a way so that you can see what is going on at all times. In other words don't have your display take up all of one side of a 10x10 space with a nook that would be ideal for thiefs. Lastly, I am wondering if you are doing the right shows. Granted this could have been a 1 in 15,000 shot and you just ended up "lucky", but if you are doing shows were people are looking for bargains, you see theft or heard of theft going on, and the like, perhaps you are choosing the wrong shows. You are the only one who can determine that though. I hope it doesn't happen again. Good luck! - Michelle

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