Could new technology stop organized and sophisticated shoplifters in their tracks?

Scanning your phone to buy a stick of deodorant may become the new normal

Has shoplifting tech gone too far? (Solutionaries.)

It’s a crime that goes unnoticed a lot of the time, but it’s costing the victims billions of dollars a year. Shoplifting is a serious problem in America, and retail stores are losing lots and lots of money each year because of it.

When I think of shoplifting, my mind immediately goes to high schoolers stealing clothes from the local mall, or something like that. I can remember a girl I went to high school with was notorious from shoplifting clothes from Kohl’s. She was almost proud that she would get away with it.

It seems in the last couple of years, shoplifters are no longer teenage girls, but large groups of people who have an entire operation in place to steal as much merchandise as possible.

On a recent episode of Solutionaries, the topic of how to reduce shoplifting was discussed, and the possible solutions are interesting, to say the least.

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The question now is how do these stores combat shoplifting? Do they hire more security for the front of the store? More security tags on items? More cameras? There has to be some sort of solution, especially if stores are bleeding out billions of dollars like they say.

What really surprised me is that these aren’t just one-off shoplifters. Sure, some of them may be, but people have gotten way more sophisticated at the way they shoplift. According to the Loss Prevention Research Council, these are crime rings and huge operations that are getting away with shoplifting department stores. It’s kind of mind-blowing when you think about it.

So what are stores supposed to do when crime organizations are stealing from you, then selling it back to consumers? There are solutions, but it may come at a cost to the store and the consumer.

For instance, the Loss Prevention Research Council has a prototype store where they test out new technology that will try and stop shoplifters in their tracks. Some of the technology makes it harder for shoplifters to grab products easily, but other ways seem like an invasion of privacy for the shopper.

A representative from Loss Prevention Research Council explained that there is facial recognition technology that can be used, so before you are able to retrieve the item from the store shelf, your face must be recognized.

There is another technology that won’t let you take an item off the shelf until you’ve entered in your phone number, or scanned a QR code. Once that task is complete, then a case will open and you can take the item you’re looking for.

It all seems like thoughtful and innovative, but to me, as someone who just wants to get in and out of a store like CVS or Walmart as fast as possible, feels like a major inconvenience, and an invasion of privacy.

The last thing I want to do is give a random store my phone number or email so I can get deodorant off the shelf. They can tell us that the phone number is only going to be used for shoplifting tracking purposes, but there’s no way I would ever trust that. Data sharing is a huge deal, and I only want to give up personal information like that if I want to.

So because of these expansive crime rings, I will now have to scan my phone, or have my face recognized if I want to buy shaving cream or toothpaste? I know it’s a minimal thing to complain about, but protecting my privacy and date is important to me, so it just seems crazy that shoplifters are winning in this battle.

But what are stores to do when shoplifters are getting smarter than the security in stores? You can only do so much, and when stores are losing billions of dollars a year from shoplifters, it’s worth trying out new ideas from innovative people.

Are a lot of these solutions just band-aids to a much larger problem? We have to ask ourselves why people are choosing a life of shoplifting over a normal career that will pay just as much. Like I said, these are sophisticated crime rings that are stealing so much money a year, but why do they feel the need to steal in the first place?

I’m not sure what the best option would be, but I do know that if stores start actually adding in all these high-tech gadgets, will we actually reach any sort of good solution?

Do you think these security measures are a good idea? Or are you concerned with your data being stolen? Let us know in the comments below!

This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help at

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