St. Paul's Gift Shop takes steps to curb rampant shoplifting
Submitted by Elaine Yong, Communications Specialist, Media Relations, Communications & Public Affairs
“Little old ladies with walkers, patients in wheelchairs, well-dressed men, it could be anyone,” laments Lily Derksen, manager of the St. Paul’s Hospital Gift Shop. She’s talking about the rampant shoplifting that is a daily occurrence in the small retail operation, especially since the 7-11 convenience store across the street shut down two years ago.
While there are about a dozen “regulars” who commit a large portion of the crime, Lily says in her eight years as manager, nothing surprises her anymore. “I had a man in a leather jacket who stuffed a bag of chips in his pocket, another guy who looked quite nice stuffed crystals in his pocket. We have theft of anything and everything.”
There is nothing off-limits for thieves. More than 50 bags of candy have gone missing this past year. At the end of November, a $110 designer Britto Owl Teapot was stolen. The store’s biggest theft ever was a giant amethyst geode worth $700, snatched by a man and woman working together. Lily explains, “It was broad daylight at lunch hour. The woman distracted the volunteer at the front while the other volunteer was stocking in the back. The man literally walked in and walked out with the amethyst.”
Lily has tried just about everything to limit the losses. The store has a security camera, there are mirrors at the back, security personnel make regular rounds, a buzzer at the front door greets customers, and there are several signs around the store. Products are stocked in a way to minimize potential thefts and certain high-traffic items are placed where the volunteer staff can easily keep an eye on them. Lily constantly tries to educate her 60 volunteers about loss prevention techniques, which primarily includes acknowledging each customer. But that hasn’t stopped the thieves, which can be very stressful for the volunteers, “The young ones get really nervous and scared. They have never dealt with it and it’s nerve-wracking.” She is quick to point out safety comes first and all the volunteers know they should never run after a shoplifter. Security gets called first and if there is a repeat offender Lily will work with police.
The losses add up to more than $2000 a year, a huge hit for the small non-profit operation. All proceeds go directly towards patient care and comfort at St. Paul’s, so ultimately, the thieves are stealing from patients.
However, Lily has also seen incredible acts of kindness from customers who have learned of this unfortunate problem. Some make donations to offset the financial losses, and one customer regularly brings in hundreds of beautiful handmade cards for Lily to sell. She emphasizes, “We all need to do our part to try and stop this.”
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