The duty of a loss prevention specialist is to aid a merchant in thwarting theft. Loss prevention specialists work to secure facilities, monitor inventory, and apprehend thieves such as shoplifters. The job of a loss prevention specialist differs from that of a security guard, however. While a security guard watches for theft and maintains order, a security guard must wear a uniform, and typically does not have the professional skills and company access of a loss prevention specialist.
Loss Prevention Job Responsibilities
The primary job responsibility of someone working in loss prevention is to covertly monitor shoppers. Wearing the clothing of a typical shopper, a loss prevention specialist poses as a customer while searching for shoplifters among the store’s shoppers. Dressed in civilian garb, a well-trained loss prevention specialist goes undetected as he or she watches and, when the circumstances call for action, apprehends a shoplifter.
Additionally, those working in loss prevention may be asked to monitor footage from surveillance cameras, assess and maintain store safety, enforce company rules among employees, and train other store employees in detecting shoplifters.
Those working in loss prevention must be prepared to work a wide range of hours. These hours will include not only the hours during which a store is open, but working before- and afterhours to ascertain what may have been stolen, as well as what might easily be stolen. For example, while a store is closed, a specialist might walk the aisles in order to determine weak spots in store security. For example, are dressing room procedures properly run? Are there spots in the store not covered by security cameras? Is store inventory accessible to employees entering and leaving the building? Are employees’ belongings secure from customers and coworkers?
Loss prevention specialists must have excellent interpersonal skills, as the job involves working closely with both the public and other store employees. Perhaps the most important quality that a loss prevention specialist must have is skill in the art of diplomacy. Diplomacy includes treating all customers and coworkers with respect, even in instances where theft is suspected or known. Diplomacy includes maintaining a fair and balanced view of all shoppers, regardless of race, class, religion, manner of dress, etc.
Loss prevention specialists must also be in good physical condition. The job requires long periods of standing, as well as quite a bit of walking. Clothing requirements vary base on the type of store, but comfortable shoes are a definite must in all stores.
Loss Prevention Training and Education Requirements
Loss prevention specialists typically must have a high school diploma or GED (general equivalency diploma). College coursework in law enforcement or legal procedures is not necessary, but will help both on the job and in job promotions. Once hired by a company, the specialist can expect to be trained on the company’s policies and procedures.
A loss prevention specialist must be able to put him- or herself into the mindset of a shoplifter. He or she must ask him- or herself, “What can easily be stolen here?” “Where would I walk to in this store to place this item under my jacket?” “Is there an unmonitored exit where I could walk out with store merchandise?” Being a loss prevention specialist is a lot like being a detective or a police officer. The difference is that, instead of figuring out a crime after it has been committed, he or she must figure out the ways in which a future crime might be committed. Thoughtful foresight and problem-solving skills are must-have qualities for anyone hoping to excel in the field of loss prevention.
Loss Prevention Salary and Wages
The salary and wages of those working in loss prevention vary widely. While there is room for raises and advancement, most specialists start at or near the federal minimum wage. Many stores offer bonuses for apprehending shoplifters, in the form of a percentage of the value of recovered goods. Some loss prevention specialists have been known to nearly double their hourly wages through such incentives.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Loss Prevention Certifications
Loss prevention certification is largely done by the company for which the specialist works. However, some vocational training schools offer loss prevention certification classes and degrees. Additionally, in order to work as a loss prevention specialist, a person must be bonded. In order to be bonded (which simply means that the employee’s work activities are covered through the business’s theft insurance), the loss prevention specialist must have a clear criminal record.
Loss Prevention Professional Associations
There are several professional associations for those working in loss prevention. These include the Retail Loss Prevention eXchange, as well as the Retail Merchants Association’s SLPA (Security & Loss Prevention Association). Joining a professional group is not necessary in order for a person to get a starting job in loss prevention. However, as with all successful career growth, membership in a professional organization will aid a specialist in advancing her or his career.