So I stopped by Best Buy last night on my way to Penn Station after work. There was a DVD I wanted to get, so I picked that up and carried it with me while I was browsing the store. So I wandered over to the video games section and was looking around. I'm going to be traveling quite a bit in the coming months, and I've been told by folks who know better than I that the coolest portable game system to have is the Sony PSP. So I start looking around for one.
I see about three different kinds of Nintendo portables on display, happily whirring and beeping out in the open where customers can play with them. About 15 feet away are two couches parked in front of two large televisions, where a group of four teens is happily playing a sports game on XBox. There's a huge section for PSP games and accessories, but no PSP.
So I ask the clerk where I can actually get the PSP unit. He tells me I need to go to the register. They keep the PSPs at the register because of theft concerns. To get to the register, I have to stand in a line of 35-40 people queueing up to buy Star Wars III.
"Can I see one? Do you have one on display?" I asked the clerk.
"No, they're all behind the counter at the register," he replied.
"What do they cost?" I asked.
"I'm not sure," he told me. "You'll have to check at the register."
This sucks. What if I get up to the register, wait 30 minutes and then find out that the thing costs $400? And suppose I want to look at the unit and see how well it's constructed? What if I think the screen is a piece of crap? What if I don't want to buy it then? What if I need some time to evaluate the unit and there are 40 people waiting behind me on line? No, thanks.
So I wander over to the computer upgrades section to look at some video cards. The one I want to look at is enshrined in a thick lucite case. On top of that, the lucite case has an anti-theft device wrapped around it like a bow. Because of the thickness of the lucite and the damned anti-theft device in the way, I can't read the technical specs on the box. So I ask a clerk to give me a hand.
Turns out he's not allowed to take the thing out of the box.
"How do you expect someone to drop over $300 on a video card if they can't see the specs on the box?"
No answer to that one.
So I put down my DVD and marched out of the store. No way I was buying ANYTHING there. I'll do all my research online, thankyouverymuch.
Argue all you want in favor of taking steps to prevent loss, but that does NOT justify treating all your customers like criminals. And when loss prevention actually stands between your customers and the products they want, it's time to re-evaluate your loss prevention program from a dollars and cents perspective.
I don't want to pick on Best Buy here. This is happening at retail stores all over the place. Try to get a package of razor cartridges at your local drug store and you'll see what I mean. There's got to be a happy medium in between preventing loss and assuming every customer who walks in the door is a criminal.