Saks Fifth Avenue loses $400,000, Are We Paying Attention Yet?
San Jose, CA — 10/16/14
Consider this; 20 years ago, shoplifting in the United States was at an average of $300,000 a day. That’s $100,000 less than Saks recent problem. Today it stands at 35 million a day. This is with the increase of technology and businesses in the United States spending over 1 Billion dollars last year to protect from shoplifting. Just in the last few weeks, all around the United States, there has been an average of 50 stories a day on shoplifting. This is almost daily. A recent survey stated that 1 out of 11 people are shoplifting. Think about that, that’s one person in a jury for a court case, one person on each team in a football game. The average that one person steals in a year – $250. Have THEY got your attention yet?
Dr John Brady, Forensic Psychologist, Celebrity Analyst and Author, has been treating behavior issues for over 20 years in California for sexual crimes, drugs and shoplifting. One of the three most popular Forensic Psychologists around the world for his analytical opinions on Winona Ryder, Peaches Geldoff and Jodi Arias, he states the most challenging of those afflictions is the shoplifter. Regarding SAKS Fifth Avenue, he writes “It’s really not a mystery that Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store was missing $400,000 in pricey designer handbags. I’ve seen this movie before when I first began to try to figure out the “Why and who” steals”
Dr Brady started out as a store detective while going to graduate school and has experienced the climate. During this experience, he says “Much to my surprise, the employees consistently walked out with more Coach Purses than ten street shoplifters. Employees just like the shoplifters I treat today as a forensic psychologist are perhaps more often tempted beyond their control and steal.”
How do we control it?
Usually in order to detect a dishonest employee it’s a “fairly simple process” states Dr Brady, “you catch them, take them to personnel and they are in a police cruiser faster than you can say, “Hey, where’s my Coco Channel handbag?””
Employee theft schemes involving lots of moving parts like identity-credit card fraud are more difficult to pin down and can literally take forever from discovery to prosecution. Saks found this out the hard way. The National Theft Council reports that it can take up to 18 (yes one-eight) months to uncover a theft ring similar to Saks so the company is always behind the apprehension curve. Better employee screening and a careful audit of all credit card activity is essential.
Dr Brady states “Personally, I like Apple Pay. It’s a one-time transaction and “you’re outta there” and Saks, Macy’s or Nordstrom will be all happy again.”
“When reading the NY Times article about the $400,000 fraud it reminded me of a case that I reported in my book, “Why Rich Women Shoplift—When They Have It All!, Mrs. Daio, living life large in suburbia (Los Altos, California) had managed to steal more than $300,000 in designer handbags. She and her husband had a net worth of more than $10 million and lived in a $3 million home. It was a dream until she was caught in San Jose stealing yet one more bag, you know, for her collection. Mrs. Daio was depressed and got quite a lift or rush from her stealing.”
“Perhaps we should stop incarcerating people and start understanding why they do it” states Dr Brady. “That’s how we can prevent things like this from happening.”
Case 2, Mrs. Konvitz, “The Corned Beef Caper”
Mrs. Konvitz’s case is characterized by feelings of intense anger, frustration, and a large measure of survival guilt associated with the extermination of most of her family members during World War II at the hands of the Nazi S.S. Her score of 18 on the Rotter Locus of Control Scale also indicates a highly external locus of control. Her case remains both enigmatic and tragic for her and her current family, although she has elected to maintain a veil of secrecy related to her chronic shoplifting. Many of her more obvious psychological symptoms are in keeping with a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. Mrs. Konvitz evidenced these external control descriptors:
- Social masking, deceptive, afraid (11)
- Questions authority, lack of trust, and self-centered (narcissistic) (2)
- Abundance of negative emotions, including anger-hostility patterning (15)
- Tense, angry, high levels of suspiciousness (9)
Severe masochism, depression, anger, intense anxiety, and World War II concentration camp survival guilt are some of the identifiable triggers that contributed to Mrs. Konvitz’stwisting path into the shoplifting zone. As a result, she has had multiple theft arrests. How does a wealthy older woman living in one of the most upscale regions of the country, Santa Barbara, California, get arrested for shoplifting one and a half pounds of kosher corned beef? If Mrs. Konvitz’s shoplifting experience was not so personally tragic for her and her family, it might be viewed humorously. Mrs. Konvitz entered Cyd’s, an exclusive Southern California deli, took the corned beef, exited the store, and sped away from the shoplifting scene in a new Mercedes Benz. As the alert security guard from Cyd’s pursued her, he saw Mrs. Konvitz toss the purloined meat out of the window of her car as she sped toward home. Subsequently, the major emotional issue for Mrs.Konvitz was not that she had committed a crime but that everyone at the deli had known her for years, and now they also knew her as a thief. It was impossible for her to argue that she didn’t do it. After all, she was seen stealing the corned beef and then making her getaway. But why did she do it?
The antecedent conditions leading to Mrs. Janine Konvitz’s arrest for petty theft havehistorical psychological tendrils extending back to the diabolical events of 1940s Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust experience of many of her family members who were murdered in gas chambers. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy, Mrs. Konvitz was able to directly link her present out-of-control symptoms, including her shoplifting, to these past family horrors. She constructed an emotional bridge to the past to help explain her present maladaptive shoplifting. Her bridge to the painful past used a cognitive chain of events to revivify the past.
Of the four shoplifters profiled in this chapter, Mrs. Konvitz was initially by far the most recalcitrant, angry, negative, and defensive. Her family history contained good justification for these bitter, negative feelings, which, unfortunately, in large measure account for her present theft pathology. As I spoke with her during the initial session, Mrs. Konvitz’s displaced hostility and overt anger flared out in all directions. But she did not know why she was exhibiting this mountain of negativity. Ultimately, when she did make a nexus, past to present, she did see that she needed to change. Like other shoplifters I have treated, she desperately wanted an opportunity for moral redemption.
The goals of Mrs. Konvitz’s psychological testing were to:
- Assess her personality (nontheft dynamics).
- Determine whether any psychological variables impinge on or drive her petty theft behaviors.
- In lieu of jail sentencing, determine what form of treatment is required to best treat her shoplifting condition.