Protect Yourself This Holiday Shopping Season

Well MOM Squad; Black Friday is upon us once again! Some of you are excited. I can almost feel you trembling with anticipation. What’s that in your core? Ahhh…yes. You’re pulsating with glee at the very prospect of getting your clammy little hands on that tech goodie you’ve been looking forward to all year long – and at a deep discount no less!

Others of you (like David S.) couldn’t give a sheep’s wooly arse. I can feel that too, trust me.

Last year a few of you asked me to give tips on how to ‘work’ Black Friday, which I did in the post Black Friday: But only if you dare!  Given my 5+ years as a worker in the retail environment, some of MOM Squad felt my knowledge was vast enough to offer solid, dependable information. I’m humbled. I don’t think 5 years is long enough to become an expert at anything, but given that Barack Obama was only a senator for 3 years before ascending to the highest position in the land, I guess I’m wrong!

This year I want to talk to you about keeping your belongings safe during the height of the shopping season. These belongings include your children too, if you have any.

At my job at the shoe store that I am no longer allowed to mention on my blog (something about social media and violating company rules), I see customers perform any number of stupid and dangerous acts. I believe that these customers engage in this behavior because they are naïve, and have too much faith in their fellow man. Perhaps it has something to do with the holiday lighting and the faint smell of pie in the air.

Or maybe they really are just that stupid.

 As you know, thieves are on the lookout for easy targets to fleece and never are they more active than at the holiday season. It would behoove us all to get into a New York state of mind, and treat EVERYONE with suspicion! You never know who is going to rob you. And no…I’m not afraid that that makes me sound paranoid.

Here is a short list of things you can do to protect your valuables this Christmas.

1)      Carry your purse with you at all times: Ah. Malaka. What do you mean “carry your purse”? I mean just that. I cannot tell you how many customers – on a daily basis – drop their purses on the floor or on a bench and stroll to the next aisle to go look at an item that may have caught their eye. We recently had one customer who did just that, and didn’t realize her purse was missing until a full 20 minutes later! A woman with a baby stroller casually walked by, picked up her bag, and walked out of the store with all said customer’s personal information and cash. Loss Prevention was able to track the woman down with the help of the police, but have any of our other customers learned from this tragedy? Not enough in my view. I walked past 2 abandoned purses just last night.

2)      Use cash whenever possible: This is pain I can share with you from personal experience. Digi-crooks have a method of extracting and copying all your banking information with the swipe of a card. And all they need is your help. Every time you go to a gas pump, a random ATM machine, or slide your card at some shady point of sale location, you open yourself up to having ALL your cash stolen. Just 3 weeks ago, Marshall had his debit card read and copied by a thief gone digital, and they offloaded about $500 from our account, shopping at Party City, Target and some place that started with a W. Because these shopping habits were outside of Marshall’s norm, the bank was able to catch it early, cancel his card, and reissue him a new one. Don’t let this happen to you. Use cash whenever you can!

3)      Insist that the cashier look at your debit/credit card and ID!: This is a touchy one for me, because I AM a cashier, and Black and poor people are funny when it comes to people checking their credentials. Trust me, I have limited interest in taking a gander at your mug shot, but it’s my job to. You see, because stealing has gone digital and fraudsters can so easily copy ones credit and debit card, the only way to make sure that the card being used is legitimate is to check that it has been signed and that it matches the owners ID. Please don’t take offence when a cashier at Macy’s asks you to look at the back of your card. They are not discriminating against you. It is for your OWN protection! If you haven’t stolen anyone else’s identity or card details, this should not be a problem.

4)      Never, ever set your card down: Ugh. This one left me gobsmacked. I had one woman come to my register and begin the checkout process. She swiped her card and then gasped. “Oh no! I have to get the pin number! I’ll be right back,” she assured me. She sprinted out the door and left her shoes – and her debit card – on the counter in front of me. I was aghast. In this digital age, all it would take to get her card information would be a quick click on an iPhone and you can guess the rest. I cannot stress enough how much you should never do this. Never leave your card sitting on the cashier counter, and if you must, lay it face down.

5)      Do the store employees a favor: Listen folks. We can’t go home until you do. If the store closes at 7 pm, please get out. Are we grateful to have jobs? Yes. But how would you like it if I came to your office and threw paper and paper clips all over the floor because I could, and YOU couldn’t leave until I walked out of the door? That’s how I feel when customers are still milling around 30 minutes after closing time. (I realize this has nothing to do with keeping you safe. It’s a self-serving final point.)

Hopefully this advice will get to you in time. With big box retailers competing for dollars, ‘Black Friday’ may be a thing of the past, as they seek to get you in their stores is getting closer and closer to Wednesday.

Have you ever seen anyone make a fiscal blunder in public? What else can shoppers do to be safe and savvy in your experience?