In Plain Sight

What follows is one optical pro’s take on what it takes to deal with the ongoing issue of thievery in a retail environment. Some might consider this particular action as rather drastic and potentially dangerous. Check it out and tell 20/20 how you feel and how you might act in coping with the affront of someone stealing YOUR wares.  — James J. Spina, 20/20 Editor in Chief

10:30 a.m. A guy comes in to look at frames.

11 a.m. I personally work with him. He knows what to ask and he is good, but I identify him as a person of interest… that is… a potential thief. I alert my staff.

7 p.m. I leave for the evening.

7:10 p.m. The same guy returns, likely watching all day to see when I leave and manages to rip us off for $9,000 at retail. My store manager runs out to chase him and actually gets a plate number.

7:45 p.m. Pittsburgh Police show up, take the report and run the plate. The vehicle is an Avis rental.

NEXT DAY: 8:45 a.m. I am on the case. If you know me, you know I’m relentless in terms of my responsibility to my profession. I call the Pittsburgh police station. My detective can’t get back to me until 4 p.m., and nobody else can talk to me about this. We have knowledge of what’s going on so we take matters into our own hands.

9:30 a.m. I reach out to the district manager of Avis; I tell her my name, the case number, the description of the car and that it was potentially involved in a string of crimes in Pittsburgh. She rallies to the righteous challenge and gives me everything she had on this rental.

9:45 a.m. I’m on the phone with the police in Copley, Ohio after finding out that car was being returned by 2 p.m. the next day. Copley police are amazing. They put an APB out on this rental.

12 p.m. I get a call. The cops have located the car. They have an unmarked watching it.

2:30 p.m. My cell rings. They got the guy. My frames are in a bag in the rental located at his condo in Ohio. He was going to sell them that afternoon.

3:30 p.m. The thief is in jail for the night, to be arraigned in the morning. We retrieve my frames along with two frames that were stolen from Heidi Optics. (Heidi owes me a beer or three for this one.)

We can breathe a bit easier, knowing we did what we had to do to protect our eyewear and put a thief in jail. I don’t want to hear my life is worth more than $9,000. Don’t steal from me. The thief is being brought up on federal charges and will face a grand jury, and YES, I will be there when he is formally charged and sentenced. I will say to him what I need to say and love every minute of it.

Brad Childs
Vice President and COO
Eyetique, Pittsburgh

About James Spina
20/20 Editor-in-Chief

14 Responses to In Plain Sight

  1. audrey pavia says:

    Wow – that’s some story – why no comments yet? I don’t have to say you should be proud – you already are – rightfully so. The value of the inventory almost doesn’t matter – it’s the principal – like you said “protect our eyewear” Well, at least we work with something that has value – enough to be stolen! My question… what do you have to say to the Pitts police?

  2. J.D. Bloomar says:

    Well Done! Having worked loss prevention for major retail in a previous life, your actions were extremely appropriate. Getting the license tag is much safer than confrontation when the suspect has reached their vehicle. God knows the police need all the help they can get from informed and appropriate citizens. Principals are important and you acted properly. I say again, Well Done!

  3. John Davis says:

    You did a good thing obviously. I wondered HOW the guy got $9000 worth of goods out the door of your place.? Was this an after hours theft? It doesn’t read that way. In our Town location we call each other if we suspect someone has stolen from a business. If the person walks in with an obviously new frame with tags , etc. We demand to see the receipt. I followup with a call to the merchant who notified me initially. Video cameras are a good investment, especially the DVD recorder types which are more covert.

  4. Ed Samsen says:

    I hope they “Throw the book at him” I am sure he can be connected to more than your theft and Heidi’s theft.

  5. I agree… well done! As an optical owner lately my thoughts have been directed to making a plan for staff members in the case of theft or hold-up. Kudos to your store manager for getting the plate number. You owe him/ her a case of beer :) I’m glad to read a story where the crook gets caught and prosecuted.

  6. Neda says:

    Erggg…. These thieves make my blood BOIL!!! I’m glad you nailed him!

  7. Mark Bashore says:

    Quite the Columbo on this caper! I would like to know WHO he was getting ready to sell the frames to that afternoon. That person should be held liable too. If your thief didn’t have a buyer he may not have ripped you off.

  8. ed soss, od says:

    just curious…how many frames did he get?

  9. I am so glad that he was caught and is being prosecuted! Our office was recently robbed of $1500 worth of Gucci frames, by two men that have been using the same scheme all over New Jersey for several years now and have not been caught. We even had video of them and their vehicle, but still no arrest!! Amazing that they continue to get away with it.

  10. Kristy Gleaton says:

    Good for you! I had a similar situation, but I was more confrontational to the thief. I lost no product and he was arrested and went to jail. I know it is controversial, but if you become known as a target, they will be relentless. After conversations with law enforcement, shoplifters are working in groups. My entire staff is trained to occupy the sales floor whenever we think we may have a potential shoplifters. Overall, we have found this to be a huge deterrent.

  11. D Carlton says:

    You are lucky that the Avis Rental Car people helped you out with info as usually one would be told that is private information and we can’t give it out to you. Avis had no way of knowing if you were for real or not. I’ve been there and done that with a stolen credit card someone opened in my name being unable to get the stores they were buying at to stop them as they would not take the information I was giving them or give me any info about them. I could track them by what and where they were buying on the card from the credit card company. Finally A Best Buy employee helped me out and nailed the guy the next day when he came to buy more big screens. Good for Avis for the assist and to the Pitt PD for setting up the sting.

  12. MLB says:

    I am just wondering how your staff was on alert for this situation and allows him to proceed. Even if your frames are $400 each that is still 22 they let slip away. Imagine if they were not in alert!
    Secondarily it would be interesting to find out who the intended buyer was and their secondary distribution channels.

  13. Brad says:

    Hello all,
    The frames that he stole where all Cartier, they were Buffalo horn and wood only. He was precise, he pulled out a wad of cash and laid it on the table for my staff to get excited. He was smooth and savvy, he beat my staff. However, the manager at the time chased him right out the door. I never suggest to anybody to put their lives in front of a few thousand dollars worth of product, but If I am there it is game over, I will not escort them out of the front door, rather spend two grand on a new piece of glass after I throw them through it. We have no tolerance for scumbag thiefs and will always remain aggressive in our actions. The police in Ohio where Johnny on the spot. All I can say to anybody reading this is that video in your stores is critical…also taking only one frame Cartier out at a time is another way to prevent…good luck to all of you, and handle as you may, steal from us, we are coming for you no matter what…police or not

  14. Tricia Anastasia says:

    WOW! what diligence and commitment! You should be proud. It was your detective foot work that made this possible, leaving the actual apprehension to the professionals. I agree that video camerasare of the up most importance.

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