A sequel to #424: How to Stop a Thief
GETTING MORE TALE #795: A Case for Security
Back when people used to actually steal physical CDs instead of just stealing a download, extravagant measures were taken to secure our precious inventory.
We had a magnetic tag security system. At the entrance stood an electronic gate that would go into alarm mode any time one of those magnetic tags was near. Every item we had in-store was tagged. The system was not cheap. I believe the tags cost 5 cents each (in 1994 dollars). They were the cheapest ones available and they quickly added up. The tags were not re-usable. Once they were de-magnetized they were done. Also, because they were sticky tags, if you ripped one off you wouldn’t be able to re-apply it very well as the sticky side got less sticky. You could put it back on with tape, but no matter what you did, over time the tags would always start to peel off on their own. We did a “tape check” every week to make sure every cassette still had a security tag firmly attached.
There was a different method for securing CDs. To cut down on the use of the magnetic tags, we used plastic CD long boxes. The magnetic tags were fitted inside, didn’t peel off, and could be re-used time and time again. You couldn’t get the CD out of the long boxes without a key, or you’d destroy what was inside. The key was kept behind the counter.
Like anything at the Record Store, this security measure had its pros and cons. Storing those long boxes when not in use was a constant struggle. We always seemed to be bursting at the seams with them. We had cabinets underneath the CD shelving that were usually packed full.
The biggest “pro” was reducing the cost of the magnetic tags. Since you could use the same case over and over again with the magnetic strip intact, you didn’t have to keep buying new ones. The long boxes were also an added deterrent. If you wanted to steal a CD you had to hide the long box under your jacket.
This didn’t stop people from trying. One day, somebody from the mall came into the Record Store and told me that they found half a dozen broken long boxes in the trash outside.
“I think someone has been stealing from you,” she said.
I was immediately worried that someone managed to rip us off on my shift. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, though Zellers were not as lucky. Upon seeing the broken long boxes, I could tell they didn’t belong to us. They came from Zellers, who used a similar system. Someone managed to beat it. How?
If nobody was looking, you could lift the CDs right over the magnetic gate. That was the easiest way, and at Zellers, chances are nobody was looking. Another method (supposedly anyway) involved lining the inside of your jacket with aluminum foil. Apparently this would allow you to shoplift anything with a magnetic tag. The urban legend, which may have been true, is that a local gang of CD thieves used this method.
The gang were known locally as “Pizza Guys”. The cops were always two steps behind them. The main detective on the case gave us pretty clear instructions. We were to buy everything the “Pizza Guys” brought in, record it, and get their ID. We were to flag any “shady” purchases but otherwise they told us it was business as usual. I don’t know if the detective ever caught the “Pizza Guys”, but years later their leader Aristotles (real name!) went to jail for selling ecstasy, meth and heroin. Quite a large step from stealing CDs! According to the news, he got just six years in jail.
I don’t think the “Pizza Guys” were shoplifting CDs normally. I think they were getting them from someone on the inside. We’ll never really know. We used to joke that one day we’d be in an HMV store minding our own business, when Aristotles would pop his head out of the stock room. “We’re out of Big Shiny Tunes again!”
Even though the “Pizza Guys” usually brought in what you would call good titles (usually new releases), we all hated dealing with them. As time went on without getting caught, they got more and more cocky and difficult to deal with. It was good to know the cops were on our side, but I’m not a detective. My job was not to fight crime in the city of Kitchener. My job was to sell music, and these guys didn’t make it a pleasant experience for us.