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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Cubbies reduce theft

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor


Friday, October 13, 2006

Visitors to the St. Olaf bookstore have probably noticed a change to the storefront this year: the addition of a backpack cubby. The cubby is the public face of a larger effort by bookstore staff to reduce theft.

According to bookstore director David Schlosser, the store’s known loss – determined by the amount of removed packaging and security tags found throughout the store – was higher last year than ever before. About two-thirds of the known theft involved textbooks, while the rest included clothing and miscellaneous supplies.

Bookstore employee Heidi Youngren '‘07 recalled finding candy wrappers and half-drunk sodas atop store shelves. "We have such a trust policy here that you’d think that wouldn’'t have to happen, but it did," she said.

In response to the theft, bookstore staff and members of Public Safety met over the summer to discuss possible solutions. "While we had a few options, [the cubby] was the one we in the bookstore decided to go with," Schlosser said.

Schlosser said bookstore staff did not make the decision easily. "We knew it would be a change in culture for the students," he said. "We knew it probably wasn'’t going to be popular."

He also said the need for the cubby does not reflect the intentions of most students. "I don'’t think that this, by any means, is an indictment of all St. Olaf students," he said. "But there are a few out there who made this move necessary."

Although some non-students have committed bookstore theft, the majority of people stopped by staff for stealing have been Oles.

According to Youngren, backpacks, bag lunches and other personal belongings are problematic because they can camouflage stolen goods. With a backpack, "you’'re that much wider and people can'’t see around you," she said. The new policy makes it easier for staff to differentiate between customer and bookstore goods – since personal belongings are outside, anything in the hands of a customer must be from the bookstore.

Although students occasionally forget about the bookstore policy, most remove backpacks without a reminder from staff. "I'’m actually really pleased at how many students see the sign and automatically take them off," Schlosser said.

He pointed out that most college bookstores have some sort of cubby system. Until recently, St. Olaf’'s store was in the minority.

Schlosser said the no-backpack policy has helped reduce theft so far this year. Although the store has still experienced significant small theft, "the cubbies have been extremely successful in reducing the units we are missing in textbooks. If we had to estimate, we would say the known loss in textbooks is down 75-90 percent from the same time last year."

A "heightened sense of awareness among the staff" is also being used to combat theft, Schlosser said. Greeting customers and observing their whereabouts within the store both improves security and provides customer service.

Other options for reducing bookstore theft include placing mirrors throughout the store and possibly modifying the store’s layout. However, neither of these measures are planned for the near future.

Schlosser stressed the staff’s belief that "the majority of St. Olaf students are good, honest people, and we trust them. We feel that it’s a limited number of people who are causing us to have to take the actions we have, and who have made it a little more difficult for all students."





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