Friday, December 19, 2008

Shopping Tips for the 25 Days of Christmas: Tip #23

While many of us are focusing on the wonderful and joyous aspects of the holiday season, there is an unfortunate darker side to the holidays as well. With an economy that is tough for so many, there is a criminal element that arises from this hardship. Also, at a time of the year where so many are doing a great deal of shopping in large crowds, we are sometimes left more vulnerable than we truly know.

Many of us are operating on a "cash-only" holiday shopping budget. So, that means that are carrying more cash than ever, and the thieves know that too! While I certainly do not want to scare anyone during the holiday season, I know from my many years of retail management experience how so many people assume they are safe, are complacent and truly do not focus on their personal safety while out shopping.

Thus, this tip is all about being safe with your cash while shopping this holiday season!


Use these tips to be cash safe this holiday season!

1. Many of us rely heavily upon ATMs to withdraw cash. If you can, do the buddy system, especially with ATMs that are slightly more isolated, or if you are withdrawing money while it is dark. If at all possible, it is best to do that cash transaction inside the bank. Take care to make sure that you get your card back (over the last week, I have found TWO cards left in ATMs!) and that you are careful with entering your pin, and requesting and taking your receipts. Yes, the information is somewhat "encrypted" but do you want a potential criminal to know your balance information and decide to target you based off of that info?

2. Do not keep all of your cash in one place. If you are carrying hundreds of dollars, or more, try to break it down into smaller batches so that you are not pulling out a fat wallet or "wad" of money. That is really telegraphing to a potential pickpocket or thief that you are a target. Paper clip it into smaller batches (say $100 in $20s) to minimize how much money you are pulling out in public at any given time.

3. Keep your cash as close to your body as possible. I continue to see moms with their purses in shopping carts everywhere I go. Yes, I live in a safe community. But, remember, the criminal element knows where the "safe" communities are, too. They will pinpoint those very communities as they know that we are more likely to assume that we are safe. I can tell you from experience, when we caught and busted pickpockets and thieves in my stores, they were not from the immediate community. Some had come from as much as 2-3 hours away to get to you in your safe community.

4. Never, ever keep money in pockets, jacket pockets, flaps of your purse or anywhere that a pickpocket could have easy access. A casual "bump" in a crowded mall could be someone relieving you of your cash! I have seen videos of pickpockets that have been caught in my stores, and I can tell you that they were so good I could not even see them taking the cash!

5. Make sure that you are thorough in giving your cash to a cashier. Count it out to them, make sure that they know you are well-aware of what you are handing over to them. Short change artists rip off cashiers all of the time, however, that is reciprocated with cashiers short-changing consumers as well. I had a friend who recently paid for an item and in the hustle and bustle of the transaction was short-changed by $40.00! She told me, in tears, and I called the store on her behalf asking the store manager to count down that drawer immediately. Luckily, the store manager listened, pulled the cashier off of that lane, counted the drawer and found it to be $267.00 OVER in funds. That cashier was creating an amazing little holidy shopping kitty for herself. My friend got her money back, but think of all of the other customers (to the tune of $227.00!) that may not have realized that they were missing change! OUCH!

I do hope that these tips are a reminder to shop safely with your cash this holiday season! Happy Holidays!

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