JCK Show: Herzog says use common sense to avoid jewelry losses

International Jewelers Block president Howard Herzog opened his seminar on “Jewelry Loss and Recovery” by declaring he wouldn’t speak much about the “recovery” part.

“As we say in New York, `Fuggeddaboutit,’ ” he said. “Recovering your jewelry once it’s been stolen is a waste of time and effort.”

But he said that most jewelry losses can be prevented with advanced planning and a healthy dose of common sense. “The best anti-theft devices are you and your employees,” he said. He recommended the following tips to avoid most jewelry losses:

Make sure you have “proper physical protection,” including gates, safes, and an alarm system. “If you have these things set up, the burglars will notice them, and they will go someplace else,” he said. “It’s not worth it for them.” Other deterrents include cameras and a two-way mirror in the workshop. He came out strongly against using fake cameras. “If people think you have a fake camera, they’ll think the rest of your security is fake,” he said.

Have a lot of people on the store floor. “Most holdups happen during opening and closing, when there are not a lot of people around,” Herzog said. “The more people on the floor, the less chance of a holdup.”

Don’t leave jewelry in the store window. Herzog noted that items left in windows are generally not covered by insurance policies.

Pay attention if people are casing the store. “Stores always get cased before they’re held up,” Herzog said. He noted that most “casers” are a male-female duo more interested in looking around and examining the cases than in buying anything specific. If you spy someone “casing” your establishment, give them a sign that you’re on to them, such as following them out of the store. In addition, have an in-store secret “key word”-such as “call for Mr. Jones”-if you notice trouble.

Never give out your home address. “You might as well put out a sign that says, `Come and rob me,’ ” Herzog said.

Always follow the proper opening and closing procedures. At least two people should open and close the store, and one should stand away from the building with a cell phone. Before leaving the store, take a quick glance outside. “A quick look is worth a lot,” Herzog said. “Make sure there are not people lurking outside.”

Don’t let delivery people in before the store opens. “The bad guys will find out, and send someone in a FedEx or UPS uniform,” Herzog said.

Never hold a traveling salesman’s line. “The person who could be following the salesman says, `Hmmm. The line’s in there,’ ” Herzog said. “By being Mr. Nice Guy, you’ve increased your chance of a loss.”

Be careful with trunk shows. If you agree to host one, get it in writing that you are not responsible for losses. “Don’t just get an assurance from the company salesperson,” Herzog said. “They are not the owner of the company.”

Keep in mind that distractions sometimes cover for switches or other thefts. “As soon as anything unusual happens-a kid is bleeding, someone falls down-it’s time to freeze and look to see if something is happening,” Herzog said.

Vary your opening and closing times and procedures, and move merchandise from showcase to showcase. “These guys have floor plans of what cases to hit,” he said. “If you frequently move things around, people may overlook you.”

Properly screen your employees and give “surprise audits” to avoid “shrinkage,” or in-store theft. “The best way to protect your jewelry store is a surprise audit, a surprise count,” he said. “Anything that’s done by surprise is a very effective tool.”

If you do have a loss, make sure you can quantify it to the insurance company. “You need to find how much you lost as quickly as possible, because that’s as quick as you get paid,” Herzog said. “Too many people don’t present a proper claim. It’s your obligation to quantify your losses.”