I’ve Been Robbed! ~ Need Some Theft Prevention Advice

by Richard Yodis.
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA)

One of my old co-workers owns a salon down the block from where we worked together. It’s a relatively small salon, but along with planning special events to somewhat rebrand the place, my friend asked me if I would want to set up a display of my jewelry next to the products they sell in-store.

theft prevention jewelry display

previous in-store display; about 2′ wide, 1′ deep; on a shelf at eye-level.

I just started reaching out to consignment shops and boutiques, so of course, I accepted his invitation.

He refused to accept any compensation or consignment for the pieces, stating that he has seen my progress over the past year and only wants to help me expand as an artist/jewelry designer.

That being said, I never had him sign any sort of agreement or contract; we’ve known each other for years now, and I have complete faith in his honesty.

My jewelry has been in his shop now for a couple of months, generating a lot of interest, but fewer sales. He is also present at the salon every day to open and close, and seems to have a small but kind and trustworthy staff. The receptionist girl has volunteered to take it upon herself to talk to interested clients, dust/clean the display regularly, and handle any sales by referencing an inventory list I update each time I switch out pieces (the price/inventory list is kept behind the desk, with small tags on each piece with the price and item #).

The area set-aside for my jewelry display is within sight of the desk, but the staff is always moving around. There are a couple chairs in the front room, and more in the back; the rooms are separated by a hallway which has a large shelf with their haircare products, etc… So people have to pass by any time they come in for an appointment.

I feel like the above background info is important to paint a scene… So to cut to the chase: I stopped by the salon recently for a “ladies’ night” event to set up a table while patrons had their nails and hair done.

When I arrived, I asked how the jewelry was doing to find out there were a couple sold pieces, which I collected the money for.

While moving my current in-store items to the larger display table I had for the night, I noticed one of the bracelets was missing, and the receptionist left this piece out when summarizing the sales. I waited until the event was over to ask about the bracelet, but no employees (my friend, the owner, included) had any idea as to the item’s whereabouts.

It was a micro-maille bracelet made with fine silver, so it was the most expensive piece in the lot; I typically keep my work affordable by using aluminum/copper.

So, I guess what I am getting at is this:

  • Though it is some distance from the entrance, anyone that comes in the salon is guaranteed to see my work (great, right?!)
  • I work with chainmaille, which, if you’re familiar, is made from any of a number of weaves/patterns. Most people who check out my work have the urge to pick it up, play with it, etc… I actually encourage this, because many times, the ‘behavior’ of the piece is often a selling point of my jewelry (the way it moves, feels, etc). I don’t have a locking display, nor do I want to discourage people from physically experiencing the jewelry collection.
  • I can’t even be sure the bracelet was stolen by customers; I wanted to dismiss it to falling and getting swept up without knowledge… I am overly trusting usually, but I was concerned that the receptionist dusts the area everyday, and the fact that she didn’t notice that, one of the 2 pieces, with their own free-standing display, had been removed and replaced by a completely dissimilar bracelet, seemed somewhat questionable. (The missing piece in question easily stood out from the rest).

I know there is insurance for this kind of thing (I think, anyway), but I am wondering if anyone else has encountered something similar with their work that’s on consignment/display somewhere else?

I don’t foresee the bracelet turning up, and have accepted responsibility for its disappearance.

Are there any suggestions of ways to prevent pieces going missing like this, without locking up the pieces, or accusing the staff of stealing?

I would love to continue taking advantage of my friend’s generosity, but I would hate for a repeat of this dilemma.

Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated!

Richard Yodis
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  1. Richard,
    Hey there. First I want to say that I am very sorry to hear that this has happened to you. I have also had this happen as well and there was nothing I could do about it. (It was a ‘taking a risk’ type situation) and… I took the risk and lost. I now sign a contract with all of my items on an inventory sheet. In your situation, I do not want to assume that it had to do with the staff. I think what I would do is, continue to display there, especially because the owner is a friend who is helping you out. Most places take 50%. However, I think it is wise to put items that are less expensive because there is still a risk. Kind of like a probation period:) If it happens again, then I would definitely remove the jewelry. Once again sorry to hear this happened, it is terrible to have something made from the hand be stolen, I hope it was lost or misplaced..but we will never know:( Luck to you, lex

  2. Annette says:

    Even though the salon owner is supportive and a friend it would probably be a good idea to get a consignment agreement in place. Regardless of whether it was sold or stolen, the piece is gone while under the salon’s care and they really should be liable for it. Without an agreement in place though you don’t really have a case.

    I would look into getting a small glass cube with a lock so that you can keep your jewellery safe. These cubes are sold by places that sell shop merchandising/display equipment and come with a latch to attach a small padlock. At under $100 they’re a good investment for security when no one is keeping a watchful eye out.

  3. I do not have pieces in shops but have had things, usually small, stolen at shows I have done (a few times by other vendors, ouch) and also samples made when I worked in a bead store.I chalk that up to the cost of doing business and let it go, or try to think of it as a compliment. Some people price their jewellery to cover losses. I have had insurance as a requirement for some shows, it is always more costly than losing a few pieces.(300 for a year, 160 for a day).

  4. I had a consignment agreement once and The place had the option for me to use thief prevention locks (the kind that is like a pin and needs a special device at the cashier’s Desk to be removed). Maybe you can look into buying such equipment to be put in your expensive pieces.

  5. JoAnne Green says:

    With my more expensive pieces and the smaller items I use larger price tags and the nobby plastic attachment items that stores use.

    I make the larger tags by getting those free business cards made up as price tags. They come out looking professional and are of a size making it a bit more difficult to stuff into a pocket or purse. In the 6 years that I have had a booth in the local antique mall, I have never lost an item. I realize that this is part luck and part store supervision, but I like to think my display cards, which also have plenty of room for me to write comments and information about the piece, also have something to do with it.

  6. I have a consignment agreement- if you want a copy of it, send me your email address. I will email you a copy.
    Also you always take the risk of theft no matter where your items are consigned. You may want to have one locked case for your higher priced pieces. At least someone has to open the case and show the item. Then it goes back into the case.

  7. I too had a very special pair of earring stolen from a boutique I had consignment pieces in. I never had a contract so I had to suck it up. I also did not have it in a case, because I know people want to touch – but next time I will have it in a locked cabinet or at least in one that is not easily opened and which requires assistance from staff.

  8. Barbara says:

    Hey Richard,
    I completely understand your wanting customers to be able to feel & experience your jewelry. Why not do something of a compromise? Only put your more expensive pieces in a case & leave similar, but less expensive, out for anyone to touch.
    BTW, apropos of nothing, do you happen to be of Amish descent? The last name is why I ask. I’m from Hatboro, but live in Fl now.

  9. Hi Richard,
    I’ve had the same problem in my own store and bought a used acrylic cube with a lock to keep most of the most valuable pieces in. One thing you could do that is very simple is use safety pins and pin the bracelets to the back of the stand and perhaps pin the necklaces to the base cloth. It doesn’t prevent theft but makes it one step harder for a thief. They can’t grab and stash quickly if they have to undo something.
    I got a dollar store picture frame and put a piece of screen over a black cloth background for earrings and put a piece of clear tape over the earring ends. Same thing – unless a person has more than a few seconds, it adds enough time to discourage amateurs.
    None of these are perfect ideas but they have been working for me.

  10. I’ve had my items in several consignment shops. All of the contracts specify that the store is not responsible for theft. So regardless of whether you have a contract or not you are taking the risk. One shop I was in, the owner liked to take items that she liked and put them aside for herself. She then paid for them later, in some cases much later or ended up putting them back. She went out of business when many of the consignees pulled out.

    Theft is a usual risk when one is in sales.

    I like the ideas of the large price tags.

    I was also thinking of a long piece of wire or chain that would attach the piece to the display stand so that the customer could pick it up and even wrap it around the wrist or whatever but maybe screw the end to the back of the display so that the clerk had to unscrew it when purchased. (Think like the anti-theft devices in the camera and phone aisles at Walmart.) Maybe do this just for the very expensive pieces.

  11. Cynthia says:

    I had my valuable jewelry locked in a display case, and thieves were still able to get inside the case, remove the items they wanted, and relock the case. My point is, if a thief wants to steal from you, they will. Any time you put your things out there for the general public, you take a risk. You need to figure out if you can accept the risk. As someone said above, in this case, you should not put anything too valuable in the salon. Perhaps use a sign, saying there is an option to purchase the bracelet in Sterling Silver (like a custom order).

    I know it’s upsetting, but it goes with the territory, unfortunately.

    BTW – in my case, I did suspect the thief was an employee, but the owner refused to believe it. My loss was significant (in the thousands!!), and no one was ever caught. I moved out immediately.

  12. I am sorry you lost an items that was so expensive. I never put anything over $100 value in a salon type setting. I use my more expensive pieces either on my website, and or in a galley where they have other expensive jewelry artists. Hair salons, spa’s etc are super busy places and its easy for someone to take an item without anyone taking notice. We all can learn from this thread to be careful where we do place our items for sale. Thank you everyone for your comments. Lots of good ideas. If you do want my consignment agreement, you can use it for any setting, email me at kathy [at] kathyzee.com and I will send it out to you.

  13. I think theft is one of those things we all worry about. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with it. I agree with the others who recommend not leaving more expensive items where there isn’t someone watching at all times. I also like the idea of a sign indicating that the item is available in Sterling.

    As someone mentioned, if someone wants to steal an item, they’ll steal it. The most we can do is make it more difficult for them and hope that the measures we take at least deter the majority of thieves.

    I’ll have my work in a boutique/craft show later this week where it will be largely unattended, although it’s close to the check-out area, and I’ve been really concerned about theft. I made the decision to not have my pricier pieces there and focused on producing items in the $15-$25 range, with nothing over $60. The person who will be taking care of the event for me will have more expensive pieces out when she’s there at the booth, but is taking them with her when she leaves. I can deal with losing a $25 item, but not a $225 one. All of the necklaces and bracelets will be pinned to their displays to make it a little more difficult for someone to just pocket something quickly.

    I’m very wary of doing consignment. I know someone who lost thousands when a gallery went out of business and the owner disappeared. I’ve also worked in retail management, so I know it’s a pain for the store as well. For now, I prefer to sell pieces outright and give the store the option to trade out any items that aren’t selling. That way, I have my money and they don’t feel like they’re going to be stuck with something they can’t sell. Then if there’s any theft, the store is losing the money and not me.

  14. I work in a salon and I’m fortunate that the owner simply buys my things outright. I really don’t sell a whole lot except at Christmas. She doubles what I charge her for her retail price. (In a way tho, I tend to charge her too little because I want things to sell for her and not be over priced :-/ ) So, I provide an earring rack for the front desk and the receptionist takes care of everything else. No consignment and no worries for me. 🙂

  15. I had a consigment agreement also. I lost the value of about $200.00.
    This lady left the area. I tried calling, locating her but with no luck.
    I was so upset as I had given my very best pieces. I had to come to the
    realization that it is gone. I will never do consignment again.

  16. I don’t know how old this post is; I found it searching anti theft tips. I’m kinda on the other side of this. I own a handmade jewelry boutique and I have it in my consignment agreement that I’m responsible for the items in the store. I can’t imagine I would get too many interested artists if I didn’t.

    I have only been open for 2 months and I have already had something stolen. It was stolen within 4 feet of me. I have 750 sq feet and it’s impossible for me to watch all of it. Especially if I’m checking out a customer, I have no idea what is going on behind me. Investing in security tags and the detector for the exit is way out of my budget. I could invest in working cameras (I have fake ones as a deterrent) but even then, I can’t watch the video all the time, and even if I saw someone take something, they could easily get out of the store before I could what…confront them?? Oy.

    I have 26 different artists, prices ranging from $15 to $80 with more coming and this is a huge concern for me. I definitely do not want to put everything behind glass. Everyone wants to touch pieces and the few I have behind glass (even though they aren’t that expensive, they are just there for show) rarely get asked to be brought out. I have little signs like “We have gorgeous bracelets, if you decide to take one without paying for it, we”ll give you a matching set for free *pic of handcuffs” and “our artists work hard, if you take something, management will cast a spell on you and no one looks good in boils”. Lots of people see them and laugh, and they may work; hard to tell.

    I’m all for getting advice on how to decrease or hopefully, eliminate theft. I know it’s part of doing business but one piece may be the entire days sales.

    Thanks in advance

  17. Cheryl Feyen says:

    I have had my items in several consignment shops. All of the contracts specified that the shop-owner was not responsible for loss or theft.

    One of the shops though offered a discount on the booth rental each month if they came in and ‘worked’ for a day. This person’s responsibility was to patrol the store and help customers. The owner had a sign-up sheet and first-come first-served. You especially need the coverage at busy times like weekends and booth owners appreciate the ability to get $ off their rent. Rules were that you couldn’t spend the time rearranging your booth and you couldn’t steer away from other’s booths to your own.

  18. Cheryl Feyen says:

    Also a bell on the door so you know when someone comes in or out and those large parabolic (I think) mirrors in the corners so you can see down the aisles.

    Keep the cash register locked so that you can wander around the store and not worry about someone stealing your receipts.

  19. You can tie some small bells to pieces. All the samples at a quilt shop my sister works at does that so when someone picks a piece up you hear it and it’s harder to steal. I’ll be trying the bell thing with my stuff in September.

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