Stay Safe While Shopping

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The busiest shopping season of the year is upon us. Whether or not you’ve decided to head on out on Black Friday for some deals, we truly are dealing with a lot of consumerism from Thanksgiving to Boxing Day. Many have opted to do most of their shopping online for the holidays and, really, for general day-to-day items as well. Online shopping is convenient and in some cases less expensive. However, I can understand the traditional lure to in person shopping and getting down and dirty with all deals being advertised during the holiday season. There are a number of safety related concerns that you should bring to the forefront of your mind while venturing out into the great consumer unknown.

Friend and colleague Anthony Colandro touches upon this topic a good deal in his book Crime Proof: Think Like a Criminal and Beat Them at Their Own Game. I previously reviewed the book upon its release earlier this year, and suggest you do take a look at it to learn more about what else is inside this great resource. There are two chapters that really focus on the concepts that are important to this topic. Chapter 5 on Protecting Yourself Outside the Home and Chapter 6 Shopping Safety. It’s important to note that one does not have to read the book cover to cover to get something from it. While yes, some of the material is scaffolded on material that was previously introduced, each chapter can stand alone on its own.

Having a grasp of the color code of awareness is something that I’d say is important on the entire course of study on personal and familial safety. With that basic information paired with these concepts, you should be eons ahead of the other people out and about shopping. From Colandro’s book:

We’ve thoroughly explored that threats to you and your loved ones are are prevalent when outside the home. Look at your weekly routine. If you’re like most Americans, your time is spent at work, at home, and doing chores and errands. Unless you are a compete shut-in, working from home and relying on grocery and goods delivery services, you leave the house to go shopping. Some of the concepts and ideas in this chapter have been covered already; however, taking a closer look is important to developing your Defensive Mindset. Malls, grocery stores, and other shopping centers are a prime place for predators, out in full force looking for prey. Let’s not make it easy for them!

Some of the topics which Colandro covers in this chapter of Crime Proof are as follows:

  • Your money/wallet
  • Purses and bags
  • Credit cards
  • Parking safety
  • Trust your senses and stay alert
  • Don’t be flashy
  • While leaving

I’m going to briefly summarize these topics. While the scope of this article is not long enough to dive as deep as Colandro did in his work, I think you’ll find these useful, or at least give you something to think about.

When being out and about, Colandro urges people to keep their identification cards separate from their cash. The idea is to mitigate the headaches if you’re robbed. His advice includes carrying a roll of what he calls “chump change.” Chump change is mostly small bills with a twenty folded around them. Wrap a rubber band around the money and should you get approached by someone mugging you, you can throw the money in the direction that’s opposite to the one you intend to flee towards.

Purses and bags should be small, include a cross body strap, and only have in them what’s necessary. The cross body strap will allow the bearer to keep the bag close to their body and somewhat secure. Not carrying anything superfluous will keep the bag light. Having a lightweight bag is not only a good idea to not tire you out, but to also not be a hindrance should you have to take off running for whatever reason.

Whatever credit card you use be mindful of. Some people have huge limits on some of their cards. If you don’t need the spending power, leave that card with the big limit at home. The bigger the card stolen, the higher the liability of what can be charged up on it. Also keep your eyes peeled for anything strange looking on credit card machines. There are skimming devices that can strip your information from the cards. This threat is more prevalent at gas pumps.

Parking safety is a big topic. Colandro has an entire section on this subject and discusses it throughout the book. The key thing to parking safety is to find a well lit area and don’t box yourself in if possible. Criminals use darkness and large object to their advantage. Don’t set yourself up for getting jumped by parking next to a dumpster that someone might be hiding behind. You get the drift.

Trust your senses and stay alert. Anytime you’re out and about, keeping yourself at a Yellow state is beneficial. The Yellow state of awareness is just saying that you are aware and know what’s going on in your surroundings. If a situation or area does not seem right, get out of there.

Don’t be flashy is advice spliced through all of Crime Proof. There’s no reason to be wearing an ultra expensive watch while going to the mall. Also avoid walking around with bags that tell everyone you spent some dough on whatever is inside them. Those big Apple Store bags scream “steal me!” If possible put your goods into a more discreet bag.

When exiting a shopping center, mall, store, etc. there are things to keep in mind. This is in particular important when leaving malls, but every location can be hazardous. Keep your wits about you. If you have a less than lethal self-defense options such as pepper spray, have your hand on it while traveling to your vehicle. Keep your head on a swivel and look for anything or anyone that seems out of place. When stowing items, put them in the back of the vehicle or trunk. If you have a hatch back, cover your shopping bags with a dark blanket. And when you’re ready to leave, get in your car and just go. Don’t dilly dally. Someone may have cased you out and is just waiting for your to sit in the driver’s seat to jump you. Make calls and texts at another location or utilize your hands free functions on your phone once you’re out of the area.

It’s impossible to impart all the important shopping safety tips there are that Colandro put in his book in a short article. However, I think these core tips will help you navigate the shopping season safely. Colandro summarizes the importance of being on your guard when shopping, especially during the holiday season.

The holiday shopping season leaves you more vulnerable. Carjackers and those intent on mugging you know that people buy a lot of stuff in the time period between Black Friday and Boxing Day. These carjackers and criminals make their living off of holiday shoppers. Not only will these jackers get your car, they’ll get your stuff too. Just remember, it’s not only Black Friday for businesses; the criminals get to meet their bottom line in the same time frame. Don’t help them achieve their financial independence.

Do keep yourself safe out there as you go forward with your holiday errands. While we’re on the subject of shopping for the holidays, if you’ve found these tips to be useful, consider buying yourself, your friends, and or family members copies of Crime Proof. The book makes a great stocking stuffer. You can find Crime Proof at crimeproofbook.com, where you can buy it direct from Colandro. Or, if you rather, you can find it on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle.

Stay safe out there and think before you do!

Author’s Note: These statements have not been reviewed by or endorsed by Anthony Colandro. No compensation has been received or offered for the endorsement or summary of Crime Proof. I just think it’s a good resource and that you, the readers will like it too. Following the publication of this article, Colandro covered it on Gun For Hire Radio Podcast. You can catch the segment HERE or the full episode in the embed below: