There are a couple of major problems with the logic of presuming that the cost of customer service is disporportionate to the gain. To begin with, not all items of retail in a store are marked up by the same amount, this can vary between the minimum 1% all the way up to as much as 200% or more depending in part on the nature of the goods sold (grocery stores typically mark up less than luxury goods stores) economic climate, and of course cultural background. Thus the notion that for every good 'stolen' there need be 100 extra sales to recoup the loss is somewhat exaggerated and perhaps alarmist.

We must also consider that the distribution of the so called 'theft' doesn't usually centre on a particular shop, and is usually spread between a group of shops held together on a high street or mall. Each of which compete for the attention and the custom of those customers who walk past. A customer who's had a bad experience in a shop has the option to keep on walking, and it is antithetical to everything the shopowner stands for to let him do that. You want people in your shop, thus you have to make your shop welcoming. A simple catalogue with an automated security system or maybe guards and a credit card slot in the wall next to a hole from which your bought stuff appears has been a possibility for decades now, and is perfectly adequate for most retail needs and the reason it hasn't caught on is as simple as it is universal, people like the human touch. They like someone to be grateful to, and also just as importantly, someone to blame.

The next point of issue is the notion of 'theft' itself. It is inevitable that there will be unsatisfied customers, in the same way that there will inevitably be unsatisfactory merchants, and the notion that one is simply selling the product is a fallacy.

You're not only selling the product, you're selling the shop, and the shop's relationship with the customer.

Without this, the customer will never buy the product.

In the intensely competitive world of retail, those shops with excellent customer service, are those who win the loyalty of their customers not individually, but enmasse. For when I have a complaint against a product or a shop, it is usually the case that there are other customers in the shop to see how I am treated when I complain, as well as friends to whom I will describe my experience. Whether my experience is positive or negative will thus have a knock-on effect on more than just me in an indirect but profound and real manner. Thus those staff employed to deal with customers, and help them with any problems they may be having are serving to protect and enhance the attractiveness of the shop, and increase it's competitive edge.

Yet if your task isn't to deal with customers, but to actually just stock take, or stack shelves, or something similar, then all you have to do is inform the customer, and that will be that. Most customers understand this, and those that don't usually have an emergency or aren't worth your aggravation. Neither of these things negates the value of customer service, there should always be *someone* there to talk with the customer and help them, even if it's just the cashier.

Another point, mentioned by the lovely and charming laggedyanne is that a lot of customer service is returning faulty or broken goods, and this cost is absorbed by the manufacturer, not the retailer, and so can't be figured as a loss. As well as this: "even if the customer BREAKS IT. IN THE STORE. they'll pretend it was damaged during shipping". And thus the costs are still absorbed by the manufacturer, and not the shop. So as far as they're concerned they may as well be nice about it, and take the credit!