We are totally connected to our cars and trucks. They take us to work, to the grocery store and even help us navigate parking lots at the mall. Which reminds me of an experience – a valuable gift to you — that I want to share before the start of this year’s shopping season.

Several years ago, a girlfriend decided to take advantage of those Black Friday deals. It was time to unload her first grouping of gift bags — tote sacks dangling off of her arms, talking on her cell, purse hanging off her shoulder — she juggled with her keys to pop the trunk. The next thing she knew, the bags were gone, her purse was gone, the cell phone was nowhere to be seen and she was sitting in the hatch of her SUV. All she heard were footsteps running away from the scene. She never knew what hit her. And, this wasn’t even in a large metropolitan area. This was at her favorite, hometown shopping mall that she had visited thousands of times beforehand. Her shopping spree was a total loss along with her identification, a cell phone and her sense of security.

Unfortunately, this scenario – and many others like it – will be reported to local law enforcement throughout the holiday shopping season. And, it’s all preventable.

How?  I’m glad you asked! The fix is simple with a touch of common sense. Follow these tips and you are almost guaranteed a great ending to your shopping experience this season.

  • Don’t keep any valuables inside the cab of the car or truck – where you sit inside the vehicle. Place your packages inside trunk or back hatch, out of sight. It takes a thief seconds to break the side window and remove items. Without a receipt, you can’t prove purchase. Without proof of purchase, you can’t claim the loss. Keep receipts separate from items purchase.
  • It was common place to take packages to the vehicle and return to the mall. Don’t do it! Opportunists are looking for you to deposit the gifts in the trunk. It takes only seconds to pop a trunk and remove packages. After placing packages inside the trunk so you can go shop some more – I know it’s a pain – move the car to a different location in the parking lot. Don’t give thieves the opportunity to get free presents from your vehicle.
  • Make sure you walk to your vehicle in the middle of the parking lot’s roadway. You don’t want anyone to have the opportunity to pop out from the side of a parked car, grab a bag and run.
  • No cell phone use while in the parking lot. You need to pay attention to your surroundings to keep safe. If you are uneasy, follow other shoppers walking out into the parking lot. Or, ask the shopping plaza security for an escort. It’s part of their job to keep you safe!
  • Have your keys in hand before leaving the shopping mall. And, keep that thumb on the emergency button for a just in case moment. Speaking about the key fob: Can’t find your vehicle in the sea of cars and trucks? Hit the emergency or lock (only) button and listen for that chirp.
  • No purse, no target: Keep your credit cards and identification in your front pocket and leave the purse at home. This is something I do all the time. Make sure that it’s secure and that those plastic credit cards and ID can’t fall out of your clothing. Make sure it’s easily accessible to you, only!
  • Don’t overload your arms. Make several trips to your vehicle to avoid stacking up too many bags of gifts. You want to be able to navigate the keys, trunk and your safety, at all times. Thieves are looking for people who cannot maneuver because they are overloaded with packages – just like my girlfriend.
  • If shopping at night, park in lighted areas. Opportunists don’t want to be seen by others and prefer areas of the parking lot that doesn’t have a lot of light or traffic. Avoid these areas and be safe.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in proper working order – you don’t want to get stuck in the parking lot. Keep your car or truck properly maintained with a good, quality battery. And, make sure that you keep more than a quarter tank of fuel in your vehicle – at all times. There is nothing worse than having to sit in a parking lot – especially at night – waiting for a road service that may take an hour or two to rescue you.
  • Go with a buddy or three – and have a good time. There’s always safety in numbers and that includes walking to your vehicle in the parking lot. An added bonus: more friends, more arms to help you with your packages.

It’s all about using your common sense and taking safety precautions while shopping this season. Most of all stay focused on where you are, what you are doing. Follow these tips and it will help you have a great time shopping this season.

About The Author

Pam Oakes is a shop owner, ASE-certified technician, automotive author, automotive speaker, and syndicated radio host of “Car Care for the Clueless” on CBS Radio, CoachMeRadio, and AOL Radio -- LIVE@5 p.m. every Friday. And, yes, she still “turns wrenches.”

3 Responses

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