Carphone Warehouse and O2 last week played down staff claims December and January have seen a spike in thefts of Apple 3G iPhones from display units in London stores.
A Carphone spokesperson said: “Like all retailers that display live equipment in-store, we are targeted by thieves. But there is no evidence the number of iPhone thefts is higher than any of the other live demo products we range.”
An O2 spokesperson said: “We have very strong security measures to protect iPhone demo stock. There have been isolated incidents but this represents a tiny proportion.”
But staff from both retailers told Mobile News internal alerts of iPhone thefts were a daily occurrence within London stores. Carphone, for its part, denied this.
Carphone staff claimed more than 50 3G iPhones are stolen every month from store displays, and said many stores were refusing to put the devices out; only showing them for demonstration purposes.
Carphone denied such numbers were being taken.
Meanwhile, O2 staff claimed around 70 3G iPhones had been stolen from display areas in the past two months. London stores Mobile News visited last week showed a scarcity of display products.
Since the launch of the first iPhone in September 2007, Carphone and O2 stores have featured wooden demonstration bays, normally located at the front of stores holding six or more devices attached by a lightweight rubber cable to an alarm underneath to prevent theft.
In the recent robberies, staff claim thieves have visited stores in groups, typically of between two and nine, and used a variety of distraction techniques to take iPhone handsets from display areas; including tampering with certain models to set off the alarm while cutting security cables on others to make off with stock. Laptops have also become a new target of late.
Busier stores, such as those on Oxford Street, employ permanent security guards. Mobile News understands extra undercover security guards have been deployed since the recent thefts.
A Carphone deputy manager said: “I have stopped putting my demo iPhones out and only bring one if a customer asks.”
Another Carphone staffer said: “There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t stop them, and I personally wouldn’t want to try.”
An O2 staffer said: “There are gangs of people walking around stealing them. We can’t do anything about it. Some stores get completely cleaned out in one swoop. No one seems to want to display them anymore because we’ll be a target. It’s serious.”