Quit Stalling About Employee Theft

Every day I see news articles about employee theft. That does not even cover a fraction of the employee theft occurring both know or unknown. The fact is that approximately 45% of a Retailer’s losses are due to employees stealing. We focus so heavily on shoplifting that many times a Retailer misses the boat completely. Do not misinterpret what I am saying, shoplifting is responsible for about 35 percent of a Retailer’s losses. Which is also huge.

However, employees have access to your cash, supplies, and merchandise. Employees are generally trusted until they show us that they are not. Which may be too late! Many Retailers I have discussed this with over the years tell me that they trust their employees and treat them well. Therefore they would not steal from them. Those are the folks that have the worst losses and the biggest shock when it does happen. As human beings, we do not want to believe that someone would steal from us. We also are quick to turn a blind eye to the evidence even when it hits us in the head. We simply do not want to believe it.  

Another factor is that many Retailers do not know, understand and are afraid to do something. Will we make a mistake? Would we accuse someone of something they did not do? What civil and criminal consequences do we face? And the list goes on. This is yet another stalling factor for not doing anything. 

Quit stalling about employee theft. You face every other retail problem head on why not this. Educate yourself. We can help you with this. Make sure you know the signals of employee theft. Yes, employees who steal, act differently than other employees. You simply need to know what to listen and watch for. Do you “audit” your operation? For example, an audit can be as simple as making sure the Point-Of-Sale balances every day and if it does not, find out why. I have seen many Owners and Managers that say if the drawer is short $5 or less, they do not look into it because “it is not worth my time”, REALLY??? THAT IS SO WRONG and dangerous!!!! First by having a policy like this you are telling everyone that stealing $4.99 and below is okay. $4.99 times 365 days a year is a loss of $1,821.35. Oh, and that kind of theft WILL lead to larger and more frequent employee theft. 

Over my career, I have investigated, interrogated and put in jail somewhere north of 2300 employees for theft. The vast majority of those employees that were stealing did it for the same reasons. Many still stole even those the boss was “good to them”. I have seen employees that had been loaned large amounts of money by their employer, employees that were being put through school by their employer steal with no regret except for being caught. 

We can train you to spot employee theft and what to do about it when you suspect and find it. It is not hard to do. We can show you how to “test” employees to see if they are stealing. We can help you build the confidence to be on the offense, not the defense.  Your good employees will not care or suffer. In fact, they will help you. You just need to know how to proceed. 

Would you knowingly buy a car that had major engine and transmission problems? Probably not. So why would you hire someone with a criminal record? Why would you not find out that they have problems with violence, theft, drugs and worse when it is so simple, fast and cost-effective to do so? We can help you with that also. We conduct pre-employment screening, drug testing and more, nationwide. Look at it this way, you interview, select, employ, train, invest in an employee just to find out the hard way that they are very familiar with employee theft? When a pre-employment screening costs $20 how can you afford not to. Drug testing is also very inexpensive. You can quickly, cheaply and easily have a pre-employment drug testing done on all of your employment candidates when you offer them the position. Again, we conduct pre-employment screening and drug testing nationwide. 

You control every other aspect of your business, why would you not take more control of employee theft? Contact us today or call toll free 1-770-426-0547. 

An Attitude Of Service Or Just An Attitude? Attitudes Affect Customer Service

This is going to seem a bit odd to some of you but I want to know if you have an attitude? Store owners, do you have an attitude? Store Managers, do you have an attitude? Has anyone taken a look at the attitude of their employees? EVERYONE has an attitude, the statement isn’t necessarily a negative it can be positive. The problem is we have grown accustomed to thinking of it with a negative connotation. Why is that? Because in some form or fashion we have adopted the idea that an “attitude” shows our independence or ability to be self-reliant regardless of what others think. At times it can be very course and abrasive to others. If that is your “attitude” how does that relate to your customers, or those who work for you? I would like you to consider for a moment that an “attitude” may look more like a chip-on-the shoulder than some sort of independence (in some cases if looks like a boulder more than a chip).

     An owner with a poor attitude makes the job more difficult for the managers who work for her or him. The “I’m the boss” temperament may be unstated but if that is how an owner thinks it can reflect into how they give direction and interact with their managers. It frequently means that no one else can have a better way of doing things and leads to a stale operation. I will also tell you that the negative attitude rolls downhill.  The way you interact with your managers will be reflected in how they interact with the store associates and they, in turn, have attitudes with the customers. I have seen it in action and I can tell you I have experienced it and have allowed it to impact my interactions with my team in spite of my best intentions. By the end of a workday, everyone leaves in a grouchy mood. 

     The attitude of the owner affects the attitude of the managers has a direct impact on your customers who don’t have to shop at your store. I happen to work for a company that has two stores in the immediate area. On more than one occasion we have heard comments from customers that they don’t like to go to the other store. They tell us the customer service is poor and the employees are not friendly. On the other hand the manager of the store where I work makes a point of telling the managers they are to do whatever they can to keep customers happy (within reason and without violating policies). Employees may get busy but they enjoy working for this manager. The atmosphere is welcoming and we make every effort to greet our customers and offer assistance when they walk into the building. I have gone into the other store and the climate is different. If a greeting is offered it is more of an obligatory hello that a genuine one.  

     What is the climate in your store? What do your managers and employees think about your management style? If you aren’t concerned think again. If your store employees are providing poor customer service to customers because of the treatment they receive it as a direct impact on sales and a direct impact on theft prevention. Shoplifters who have been interviewed have said that they target those stores where employees are unhappy. They don’t have to worry about someone trying to give them too much attention. If shoplifters aren’t receiving service, neither are your customers and that means no one is trying to sell let alone up-sell for a store. 

     Customer service starts with leadership. When the management team seeks to make the climate one where employees enjoy coming to work that attitude will be reflected in the interactions between workers and customers. Owners and managers cannot assume the team is happy. Truly anonymous employee surveys will help gauge what employees are thinking. They can also be a tool for seeking ideas about what employees might want to see done differently or an outlet for ways to improve. Happy employees make a world of difference. What is the climate in your world? Is everything great or is an attitude adjustment in order? 

How Abused Return Policies Can Hamper Customer Relations

Having to balance a customer friendly environment that makes patrons feel like you want their business and keeping a structure in place that ensures the store is profitable can be difficult. This is especially true when it comes to customer returns. At times, return policies even seem to put store management and loss prevention teams at odds with each other. On one hand, stores are afraid that a strict return policy will turn off regular customers and result in a loss of business. On the other hand Loss Prevention teams in their efforts to…well…prevent losses have a tendency to want to tighten procedures on everything. There is an argument to be made for both sides but there may also be a happy middle ground where both can come to an agreement.

Customers can and do lose receipts and in many instances, this hinders the person’s ability to get a refund and in some stores, it may even prevent an exchange of merchandise. In some of these situations, the customer may only be seeking to exchange an item for a different size, color or design and yet the manager sticks to the policy regardless of circumstances. This hardline approach can and does anger many shoppers and it will result in lost business. Yes, the policy is in place and the intentions of it are good but the lack of flexibility in not permitting even an even exchange or a trade for a similar item can be a poor choice. A store will pay for that decision through the loss of future sales.

Many stores have gone to the extreme of allowing an exchange or return giving the shopper up to 365 days to make a return! In a cbsnews.com article, “15 Stores With The Best Return Policies”, by Maryalene LaPonsie, Nov. 22, 2017, they reference 15 stores that have some of the best (read easiest) return policies. The article points out that even among these stores a bit of tightening up on the policies had to be done due to return fraud and abuse. Still, consumers will find that even without receipts they can at least receive store credits towards future purchases. Not too bad for losing a receipt and keeping merchandise for a year.

From a Loss Prevention perspective, this seems far too excessive and an abuse of a retailer’s goodwill. Taking back a return that is a year old or even 90 days old means that item has dropped in value due to markdowns or because it is out of season and no one is going to purchase it. Loss Prevention departments are concerned with profitability just as are store managers but tend to see things in more immediate terms. Taking that winter coat back in July means that it is either going to take up valuable stockroom space or will have to be marked down. Is there some way to come to an understanding between Loss Prevention concerns and store manager concerns?

Shoplifters do abuse store return policies often on repeat occasions. A May 14, 2018 article by journaltimes.com staff, “Racine woman charged for Walmart thefts”, reported on a woman who was caught on camera entering a Walmart store, selecting an airbed and taking it to the return desk and receiving a gift card. She was caught on camera committing the same type of theft about three weeks later at the same store. The story reported that the suspect had a history of shoplifting in the county dating back to 1991. In a related story from Houstonherald.com, May 21, 2018, a woman entered a Walmart store and “placed several items into a cart including DVD’s, floor mats, jeans, household goods and groceries.” The story relates that she went to the service desk and made returns for items she hadn’t bought and was able to get about $64 cash. This offender also had a history of 10 prior theft convictions.

Store owners and Loss Prevention officials need to devise clear-cut policies that provide fair returns and refunds to honest customers while putting roadblocks in place for criminals. Once policies are hashed out and agreed upon, consistency in administering those policies is required. Deviating and making exceptions only opens up the door to return fraud and abuse and takes you back to square one and career shoplifters will continue to abuse your goodwill.