Internal theft does not end with Christmas season http://www.privateofficer.com
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Retail store managers and even their loss prevention departments spend so much time and energy on just six to eight weeks of the year catching dishonest employees that they almost relax and ease up their investigations the rest of the year.
While it is true, that during this busy holiday shopping time usually between November and January 1, many employees are extras and temporary staffers and they often will try to get away with as much as they can knowing that they won’t be there long, theft does not end nor start here.
In fact, the majority of major internal thefts occur during “non-peak” store hours and knows no season. Long term employees make up for the majority of all merchandise and monetary thefts in all types of retail environments.
Generally, the employee who has been stealing a company blind for the past year or since they were first hired six or ten years ago, will almost always lay low during this time frame. They know the risks and have calculated their chances and have probably weathered many a Christmas seasons right there in your store and they know what to expect as far as security is concerned. If it’s a big box retailer with a hundred or more cameras and a full staff of loss prevention agents, the employee knows their routines and they are aware that during this time there is a heightened security awareness and security presence.
While they still may occasionally take something that is too good or too easy to leave behind, as a rule they watch and wait for a slower shopping time with, less floor traffic, fewer managers and security and less competition from the temporary hires that think they’re slick and will get away with the thefts. The seasoned employee thief usually will just sits back and laugh at the newbie’s and probably has already finished all of their “holiday shopping” in your stores months ago, maybe even during the summer months.
Occasionally if the employee is a refunder and has accumulated a closet or closets full of merchandise, they may cease the moment and begin “making the rounds” going to a number of stores within the chain soon after Christmas blending in with other customer returns in hopes that they’ll be able to easily cash-in their wares for cash. I’ve known them to use family, friends, and strangers to assist in this scheme and to travel a route that carries them through several stores. GPS has actually helped these scammers to locate, track, and direct them to their targeted stores making the trip more efficient and less costly on them.
Of all of the dishonest employees that I’ve apprehended, investigated, or assisted in taking down, and there’s been a ton of them, I don’t remember any of them that we apprehended during the Christmas holidays being “long-term” employees. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any, I’m sure that there was but the amounts of the theft were not major and nothing compared to the apprehensions that we took part in during the ‘non-peak” months.
For instance, Mavis was an 18 year veteran of a large, national retailer. She worked her way up from the receiving dock to the floor to department manager and was being considered for an assistant manager position when I notified the general manager that she and two others were under investigation for refund fraud. The store manager was in shock when I laid out the proof that she and the others had been stealing from our store and refunding at other area stores within our chain.
She confessed during the interview that she had started while on the loading dock and that her supervisor back there was also taking merchandise and showed her how easy it was. Mavis in turn told her niece who worked in the infants department and the niece taught her girlfriend who was the manager in woman’s apparel.
During my investigation, none of these employees took anything during the Christmas shopping season and they actually became model employees during that time by working overtime, helping out customers and employees and wearing big smiles and showing their Christmas cheer. Why wouldn’t they?
Just in the refunds that I could prove they did over a two year period added up to more than a hundred thousand dollars between the three of them.
Employees who steal in larger quantities and amounts like the sales floor to be slow and not many people around. They will often hide merchandise under rounders, display tables, behind other merchandise on shelves or in a corner someplace and either pick it up later or have a partner either employee or outside friend come get it just like any other shoplifter.
Some also will” store” their goods in ceiling tiles and in boxes that have other merchandise in it already either on the sales floor or in a stock room. Seldom, will an employee conceal merchandise on the floor and walk out with it. Maybe a novice, a part-timer or a first-timer but not someone who is in it for the long haul. They know they could be seen by management, security or another employee so like most criminals, they prefer darkness, corners, backrooms and quiet out of the way places.
Steven and Cindi were boyfriend, girlfriend, a cute couple working at an upscale retailer in the local mall. Employees loved them, customers always remarked about what a great couple and it seemed like a real love story of two high schoolers who were getting married in just a few months. They had worked part time and then full time together in the electronics department for almost two years and no one ever suspected that they were anything but a clean cut wholesome couple from good families. They never got married and in fact each spent more than a year in prison after they were arrested for embezzlement from the store. They took cash, merchandise, gave away stuff to friends and finally made their way into the cash room and took a large deposit bag that was full of cash. Again, all of their deeds were done for the most part during non-busy times and off season.
If you’re a store manager or a loss prevention agent, make your quick and easy apprehensions during the Christmas season and get rid of those bad apples but to really recover large amounts of merchandise and cash and to get to the root of your internal employee shrinkage, spend your time the rest of the year conducting long term serious surveillance and investigations into employees who have been with the company for 2-10 years or even more and don’t consider that they were employees of the month or the year or that they are just “good” people and “good employees”. When doing this work, you must have blinders on and don’t focus on the individuals background, but rather their work habits, activities and body language. You’ll be surprise at what you’ll find. Happy hunting!
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