Solutions To Combat Shoplifting and Employee Theft

Shrinkage – Employee theft, shoplifting, clerical and vendor errors-is an issue that big and small retailers have in common. From Wal-mart to Target and whole-sellers like Costco, shoplifting is a common occurrence that cost the retail industry billions of dollars each year. 

Many small business owners in the retail industry choose to not prosecute the theft.  The reasons? The cost associated with prosecuting a shoplifter or employee theft is too costly for many of them and believe at the end of the ordeal it is in their best interest to take the theft as a business loss. 

For the big retail chains, theft is important and the measures they take to prevent, prosecute and avoid it are serious.  The profits are greatly diminished when shoplifting, employee theft, and vendor or clerical errors occur frequently in their business.

How can they be profitable if they do not combat a financially crippling problem?

 The retail industry’s shrinkage average nationwide is between 1%-2%, and for many retailers that is a big chunk of their profits that will disappear every year.  Big retailers like J.C. Penney and Costco have implemented shrink measures that have seen shrink reduction decrease tremendously.  Costco shrink’s rate is just 0.11% to 0.12% of sales and J. C. Penney has seen a decrease of 20% reduction in shrink dollars. 

The security measures they have been implemented in those stores are the big difference between out of control losses and security measures that are working out for them to prevent theft in their stores.

For many of these stores, implementing technology to combat theft is the first step they take in their quest to prevent it.  

Personnel training is another big change they take into consideration when dealing with theft.  Research has shown for many years now, that a happy employee is an employee that will, in the long run, be an asset to your business. Training employees, and providing them with a good salary are investments that many companies take seriously, and research has shown happy employees provide a better customer experience that results in less theft.

Shoplifting and employee theft are hard to combat and they can be hard to understand when looking at profits. There are solutions your store can implement to combat them and to give you peace of mind. Finding a solution is necessary and too important to ignore for too long.

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 1-866-914-2567. 

Importance Of Inventory Control-How Out Of control Are Profits Without Inventory Control?

 Out of control spending may be okay for the federal government (Let’s be frank 20+ trillion of debt seems pretty out of control to most of us) but as a store owner or manager out of control expenses will bury your company. I am sure that you are looking carefully at where you spend your cash, reviewing controllable reports and monthly expenses. What you may not be considering is how operating a store without inventory controls in place can be negatively impacting the profits of your store. 

     When I talk about inventory controls I am not simply referring to activities on inventory night, I am talking about everything the store does all year to control merchandise. For example, the store I work for receives their pallets of freight several times a week. Included in these pallets are sealed plastic shipping boxes that hold individual pieces of merchandise. Some of these boxes have different colored seals and colored seals are indicators that the merchandise inside is high value/high theft goods requiring strict controls. The merchandise in these boxes requires security devices or immediate lock-up. When I was a Loss Prevention Manager for another company we had a lock-up cage we staged at the trailer receiving door. As specific high-risk merchandise came off of the trailer that product immediately went into the cage. That merchandise had to get to its department following a very specific path and if I observed any deviation from that path I was investigating the issue. The store where my daughter works requires all jewelry shipments be taken immediately to the jewelry counter, counted against the invoice and stocked. Jewelry is not allowed to sit out until it is convenient to secure it. Having a detailed plan for identifying high-risk products, verifying counts against invoices right away and immediately securing it are smart steps in preventing inventory shortage from getting out of control. 

     Electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems are another key piece of a sound inventory control strategy. When I mentioned securing products above it does not necessarily mean that merchandise has to go into a lock-up case. Most merchandise can be protected against theft with EAS labels, hard tags, wraps and other protective devices (for example Sensormatic has a product called Flexible Safers that can hold items and still give EAS protection). There are some things that a display case is appropriate to display merchandise in such as high-end jewelry. By the same token, there are EAS products suitable for costume and less valuable jewelry. Inventory control of such pieces of merchandise means tagging these items by a team of trusted employees before they are on the sales floor and accessible by other employees or shoppers. An EAS system also includes the installation of towers at all points of entrance and exit. A common error on the part of many retailers is the failure to place towers near vendor doors and employee-only entry doors. Failing to protect these doorways is a misstep in recognizing the reality of employee theft and the impact it has on store profitability. 

     Inventory control also takes place in in-store training programs. Teaching employees how the customer service they provide helps prevent shoplifting plays a part in inventory control. Training front end supervisors and cashiers how to properly handle EAS alarm activations determines how much merchandise you may or may not recover from potential thieves. Even the proper training of specialists who show merchandise from lock-up showcases impacts the potential for a crook to steal. How many pieces of jewelry should be out of a case to show a customer at any time? One, two, or three items? You have to teach your team what you expect and how someone may try to trick them while they are showing merchandise. 

     Inventory control is a year-round effort. It encompasses more than locking up merchandise or preparing for an annual inventory. Inventory control requires an in-depth look at where losses can take place, how they occur and who may be causing the losses. Once you do that you can implement solutions to the problem by creating a comprehensive shortage prevention strategy. Do that and you keep from losing control over your store profit line.  

Cellphones On The Salesfloor – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of It

The use of cellphones in the workplace has become more prolific over the years. It used to be that managers could put out a policy stating that the use of cellphones was strictly forbidden. I used to be in this camp and to a certain extent, I still am. As a Loss Prevention Manager, I saw the negative impact phones could have on customer service. Employees would focus on the phone at the expense of the customers. When the culprit was a cashier I would see the violators of the policy hiding the phone next to the register and texting in the midst of a transaction. That was totally unacceptable and did on more than one occasion result in a register error. Either merchandise was not properly scanned or the wrong change was tendered to the customer. In several cases, I had cashiers texting family and friends telling them to come in and go through their checkout lane. This would result in theft through passing or “giving back too much change” commonly known as cash theft. Of course, using the phone as a means of stealing from the store was the ugly of the cellphone issues. 

     The bad side of the cellphone conundrum is the customer service issues they cause. You have seen it, the sales floor employee looking at their phone and texting or looking through their music. Eye contact is almost non-existent. As a shopper, this drives me up to the wall. If the employees would spend as much attention to shoppers as they do their phones I can only begin to imagine the increased sales stores would enjoy. Now, as a manager in a college library, I have student assistants working for me who all have phones and most carry the phone in their back pockets. We have policies restricting when they can use the phone but often I have to correct them when they violate the policy and pull the phone out and begin texting. We have the policy in place for the same reasons that stores have (or used to have) the policy; to ensure customer service is the number one priority. Making the enforcement of the policy more difficult is that other supervisors are pulling out their phones and using them. This seems a bit hypocritical in my view.  

     There is a good side to allowing cellphones in a retail or customer service environment and it has softened me just a tad to the arguments in favor of them. If a store employee is on the sales floor and sees suspicious activity from a potential shoplifter the employee can quickly get in contact with a manager without looking for a store phone. 2-way radios are not always the most effective communication devices. Some associates keep the volume on their radios turned up and even if an earpiece is in use conversations can be overheard. I have had shoplifting suspects hear employees talking and drop merchandise as I was preparing to stop them for stealing. I have also seen customers get angry when they heard employees talking about them over radios. It could be talking about the customer’s behavior or something the customer was saying that was causing a disturbance. For example, the customer could be causing a scene about a return they were trying to do that was refused. Radios are just not always the best communication tool from a safety or security perspective. Cellphones make a convenient and more discreet method of communication and can even include text messaging which isn’t heard at all.  

     Another pro-cellphone argument is the ability to summon help in a store in the event of an emergency. As we see in social media today there is hardly a significant event that can take place without someone(s) getting it on a cellphone camera. From natural disasters to vehicle accidents and even active shooters, right or wrong people are going to get video and messages out and post it. The more employees that are allowed to carry their phones the greater the likelihood first responders will be notified quickly from multiple sources in the store. Think about the advantages this could have in the event of an altercation or robbery. Someone is likely to get through to authorities much quicker than if a store phone is the only accessible communication device. 

     As much as they can be a pain in the neck to retailers, cellphones are here to stay. By laying out expectations and policies regarding when they can be used managers can try to manage the use of phones while being flexible in allowing them to be in an employee’s possession. Who knows, such a policy might be a lifesaver someday…literally.   

Is Pre-Employment Drug Screening Worthwhile In Today’s Culture?

There are many ways for store owners to reduce the risk of employee theft and fraud. Background checks supplement interviews and screening questions on a job application. Manager training to know the signs and indicators that a worker may be engaging in theft activity of some sort is another preventative step. Electronic Article Surveillance systems and tags are helpful in deterring shoplifters and dishonest employees. Certainly Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Public View monitors and mandatory package checks before leaving work all play a part in preventing internal criminal activity. One of the best tools an employer can use to reduce the chance they will even hire a thief in the first place is the use of pre-employment drug screening. The prospective employee would go to the lab, fill the cup and labs would send off the sample to have it checked for illegal substances. That has been the most common of the drug tests and many employers have relied on it to help them keep their stores profitable and safe. 

     Is this still an effective method for owners to use? With states loosening their own laws surrounding marijuana use it is a mixed bag. Not all states are legalizing it and it is still a federal crime to use, grow, distribute or possess it. So if you are in a state where it is still a crime to use marijuana and an applicant applies to a job with your company but he/she comes from a state where it has been “legalized” do you have them take a pre-employment drug test? What happens if they take the test and results show they use marijuana, do you not hire them even though it was “legal” where they came from? This can pose a dilemma for store owners. If you do hire them, do you put yourself at risk for discriminating against someone from your own state who failed and did not get hired based on that result? 

     Leaving the marijuana out of the equation for the moment, there is still room for drug testing in the workplace, both pre-screening and random drug testing of employees. Drug screening can identify other illegal substances in addition to marijuana. According to thebalancecareers.com, “A typical drug test for employment purposes screens for drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.” While you may decide to overlook positive results for marijuana you can still turn down applicants for the other drugs. States may be legalizing marijuana but the debates about the safety and effects of the drug on behavior remain a concern. Just because it is legal does not mean you necessarily want someone who uses this drug or any other drug working for your business. Pre-employment drug screening is still an effective tool in your efforts to combat theft and safety concerns. 

     Why test for drugs in the first place? By testing and screening out applicants who test positive you significantly reduce the risk of hiring someone who very well may steal from your store. It may be cash or merchandise but they have a habit to feed and they still have bills to pay and they are not going to feed that habit on a retail job. Working in the store gives them access to money and merchandise that will provide the resources for their addiction. Another reason to test is to keep your store safe. Someone who is illegally using drugs or coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a cause of an accident or can be the victim of an injury in the workplace incurred while under the influence. Whether they cause the accident or are the victim of an accident, you can end up paying for it. There is also the safety of your other employees to consider. Someone under the influence of the wrong drugs can be unstable and volatile. What is it that is going to trigger a violent action on their part? Giving them a direction or task they don’t want to do? How about a customer that says something that sets off your employee. There is no place for violence or theft in the workplace and pre-employment drug screening can help prevent both from happening. 

What can a Loss Prevention System do for you?

Loss prevention technology along with the proper personnel training will allow a retail store to reduce loss, improve customer service and provide the data necessary to access up to minute inventory information in the store.

A loss prevention system is a preventable measure retail stores need to adopt to prevent the losses that plague the retail industry. A loss prevention system along with trained personnel can be a deterrent to shoplifting, vendor and employee theft that can save the retail store thousands of dollars a month.

A loss prevention system can protect the merchandise in the store while protecting customers and the employees as well. Incidents, where violence and sometimes deaths occur, can be avoided with the proper systems, training, and the continuous effort to ensure the safety of the employees and customers alike.

A loss prevention system can allow the employees and manager of a store to focus and ensure customers have a good experience shopping at their store. Good customer experience can translate to continuous business, and great customer satisfaction has been linked to less shoplifting in the retail industry.

If you are the owner of several retail stores, a loss prevention system can be adapted to each store’s unique layout and needs while providing the same information you need to prevent shoplifting or to take the necessary measures to prevent it.

A loss prevention system is an investment a retail store cannot do without, but along with an investment in a loss prevention system, trained personnel plays an important role in making sure the system can do what it is supposed to do. Data from the loss prevention system cannot go unchecked, and it cannot be ignored.

Employees have to be trained and knowledgeable of the stores’ policies and procedures regarding shoplifting to ensure an efficient and quick response if shoplifting occurs in the store. Violence can and must be avoided at all costs.

There’s research out there that clearly indicates the cost versus benefits of having a loss prevention system in place.  Profits in a business can be slim, losing them to shoplifting, employee or vendor theft can be detrimental to any business.

I Want Shoplifters To Steal From My Store!

Really?? Is that what you are thinking? Because if you do not have an active shoplifting prevention plan that you work, then you might as well put up a sign that says “Shoplift Here Because We Do Not Care!” That is what the shoplifters hear and see.  

So to have a great plan in place for shoplifters to steal, here are the things you need to do: 

  • Poor customer service. Shoplifters love it when they come into your store and the customer service is lax, mediocre or simply non-existent. They do not need your help to steal, just privacy. 
  • Make sure you do not train your employees to spot and/or deter shoplifters. Lazy, untrained store staff are the shoplifter’s best friend. You really cannot say “steal my stuff” better than that. 
  •  DO NOT BUY a Sensormatic anti-shoplifting system from Loss Prevention Systems! We are in the business of shutting down shoplifters. 
  • Make sure that you keep the lighting dim. Do not replace lights when they go out especially in dark, hidden areas of your store. It makes the shoplifter’s job easier. 
  • Do not put those pesky little Sensormatic hard tags and labels on your merchandise. It hurts the shoplifter’s ability to resell your stuff.  
  • Make sure that your staff never greets anyone when they come in. If you are not going to supply good customer service anyway do not bother to look up from your smart phone. You certainly do not want to have a low score in that on-line game you are playing. Besides, greeting shoplifters makes them feel uncomfortable because they have been noticed. 
  • Make sure shoplifters have a clear unobstructed path out of your doors. That way the arm load of merchandise they have in hidden or in plain sight does not get in their way. Actually it will make it more convenient for them to load up even more. 
  • If you want to at least feel a little better about all this put up signs that say “No Shoplifting” or “Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted”. This sends a clear signal to the shoplifters that you have no clue about what it takes to stop them. It is kind of like that old joke; putting up shoplifting signs is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You feel warm but no one notices. 
  • If you do spot a shoplifter, do not stop them. This is the best way to spread the word in the shoplifting world. They will flock to you like flies to….. They will clean you out just in time to move in next season’s merchandise. Hey, this also saves you time and payroll dollars in the inventory process since there is less to count. 
  • Make sure you have a CCTV system since shoplifters do not care about cameras. They know you do not have the payroll dollars to watch them full time and they know that they will be long gone before you would have any opportunity to review the recording. 

On the other hand shoplifting prevention is not all that difficult. Just do the opposite of the items listed above. We can help you with all of it from procedures, training and the installation of a brand new Sensormatic system. 

Caught A Shoplifter? Now What? To Prosecute Or Not

Do you go fishing? Have you ever caught a fish and had to decide if you were going to keep it or not? Sometimes there are limits to the number of a certain breed of fish you can catch and keep in a day. There are also size limits that are imposed on certain species, for example; a Large Mouth Bass might have to be fourteen inches long or longer in order to keep it in South Carolina. There are even seasons when certain fish cannot be kept if caught. As an example in Texas, according to texas.gov, Red Snapper season in federal waters closed on August 22 in 2018. In some situations where you can keep fish but only certain quantities you may have to decide if you are going to catch and release and keep the larger fish or take a chance and just reach your limit for the day. Shoplifting can be somewhat the same. You were wondering how fishing was going to tie in to Retail Loss Prevention weren’t you? 

     Now I am not talking about catch and release because a shoplifter does not fit the right height and weight limits. I am talking about whether a store management team makes a decision if they are going to prosecute shoplifters if they are caught period. Some store managers make a decision not to prosecute anyone for theft. The reasons are varied but may include the potential danger involved with stopping a crook or the risk of making a stop and the suspect does not have any merchandise (or says they do not and makes the manager question the decision to stop).  Sometimes the decision not to prosecute rests on a dollar amount. A shoplifter might be stopped for an item under $20 but will not be prosecuted for that particular theft. Let’s explore why such decisions are made.

     One of the major reasons for not prosecuting shoplifters, especially when the value of the item falls under a specific price point is that the amount of time spent on the case far exceeds what the value of the item was in the first place. If you choose to stop a shoplifter you will want the manager to write up some kind of report of the incident. In Loss Prevention we have incident reports to complete. There is also the time spent by the manager waiting with the shoplifter in an office for the police to show up. Depending on the jurisdiction police may issue a citation to appear in court for the alleged crime or they may take the suspect into custody. Follow all of this up with time spent in court prosecuting the case. By the time all is said and done a prosecuted case can be more costly to the merchant than just recovering the product and letting the suspect go.

     Before you think that you have made up your mind on the direction you are going to take I would like you to think about the other perspective on this subject. Why would you decide to prosecute a shoplifting case? If you catch and detain someone, decide to release the suspect and they get into an accident you could potentially be held responsible. That is unlikely but has to be taken into consideration. If the suspect is a juvenile and you detain them you absolutely cannot release them on their own. Yes, you could choose to release them to a parent or guardian but there may be reasons it would be better to contact the police. I have seen my share of irate parents and later wished I had released the child to authorities.

     While it may not seem like an important reason for you to prosecute a shoplifter I would ask you to consider one more thing. Each time a shoplifter gets caught, cries and gets cut loose with a promise not to steal again it is another crime that there is no record of being committed. Prosecuting a thief may not make a significant difference to you but in the big picture a shoplifter with no official police record is a shoplifter with a clean record. That minimizes any penalty they may get when they are finally caught and prosecuted. Shoplifters who get away with their crimes continue to hurt retailers until they do get caught and prosecuted. 

     Catch and release when fishing may or may not be your choice. Prosecuting a shoplifter or not is up to you. Safety, efficiency, productivity and ramifications must all be taken into consideration. Ultimately the choice is up to the store owner. Just remember, whatever you decide to do be consistent and be fair with everyone you deal with.

Building Structure And Design To Discourage Theft

When stores are put together it is usually designed with appearance and functionality in mind. What you may not have thought about is how the structure and layout of a store might be helpful in discouraging shoplifting and other crimes. Have you ever paid attention to the gas station store layouts? Often the cashier island is in the center of the building and raised higher than the rest of the store. Low fixtures allow almost complete visibility of all areas of the store. It may not seem too important but if you have worked in Loss Prevention you know that this is an intentional design that helps reduce theft. By placing the employees higher they can see over customer’s heads and view what is happening in more parts of the store. Shorter gondola shelving may hamper how much merchandise can be displayed but by the same token visibility is enhanced. Those hiding places that shoplifters tend to congregate to become much harder to find.  

     It is important for store owners to keep theft in mind as they are planning how they are going to design their stores. Here are some additional ideas that you can consider as you build a store or perhaps redesign an existing one: 

  • Corral areas where high theft items are stocked. Corralling is the use of gondolas and cash register stands to create an enclosed department. There is only one way in and out and that requires passing the register. This design gives the managers a lot of control over the area and makes theft much more difficult. The drawback to a corralled department is that an employee has to always be dedicated to the department. That means it becomes a payroll expense. Many large chains that were utilizing this concept have moved away from it due in part to the cost of running it. It also ties down an employee who could otherwise help in other areas. 
  • Bright lighting throughout the store is important. Criminals seek shadows and darkness to cover their activity especially dark corners. Make these areas uninviting to crooks. Ensure you have lighting that hits every part of the store. This should include your stockrooms as well. Shoplifters are not the only criminals that will take advantage of your building, dishonest employees will too. 
  • For fire exit doors ensure the egress bars are set up with delays. Frequently shoplifters will fill up a shopping cart or bag with merchandise and hit a fire door with a getaway car parked right outside. A thief doesn’t want anything that will delay their exit from a building. A delay on a fire exit doesn’t have to be a long one but it does activate the door alarm when the egress bar is pushed. This alerts employees that a fire door is about to open and if someone is nearby they can respond to it quickly. A sign is required to be placed on the door or the bar alerting people that the door does have a delay. This can discourage many potential grab and run shoplifting incidents. 
  • Bollards or decorative barriers such as cement planters set up at the edge of the sidewalk outside of the front door(s) are an important feature. The use of such barriers discourage a vehicle being from driven through the entrance in a crash and run theft. 
  • Electronic article surveillance towers at all entrance and exit doors are a powerful deterrent to theft. Shoplifters become aware that anti-theft measures are in place as soon as they walk into the store. Using towers at employee accessible doors discourages associates from stealing from the workplace. A word of caution, don’t set up dummy towers and think you will achieve the same results. Criminals will figure out what is going on. Use Sensormatic equipment and Sensormatic tags and labels to get the real protection your store needs. 
  • Have counterfeit bill scanners and cash drop boxes at each register. Cashiers can scan all $20, $50 and $100 bills to prevent fraud. The drop box is used to remove the threat potential of short change artists, till tappers and even robberies. 
  • Finally, though they may seem expensive a few strategically placed cameras and Public View monitors can aid your managers in moving thieves out of hard to see locations.  

Store design has a direct influence on theft and crime. Putting barriers up that will hinder crime and eliminating those obstacles that prevent your team from seeing your customers can improve the security of your building. Remove crime and you make your store safer while also making a positive impact on profits.                                                

Vendor Theft: Causes, Effects and Prevention

Having worked in retail for nearly thirty years I have found that more people work in the store than just the people directly employed by the store. My encounters have included working with various external vendors. I have worked with representatives for jewelry and accessory servicing, cosmetic reps, snack vendors and even cleaning vendors. I have checked in soft drink vendors and food vendors through our loading dock receiving procedures. Just like our store employees, the vast majority of vendors who service stores are honest and work hard to satisfy their clients. Unfortunately, just as there are in stores there are bad apples for vendors and they can cause shortage in stores through theft, fraud and even paperwork errors.  

     The good news for retailers is that in the big scheme of things vendor theft generally accounts for the smallest amount of shortage. According to the National Retail Federation 2018 National Retail Security Survey, vendor fraud or error accounted for 5.4% of retail shrinkage in 2017 (pg. 5). That said it is still a source of shortage that can be controlled thereby saving stores potentially thousands of dollars a year.  

     So how does vendor theft and fraud happen? Just like any other theft it requires the person committing the crime to have the opportunity to steal, the means to steal an item and the perceived risk of being caught or punished. Just like a three-legged stool, remove one leg and the whole thing falls over. You cannot control whether or not someone has a desire to steal but you do have control over the conditions that make theft appealing.  

     Depending on what the vendor is doing in the store can impact how they might steal from you. Having controls in place in the store and requiring vendors to follow those procedures or controls can influence whether that person decides to attempt to steal. For example, many stores have vendor log books and vendors are expected to sign in when they enter the store. They may even be issued temporary name badges once they sign in. When someone has to register when they enter a building there is a sense of accountability, anonymity is lost.  

     The type of vendor can also play a part in how theft or fraud transpires. I have seen cosmetic vendors in stores with large satchel purses and bags. Their paperwork and checklists are stored in the bags but they also make great hiding places to conceal merchandise if they are stealing. A store should have the same requirements for vendors as they have for their own employees. A vendor should be required to have their bags or packages checked before they leave following a visit.  

     A food or beverage vendor may have empty boxes broken down that they are carting out for reuse. An employee of the store should be inspecting between the boxes to ensure no merchandise has been concealed between the layers. A vendor should also never be throwing out their own trash. Store compactors should always be locked and only a manager or store owner should have access to it. The manager should be the one to inspect vendor trash and throw it away as they look for empty packages that could indicate a theft took place. 

     All store entrances should be protected with electronic article surveillance pedestals. This serves as a deterrent to vendors who may be reluctant to try to walk out with merchandise that might cause an alarm to sound. There are many businesses which set up pedestals at the front entrances and even at employee entrances but neglect to place them at vendor service doors. If a vendor has thoughts of stealing they are looking at the anti-theft strategies and will take notice of unprotected access points. 

     Vendor supplied merchandise should also be detail checked in. Validating what an invoice says is being delivered and billed to a store and what is actually received are important steps in the vendor process. It is possible for a vendor to short an order accidentally but that still counts towards the shortage for the store. A driver can also intentionally short an order if they know the merchandise is not detail checked in. The product that is not brought in can then be sold on the side and the profits pocketed. 

     As I stated in the beginning there are very few dishonest vendors but they do exist. Build strong partnerships with them but remember that some may try to take advantage of you. Make your vendor partners follow the same guidelines that your employees follow. Be clear from the beginning and you will run into few difficulties and you will have a relationship that fosters sales for both parties.