Recently, a Framingham, Mass. man was arrested for allegedly stealing $1,367.30 in merchandise from his employer, the Express store in the Natick Mall.
Employee theft is more common than you might think. In fact, every year, retail employees rip off about $15 billion worth of merchandise – 44% of all stolen goods – from their employers, according to the National Retail Federation.
Workers can shoplift in much the same way as customers by hiding merchandise in their purses, pockets, or bags and then taking it out of the store. Employees can also steal money from their registers, let friends or family members steal merchandise, or even commit credit card or check fraud.
Retail store employees are constantly presented with opportunities to steal cash or merchandise. Here are four tips to help you cut down on employee theft from experts who spoke with Entrepreneur magazine.
1. Check Out New Employees Thoroughly.
Be sure to run a background check on all potential employees. King Rogers, chief executive officer of the King Rogers Group (a loss prevention and security management consulting company), tells Entrepreneur that when it comes to people, the past is a good indication of their present. “If someone has been convicted of theft in the past, then you don’t want them handling your money,” Rogers says.
2. Install IP Video Surveillance.
You’ll have an easier time catching dishonest employees if you install Internet Protocol (IP) cameras. Retailers can integrate IP video surveillance with their cash registers to capture precise images of every transaction, helping to cut down on employee theft. Don’t forget to install cameras in storage areas and loading docks as well as in the store.
3. Check the Trash.
Workers often steal merchandise by hiding it trash that’s headed for the dumpster so they can recover it later. “It’s trash. No one wants to deal with trash, so dishonest employees will often take advantage of this opportunity,” says Mark Doyle, president of Jack L. Hayes International.
Doyle suggests taking some precautions to make it more difficult for employees to do this by using clear trash bags, requiring all boxes to be flattened, and locking the dumpsters.
4. Set Up an Employee “Tip Line.”
Create a confidential way for employees to let you know if they observe their co-workers stealing. Set up a hot line or special email address – or even a locked box in the break room. You could also offer a reward to workers for information that helps you prevent theft.
“If people know that their fellow co-workers are watching out for theft, they will think twice before stealing because there are higher odds they will be caught,” says Terrence Shulman, founder of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding.
Employee theft is a big problem for businesses and it’s not an easy issue to tackle. The fact is some people will steal if they’re presented with the opportunity. However, the most effective way to handle employee theft is by trying to prevent it from happening in the first place.