Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

When an employee steals from your retail business

Mark Fletcher
October 11th, 2018 · No Comments

I was going through some old photos at the weekend and found one from twenty years ago of an employee who stole more than $15,000 from my newsagency.

The photo, taken at a work Christmas party, reminded me of the theft, which I had long forgotten. It was my first experience at substantial employee theft.

The theft was discovered when were chasing an anomaly in end of shift balancing following an unexpected roster change. A pattern of behaviour was discovered. This caused a question to be asked. Within twenty four hours there was an admission of theft over the previous year of $15,000. This was settled with a bank cheque, funded by their parents, and agreement of immediate termination of employment for then agreement that their partner was not advised.

Knowing what I know now, the amount stolen was sure to be considerably more than the advised $15,000. However, the lesson from the situation was far more valuable in that I learnt exactly what they were doing. This resulted in a tightening of the processes as wells changes to the software to make discovering such theft easier in the future.

We’d bee too busy worrying about big theft to notice small theft, $50 or $50 a day.

Back then, in 1997, cancelling sales in POS software was not frowned upon. There were valid reasons you might cancel a sale. Discovery of the theft revealed that it was a common way to steal small amounts from a business that might not be detected in a P&L analysis.

The software was changed and the business management processes I required changed for my shops. It is now much easier to detect theft and businesses that want to block cancel sales can – although, I recommend against this as it continues to be an excellent indicator of employee theft. In fact, the software changes have been on-going in that this first theft experience established my interest in the area and commitment to help independent retailers reduce the cost of theft.

Being stolen from by someone you trust, someone you count as a friend, is gut-wrenching. It can also be a defining moment from which you learn and act, to ensure it does not happen again. That is how it played out for me in retail as well as in POS software development. For that experience I am certainly grateful.

I kept the photo as it is a useful reminder of what a thief can look like.

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Category: Ethics · Social responsibility · theft

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