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Loss prevention for the layman

Part Two

Well, hello again. For new readers, these columns discuss the various ways businesses lose profits through dishonesty of various sorts. We cover ways to combat these losses, with emphasis on in house, cheap and simple methods first. We will consider when outside talent should be called in, and how to  get the most for your money if you do have to call in an expert.

 Last month we reviewed the ALERTLINE program, based out of Baltimore, Maryland. ALERTLINE is an effective loss prevention program which invites anonymous participation from employees, customers, or anyone who has knowledge of crime in the workplace. Call for a copy of last month's column if you don't have it.

 This month we will clarify a couple of terms I mentioned last month that you asked about. One item, which I had thought was a common industry term, is "sweethearting". Sweethearting is a form of theft which involves cooperation between an employee and a customer.

 Sweethearting can be as simple as in high school, when my girlfriend, who ran the cash register in the school cafeteria, would slip an extra milk or cookie on my tray when I paid for my lunch. A more common scenario today is for a confederate to purchase an expensive item while the employee rings up a cheaper one on the register. A smaller quantity could be paid for than is actually taken from the store, or the clerk  could "overlook" small items hiding inside others. There are many ways this sort of thing can be pulled off - your experience as a retailer probably can bring to mind ways the rest of us never thought of.
Frequently the problem occurs between a boyfriend and girlfriend - hence the term "sweethearting".

 How do you combat sweethearting? The first step is to understand the problem. Second is to be aware of how it might affect you. In a small retail operation, it won't be too difficult to identify potential problems. You probably will get to know your employees' friends. Discourage these friends from loitering in your store, and from arriving early to pick up your employee when he or she gets off. Keep an eye on sweethearts when they're on your premises and be sure to  speak to them frequently so they know you're aware of who they are. Be especially suspicious of employees who hang around the store on their days off in case there's collusion between employees.

 Let the staff know that your business premises are not social gathering places for the masses. Have a written policy covering the situation, no matter how small your operation, and be sure every employee reads and initials a copy when they are hired.

 Whoever trains employees should teach them to look inside and underneath goods which might be large enough to conceal others. Check pockets of clothing. Feel plastic-wrapped items to be sure nothing is  concealed inside. Have a supervisor demonstrate this initially and observe frequently to be sure employees are following policy.

 In a larger retail operation, covert video surveillance might be considered to monitor operations at a particular cash register. We will go into more details on this in an upcoming column, but for now suffice  it to say that a video camera can be hidden above a drop ceiling or in other locations where it will get a view of the activity at the register. Management can monitor operations in real time, or they can  be recorded for later review.
A more sophisticated system will tie into electronic cash registers and display the register's activity on a video screen side by side with that of a camera focused on the goods. A system like that makes it easy to see if everything is kosher. Tape recorded evidence can be used to justify whatever disciplinary actions  you take, or can be used in prosecution.
That's all for now. Consider what we've covered here and make sure you're not affected. The magazine and I need to hear from you with comments and suggestions on topics for future columns. To help us with this, or if you have questions on anything we've discussed so far, contact me at (410) 879-4035.

Remember, security doesn't cost; it pays!

 Copyright (C) February 1990 by Stephen E. Uhrig, SWS Security.

Part 1