What would you do if you saw someone stealing from a business that is not yours?
What would you do if someone came to you saying that they just saw one of your employees stealing?
The following is based on a true life experience that happened when I stopped to purchase a drink at an airport concession kiosk during a business trip.
Prior to my flight departure I stopped at an airport restaurant kiosk to purchase a bottle of Diet Coke. Handing the soda to the cashier, she told me the cost was $2.50. Giving her a $20 bill, I looked up at the register display and noticed that the change said 46 cents. Thinking that was odd, I looked at the receipt printer and noticed that no receipt printed.
Now, before I go any further, let me confess. I have been in the loss prevention profession for over 20 plus years. Naturally, my curiosity took over. After receiving my change from the cashier, I walked away into a position to observe what the cashier would do next. She put my $20 bill in the register, took out a quarter (25 cents) and placed the quarter on top of the register till. Never did I see her ring my purchase.
I continued to watch her as she rang the sales of other customers until another patron came to the register with a single bottle of soda. For that customer, she did the same thing she did with my sale. She gave the customer the proper change, placed his money into the register drawer but never actually rang the sale. No receipt printed.
Once the customer left and she had alone time with no other customers, the cashier removed the quarter from on top of the register till, placed it into the register drawer, removed $5 from the register and put it into her left pant pocket. Theft complete! (The quarter was a marker for the overage in the drawer. 25 cents = $2.50). Over the next several minutes, I observed her failing to ring a variety of items for other sales and continue to put money bound for the register into her pocket.
Knowing that this was most certainly a serious theft issue, I sought out management, explained to them what I had seen and together with them observed her steal several more times. They finally notified senior management (airport level) and the employee was taken off the floor.
That was the scenario leading up to the point the employee was removed from her register area. The following are some observations and statements that took place once management got involved. To provide a timeframe, the whole situation as I describe it was less than 1 hour. Collectively, we witnessed 8-10 instances of theft, which as an educated guess was about $30 in lost sales.
The cashier was in plain sight of customers and other employees. The location of the register was an open space and in front of several tables full of customers. The main path to the full service counter went right by the side of this cashier.
Management walked by the cashier several times during my observations never even looking or talking to the employee but thoroughly involved in their own work.
No customer ever questioned why they did not get a receipt for their purchase (I didn’t because I was curious to see what was happening).
Management told me that they “could not see her stealing from the company” (until they actually saw it) as she was one of their best cashiers and employees.
Management did tell me that they knew she has run into some financial troubles, and has been asking for more hours.
I learned that this cashier worked about 35 hours a week on the register. Do you want to do the math based on my observations (45 minutes equaled about $30) as to how much a day may have been lost?
Management was amazed that when the cashier pocketed money each time that she was not looking around to see who might be watching. (Do you think she knew nobody watched or cared about her actions?)
What shocked me the most was that even though two members of management saw actual thefts, they really had not concept as to what was taking place. When they removed her from the floor the first thing they did was a register audit. They tracked me down at my departure gate requesting that I provide a written statement because the register audit was not short and there appeared to be no missing funds.
This cashier was “dropping sales” or taking the money without ringing an actual sale. Nobody seemed to understand that there would be no shortage, because there were no sales rung into the register.
So what happened next? Unfortunately I do not know what the final outcome was for this employee. I cannot tell you whether she was terminated, arrested or even reprimanded. As for me, I walked back to my gate, got on my plane and realized why I work for a company that does what we do.
Has this every happened to you? How would you have handled this situation as management? Share with us your thoughts and comments.
Written by David Johnston