Shoplifting: Employees Steal More Than Customers Do
In 2010, the National Retail Federation reported shoplifting nationwide increased to $3.6 billion, an 11% increase equaling $37 billion in loss from theft alone. More surprisingly, these figures were primarily from employees stealing on the job, not the customers we all assume shoplifting statistics come from.
Question: Why would an employee steal from their employer in such a fragile economy?
Answer: When employees feel undervalued, the risk of employee theft rises.
Employee theft, specifically in California, can range from potential felony charges of embezzlement and grand theft (over $400); to simple petty theft of miscellaneous store merchandise. Aside from retail theft, corporations are affected as well. Corporations are well known for issuing employees company credit cards and fuel cards for job related expenses. These “access cards” carry a greater risk of being misused for personal use and even 3rd party use (friend or relative), both considered fraud.
In July 2011, the LA Times ran an article about an LA County municipal chief who lost his job. It involved a government gas card tied to personal use of fuel purchases throughout the western United States. Whether it’s a government employee in an esteemed position or a summer intern working for free, employers should realize that internal theft can impact their bottom line and should implement measures to prevent or dissuade employee related theft.
In a difficult economy, a good chunk of employee theft may be due to the “I’ve earned it” or “I’m underpaid” or just simply “the company will hardly notice it” mentality. Remember, one employee can greatly affect your business, especially if it’s a small business with less than 10 employees.
Keeping employees happy and eager to work for you can be an efficient and cost effective way to prevent internal theft. Employees that respect their workplace, feel valued and consider themselves an integral part of the business are often less likely to consider stealing.
Management’s ability to connect with employees on a personal level, yet maintain their supervisory respect can also minimize internal theft. When an employee steals, they are now dissolving the relationship with their manager as well as their employer. A “firm but fair” attitude is best practice in the retail industry, which is prone to higher turn over and historically shows employees being less committed to their employer.
Ryan Garrahy is a licensed private investigator specializing in civil, criminal and insurance related investigations. He is the owner and principal investigator for Orange Investigations.