Small Business Security Part 2

All things considered, how do you know you can trust the people you hire? Here are a few ideas:

  • Verify previous employment
  • Verify education and certificates claimed
  • Check references
  • Do pre-hire drug screenings
  • Run criminal background checks

What about your existing employees? Here are some tips to make sure they stay honest?

  • Conduct audits of accounts that may be susceptible to employee theft
  • Require employees to take vacation time, rather than “cashing out” vacations
  • Rotate tasks and responsibilities so that no one person is in charge of inventory or budgets
  • Use monitoring systems: surveillance cameras, digital time clocks and other technology

Intercity Security Systems can help with at least one of these procedures: video surveillance. We offer a wide variety of video camera systems that businesses can install in sensitive areas: cash registers, clock-in rooms and inventory storage areas. If employees don’t have anything to hide, then they should be fine with surveillance monitoring. For more information on commercial video surveillance, contact Intercity Security Systems today.

3. No retailer likes to think that they are doing things to tempt shoplifters, but often certain decisions about how a store is arranged or how staff is trained create an environment that makes it easier for a shoplifter. Here’s what you can do to protecting your operation.

DO: Be extra alert if operating the type of store that tends to draw shoplifters, such as:

  • Department stores
  • Drug stores
  • Sporting goods stores

DO: Be extra alert if your store carries merchandise that is particularly tempting to shoplifters, such as:

  • Electronics
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Cameras and photography supplies
  • Clothing, including shoes
  • DO: Design your store so that your salespeople can see every area easily. If any part of your operation is hidden, that gives shoplifters a location to remove and hide merchandise.
  • DO: Police your merchandise rigorously. It’s easy to spot empty hangers or gaps if clothes are always placed in order on rods or shelves.
  • DO: Consider limiting or tracking clothes going in and out of your dressing rooms.
  • DO: Make sure your salespeople approach customers the minute they step into the store. When customers are left on their own, it appears as though no one is really paying attention. If a customer tries to avoid your sales staff, you may be dealing with a shoplifter.
  • DO: Keep valuable small merchandise under lock and key. If certain items seem to disappear regularly, place those under lock and key also. You can use locked display cases or product restraining devices. Be sure to have policies for how many pieces can be removed from a display case at a time – generally one or two at most.
  • DO: Consider a sensor system to sound an alarm when un-purchased merchandise moves through your exit. It may be expensive, but it could well pay for itself in shoplifting savings.
  • DO: Position security cameras or mirrors in areas that aren’t immediately visible to salespeople.
  • DO: Staff your operation properly. If your employees are running around trying to keep up with customers, this leaves an opening for shoplifters to work without observation.
  • DO: Train your staff to spot potential shoplifters. See our last blog for insights on what to look for.
  • DO: Let your customers know that you watch for and prosecute shoplifters. The signs themselves are a deterrent. The average shoplifter is only caught one in forty-eight times, and then is only prosecuted 50% of the time. That means that chronic shoplifters only risk prosecution a little more than one percent of the time they shoplift. You can double that risk by prosecuting every shoplifter.
  • DO: Have cashiers or employees at every store exit who have the time to pay attention to people leaving the store.
  • DO: Pay attention to the warning signs of shoplifting: hangers or price tags on the floor in the store or dressing rooms, or open boxes in wastebaskets in the store or thrown in corners.
  • DO: Keep track of inventory and sales so you have an accurate estimate of what’s being taken and what shoplifting is costing your company.
  • And one final word of advice:
  • DON’T: Ignore shoplifting. Every retail operation faces this challenge, and it’s the responsibility of you as manager/owner and every one of your employees to do what it takes to minimize its impact on your profits.
  • Part One: Spot Your Real Shoplifters
    When you own a business that involves a lot of direct interaction with the public, protecting against shoplifting or other types of customer theft can make the difference between profit and loss.
  • More than $35 million worth of goods are stolen from retailers every day.*At the same time, you don’t want legitimate customers to feel that they are under suspicion. Sometimes balancing the two can be hard.
  • Shoplifters do not fit any standard profile: Only 25% of shoplifters are kids. Shoplifting is not a gender-specific behavior – men and women shoplift in about equal percentages. The majority of shoplifters are Caucasian. Only 3% of shoplifters are actually “professionals,” those who steal for profit or as a lifestyle. 73 percent of kids and 72% of adults steal on impulse.*
  • Given this information, shop owners, salespeople, or security staff that profile potential shoplifters based on age or race will not only offend customers, they will miss the majority of thieves. Instead of profiling based on appearance, train your staff to profile based on behavior. Pay attention to how people dress, act, and move, and what they carry. This will tell you if shoplifting is a possibility.
  • Here are some indications that someone may be shoplifting:
  • Dressing wrong: Does someone have clothes that are inappropriate to the weather? A shoplifter may wear heavier clothes in the summer or a coat to hide merchandise. In the winter, someone may come in with no coat planning to steal one. Extremely worn clothing may indicate that the person is going to switch to stolen clothes in the fitting room. Also pay attention to people with baggy clothes or a woman with full or pleated skirts. Women have actually been known to steal whole hams and other fairly large items by tucking them under skirts and holding them between their thighs or knees as they walk out of the store.
  • People wearing tight-fitting and weather-appropriate clothing who are carrying nothing or just a small purse are probably not shoplifters.

Acting odd: If someone comes into the store and takes quick glances around, if they show signs that they are nervous such as sweating, flushing or dry lips, they may be a potential shoplifter. If people hold quick conversations with other people demonstrating the same behavior, or if two people come in together and one talks to you or asks questions while the other wanders, these behaviors can be a prelude to shoplifting. Notice particularly if the person asking questions doesn’t seem to be interested in the answers or has trouble continuing the conversation. From a timing standpoint, shoplifters will often come right at opening or closing. They also might not seem sure what they want.

People who pay a lot of attention to your merchandise and come in alone are probably not shoplifters.

Moving strangely: Anyone who moves quickly, walks in a strange way, makes a lot of adjusting movements to their clothes or keeps their hands low may be concealing a stolen item. Anyone who walks behind one of your sales counters or reaches into a display designed to keep customers away rather than asking for help may be looking for an opportunity to steal a valuable item. Some shoplifters cut a slit in a coat pocket to enable them to reach and grab something from the bottom, so watch anyone who always has only one hand in a coat pocket. Someone who brings a large number of items into a fitting room or moves quickly into a fitting room without asking for help may want to make sure you don’t know what they brought in with them.

Accessory choices: Shoplifters may carry dirty or wrinkled shopping bags, empty plastic bags or backpacks. They may have a large purse that is often wide open. They frequently carry bundles, boxes, a coat or sweater tossed over an arm, briefcases, umbrellas or newspapers. Another technique is to have an arm in a sling – perfect for hiding small items.

One common trick is to use a stroller. There’s a lot of opportunity to tuck items around a baby. Some strollers even have a false bottom to steal larger or more items.

Employers: Are you considering installing cameras inside the business? That’s a great decision, especially if you operate a retail establishment. However, there are some places where cameras should not be installed for the sake of employee privacy – and in many states, those guidelines are also the law. If you choose to ignore the rules and install cameras where they are not permitted, the law is on the side of your employees because that legislation was designed to protect their privacy.

What federal law says is that surveillance cameras are not illegal as long as the intent is determined to be legitimate. So on that count, you’re covered no matter what state you’re in. That means that employee workstations like cash registers can be under surveillance in many cases without any fear of legal retribution, because there is a legitimate business reason for monitoring the employee.

But what spaces of the business would not pass muster when it comes to video surveillance? Under nearly any circumstance, these areas could not possibly be lawfully videotaped:

  • Restrooms
  • Changing rooms
  • Locker rooms/shower rooms

What about break rooms? That depends on the state. Check with your state’s labor department and/or the U.S. Department of Labor if you are considering installing cameras in your employee break room. Additionally, recording sound is regarded as illegal eavesdropping in many states. Employees who suspect they are being recorded without their consent can and often do sue their employers. Before you install cameras anywhere inside the business, the law states that you must inform your employees and obtain their written consent. And as smart business owners know, it doesn’t pay to take chances with the law.

4. There are some things that are “no brainers” for home security: lock your doors, arm your security system. But other things are easy to forget about, such as the reality of professional thieves. Most home burglaries are committed by amateurs, but unfortunately, the Internet makes professional theft tips highly accessible to amateurs. Fortunately, homeowners can take precautions to divert thieves of all backgrounds.