To catch a thief

This article originally appeared in PMQ magazine, 2007 -

Is your marketing creating profits for you… or a windfall for others?

Dark clouds hang threatening in the sky. I’m strolling into my pizza shop. It’s 8 minutes before opening time and I’m pleasantly surprised to see one of my prized employees - on the phone taking an order. Not only that – a gentleman is just making his way out the front door with two pizzas in his hands.

Wow! I am so blessed. Employees like this are rare. While most wouldn’t dream of lifting a finger till the opening bell – Kevin has already fired up the ovens and racked up two orders. I head for the kitchen while Kevin finishes up the phone order.

Click – whir, whir, whir, click… click. Order #2 rolls off the printer. Kevin strides into the kitchen, slides the ticket into the ticket holder and grabs the ladle. Glancing around, my eyes lock onto a puzzle. No, a crime. Focused like a laser beam – the truth burns a hole in my brain.

Confusion sets in… “can’t be” I say to myself. My eyes blink – it’s still there. “Did Kevin see me looking?” No… I swallow hard. The title-track from “Psycho” is shrieking through my mind like nails on a chalkboard. And now – in this instant – it all adds up… Kevin’s exotic vacations, his new car. His college money.  Oh, I vaguely remember something about a trust fund… but now, standing there petrified, I know who’s funding it. Me.

And now, with the precise tunnel-vision of a “fight or flight” adrenaline dump - my eyes narrow one last time onto… “Ticket #1.” Hold this thought for a moment while I recap: A customer walked out the front door with two pizzas as I arrived. At the same time, Kevin was on the phone taking another order. This should be ticket #2.  The sickening truth is... Kevin is ripping me off.

I mumble “have a great day” and head for my car. Denial sets in for a minute. Then anger… then stupidity. I decide to tell Kevin that I know someone is stealing. I’m just not going to tell him that I knew “who.”

I figure once he knows I’m onto something he’ll quit ransacking the till. Later that same day I intersect Kevin in the kitchen… “Kevin… someone in this store is stealing.” “You’re kidding” he said (feigning disbelief). “What are they stealing?” “Cash” I said. “Who is it?” “I don’t know – but I’d like you to keep your eyes open for me – okay?” “Sure thing.”

For a fleeting moment I’m thinking Kevin will straighten up and knock this off. Then sanity returns.

I enlist the help of a friend. We meet in a parking lot across the street. She orders a BBQ chicken pizza from her cell phone. She’ll pay with a “marked” twenty dollar bill. The trap was set. I enter just as she’s leaving - and I’m headed straight for the till (I told Kevin I needed to get some change) – guess what? The marked twenty was nowhere to be found. Not only that – there was no record of a BBQ chicken pizza on the hourly report.

Late that evening, long after closing I return to the store and start poring over my POS reports. Daily, weekly, monthly… my blood began to boil. Now, I’ll admit – I should have been looking at these reports all along – but you can tend to get sloppy as long as the cash is flowing in. Anyway – the voided ticket report proved a treasure trove of incriminating deeds.

After printing out 6 months worth of very specific reports I head back home.  First thing in the morning the detective work would begin. And so, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, with a cup of hot coffee in one hand, a phone in the other – I began piecing together a very disappointing puzzle.

Slowly, but surely, the truth settled in. One at a time, until they numbered in the hundreds – the naked truth assembled itself in front of me. I was the victim of a crooked, thieving, good-for-nothing – criminal. It turns out – the business I had worked so hard to build - was Kevin’s personal piggy bank.

The jig was up. And, I had no one to blame but myself. Kevin was as reckless as a drunk swerving all over the road. He voided tickets that people had paid for by check and credit card. He voided tickets with other worker’s employee numbers. In fact one of my employees mysteriously voided 17 tickets while on vacation in Colorado. My POS held all the clues, had I just looked for them.

My attorney went to the store that evening, introduced himself and asked Kevin to sit down. He then spread a 3-inch stack of store reports and bank records across the table and told Kevin he was fired. He gave Kevin two options.  Agree to write me a check for $5,000 or – be arrested (the Sheriff was waiting outside). Kevin professed his innocence but quickly agreed to pay me the five grand. He’d pay the money in one week.

Sure enough – on the appointed day Kevin sat in my attorney’s office holding a check for $5,000. Now, you’ll find this funny (the audacity of some people)… Kevin demands his final paycheck. My attorney tells Kevin “the deal’s off” and starts to dial to Sheriff. Kevin quickly signs an agreement forfeiting his paycheck, hands over the five grand - and skedaddles like a cockroach.

National cash Register Corporation conducted a study which revealed that one out of four employees would not even work for you – if they couldn’t regularly steal from you. Ain’t that nice? Anyway – look for obvious signs:

  • An employee always has a perfectly balanced cash drawer (very unusual)
  • A particular employee buying lots of expensive toys
  • Rising food-cost

If you don’t have a POS – get one. Pay attention.

TAGS: Sales, Kamron

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