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A Dishonest Employee Talks About Internal Theft

Can The Little Things You Do Really Stop Dishonest Employees From Stealing In Your Store?

The answer is a definite YES!

A striking example of how the little things you do can make a BIG DIFFERENCE, was demonstrated in an interview with a former dishonest employee who explained to the National Association For Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) how she and others would steal at her previous employer but not on her current job.

Ms. B has been working as a part-time employee in the women’s hoe department or various department and specialty stores.  For over ten years, Ms. B has worked in a store where “they don’t let you get away with anything.”  But, she recalls her previous job where “at least 2 to 3 dozen employees stole shoes” during her four years at the store.

Employee Exiting and Handbag Control

She recalls that, at her former store, employees were permitted to come in the front door, buy merchandise with their discount and then leave through the front door again.  “Employees simply came in, got two pairs of boots from a co-worker and then left via the front door.”  At her present job, “employees must always use the employee entrance, where all packages are subject to inspection…and the guard really checks”.

Although handbags were not permitted on the selling floor of her former store, the rules were loosely enforced.  At her present employer, “everyone’s handbag goes into a locker”.

Charge Credits and Cash Over Rings

When it came to giving charge credits to customers, the department manager in her former store would sometimes allow salespeople to authorize the return.  At her present store, charge credits cannot be completed at the point-of-sale register terminal until the manager inputs her number.

When asked about manipulation and theft at the cash register, Ms. B recalled that on her former job the cash registers were spread apart but in her present department the three cash registers are next to one another.  “Employees can’t work registers solely on their own… someone is usually nearby and they can be more easily observed.”  She notes that “if we now have an over ring on our register, we have to get it voided by a manager right away.”  At the other store, there was no admonishment if the salesperson didn’t get the over ring or void approved at the time the transaction occurred, so it was easy to take cash.

Store Personnel and Security

Ms. B also mentioned that her former employer hired younger people who were “more prone to theft”.  They used to socialize together after work.  “The kids were not ashamed or afraid to talk about thefts.”  Her present employer hires more mature people who are “less interested in stealing” and their turnover rate is lower too.  “I never hear a word mentioned about stealing among these workers.”

“The other store was a leased department and the store manager really wasn’t that interested in us,” said Ms. B.  Her present department is owned and operated by the store “and we certainly get a lot more attention.”

When asked about store security, Ms. B said that at her former store the detectives were no deterrent because “employees knew who they were and simply waited until they weren’t around.”  Although the detectives are not well-known at her present store, “I don’t really think it’s a factor one way or the other because of all the other strict controls, implying that employees worry more about getting caught by other means.

Ms. B suddenly chuckled when she thought about the inventory.  “It’s interesting,” she said, “at my present store the inventory is almost always perfect, whereas before we were always short.”

Reporting Co-Worker Dishonesty

We asked Ms. B if she ever “turned-in” another employee who stole shoes.  “Why should I get involved?” was her immediate reply.  “Why hurt someone else…there’s nothing in it for me.”

Ms. B went on to say that at her former store “they deserved the loss because they treated their employees like dirt.”  They called shoe people “shoe dogs,” which is a negative term and is considered a put-down.

At her present store, Ms. B and the other employees get many “pats on the back.”  If she saw someone steal in this store, she admits that she would probably turn them in.  Why?  “Because the others would tell on me…because they’re all professionals.”


Ms. B’s values and attitude about stealing haven’t changed, but because her working environment has changed, her behavior has also changed.  Now she says she wouldn’t take a chance and steal and she would probably report a co-worker who she thought was stealing.

A major factor that deters Ms. B from theft now is the new company’s internal controls.  Ms. B won’t try to carry shoes out because “the guard at the employee door really checks.”  She says that putting them in her handbag is also out because handbags are not allowed on the selling floor.  She can no longer wear shoes out because the guard looks her up and down while she signs out at the employee door.

Trying to steal cash is difficult because the supervisor insists on voiding all over rings at the time of error and the registers are located close together, making it easy for another co-worker to observe any suspicious act.  She can’t even give a fraudulent charge credit or cash refund to a friend because the supervisor must authorize each transaction on the register with a special key before any return transaction can be completed.

Another important factor is that theft is not informally sanctioned by her co-workers as it was on the previous job.  Here, employees are treated with respect and consideration which makes it more difficult to rationalize dishonesty.  This same atmosphere encourages loyalty to the company and increases the likelihood that employees would report suspicious acts of co-workers.

Interesting is the fact that the store’s various security measures, other than the conscientious guard at the employee door, were “not a factor one way or the other” according to Ms. B because of all the other controls.

As a practical matter, I think you would agree that Ms. B could find a way to steal shoes if she was determined to do so.  What’s important is that now she doesn’t even try.  The message from Ms. B is loud and clear:  Internal dishonesty can be reduced or even eliminated when store management follows internal control procedures and reduces the temptations and opportunities which are normally present in the retail work setting.

National Association for Shoplifting Prevention

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