Staff putting their fingers in your till


Staff suspected of stealingit’s a worst case scenario for you.


You cannot be there all day and night, although of course, your cameras can. Gerald Gordon emailed from GG’s Garages to ask about ’starring’ the staff on camera. He wrote: "Can I aim a camera at staff? Would it be a violation of their rights to do so?"


Yes, Gerald, by all means train a camera on the till. And tell the staff you’ve done so.


(You can use covert, ’secret’ cameras but only if you suspect theft and telling staff would damage your investigation.)


Explain also that theft is gross misconduct and comes under the terms for instant dismissal.


I often get calls about staff. Unfortunately they are usually negative. It isn’t easy to get rid of bad staff. Tribunal claims were at a record high last year of 236,000.


Another nasty statistic for you: businesses spend an average of £4,000 defending themselves against unfair dismissal claims.


Back to the shop floor cigarettes and scratchcards are ’popular’ with thieving staff and, with the latter, epos doesn’t register them individually so you’d have to be glued to the camera to catch out a quick grab.


There used to be an expression ’sweethearting’ which applied to a team comprising a member of staff and a member of the public. Not quite the right money would change hands at the till.


Now this has migrated to terminals. Staff can scan their own bill (gas, electricity, phone) or a ’customer’s’ without money being involved. You handle loads and loads of transactions and the commission is so poor you possibly don’t want to spend hours scrutinising the system.


I know the foregoing sounds less like ’carry on retailing’ and more like ’them and us’ but it is a statistical fact that over a third of retail theft in this country is down to staff.


Keeping an eye on them is obvious advice but look out for heavy clothing (experts advise routine staff searches; you need their permission for this) and, if you pay monthly, be extra vigilant in the week running up to pay day.


There are two things all employers should do: explain the rules and the penalties to staff at the outset, in writing, when you hire them and hold regular meetings.


At meetings you can inform the whole staff of any concerns and which areas you are particularly monitoring. Hopefully this should act as a deterrent.


And one more point. Well-trained and motivated staff will be far less likely to be tempted to put their fingers in the till.



Make sure you add your voice to ’localism’



Last week, my Sainsbury bill being greater than £60, I was given a voucher for 10p off per litre of fuel good for the next two weeks. As I write this I see that Tesco is offering 15p a litre off for a combo of spending £50 and buying into some tuna and Coke deals (3 vouchers x 5p off which can all be used together). The gloves are well and truly off.


I’ve frequently seen 5p vouchers from a variety of supers, but 10p or 15p is going to make a lot of shoppers make the trip even if it involves a detour (and it usually does because it’s largely only edge-of-town sites that have room for both big car parks and petrol stations-cum-kiosks).


On possibly a plus note, the state of the high street and the independent sector has been grabbing a lot of headlines lately.


Apparently 14% of town centre shops stood empty last year and the government has got Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, on the case.


Have you noticed that the big guns in your industry have been lobbying for you and yours to add your voice to ’localism’.


And everyone, from ACS and RMI Petrol to high profile retailers like Jonathan James, has been urging others to join in the cacophony over the unfairness of predatory fuel prices.


I’m pitching in too. You need to help influence local policy.


It is a really good idea to contact your local MP. He or she can help. They know where the headlines lie and they will follow the path.



Cleaning up your act



I was talking to Carl Mynott, from Bluefin Group insurance on the eve of the Association of Convenience Stores’ Petrol Forum on July 7. A regular visitor to IFFE at the NEC, this would be his first time at the ACS forum.


Everyone knows that insurance is a necessary evil so you wouldn’t think twice about getting cover for fire, theft and the other usual suspects but, according to Mynott, one of the biggest issues facing forecourts is that nasty ’seepage’ effect: the possible pollution of the site and ground surrounding.


His company, in conjunction with Fairbanks Environmental, is the only one to offer what is formally known as ’Environmental Impairment Liability Insurance’.


That’s its full moniker, but Mynott labels it Premises Pollution Liability. "There is minimal coverage we’re about the only ones selling it at a reasonable cost. You won’t find it on a standard policy anywhere. It is a low frequency hazard with high severity penalties. There might only be around three incidents a year but each would cost upwards of a quarter of a million each."


Ouch. Enough to put anyone out of business!