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Monday, August 29, 2011

Preventing Employee Theft

Employee theft has been a problem for retailers since the beginning of retail… which roughly dates back to the beginning of commerce. Unfortunately, we still haven’t solved the problem. Employee theft can range from the pilfering of store supplies to elaborate schemes in which thousands of dollars disappear before the very eyes of the business owner. In fact, in the retail industry, one study by a forensic accounting firm cites employees “out-stealing” shoplifters.

Despite the disturbing facts surrounding employee theft, it’s not helpful if you simply assume the worst from your employees and create an atmosphere of distrust. That said, there are certain measures you should consider to limit your exposure to dishonesty. Your POS system can provide you with tools to both detect and prevent instances of employee theft. By using them, and by showing your employees that you are paying attention to their work, you can go a long way toward “keeping them honest.”

Tips for Using Your POS System to Combat Employee Theft:
• Make sure every POS user has a unique user ID and/or password to log into the system.

• Run a report each day or each week to review voided items, and do the same with returns. Make a point to ask questions regularly about any transactions that don’t make sense. Contact your POS vendor if you need assistance finding or using these reports.

• Require that your employees enter a specific reason for any voided sales.

• Do a physical inventory check on any high dollar returns. Did the items really get returned?

• Require a customer name, Driver’s License number, and phone number for returns exceeding a certain dollar amount.

• Watch returns on non-diminishing or non-stock items carefully.

• Look for payment types on returns. Flag any returns where the refund payment differs in type from the original payment (i.e. purchased with a check and refund given in cash)

• Promote accuracy with your registers, and reward your employees when the registers remain in perfect balance for a certain period of time.

• Review stock adjustments. Limit the entry of stock adjustments to employees who have an inventory management role.

• If you have a camera system, make sure each cash drawer is visible. Reports from your POS system coupled with video footage can tell the story of what is happening in the register.

If you suspect that an employee is stealing, trust your instincts and investigate. If you have good processes in place, your POS system can facilitate both the prevention and investigation of employee theft. To read more in this topic, take a look at the following resources online:

Kessler International Report

NRHA Loss Prevention Training

Monday, August 15, 2011

AR = Attention Required

The Accounts Receivable (AR) functions in your POS system are designed to help you serve commercial customers efficiently. If you haven’t paid much attention to them, it’s worth taking a few minutes to check them out. What payment terms does the system provide for? What kinds of discounts can be calculated? Can you offer discounts for prompt payment? What are the statement printing options? Can you customize the messages that print on your statements? Can you email statements? You might find features you didn’t know about, and therefore more options for managing credit with your customers. If you find there are features you don’t understand, ask your POS vendor to explain how they work.

On its own, your POS system will keep track of customer charges and payments. But without the required attention and proper maintenance, these functions can cause major headaches. To use AR effectively you need to open new accounts carefully, utilize credit limits, get proper documentation for each transaction, and reign in past due accounts.

By opening an account for a new customer, you are literally loaning part of your cash flow to them. Start this process by providing a credit application (consult with your attorney regarding the language in the application) and consider requiring a personal guaranty for commercial customers. Obtain documentation for tax exempt accounts, and maintain a paper file for documents related to each account. Finally, establish a checklist each time you set up a new account in your POS system. Forgetting to enter a credit limit or clicking a sales tax flag could lead to problems down the road.

Your POS system should be set up to trigger a credit hold for accounts that are past due or over their credit limit. You may also have the option for certain employees to override this hold at the cash register. It can be helpful to allow a manager or other trusted employees to override credit holds, but you should be sure to establish and communicate a policy that limits how much further any customer’s credit can be extended in your absence.

All customers charging on an account should be expected to sign for their purchases, either on paper or using an electronic signature pad connected to your POS system. In addition, the name of the person charging should be typed in or selected from a list by the cashier. Even if your customer does not require this information on invoices or statements, having a typed name will be easier than deciphering a signature if there is a question or problem with a transaction later on.

Monitoring your receivables carefully will ultimately help your cash flow. Choose a day early in the month to make phone calls to past due accounts. Make sure you’ve applied any checks you’ve received up to the current day. Then, generate a Trial Balance to identify the past due accounts you need to call. Make a friendly phone call to each account with a past due balance. You might feel uncomfortable making these calls at first. However, you will quickly find that one “reminder” call to a customer can lead to many timely payments in the future. Document each phone call either in your POS system or in the paper file for the account.

Finally, keep in mind that AR represents your money, which you are allowing your customers to use. Extending credit is a risk, but it is also a helpful sales tool. For more tips on managing credit, check out this article from the University of Missouri’s Extension service.