Stealing a march

The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.

It seems our news page is full of fraud at the moment – stories about employees committing fraud towards their employers, that is. Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s the credit crunch hitting home.

Is this sort of employee theft, for that is what it is, make no bones about it, committed by people who are exceptionally stupid, exceptionally arrogant, desperate or just downright crooked?

I mean we aren’t talking about a roll of sellotape so you can wrap those last minute Christmas pressies up – the stories we have run in the last few weeks have been about thousands and thousands of pounds. (We’re still waiting for the latest news on the really big one by the way).

The question that always runs through my mind when I write these stories is: “how on earth did they think they were going to get away with it?” Companies have such sophisticated systems for tracking each and every item that comes in to stock and goes out again as a sale that it must be obvious when things aren’t right.

Businesses are required to measure their performances and benchmark themselves against everything: when you have to have that level of scrutiny you’re bound to pick up the discrepancies eventually.

Security expert Paul Burton has told many a BMF event about the various ways merchant staff have for lining their own pockets. And, someone was telling me the other day that when he worked in retail, over half the people who left in the year he was there, left because they’d been caught stealing. I was horrified when he said that.

Maybe I’m just niave, maybe it’s because as a child I was always the one who got caught, even if I hadn’t done anything, so it was easier to just not do anything wrong.

I suppose once you start along that route, it might be easier to carry on because they think they’ve got away with it so far. And you do meet people whose attitude seems to be “I’ll do what I want and stuff the rest of you. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Merchant businesses have got enough to worry about at the moment as it is without getting bogged down in court cases and police proceedings. But I don’t suppose we’ll ever see the end of it.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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