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  • Cheating Culture

    On the recommendation of SecTrainer I picked up the book "The Cheating Culture, Why More Americans are doing Wrong to get Ahead" by David Callahan. My review of the book is mixed because it is pretty clear that David Callahan is pretty anti-capitalism, but he does raise some very interesting questions, even if he has trouble proving things he claims as fact. The basic premise of the book is that more people are cheating in all walks of life than ever before because of pressures to be financially successful, and the fact the benefits of financial success are more significant than ever. People who are basically honest people will cheat in various areas, such as tax evasion, cheating in school, stealing, fraud, and much more when they are pressured to be financially successful.

    SecTrainer offered this quote in another post:

    "A corporate culture and unyielding demand for absolute integrity, from the top down. This is supported by the findings of David Callahan in his brilliant book (*must* reading for all LP people who want to understand motives) The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. Awareness programs that incorporate a strong element of expectations in this regard are part of building this culture."

    Now, I did not find anything in this book that supports the idea that a corporate culture demanding integrity is what keeps people honest. In fact, I found much more evidence that shows that regardless of the corporate culture, people WILL cheat anyway if there is significant enough pressure to be successful, and the financial benefits outweigh the risks.

    Callahan shared an old accounting fable of a bookkeeper who was denied a raise of $100 a month. Several years later, when the bookkeeper retired, it was discovered the he had stolen $100 a month from the point he was denied the raise to his retirement. Callahan made this quote about this story.

    "The story is told to illustrate a point these investigators know all too well: that people are prone to invent their own morality when the rules don't seem fair to them. This tendency explains a lot of cheating in America today."

    I have claimed that employees will steal, primarily based upon how they are managed by their direct supervisor. This is more important than anything the Loss Prevention department will do to control the losses. Which is why I am such a firm believer in education being the key to success.

    Callahan went on to say:

    "There are roughly four reasons why people obey the rules. First, we may toe the line because the risks of breaking the rules outweigh the benefits. Second, we might be sensitive to social norms, or peer pressure - we follow the rules because we don't want to be treated as a pariah. Third, we may obey rules because they agree with our personal morality. And fourth, we may obey rules because they have legitimacy in our eyes - because we feel that the authority making and enforcing the laws is just and ultimately working in our long-term interests."

    Callahan also discussed the social theorist Max Weber and his ideas on how "legitimacy" of rules shapes peoples views on whether to cheat or not. Callahan wrote, "He argued the commonsense point that peopel are more likely to follow rules or laws that seem fair and are made by an authority that deserves its power."

    When you think about it, this is more the idea behind a community oriented police program. The idea is to get the community support behind what you are trying to achieve by getting them to understand why you are trying to achieve it, and understand that the police are going to be fair about it. I have been supporting this concept in the Loss Prevention industry for years. Kicking ass and taking names is not effective in police work, in LP work, or in any area where cheating comes into play. Max Weber's theories have shown to be more accurate in later years through such studies as in Tom Tyler's book "Why People Obey the Law".

    Callahan discussed the idea of employee theft due to unfair treatment. "There are no surveys that reveal the motives of thieving employees, and it is risky to generalize about people's rationalizations for their behavior. But perceptions of fairness do seeem to play a big role here. 'If someone feels inadequately compensated or poorly treated, they might look for other compensation,' comments Joseph Wells, who is found and chairman of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners...'Companies who treat their employees badly generally have a bigger fraud problem,' he says."

    One other interesting point that I found in the book, and this actually helps support many of my conclusions from my article "Admitting We Have a Problem". In my article, I made a point that the only real shrink reduction is due to natural declines in shoplifting rates. However, I never came up with a clear theory as to why shrink was rising throughout the 90's, despite the fact that crime rates were declining. However, Callahan offers a theory which may be very valid. He says that more employees will steal during boom times than during down times for businesses. This is due to businesses becoming more dilligent in controlling money when times get tight, but are a little more carefree when times are good. When you look at the rise and fall of shrink rates through the 90's, you can see a pattern that is similar to the economic boom of the 90's, and matching trends of consumer confidence.

    Thanks for the reading recommendation SecTrainer. I always find it interesting when people offer up resources in order to contradict what I say, yet the resources actually help to prove what I keep saying. Managing employees is the most crucial aspect of Loss Prevention. Loss Prevention's primary role should be one of teaching Ops managers how to be better managers.
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  • #2
    Lynch Mob, you've finally posted something that I find to be well thought out, and I agree with your conclusions. Perhaps the distinction that I've failed to identify with our differences is this: I think your methods, which place a greater focus on education, work wonderfully... when it comes to internal shrink.

    Sales and support staff managers can be your biggest ally when it comes to reducing internal theft, increasing employee satisfaction, and limiting paperwork and other types of errors that result in higher shrink. Here is where I find that your methods will work, and that's quite indicative by the types of retailers who employ you: small businesses and restaurants.

    However, sales and support staff managers fail miserably when it comes to assisting with reducing external theft. And really, it's hard to blame them. The focus of a sales manager is on increasing customer satisfaction, bringing in the sales, keeping the sales floor looking clean and tidy, and assisting the sales associates when they need assistance ringing sales. Support staff have their own roles, be it in visual displays, maintenance, housekeeping, or operations.

    No matter how well-educated these folks are, no matter how knowledgeable they are about theft prevention methods, they are not able to focus on external theft because they have other priorities. And rightly so. I think you're putting a salesmen in an awkward position by having them focus on loss prevention issues. Most of these people are reviewed based on the sales figures their departments reach, credit goals, and so forth.

    Here's is why I continue to tell you: You can't remove loss prevention from the large retailer or department store. These types of retailers need someone who is focused solely on preventing theft and apprehending shoplifters. Other store personnel cannot be trusted to do this. Nine times out of ten, they will do what is best for the store sales-wise, not theft prevention-wise.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by LPGuy View Post
      However, sales and support staff managers fail miserably when it comes to assisting with reducing external theft. And really, it's hard to blame them. The focus of a sales manager is on increasing customer satisfaction, bringing in the sales, keeping the sales floor looking clean and tidy, and assisting the sales associates when they need assistance ringing sales. Support staff have their own roles, be it in visual displays, maintenance, housekeeping, or operations.

      No matter how well-educated these folks are, no matter how knowledgeable they are about theft prevention methods, they are not able to focus on external theft because they have other priorities. And rightly so. I think you're putting a salesmen in an awkward position by having them focus on loss prevention issues. Most of these people are reviewed based on the sales figures their departments reach, credit goals, and so forth.
      Why do they fail miserably? Mainly because they have not been taught how to succeed. Yes, they have their own priorities, but what priority takes higher precedence than customers? If you are going to tell me they are too busy to provide customer service, then I will tell you that they should not be working in retail. I doubt the CEO of your company, or any other retail company, would accept that as an excuse.

      All I teach ops how to do is prevent theft using good customer service techniques. They are not LP. They should not try to act like LP. They should just do what they have been hired to do, which is to provide customer service. Why is this unreasonable to expect? In fact, if they listen to my strategies on preventing shoplifting as a sales associate, their sales will increase. It is a win-win in every sense of the term.

      Originally posted by LPGuy View Post
      Here's is why I continue to tell you: You can't remove loss prevention from the large retailer or department store. These types of retailers need someone who is focused solely on preventing theft and apprehending shoplifters. Other store personnel cannot be trusted to do this. Nine times out of ten, they will do what is best for the store sales-wise, not theft prevention-wise.
      You still don't explain why we need this in large retailers, yet don't need it in specialty. What is the difference? If you believe that small retailers don't have other priorities, then you are highly mistaken.

      Also, why is it that store personnel cannot be trusted, but LP agents can? What is it that you think makes LP agents so special that they can be trusted to make the right decisions and follow proper procedures, yet sales associates cannot? You admit that sales associates will do what is best for the store in regards to helping sales, but you say they will not help in preventing losses. This is a key point because increasing sales and preventing shoplifting require the EXACT SAME SKILLS. You do the exact same thing to prevent a shoplifter from stealing as you do to increase sales. The problem is that I don't believe that sales associates do that 9 out of 10 times. If they are doing it that often, you will have low shrink. More often, they ignore customers because they don't like their job and do not have a manager holding them accountable. This is the problem and the issue that should be addressed through IMPROVED MANAGEMENT SKILLS. That is why education is so crucial for the success, even in the fight against shoplifting.

      In reality, you demonstrate the same typical knowledge that most Ops Managers will have. You think that preventing shoplifting is different from generating sales. You think that it requires some kind of special effort. It doesn't. It requires a consistently strong sales effort. That is all. The concept is not rocket science, but most managers are just not very good at motivating employees and driving them to success. That is where LP should be excelling. The problem is that LP professionals are generally not any better at managing people, and far too often, are even worse at it than Ops.

      Expand your learning LPGuy. Once you accept that customer service is the single best deterrent to shoplifting, you will take that first step to exceptional performance in PREVENTION.
      Last edited by Lynch Mob; 07-05-2007, 07:01 PM.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Lynch Mob View Post
        Also, why is it that store personnel cannot be trusted, but LP agents can? What is it that you think makes LP agents so special that they can be trusted to make the right decisions and follow proper procedures, yet sales associates cannot?

        Exactly, it is my belief that a fair number of LP agents break store policies (see the video thread) more often than sales clerks do. At most big box stores, LP have free reign. They can come and go as they please. They can manhandle shoplifters in the name of "preventing losses". It is a shame.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Lynch Mob View Post
          Why do they fail miserably?
          Sales managers (generally) fail at preventing theft because sales take precedence over most everything else to them. To your typical sales manager, a rack full of expensive leather jackets near an entrance during the winter means potential high-dollar sales. To a loss prevention officer, it's a large loss waiting to happen due to the items and their location. It's thinking like this that causes the sales manager to be less effective at preventing theft than someone who is paid and trained to do so full time.

          Originally posted by Lynch Mob
          If you are going to tell me they are too busy to provide customer service, then I will tell you that they should not be working in retail.
          No, no, again we mis-understand each other. I am a huge advocate of teaching effective customer service skills to sales associates. But again, sales associates and sales managers have other concerns beyond evaluating each customer for theft behaviors. And when they focus all their attention on customer servicing and following the people who they suspect may try to steal, they are not assisting the legitimate, paying customers who are driving the store's business. When those customers are not being helped, they will leave. We cannot expect for sales associates and sales managers to spend any good amount of their resources on suspected dishonest customers.

          Originally posted by Lynch Mob
          You still don't explain why we need this in large retailers, yet don't need it in specialty.
          I'm of the opinion that you can probably get away with not having full time in-store LP in a speciality retailer. The size of the store, amount of business, and merchandise being stocked are all elements to consider. A mall "dollar store" probably doesn't need in-store LP nearly as much as a large diamond retailer may.

          Originally posted by Lynch Mob
          Also, why is it that store personnel cannot be trusted, but LP agents can?
          I'm not referring to policies by this line of thinking. I'm referring to trusting store personnel to make the best decisions as far as preventing theft. If they feel that something may be better for sales, they will do it. See my leather jacket example above.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by LPCap View Post
            Exactly, it is my belief that a fair number of LP agents break store policies (see the video thread) more often than sales clerks do. At most big box stores, LP have free reign. They can come and go as they please. They can manhandle shoplifters in the name of "preventing losses". It is a shame.
            No one was talking about breaking simple store policies. Please read the postings in their entirety before responding.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by LPGuy View Post
              No one was talking about breaking simple store policies. Please read the postings in their entirety before responding.
              If they can't follow simple store policies what other policies will the break?

              If I can't trust you with the small stuff, why trust you with the big stuff?

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              • #8
                LPGuy, it is clear you do not understand how customer service works to prevent shoplifting. You think you do, but you make statements about sales associates following people they think are stealing. That is how LP does it. Sales associates should be doing it different. They should be servicing CUSTOMERS, not people they think are going to steal.

                You are among the many that need a far better education on good tactics. You are arguing against something that you don't understand, so it is pointless to continue the discussion. We are talking about different things.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LPCap View Post
                  If they can't follow simple store policies what other policies will the break?

                  If I can't trust you with the small stuff, why trust you with the big stuff?
                  No one was talking about breaking store policies period. Please read the postings in their entirety before responding.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lynch Mob View Post
                    LPGuy, it is clear you do not understand how customer service works to prevent shoplifting.
                    Perhaps we continue to mis-understand each other.

                    Originally posted by Lynch Mob
                    You think you do, but you make statements about sales associates following people they think are stealing. That is how LP does it. Sales associates should be doing it different.
                    No, I do not think that sales associates should be following suspected shoplifters. I simply thought that was the direction that you were taking the approach, by solving shoplifting through customer service. Effective customer service can work well and even prevent some shoplifting on the sales floor if thieves feel that the associates are aware of what is going on around them.

                    However, a good majority of shoplifting occurs in fitting rooms. While you can continue to customer service the fitting rooms to an extent, unless you have people dedicated to that particular area it becomes hard to continue to monitor those areas during busy times.

                    My point is this: Customer service can certainly eliminate some shrink and even de-motivate some amateur shoplifters. It will certainly not eliminate all shoplifting because sales associates cannot focus on every customer beyond sometimes a simple, "Hello, welcome to <Store>. Is there anything I can help you find? No, okay, let me know if you need any help."

                    Customer service techniques are not a full-time replacement for a good loss prevention program.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by LPGuy View Post
                      Perhaps we continue to mis-understand each other.



                      No, I do not think that sales associates should be following suspected shoplifters. I simply thought that was the direction that you were taking the approach, by solving shoplifting through customer service. Effective customer service can work well and even prevent some shoplifting on the sales floor if thieves feel that the associates are aware of what is going on around them. Therein lies the training that needs to be done.

                      However, a good majority of shoplifting occurs in fitting rooms. While you can continue to customer service the fitting rooms to an extent, unless you have people dedicated to that particular area it becomes hard to continue to monitor those areas during busy times. I agree that if you do not have dedicated fitting room monitors, fitting rooms are ripe for shoplifting. So why not employ a fitting room monitor instead of an LP agent? Especially, considering more companies prohibit fitting room stops than allow them, LP is more often useless to do anything about fitting room shoplifting anyway.

                      My point is this: Customer service can certainly eliminate some shrink and even de-motivate some amateur shoplifters. It will certainly not eliminate all shoplifting because sales associates cannot focus on every customer beyond sometimes a simple, "Hello, welcome to <Store>. Is there anything I can help you find? No, okay, let me know if you need any help." Who said eliminate all shoplifters? Do you think you are eliminating all shoplifters when you catch one or two a week? Again, by your response here, you do not understand the proper techniques for using customer service to deter shoplifting. If you think customer service is just asking someone if they need help, you are WAYYYYYYY off. Good customer service should NEVER be asking if the customer needs help. Of course, we already know you do not understand this.

                      Customer service techniques are not a full-time replacement for a good loss prevention program.
                      You have it backwards. LP is not a replacement for good customer service.
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