The Business Detective
( Originally Published 1912 )
Many legitimate profits are lost because merchants and manufacturers "guess" that the goods were received; "guess" that the employees are honest; "guess" that a customer has paid his last bill before they fill the next order when credit is shaky; "guess" that the work and the goods are both up to the standard of quality—and so they keep on guessing instead of having a system to cover every detail of their business so that there will be a writ-ten record which will enable them to KNOW.
The "blind tally" principle of receiving goods as mentioned in the chapter on "Big Store Methods," has proven to be a trustworthy and valuable detective in many business houses. Sales-check du-plicate and triplicate carbon copy records of each transaction made at the time the transaction takes place and by the person who makes the transaction, are Business Detectives that are universally regarded as indispensable to the best systematized business houses of to-day.
It is the business of a "Store Detective," whether human or "carbon," to catch "with the goods on" those who are doing the stealing or other crooked work. Some of the more common ways of stealing in stores are : clerks hold back checks and change the amounts ; delivery boys keep the goods and swear they have delivered them; confederates connive with clerks to get credit for goods not re-turned; clerks keep out for themselves part of the customer's purchases; clerk gets hold of an extra sales book and substitutes checks for different amounts, etc., etc.
Old Style Sales Book
A large concern which has some 25 or more stores scattered over the country began to notice leaks in its cash receipts. There was a cashier in each store. Old style check books were used, one check being given to the customer and the other to the cashier. In one of the stores a cashier secured an extra sales book. When a check came in she would substitute for it a check from the extra book which she had. Suppose she received check No. 10 showing a $2 sale. She would take check No. 10 out of the extra book and make out a check for $1.00 in as close an imitation as possible of the clerk's handwriting, substitute this forged check for the original, and put the difference in cash in her pocket. In the same manner she would take the first opportunity and change the $2 to $1 on the clerk's record card. The remedy for this was easy, too. Modern serially numbered sales books stopped it short.
Knew Clerks Stole
A butcher was conducting a very big business, yet his actual profits were small. He knew that his clerks were stealing, yet knew of no way to stop them. Finally the following system was devised for him. He continued to use the same sales books but put in a "Weigh Master." The customer would go to the clerk and give her order. The clerk would get the meat and weigh it and put the price on the sales check, and give part of this check to the customer and the other part to the Weigh Master with the meat. The customer would take her check and go to the cashier and pay it. By the time this operation was completed the Weigh Master would have re-weighed the meat, and discovered any error in the weight or the price. He would then take from the customer the sales check which was stamped by the cashier and give her the other check which he had been holding with the meat.
The butcher who installed this system is now on the high road to prosperity. He is getting what his business earns for him instead of losing it through his clerks' dishonesty.
A large first-class hotel discovered that it was losing upwards of $25,000 a year entirely in the restaurant end of its business. It apparently had a good system, but upon investigation it was found that there was an organized conspiracy among a number of employees to systematically rob the company. In this conspiracy were several waiters, the checker, the cashier and possibly the chef. The method employed was simply a substitution of checks. The clique went so far as to actually forge at great expense a check similar to the ones used by the hotel. It did not seem possible with the intricate system then in use by the hotel that their system could be bettered, yet this betterment was accomplished by having their checks made of specially prepared paper which contained the hotel's water-mark. This paper also had a tint and was printed with a safety ink which revealed instantly any changing, altering or substitution which might be made. This change in its system enabled the hotel to round up the conspirators and put a final stop to its losses.
A Personal Rake-off
A company which buys a great deal of printing, engraving and art work was greatly surprised to find what high prices it had to pay for this work when it was bought by a certain one of its employees. Booklets which should have cost in the neighborhood of $800 or $900 cost $1,200 instead. Art designs which should have cost in the neighbor-hood of $15 to $20 frequently cost one-half as much again. It had been accustomed to trusting its employees implicitly and had simply taken this young man's word in every purchase which he made. Then realizing that there must be dishonest work some-where, it installed a system of order forms in which some member of the firm had to sign an order be-fore it was placed. This order form was so arranged that the price must appear on every order issued before it could be approved. The result was an immediate drop in the cost of printing, art work and engraving. Prices resumed a normal and proper size. The young man who had been so trusted lost his job, and a relative helped to settle up for some of the most flagrant of the overcharges which had been made during his brief regime.
Ten Dollars Short
A shoe store using a sales book with a continuous roll tally record on top discovered that a clerk had sold a customer foot-wear to the value of $10.50 and had then erased the $10, showing a sale to the value of 50 cts. Something prompted the proprietor to examine this roll record carefully when it was being audited and he discovered that the change had been made. How did he discover it? He simply looked at the back of the roll and found written there in reverse $10.50. A double face carbon had been used and was the means of a dishonest clerk losing his job.
A certain department store was conducting a remnant sale of fabrics. A small tailor, of the class which always looks for big bargains in merchandise, picked out five remnants and told the clerk he would take them. The pieces were originally $5.00 but were now priced at $3.00. The sales checks when made out by the clerk recorded them at $2.00 each. The wrapper in examining the sales check became suspicious and called it to the attention of the department head. The latter immediately requested the purchaser to accompany him to one of the offices in the rear of the store, and there, upon close inspection of the price mark, found that the customer had erased the store's price and substituted his own figures. The man was allowed to go, upon agreeing to pay the regular price. In this case it was the vigilance of the store's employees which prevented the thievery which was planned.
A Free Lunch
In a large grocery store where a rather loose system of ordering was used, certain leaks became apparent. Two young men were suspected of dishonesty and a diligent search was made for evidence. It was finally discovered that another young man employed in the same department was sending in a requisition to the stock-room for one-half or three-quarters of a pound of cheese every day about 11:30. This young man was taken to the private office of the firm and questioned why he sent in the requisition every day. He confessed that instead of being ordered by one of the customers it was in-tended for his own lunch, and that in the same way he secured a part of a loaf of bread each day, there-by furnishing himself with a free lunch. When pressure was brought to bear he admitted that two of the other young men in the store, the very ones suspected in the first place, were working the same game to an even greater degree. They were securing cigars and fancy groceries and then selling them to outsiders and pocketing the proceeds. Needless to say a more careful system of ordering was immediately installed to prevent further losses from such sources.
Cashier Vindicates Herself
In a certain store the cashier would be short $20 or $30 every day. The girl was discharged and the store superintendent took her place temporarily.
The very first day he himself was short $40. After a conference with the owner of the store it was decided to recall the former cashier. She agreed to return to the store if she could keep an accurate tally of cash received from every clerk. A special sheet was devised which contained two columns for every clerk in the store—one for the sales check number, the other for the amount of cash received. As each check came to her the cashier recorded on the sheet its number and the amount of cash received. Although there were forty clerks in the store the culprit was caught at the end of the day. It seems that on the cashier's voucher sent to the cashier with the money he had entered only part of the total amount of the sale. He held the balance of the sales check until this cashier's voucher came back with the change. Then engaging the customer's attention in something else at his counter he would correct the wrong entry on the stub, pocket the amount of change over and above his just entry and send the sales slip to the wrapper to be wrapped in the package in the regular way. To permanently overcome this leak, a system was installed whereby two "cashier's vouchers" were sent to cashier with the money for change. The cashier retained one voucher and sent the other back with the change.
Mamie Kept the Money
A man went into a store in Ohio and bought a pair of suspenders. The clerk quickly pulled out a piece of paper, wrapped the suspenders and took the money. The purchaser on the way out stopped the proprietor and asked if he did not give a sales check with every purchase. He said that he did. "Well," said the customer, "look in this package." Mamie had kept the money and made out no sales check. Moral : Don't let salespeople wrap packages. Watch your wrapping counter. Have all packages checked by some one who did not make the sale.
Every merchant owes it to himself as well as to his employees to protect himself from losses through dishonesty. He should not only remove temptation from his employees, but he should also remove any possibility of suspicion falling upon them. This not only affords a clerk protection, which every honest clerk will appreciate if it is properly explained to him, but it increases his loyalty to the business. All this in addition to the immense saving of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars which would otherwise disappear through a thousand and one crooked channels.