Technically, my first job was delivering newspapers and fliers when I was ten years old, but my first clock-punching job was at a pet store five years later. I was in high school; so I worked weeknights and weekends (Saturdays – stores weren’t open on Sundays back then).
I was young, naive and admittedly ignorant to fraudulent behaviour. But I was observant and made good decisions.
Being the new young kid in the store, I was given all of the grunt jobs and kept away from customers and completing sales. In the beginning it was so I could ‘learn the ropes’ but it wasn’t rocket science, so I picked it up quickly. But the senior staff always pushed to keep me away from the customers. It was a commission-based team at this pet store. Minimal commissions, but it added up. Not to mention that there were larger incentives for being the top selling staff member.
After doing my fair share of cleaning fish tanks, finding the lost 5 foot python that was missing for the last 8 months (that’s another story), walking the dogs behind the store, cleaning the bird cages, etc. I decided it was time to deal with the customers and make some commissions. There were newly hired staff that needed to ‘learn the ropes’ anyways – so let them walk the dogs.
The manager agreed and I was trained on how to use the cash register, just as all the other staff that completed sales. I jumped into sales and did fantastic but it didn’t take me long to realize that my sales just weren’t measuring up to one of the full time employees. I knew my sales were more than comparable but for some reason, they always beat me for the top incentive. It was fraud.
We were only supposed to enter our employee commission code into the cash register on sales we initiated and closed. The coworker that had top sales month after month was always offering to cover the cash register. Even skipping breaks on busy Saturdays. Why? They were entering their commission number for almost every sale – even when it should have been another coworker’s number. They were stealing from the store and coworkers.
$50 dollars from lost commissions was a really big deal back then, but huge in principal regardless. I raised my concerns with the manager and when the previous week’s receipts were checked, I was right. That employee’s commission number appeared on almost every sale, including the sales that I knew I made.
The manager was shocked. It had been going on for over two years, but it only took me a couple months to catch it.
This was my first encounter with theft in the workplace, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Some used to surprise me but not anymore, especially working for a company that conducts theft and fraud investigations.
Companies should conduct random security audits and investigations. You may be surprised how much you could uncover.