In the retail world, “sweethearting” is not so sweet.
The practice, when an employee gives away products or services at a deep discount or for free, takes a toll on a business. A recent article in Security Director News found that employee theft and fraud costs U.S. companies $600 billion a year.
Most of time, the employee does not gain any direct benefit from sweethearting. More often, the employee receives indirect benefits, such as bigger tips, elevated social status and the promise of the same discount or free product at the recipient’s business.
It’s a very difficult issue to address, but retailers must take the issue seriously. Just losing a job may not be enough to discourage employees from this practice. When retailers catch a worker committing employee theft, the worker must be arrested. This lets other employees know that the store is taking the issue seriously.
Technology can do little to solve this issue. Even with security cameras, sweethearting is difficult to track and cost prohibitive. For example, retailers would have to audit the receipt against the actual number of items in that person’s bag.
There are two ways employers can help prevent sweethearting:
- Look for three key personality traits that make a person more likely to engage in sweethearting: an ambivalent sense of morality, the need for social approval and an overall risk-taking attitude. According to a study cited in the article, some employees engaged in theft simply because it was fun to see if they could get away with it.
- Include an ethics seminar during employee orientation. Also post reminders about ethical behavior in the store.
Source: Security Director News, February 2012