Prevent Cash Register Theft

The cash register is a prime target for theft. Literally putting a hand into the cash drawer doesn’t happen that often, but the cash register is an easy spot for less obvious theft. For example, a customer pays for an item with exact change and hurries out, so the clerk doesn’t ring up the sale but pockets the money. Another example, a friend of an employee buys something in the store, so the clerk enters the item at a discount. Whether this is a common or uncommon occurrence, you should have procedures in place to govern the cash register. It’s up to you to establish the controls that make it more difficult for a potential thief to actually dip into the till.

You want to believe that each employee is honest. And, most employees are honest and want to be treated with trust. The best way to avoid difficult situations at the cash register is to have a clear policy that all employees follow. Each employee should have a separate cash drawer. Count all cash on-hand at the start of a shift and sign the register tape. The sales tape and cash in the drawer should balance. A fresh cash drawer with a designated amount of cash for making change should be given to the incoming cashier.

If two or three cashiers work with the same cash drawer, it is very difficult to discern where honest mistakes are made or when cash is taken. Overages and shortages do occur. You want to be sure that happens as little as possible. Careful cash procedures set the tone for all employees that the cashier’s job is to be taken seriously. If large amounts of cash move through the registers, you may want to install a visible surveillance camera, which tapes the cashier’s activity.

Cashiers should give each customer a receipt for every transaction. Since each sale needs to be entered into the register to obtain a receipt, this is a simple control to discourage the cashier from pocketing the cash on an exact change transaction. This transaction method also prevents the clerk from under charging for an item and pocketing the difference. Customer are likely to notice and call attention to a receipt showing that they paid less for an item than they were actually charged.

The store owner or manager should approve and sign all voids and over-rings. This procedure gives the management employee the opportunity to monitor the cash process. This also prevents a cashier from writing out a phony over-ring and removing an equal amount of cash from the drawer. Additionally, the owner or manager should ring up all employee purchases. This practice will prevent employees from abusing an employee discount through seriously undercharging the price of an item.

Cashiers should read the amount of each item aloud as the amount is entered into the register. Besides reassuring the customer that he or she is being properly charged, the procedure helps prevent careless mistakes that may result in entering a high or low price into the register. Cashiers should immediately replace register tapes that run out. It’s easy for a dishonest cashier to let the tape run out, then simply avoid ringing up a few sales in order to pocket the cash. In this case, the store has no record of the transaction and there’s no way of identifying the theft.

It’s up to you to protect your investment. It is also your responsibility to see that all employees are treated the same, whether you have a high or low degree of trust in their integrity. If you have an across-the-board procedure, you can more consistently monitor cash register activity and discourage theft simply by watchfulness.

SCORE® Delaware is group of experienced business owners and managers dedicated to passing on their knowledge and experience to those looking to start, improve, or bring back to life an entrepeneurship.

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