Cash control practices are an essential part of any c-store operation—from having a cash management system in place to training employees in proper security protocol in everyday cash handling and in the event of a robbery.
But more often than not, it’s in-house theft that c-stores need to be most vigilant about. “If you have a shrink problem at your store, you have a cash problem whether you know it or not,” warned Dale Williams, director of quality assurance and internal control for Flash Foods, which has more than 170 c-stores in Georgia and Florida. The same philosophy works in reverse as well. “Those two we’ve found always go hand in hand.”
Current safe technology makes it easier for employees to eliminate error and for management to spot thieves. Today, many operators are opting for safes that count the money as it’s added and record the sum on a print-out, saving store managers time.
“Most managers would not have to count that money again. They would simply put the slip on top that says they dropped $100 that day and take the deposit to the bank,” Williams said. “So a lot of people see that as a time-saving advantage. On the flip side, there are some that say, ‘I still want to count that money and know that’s what’s there.’ If you have that type of management to begin with then you’re really defeating the purpose of having that kind of technology at your fingertips.”
Flash Foods instead relies on the Tidel system, which allows a manager to load or receive cash via a tube to the safe. When employees withdraw money, the safe only releases cash in $20 or $25 increments and runs on a timer so that there is a 2-3 minute delay before a second tube can be requested.
To make a drop from the register to the safe, the amount is entered on the drop screen of the POS system, which prints a slip with the amount of the drop and the employee’s name. The money and the slip are then dropped together through a slot in the safe. At the end of the day, the manager matches the slips to the actual cash. Flash Foods uses video on the safe to monitor proper use among employees.
“Procedure, training and follow through,” are the keys to successfully managing cash and preventing theft at any c-store, said Joe Szymanowski, director of retail accounting for Country Fair, which has more than 70 stores in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.
Country Fair uses Armor Safe Technologies to manage cash. When adding money to the safe, employees type a code that identifies them into a key pad to open the first safe and then need a manual key to open a second inside safe. The safe then tallies the money itself so that employees don’t have to count it.
When it comes to outside theft, in Szymanowski’s experience, thieves are more likely to rob the register or nowadays steal cigarettes before they go for the safe. But as a best practice, his safes are bolted to the floor, video cameras watch the registers and employees are trained to keep minimal cash in the drawer at all times.
Athena Research Corp. found about 50% of juvenile and adult robbers said they would rob a store if they knew they could get $200, while the rest would rob for more than $50. The recommendation for c-stores is to keep only $50 or less in the register. Only 20% of adults and 9% of juveniles said they would rob for $50—and most assumed a c-store register held much more than that. Adults thought they would get $200 while teens thought they would get $500 from a convenience store. Keeping low amounts of cash in the register along with counter-top signs alerting would-be thieves of the limited cash on hand, can be a strong theft deterrent for would-be robbers.