how smart is your safe

Retailers are using safe technology to secure profits and keep an eye on employees.

One minute, maybe two. That’s all it takes for an armed robber to come into a convenience store, jam a gun in a clerk’s face, clean out the register and flee like the wind into the night. It takes even less time if the store is being robbed by one of its not-so-trusted employees. It’s a sad reality of the business and, unfortunately, a growing concern for retailers.

While theft attempts are inevitable for cstores, especially those operating 24 hours, losing its hard-earned cash shouldn’t have to be. Since retail safes were introduced and combined with smarter money-handling practices, storeowners have found a way to insulate themselves from big losses. Now, new safes are being developed by security and technology firms that are incorporating these best practices to prevent thefts and even help weed out unsavory store clerks.


Los Angeles-based United Oil started securing cash and peace of mind 10 years ago and it hasn’t looked back. Not only is it using FireKing safes to store money during each store shift, it also uses Dunbar to securely remove money from the store.

“We leave minimal amounts of cash inthe register at all times,” said Sunny Singh,general manager for United Oil. “The safeis close to the cashier so it’s easy for theclerk to simply drop as many bills into thesafe as possible.”

Singh and United Oil have reachednew depths of protection since upgradingits retail safes. Because of the heavy cashflow that comes into its 100 stores, UnitedOil’s managers could potentially devotehours to counting and tracking money.However, with the technology available inmodern safes, managers can divert theirtime to more important things like customer service and store maintenance.

Singh’s employees continuously drop money into the safe during shifts, while the safe’s bill validator tracks every note inserted. When the money is picked up, no counting is required on the store manager’s part.

The money is then whisked away to a secure location to be counted, minus the potential human error that comes with having a store manager count each bill in a cluttered back office.

Singh has found that some of the bestsecurity comes from money being centrally deposited outside the stores after it’spicked up, which happens six days a week.Another crucial factor is the electronic billvalidators verifying notes are not counterfeit. Utilizing both of these strategiesallows United Oil to remove opportunities for theft or “employee error,” and putthe onus squarely in the hands of professional money handlers.

“The trick is to always have two validators on each safe,” recommends Singh. “The safe can get overwhelmed during busy times with one validator. Two also prevents jams from tattered bills.”

Lewis Gardner, president of Cracker Box Convenience Stores, also found that retail safes have made it easier to monitor employees and reduce internal and external theft. The Hot Springs, Ariz.-based chain has been taking advantage of the technology offered by Armor safes for more than four years. While not all of his 25 stores use the smarter safes, Gardner admits that plans are in motion to bring the technology to more locations.

“It helps keep your employees honest,” said Gardner, discussing the advantages of the safe. “There’s no question about how much money is passed into the bill validator. If an employee claims that he dropped $50, but the safe read out says he only dropped $30, then we know something’s off.”

While Cracker Box typically uses unitswith only a single bill validator, Gardneris also using satellite bill validators insome stores. These satellite validators areoften spread out among individual registers. Each validator accepts and tracks thebills dropped into it, reporting back to acentralized main safe.

“Satellite validators have made thingsmuch more convenient in some of mystores,” said Gardner. “It makes it easierto have my employees simply drop themoney right there at their register insteadof running back and forth to the safe.”

Gardner feels that retail safes havehelped to add a new level of trust in thestore between himself and his employees,but he doesn’t see the technology as a cureall for all of his security concerns.

“Using these safes has eliminated shrink in my stores,” said Gardner. “But there’s the old saying, ‘When you close a door, you open a window.’ If people want to steal, they’re going to find a way, but having this system definitely makes it a lot harder for them.”


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