The Salisbury (North Carolina) Post reports that when employees of a Jersey Mike’s Subs were suspected of stealing cash, a secret shopper was sent in to do an integrity mystery shop to check it out. The secret shopper made a purchase with cash and observed that the employees did not ring up the sale and put the money into the register.
After further investigation, the sub shop has filed a report with local police. Arrests are expected in the case.
Although this mystery shop was done because the business was aware of a potential problem, sometimes the first indication of trouble comes when an integrity mystery shop identifies possible employee theft.
Integrity mystery shops are different from typical mystery shops in that instead of checking things such as cleanliness, courtesy and sales skills, they are done to verify that employees are behaving honestly.
Situations that may be tested by integrity mystery shops include:
- Are bartenders overpouring (to increase tips) or serving free drinks?
- Are salespeople negotiating inappropriate discounts?
- Are waitstaff serving items that are not included on the guest checks?
- Are cashiers failing to ring up cash sales and pocketing the cash?
- Are employees charging for less-expensive items than customers are receiving?
Employee theft is a big problem. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that employee theft costs businesses as much as $50 billion a year, and that up to 75% of employees will steal from an employer at least once. Wow. That is a lot of dishonesty.
Integrity shops can not only catch dishonest employees, they can deter theft. If employees know that customers (i.e., mystery shoppers) may be watching them, they are perhaps less likely to do things they might do if they were certain no one was looking.
Some mystery shoppers are uncomfortable doing integrity shops. They may feel responsible for getting someone in trouble if they discover questionable activities. Remember, though, that you are not creating the behavior, only reporting on it. Often, too, if you are not a trained security professional your report may be just the first step in taking action against an employee, not the last word. If your report identifies a problem, a private investigator may be sent in to gather evidence needed for any disciplinary or legal action.
One thing you should be aware of is that some states only want integrity secret shops done by private investigators or employees working for a licensed private investigator. Before accepting an integrity mystery shop you may want to verify the laws in your state and/or the licensing status of the mystery shopping company. Some secret shopping providers are run by private investigators.