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Understanding Employee Theft: How to Prevent Internal Theft from Your Employees With Self Checkout

By Shekel

August 31, 2023

7 min read

In today’s world, it’s not easy for retailers to stay in business, much less turn a profit. They face a host of challenges, including internal challenges, one of those being theft. 

Obviously, theft is always a concern in retail settings. But it’s even worse when it comes from employees who are supposed to be a part of your team. Internal theft from employees is undoubtedly a problem that retailers need to be aware of and monitor closely.

That’s why we wanted to share some tips on how to understand employee theft better and how self checkout machines can prevent it from becoming an issue that gets in the way of your retail business succeeding.

Have a Theft Policy

The first thing every retailer needs to combat employee theft is an official policy. Employees should know that the business is aware of potential theft and is prepared to handle it. If you want to institute a zero-tolerance policy, that’s fine, as long as you ensure employees know about it.

If you want to give them some leeway depending on the circumstances, that is also fine. It just needs to be clear that there is an employee theft policy in place if there is any instance of an employee stealing.

Supervise Employees Closely

Needless to say, supervising employees is a key part of the equation. Obviously, retail stores don’t need to become police states with supervisors constantly looking over the shoulders of workers. But, when employee supervision is lacking, it creates more opportunities for employee theft. There should be a good balance between supervising too much and too little, enough to let employees know they won’t get away with theft.

Perform Background Checks

One proactive move to prevent internal theft is to hire the right people. Of course, there is no way to fully ensure that the people you hire aren’t going to attempt to steal from the business in some way. However, screening potential employees and performing background checks is one way to make sure you hire the right people. By performing appropriate background checks, it’s a little easier to identify people who may be tempted to steal from the business, weeding them out from the employees who will go about things the right way.

Get to Know Your Employees

It’s always a good idea for managers and supervisors to get to know their employees on a personal level. If there is a connection between leaders and employees, it’s easier to build employee loyalty, which makes workers less likely to steal from their employers.

Also, if supervisors get to know their employees, they’ll be able to identify a change in their behavior that could point to something being wrong or suspicious.

Track Inventory With Self Checkout

On top of keeping track of the books, inventory should be monitored closely. Employees who are trying to steal from the business could be stealing items from the stock room or manipulating inventory so that the money they are stealing isn’t missing. If there is a sudden drop in sales of a certain item or a lot of damaged items, it can point to something nefarious. Supervisors need to perform physical inventory audits to tell them everything, especially with high-priced items. In other words, if you can stay on top of inventory, you can stay ahead of internal theft.

What’s more, with self checkout machines, retailers can manage and track inventory in mere seconds. Built with machine learning and artificial intelligence, these machines track the items coming in, going out, most sold items, most busy days -and even hours-, quite frankly, just about everything a retailer needs to know about inventory.

Understand Signs of Theft

Along those same lines, supervisors of a retail store need to be able to identify the signs that an employee might be stealing or doing something nefarious. For instance, if an employee suddenly wants to work late or has a strong objection to work processes changing, it could indicate that they are planning or have already started stealing. If an employee appears to be having money problems or signs of an addiction, that could indicate that someone might be desperate enough to steal from their employer.

In short, if there is any drastic change in someone’s behavior, they might be worth monitoring a little closer to make sure they aren’t contributing to retail shrinkage.

Monitor the Dumpster

Believe it or not, the dumpster of a retail store is an area to watch closely if employee theft is a serious concern. Employees who go about things in a savvy way may find a way to hide stolen items in the trash and come back for them later. Essentially, they take a brand-new product that’s valuable and throw it away. It looks like they are just taking out the trash but they are actually stealing. Obviously, this is far more than just petty theft; it’s a well-orchestrated theft. 

This is part of the reason why monitoring inventory with self checkout machines is important. With these machines, retailers can pick up on missing items quickly, meaning supervisors can act faster and take action to recuperate the missing item and reprimand the offender.

Keep Up with Bookkeeping

Obviously, good bookkeeping practices are important for any retail business. For instance, no single person should be in control of tracking financial transactions. There should be multiple people overseeing all purchases, income, payroll, and any other type of business transactions. There could even be two people in cahoots with one another attempting to steal from the business.

Maintaining a comprehensive set of financial records can also make it easy to identify any money that’s missing. The sooner you can identify clues that something has been stolen, the easier it will be to figure out what happened and correct the problem.

Modernize Your Self Checkout POS System

If cash theft is a particular concern for a retailer, a modern point-of-sale (POS) system could be the solution. Some systems are more than just ways to check out customers or conduct transactions.

Modern POS systems built into self checkout machines also collect data about every transaction and keep a record of everything. This can help alert retailers of potential problems and help them to identify the time that a theft took place.

Handle Cash Properly

Stealing cash from the register or manipulating sales involving cash is one of the most common forms of employee theft. As a result, retailers need to have specific policies and procedures in place for how employees handle cash transactions.

Cash drawers should be checked regularly for accuracy to make sure the amount inside matches the sales that have been conducted. It’s also important for supervisors to empty cash drawers frequently, giving employees fewer opportunities to steal. There can also be measures put in place to make it easier to identify the employee responsible if there is money missing.

Granted, it could take some time to put the right policies and procedures in place. But by making this a priority, retailers can find a way to reduce their vulnerability of having cash stolen from under their noses. 

Alternatively, retailers can also turn to smart self checkout machines for help. These unmanned, retail-scale solution machines, by default, reduce the need for employees to be around cash, thereby reducing the chances of employee theft. Not to mention, they are equipped with cameras and sensors to ensure customers also don’t try their luck and attempt to steal.

Use Surveillance Cameras

In some retail environments, using surveillance cameras is unavoidable. If cameras are already in place to look for customer theft, there’s no reason why they can’t also be used to monitor employee theft. It might be reasonable to keep cameras on any part of a retail store where employees are handling money or have an opportunity to steal something. Obviously, this will help you to catch employee theft after the fact rather than prevent it.

If employees know that surveillance cameras are watching them, they will think twice before attempting to steal anything from their employees. As mentioned, these days, self checkout machines come with built-in cameras. These hidden cameras are a great way to deter theft from anyone – employee or customer.

Encourage Employees to Report Odd Behavior

It’s important to have a system in place for employees to report unusual behavior and suspected theft. There needs to be a way for this to be anonymous so that employees don’t feel like they are tattling on one another. However, it’s important for employees on the ground floor to be on the lookout for anything that’s out of the ordinary. This is usually the best way for retailers to identify instances of employee theft and deal with them appropriately.

Create a Welcoming Work Environment

One of the best ways to prevent employee theft is to create an environment that dissuades employees from stealing or doing anything to disrespect their employers. Employees who are paid well, appreciated, and treated fairly are less likely to lash out against their employer in any way. This can be done by offering employee discounts, recognizing the hard work of employees, and creating a team-first environment. All of this can help to make employee theft less of an issue.


Determining precise weights has always been an essential part of commerce, from ancient marketplaces to the silk road – that’s why our company name is Shekel, from the ancient Hebrew word for “to weigh.” Shekel has been at the forefront of the digital weighing industry for the past five decades, and we continue to lead through innovation.

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