Best Buy Staffers Chime In On Changes To Loss Prevention Policies

Yesterday, we posted the claims of a Best Buy employee who says that his store and others have been pulling loss prevention staffers (aka receipt checkers) from the front of the store, which he believes has resulted in an increase of shoplifting at these stores. We asked any other Best Buy employees to chime in on these claims — and y’all responded.

One current employee writes in to say that the situation with loss prevention is just a symptom of what ails Best Buy as a company:

I have to point out that LP guys never really lowered shrink to begin with. They sticker anything. I’ve even watched customers grab an item off the shelf on one side of the store, walk to the front, ask for a sticker, GET ONE, and then go return it at Customer Service. I was written up for telling the Rep 2 (customer service desk clerk) not to take the return. The manager apologized on my behalf. It was later discovered that (surprise, surprise) that exact item was missing from inventory. I was written up a second time for “allowing” the shrink to happen.

Point is, yes, Best Buy is going down the tubes. It’s happening because of what boils down to a management game of telephone which comes from the top and goes down. Corporate says one thing to District, District interprets this and presents it in typical pointy haired manager fashion to store management, then store management interprets this (often very creatively) in the instructions they give immediately following the monthly meeting video which blatantly contradict it. To give you an idea of what’s going on:

Corporate: “Remember to qualify your customers, and offer them the solutions which best fit their lifestyle.”

District: “Train your employees so that they can learn to offer solutions more effectively.”

Store management: “Offer every service, every time. Write-ups will be issued if I catch any of you not offering any of the services.”

Department supervisor: “Hand the customer this folder with 15 different pamphlets and badly photocopied forms. All of them.”

I went through the manager training. I’ve read the emails that come from corporate to all employees, the emails from district to management, and been on the floor for quite some time. It really is just a game of telephone. Corporate might be singing the song people want to hear, but local management is just kind of Bovril-style robots about dumbing customer service down to “would you like some fries with that” offerings of often totally unrelated and unnecessary services, except you’re not allowed to take no for an answer.

The same is true of LP work. Management is overzealous about serving the customer… until it’s something that might even remotely cut into their bonus. For example, they will sometimes order that large returns be refused for the most contrived reasons, but they will publicly lecture you in front of the customer if you try to refuse a return of what feels like a brick in a hard drive box, and then write you up for taking the return when inventory discovers there is a brick in the box.

The point is, the employees are in a kind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, and LP is no different. Most LP guys will just kind of stand there looking burly and occasionally bark things into the radio, but will refuse to actually do anything which in any way involves making a customer unhappy. This includes watching people carry TVs from the shelf right out the door.

Meanwhile, a second Best Buy staffer says his store did away with loss prevention altogether a while ago — and it has worked out for the store and the customers:

Basically, you have a break down of: 20% of theft is external, 20% is process shrink and paperwork loss, and 60% is internal theft. The thought process was “Why are we slowing down the entering and exit of the building by our paying customers for something that even by our own numbers, they barely contribute to?”

We did see a small spike during the first few months, and we sometimes see random large items leave the building that MAY not have before (TVs, surround sounds, etc) but overall the customer experience has been great. It’s a much more people-friendly place when you don’t feel a cold stare as you shop for DVDs!

The problem you have… is many people who were in that AP roll were there simply to not do work. It was an hourly wage to stand around and talk with their buddies or text. Now that they are forced to actually work, they aren’t enjoying their jobs as much. The customers come first and foremost, and getting rid of any hassle entering or exiting the building is top priority in my eyes. Hopefully this clears up some confusion around the policy.

Also, if stores are seeing a 13k jump in shrink, it’s probably disgruntled former AP associates who now know no one is watching them…. just a thought.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bladerunner says:

    What is “process shrink and paperwork loss”?

    • That guy. says:

      I think that means, “loss due to disorganization”

    • CPENinja says:

      Losing the paperwork for a bought item – aka, “hey do we have a receipt for the TV that guy bought? No? Did we toss it by mistake? Dammit, ok – write it off.”

    • wombats lives in [redacted] says:

      It is when they don’t catch a discrepancy and it cannot be attributed to theft. Say a truck of product comes in, and they are told they have 100 of item x in it and a bunch of other stuff as well. If the vendor is a trusted and established vendor, they let them leave on good faith that the product is there. If the employee which happens to do the actually validation isn’t thorough, or the telxon inventory system screws up, they might count, 100 but actually only have 98. There are many other ways this may occur.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Mistakes in input and output of inventory. For example, assuming all 24 items in a package have the same UPC when putting into inventory (but being wrong). Scanning one of similar item and assuming they have the same UPC (but being wrong).

      Could also be:

      * Swaps that happen at customer service that don’t get captured
      * Missing an item when scanning at the register
      * The 4 DVDs that fell down behind the display that no one can get to
      * Items moved to clearance that don’t come off inventory
      * Items returned to manufacturer that don’t get taken off inventory
      * Inventory counting mistakes

      • AtlantaCPA says:

        Plus add: DVDs/stuff that gets broken before being bought
        Those items should be entered into the system as damaged but often just get tossed in the garbage and are then shrink.

      • MarkFL says:

        The thing about this type of “loss” is that sometimes it isn’t really a loss.

        Example: A number of years ago I worked in a store where we were selling a holiday gift item. When we tried to ring it up, it turned out not to be in the system. Home office said to ring it up as a miscellaneous sale, keep track of how many we sold, and they would adjust after the holidays. The thing about a miscellaneous sale, which normally was used for things like repairs or monogramming, is that the associates didn’t get any commission on it, so it was already money out of the employees’ pockets.

        Come January, we had our inventory, and a couple of weeks later we got the results back. Turns out we were “short” the same number of these gift items that we sold. On paper we had shrink of something like $600 on that item, but the true shrink was exactly $0. Of course, it still counted againsts our numbers, even though it was the fault of someone at HO that this was never fixed.

        Another example is if a case of merchandise is mislabeled and/or sent to the wrong store. If I get something that was supposed to go to your store and it’s not caught in the paperwork, it’s shrink for your store and negative shrink for my store — but even on paper there is no loss for the company as a whole.

    • Bladerunner says:

      I get what you all are saying, but isn’t that all stuff that is inherently impossible to estimate? How can they honestly calculate the difference between “stolen by employees” and “entered incorrectly by employees”, considering if they catch either of the two, they fix it?

      • vliam says:

        Ahh. Yeah. They can’t.

        They’re making assumptions based on industry numbers that have been accepted as fact. They perpetuate these myths because it places the blame on the peons at the store level.

        Essentially, they’re just making it up.

    • vliam says:

      It’s items that “fall off the truck” coming from the distribution center.

      It was either stolen somewhere up the chain or just never pulled. Either way, on paper, the item was transferred to the store. If it’s not caught before the store inventory, the store eats the loss.

      In the chain (not BB) that I worked in, 20% would be a very generous estimate. The actual was probably twice that.

      • MarkFL says:

        Having worked in both retail and inventory, I’d guess that the actual loss from administrative errors is more than 50%.

    • cspschofield says:

      I worked for Suncoast for two different periods, under two different bunches of upper-management. Under the first, when we got a shipment, we had an item-by-item list of what we were supposed to receive which we would compare to the actual items received. Under the second, we got an item count for each box, but not an actual inventory. Not too surprisingly, under the second regime shrink was a major problem. They blamed it on staff pilfering and shoplifting, but I frankly suspected that a lot of it was sloppy paperwork, especially since BOTH items we were supposed to have but didn’t AND items we weren’t supposed to have but did counted as shrink.

      So; process shrink and paperwork loss is shrink that isn’t caused by low level people, but by high level decisions, and which consequently needs a snappier name than “Management Stupidity”.

    • quail20 says:

      Item is broken and thrown away without the proper paper trail to account for it. Or the distribution hub sends a box of 50 but there’s only 49, and it’s not caught. This type of shrinkage is procedural in nature. Not true theft.

    • soj4life says:

      Shrink or losses that is neither internal or external theft. It could be an item not being rung up, shipments being wrong, inventory not checked out right, inventory that gets lost and it found a decade later.

  2. Crackpot says:

    I find it entertaining that I posted the same “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” comment about the issue on yesterday’s post that the Best Buy staffer did on today’s post.

  3. Bort says:

    many businesses are run with this top down blame the employee for everything but make them harass customers then pretend it isn’t happening mentality, it would be nice if employees had some sort of recourse

    • Vegetius says:

      Quitting is an option, as is setting yourself on fire in front of the store. Pretty much the same thing in today’s economy. But the usual practice is to send a email to Scott Adams. He in turn illustrates the story and publishes it as his latest Dilbert strip.

  4. vliam says:

    That is one of the best examples of how communication works in retail that I have ever read.

  5. Jawaka says:

    Personally I don’t give bitter ex or current employees, especially ones that have gotten written up a whole lot of credibility when they anonymously slam their employers.

    • Zmidponk says:

      If they don’t slam their employers anonymously, they generally tend to become ex-employees. And crap like this is not exclusive to Best Buy. I’ve personally seen this happen in several places – a lowly sales assistant getting chewed out for refusing to process a return for an item he’s just seen the ‘customer’ picking up off the shelf, then getting chewed out again for not preventing the fraudulent return he originally refused to process.

      • Jawaka says:

        Exactly. This isn’t exclusive to Best Buy. But hey, Best Buy hate stories generate hits so they keep feeding them to us whether they’re news worthy or not.

      • Randy says:

        I saw stuff like this everyday as well ….. example…… customer service refusing to return a 6 month old cracked tv (looked like a wii remote went through it) TV had dust on it (and 2 different brand batteries in the remote signaling it had been used for long enough for someone to put random batteries in the remote out of the junk drawer) even though the client swears they NEVER used the tv and it was broken in the box. My favorite customer service lady quit that night because she couldnt take it anymore (best buy caved and gave the client a new tv)

  6. LFFTommyboy says:

    Superb job on describing exactly how top-down communications work for most retailers. Most retailers become consumed by the expand-or-perish train of thought that they lose focus on what made them successful in the first place, customer service.
    In my many years of retail store management, I never ceased to be amazed by the reluctance or outright refusal of upper management to share information and communication. It was as if information was knowledge, knowledge was power and many were reluctant to give up any power. But, I digress…

  7. consumed says:

    I went to Best Buy to get an iPad the other day. When I walked in I thought it was weird that the asset protection stand was vacant. When I saw the guy in the yellow shirt helping out with sales in the laptop section due to 15 customers and 1 salesperson, I was even more perplexed. Later in the week I went to a different Best Buy to buy an iPad cover, again no asset protection guy.

    That ship is sinking fast.

  8. physics2010 says:

    People still shop at Best Buy?

  9. Bender6829 says:

    Those guys at the doors always made me feel like a criminal.

  10. Randy says:

    Oh my god, this is one of the best descriptions of Best Buy that I have ever seen. I can guarantee you that it comes from an employee. I completely agree with the statement “damned if you do damned if you dont” I had nearly 5 years of experience at Best Buy and there were so many times that customer service got thrown out the window due to management being idiots. You know what will save best buy? Get rid of all of the managers. I maybe knew 2-3 intelligent managers in all my years at best buy and typically best buy corp frowns upon “good” managers because they do whats right for the customer. Example – calling in employee’s early for a position because there is one associate in the computers department and there are 20 customers = manager gets disciplined for to much labor or for an employee hitting overtime. Doesn’t matter if calling an employee in 30 minutes early caused 5k worth of additional sales… nope doesn’t matter… your over labor…. Sorry – Rant Done For The Day!!!

  11. Budala says:

    Reminds me of a write up I got from a now failed bank.

    The husband of a customer called and wanted information on the account. I advised him that his wife didn’t give us authorization to talk with him and have her call us to give such authorization. He said she was in China and couldn’t do that. After several attempts to tell the husband the same thing I told him I was disconnecting the call and did that. The husband sent an email to the higher ups and instead of my managers standing behind me and sending it back with that I wasn’t violating any laws by giving information to 3rd parties, I got a write up instead. That was just another sign to leave that place.

  12. prosumer1 says:

    Best Buy –’s showroom.

  13. MarkFL says:

    One of the best practices for reducing shrink is to get the employees on board. My mom used to work for one of Wal-Mart’s vendors, and when she started Wal-Mart employees got bonuses based on their shrink numbers. Eventually they did away with the bonus, presumably to save money. At that point, many of the employees became less concerned with shrink, and theft increased. This means that whatever money they saved by not paying the bonus was offset by merchandise walking out the door — front and back. Even if they broke even on this, ask yourself this question: Would you rather pay your employees to help stop theft, or pay thieves to take your merchandise?

    • quail20 says:

      One thing most people don’t consider is that a certain amount of $$ loss is figured into the pricing of merchandise. Stores know what they lose on average and they make up for it with higher prices to offset it. It’s why the markup on perfume is 500%. The markup on jewelry is 800%. Razor blades are marked up fiftybajillion percent. Etc. (The biggest theft items in a store.) In the end they got rid of the bonuses and only had to up the price of the product by a little to offset thefts.

      • Libertas1 says:

        I read somewhere back in the early 90’s that Preparation H was the most shoplifted item in Walmart.

      • MarkFL says:

        But when they did away with the bonuses, there was a hidden cost: The lower morale and lessened concern of the employees. That costs in ways that can’t ever be measured. Also, it’s effectively a pay cut. No executive would ever sit still for his company eliminating his bonus, especially if it wasn’t offset by a higher base pay.

        Even if it was a condition of a “necessary” government bailout.

  14. GingerMom79 says:

    If someone really wants to steal they will find a way around security people, cameras and alarms, paperwork & return policies.

    • EASY BUY OMG says:

      I am a AP (yellow shirt) when I monitored the front entrance, checked purchases and marked customer product returns it is also my job to scan the sales floor via the ptz cameras. The very first post announcing recent changes for Best Buy mentions my being in front has been an effective ‘deterrent’ to external theft. Saying our stores employed plain clothed LP AP on the floor is not accurate nor does it make sense dollar wise.. No word yet but changes may include additional loss prevention security measures. Maybe.