An employee was working at a chain donut shop by herself at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning in Johnston, R.I. She was standing behind the counter when she heard a noise and saw a man climbing the drive-thru window. According to police, the man grabbed the employee by the arm while a second suspect climbed through the window holding a crowbar. The pair of robbers demanded the employee show where the safe was located.
While the robbers attempted to open the safe, the employee hid in the restroom. After unsuccessful attempts to open the safe, they then forced open the restroom door and directed the employee to serve a customer. The employee told the police she did not indicate to the customer that there was a robbery in progress for fear of injury.
The robbers then instructed the employee to empty the cash from the register into a bag. They then fled through a rear door. There is security footage of the incident. The account of this robbery is suspicious and warrants a complete investigation by police.
Another issue that should be investigated by the company or franchisee is the practice of placing a single employee in the store in the middle of the night to serve the public. Some may argue that the employee was safe, if in fact she was locked in and served only through the drive-thru. But in fact the employee was not safe. A single employee serving the public late at night has little defense to a robbery. The human predators lurking in the shadows casing for vulnerability will tend to find the scenario rather attractive.
So why is it done? One of the more obvious answers is labor savings. Low sales during the late night may show a need to cut payroll. The principle of matching sales with appropriate payroll is commonly practiced for maximum efficiency and effectiveness in handling customer traffic.
During the rushes, employees are often sent home when the sales volume is lower than expected – after all profitability is at stake. When the practice of matching payroll to projected hours is carried over into late night, the employees and the business may be placed in serious risk to crime. Not only is the lone employee susceptible to robbery, but the business may be vulnerable as well to employee theft. A lone employee handling cash with no oversight is problematic. Cash thefts can be easily hidden from cameras. An employee working by themselves late at night can also be involved in collusion with outsiders to stage crimes.
If your business places lone employees to serve the public in the late night hours, reevaluate the strategy. The percentages of bad things happening rises exponentially when crime and loss prevention practices are not in place. Take the above incident at face value and think what the worst case scenario could have been. Then imagine how you would answer all the inquiries from the employee's loved ones, the media, and your own conscience. One is the loneliest number. I welcome your comments.
D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands.