(Shopkeepers Transferable Dysfunction)

Why do small businesses owners, who have an employee guilty of theft, then decide not to prosecute? I spoke with a manager at a small business-not the owner, but the main manager-and I started a conversation about asking if there was anything I could possibly help with as a project. I asked if there was an area that the business was suffering through. He stated that they have a problem with an employee who was stealing from the store at the end of their shifts.

This employee would void things out and go out the back door with the products.  The manager stated that the owner did want to prosecute because of circumstances I will not elaborate on. I listened to him at length, and after I left I could not help but think more about this all day. This is not first time I have heard this from business owners when they have been made aware of an employee stealing from their business.  The question in my mind was why do business owners allow this to happen?  I just do not understand this as this is a crime. Does the business owner think it would take more to prosecute them financially? This is not true.

The jurisdiction states attorney will prosecute the case. You as the owner have the right to charge them with theft and depending on your state can charge anywhere from $250 and up it just depends on your states restitution laws.

What is the business owner’s rationalization of this result? My theory is that owners have something I am calling Shopkeepers Syndrome.  The reason I am coining this term is because as an owner of a business there is statute called Shopkeepers Privilege: The business owner has every right to keep his inventory in the store and only may leave the store if paid for. I am sighting  this source and link for definition:  https://definitions.uslegal.com/s/shopkeepers-privilege/   basically it states if the owner believes and evidence presents itself that shoplifting or theft was committed that the owner may hold the suspect for a short period of time to complete the investigation.

Shopkeepers Syndrome:  The Shopkeeper finds an employee is guilty of causing loss to their store. Small business owners usually know the person they hired.  They have somewhat of a personal relationship or feel like they hired someone they trust.  Owner gets to know personal life in some respects and they use this to rationalize they do not need to do prosecute the employee. It’s a small town I do not want to ruin their life over this.  Business owner does not want to feel the guilt if they see person again or does not want to have their ego possibly hurt that they hired someone they have to prosecute because it looks bad on them that they did not have a good judge of character on this person.  There could be many factors that are not made evident, but the owner would rather do nothing. Business owner have Shopkeepers Transferable Dysfunction. (STD)  

What happens with the rest of the employees that stay at the business?  One thing that will happen the employees and this does not mean they will do this because most people are controlled by their conscious or other attributes of their character.  But employees will know that the owner will not do anything besides fire them if they would commit similar actions.  So, you have your small business and you want to be profitable.  So, a few months down the road an employee is having some financial issues and they remember that an old employee was stealing from the store and it took a while before the owner or management was able to catch on to the theft.  So soon your profits begin to dwindle some unexpected expense happens and your business is teetering on going under.  You notice you are losing $300-$400 a month so begin to watch your transactions and video and you observe voids, error corrects in a pattern by an employee.

What is the reality what you have proof of and is only maybe a weeks’ worth possibly of evidence on the employee?  Cutting to the chase with an interview by a private investigator or law enforcement the employee admits to stealing $1500 in 3 months.  It is 5 times as much as you thought. Law enforcement takes employee into custody walks them through the store.  You feel bad wished it did not happen. You get Shopkeepers Syndrome.
 
Reality your other employees see this, and they think to themselves the owner is serious about crime and as an employee they should think this owner cares about how his store performs and wants you to be part of a team that strives for success.

Being a professional in the Loss Prevention and Asset Protection field I rationalize prosecuting the employee for a couple reasons.  1.  Think about this as the owner. Do you want to pass on your Shopkeepers Transferable Dysfunction to another business owner?  Ok this is analogy, but this is reality. You’re the business owner that did nothing kept silent, the former employee goes to another business and say a couple years later you take career change and this person is working with counting cash alone in the cash room.  What is going to be running through your mind?  Exactly. Do you think the employee told this employer of his past behavior? Nope they did not.  And if you say something because you did not prosecute this person you most likely cannot say anything.

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12-02-2019