Leverage RFID for Loss Prevention

Sweethearting: A Sour Pill To Swallow For Retailers

By Hilbert Dijkstra

July 15 2021

The 2020 National Retail Security Survey shows that shrink cost the retail industry $61.7 billion in 2019, an extremely high amount. This is in contrast with stores and brands stating they focused more on fighting shrink that year. The majority of respondents indicated that different forms of theft and fraud are priorities.

A focus area for fashion and lifestyle retailers is internal theft (also known as employee theft), 20.3% of the respondents indicated that reducing employee theft is a very big priority. The most common type of employee theft is a practice commonly known as "sweethearting" - which refers to an employee giving a customer unauthorized discounts or free merchandise or services. For instance, an employee scans only three out of five items, but removes the security tags from all five items. This way, the customer can walk out without activating any alarms.

But how big of a problem is sweethearting really?

Sweethearting Is Very Common

According to a study by Brady, Voorhees, & Brusco, 67% of respondents admitted that they had participated in sweethearting in the past two months.

67% of respondents admitted that they had participated in sweethearting in the past two months

Brady, Voorhees, & Brusco

This practice is common in all kinds of service industries, such as restaurants, hotels, and car washes as well as retail stores. As their motivation for giving away free or discounted products or services, employees often cite the hope for receiving better tips or gaining some other benefits from their customers.

Employee Theft Poses A Unique Loss Prevention Challenge

Sweethearting poses numerous, difficult challenges to any retailer.

On one hand, it is a loss prevention problem. The customers and employees are aware of that fact and will keep quiet about it. That makes it very complicated for loss prevention professionals to find the cause of the shrinkage and eliminate it.

On the other hand, it has consequences on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth as it inflates these scores by as much as 9%. The client satisfaction and loyalty with this store are now tied to an employee the retailer would rather not employ.

What Can You Do To Discourage Sweethearting

Surveillance cameras and security guards checking receipts are no longer sufficient to prevent employee theft effectively. Since this problem creates a ripple effect through all areas of your organization, you can best tackle it on different fronts:

Sweethearting Conclusion

Sweethearting is a problem that cannot be ignored by any retailer or business owner. Modern loss prevention solutions, like RFID, allows you to focus on the events that matter most.

Starting with RFID in your Loss Prevention strategy is easier than you think. Within only three months, you will be able to identify, quantify and ultimately prevent losses within your stores. Want to know how?  Schedule a demo here.

Originally published on July 8th, 2015, updated on July 15th 2021.

Hilbert Dijkstra - Head of Product Management
Head of Product Management
Hilbert Dijkstra