(Can You Really Trust “Nice” People?)

(By Dr. Joseph W. Koletar and Daven Morrison, MD) Since the beginning of time, “shrink” has been a problem for the retail industry. The term refers to goods lost to shoplifting and internal theft. It is generally estimated at about 4 % of potential sales, and presents a significant problem for an industry that operates with a profit margin of about 1.5 %.
Things seem to be getting worse, according to recent statistics. The industry, like many other areas of commerce, service, and manufacturing, is increasingly moving to the increased use of robots. In retail, this recently takes the form of “self-checkout” kiosks. This has faded, only to be replaced by experiments in “human-less” stores in urban areas.
The industry now estimates about 20% of people cheat by not scanning every item in their cart or basket. At the moment, the industry faces a perplexing situation. Placing security tags on each item is impractical. Posted signs about active video surveillance are less-than-fully-welcoming. Having employees monitor behavior defeats the very purpose of self-checkout, so many stores have gone to a very gentle form of “interrogation” on a “spot” basis. To wit:
“Excuse me, you seemed to be having some trouble with our machine. Can I show you how it works?”
The question is gentle, the response is amazing:
“Oh, I know how it works. I just wanted to see if I could beat it.”

They then pay for the unscanned items, and are on their way. Interestingly, these are not poverty-stricken people. They are fully capable of paying for the items, and they tend to take low-cost items. They seem to treat the whole issue as a “friendly” game of “Gotcha!”
One is left to ponder possible remedies. Perhaps, “Unscanned items may negatively affect the performance rating of the Self-Checkout Manager?”
It is a work in progress at this stage, but the underlying issue is really the psychology involved. We rightfully castigate the Bernie Madoffs of the world, but Bob Smith and Sue Jones are “regular” people just like us. An examination of the work of noted British psychologist Micheal Apter and others may be in order. Such issues are what the Behavioral Forensics GroupLLC specializes in – Motivation, the root of all good and all evil.

Those from the south may be familiar with the common phrase: “bless your heart”. Those who study people know how that phrase might not always be as kind as it may seem on the surface. In fact, it can be used in cruel ways intended to look kind, when no kindness is present. We wonder “why?”

Michael Apter, in his new text, Zig Zag: Reversal and Paradox in Human Personality, is confident and aggressive in asking the reader to ponder how “nice guys” aren’t so nice. Outlining the cases of a serial killer, he moves on to New York Attorney General, then Governor and now ex-con Eliot Spitzer to explore (as we did in A.B.C.’s of Behavioral Forensics) the hard-to-comprehend bad actions of “upright” citizens. He effectively outlines how the average person is just as capable as the people who make the headlines to switch between someone who conforms to the law to one who breaks it.
As the retail industry shows, and what we have said for decades, fraud is not a crime of “bad people” they are soccer moms and hockey dads just like you and me. What is the motivation for the guy who says: “I just want to beat the machine?” See OUR text: and try Chapter 6.  You will find the answer there.




The Behavioral Forensics GroupTM LLC is a team of professionals with vast experience in detecting fraud, understanding why it occurs, and in recommending steps to mitigate fraud incidence within the corporate workplace, particularly within higher-level (and therefore more costly to the enterprise) executives.  The fields of investigation, organizational psychiatry, accounting and behavioral forensics, and law enforcement are represented within the Behavioral Forensics GroupTM LLC.  Acting in synergy to help organizations prevent, find, and/or reduce fraud, B4GTM is a premier, pioneering practice in this field.

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