The story that I read was about the Big Y, a great chain of stores headquarted in Springfield, Massachusetts. Let me say out of the chute that I have no axe to grind with the Big Y - they are great people, who operate great stores. I lived in Springfield for most of a decade and shopped with them a lot during that time. Their Corporate Dietician, Carrie Taylor, is one of the brightest and most personable people that I've met. She does an incredible job with their Living Well/Eating Smart program - www.bigy.com/lwes/
A very thorough story of the loss prevention program that the Big Y went to is found in the Hartford Courant - www.courant.com/business/hc-sweethearting.artapr30,0,7631266.story
When one considers the huge amount of loss that the retail industry has from "sweethearting" at its registers, you readily grasp how serious the problem is. It is estimated to be a $41 billion a year problem with 44% of this loss coming via employees.
It strikes me as a bad commentary on our society - not on the Big Y - that a store would have to use a technique like this to control loss. One would hope that personal integrity would keep a person from this kind of behavior and that a store via hiring smarter and being more thorough in training and supervision could lower the losses that it faces from employee theft.
In the face of tight margins, rising costs, and a tough economy, all costs have to be controlled and losses would have to be eliminated. Big Y expects the system to pay for itself within nine months. If they can get rid of these losses - and dishonest staff in the process - they will be able to provide lower costs, and a better shopping experience, for their shoppers. Those are real positives.
It is a concern, however, that this degree of intense, impersonal supervision would damper the enthusiasm and the esprit de corps of loyal, trustworthy staff.
The decision to step into a program like this is not easy - but, unfortunately, it can be necessary.