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The Customer Doesn’t Care About Your Burglar

Adam Gauntlett | 1 Nov 2011 10:00
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We broke open the boxes. Talk about splitting the baby! Our regulars vanished en masse, marching almost as one to the fantasy book store where they thought they'd get better service. We didn't just lose money on one CCG, we lost the future revenue those customers might have given us. It was the loss of faith that killed the relationship. The regulars could stand being disappointed; what they couldn't stand was being slighted. Lesson learned: Keep faith with your regulars, or lose them.

The money he stole was the least of our problems. The damage was the big issue.

Second, burglars are only half the problem, but that doesn't mean you can skimp on security.

We were broken into four or five times. The perp was known to the police (or so they said) but that didn't seem to mean they'd catch him, and it got to the point where I knew the cop shop's phone number better than my own. The burglar's routine never varied. He used the flat roof to get to us (1970's design, gotta love it) and broke a window to get in. Once in, he couldn't be seen from the street and there were no cameras or alarms, so he had as long as he wanted.

The first time he smashed the place up until he found the cash box, broke the lock, and took everything. We had been hiding the cash box in a store cupboard, but he didn't know that, so he did a lot of damage before he found it. Then he went out the glass door the hard way, probably in search of more loot. I took to hiding the paper money in Magic boxes and kept the coins in the till. That saved us something, since in later raids he never got the real loot but made do with whatever coins we had.

Here's the thing, though: The money he stole was the least of our problems. The damage was the big issue. The broken windows, broken doors, smashed product, loss of a day's revenue while the police took their sweet time turning up at the scene; that was the real killer. Insurers stop returning your calls after the second incident, so all expenses come out of the bottom line. Another small retailer told me a similar story. They had an alarm and cameras, but they still closed everything up and stripped the store bare when they went on overseas buying trips, even though they had staff to run the place while they were away. The problem was their staff lived in the suburbs, which meant it took them longer than an hour to respond in an emergency. In the London borough where the store was located, the fine for noise pollution was GBP 5,000.00, and if their alarm was on for an hour or more, they took the hit. Again, the burglar was the least of their worries. The collateral damage was the real killer.

We could have put bars on those windows, for one thing, or had a night safe arrangement with the local bank. All those options cost money though, so the owner wasn't keen. End result, yet another burglary, because drugs don't pay for themselves and we were an easy target. Bar those windows, put the cash in an actual honest-to-God safe, whether yours or the bank's. Those tiny little thin metal cash boxes just don't cut it.

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