Is your business shrinking without you knowing about it?

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Scrap Metal (video game)
Scrap Metal (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day I came across three manhole covers that were stolen in the road where I do my morning run. I later found out that thieves sell these manhole covers for about R500 to scrap metal dealers. New plastic materials that are worthless to thieves could make a difference to manhole cover theft when scrap metal prices are so high.

Time magazine recently reported on some of the world’s weirdest heists. People steal everything from beehives to syrup and beach sand. Police in France found 61 beehives stolen from a beekeeper. They held about 25,000 bees, estimated to be worth about $83,000.

In Québec thieves stole 2.7 million kilograms worth of maple syrup estimated at $18,000,000 from a warehouse. Police were able to track down two thirds of it. Criminals stole 5.5 tons of chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella when they robbed a parked trailer in a German town. The spread was worth $20,000.

Beach sand is also desirable for criminals. Thieves got away with 500 truckloads of beach sand from a construction site at a luxury resort on the Jamaican coast. Sophisticated criminals stole a 10-ton pedestrian crossing in the Czech Republic after presenting police with fake work documents. This stolen scrap metal was valued at about $6000.

In New York City about 30 manhole covers were stolen in two months in 2012. Time says the loot had an estimated street value of $30 a cover. It doesn’t seem like that many when you consider how many are being stolen in our streets.

How much of your product or money or equipment is disappearing from your small business?

Theft of your property is something that a small business can ill afford, especially a start-up that is just getting onto its feet. Unless you have a security and surveillance system in place with regular spot checks you may be losing big amounts of money without knowing it.

The real extent of theft from small businesses is often not reported. It’s a pity that many of the culprits get away with it because business owners don’t want to report their thieving employees. They would rather let them go and be done with it.

One case I came across the other day was a woman employee had consistently stolen R15,000 a month on average from a small retail business. She had worked for the company for over 10 years. Just imagine how much she had cost the business before the business owner became suspicious, putting surveillance and catching her red handed.

Theft in a small business comes in many forms and can result in significant loss. In this economy when crime is on the rise and people haven’t cut back their spending to compensate for lower increases and higher costs, it’s important to keep one’s eyes open as a small business. It’s a sad fact of any business but for small businesses it could prove fatal.

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