Is this a case of employee theft?

Sept. 6, 2011

A number of years ago a major retailer caused one of their cashiers to be arrested for theft in a case involving “ticket switching.” Ticket switching (also called “price switching”) is when the price ticket from an inexpensive or lower priced item is removed from the merchandise and placed on an item which is higher priced, with the hope that the cashier will not notice the price is incorrect and the higher priced item will be purchased for the lower price (1).

This case is about the retailer claiming the cashier was working in conjunction with the ticker switchers in order to help them carryout their theft scheme. This is commonly called collusion. In this case, there is no video footage or witnesses of the ticket switchers changing any of the prices on merchandise. The first video footage is of the thieves, three adults, in the cashier’s line waiting for their merchandise to be rung up. There are three total carts and each adult is pushing one of the carts. So now, I have set the scene and what follows is an accurate description of the facts in this matter.

The first customer pushes the shopping cart in place in order for the cashier to scan the merchandise. There is a conversation between the customer(s) and the cashier that amounts to the cashier greeting the customer and the customer telling the cashier that the items in all three carts are to be rung together as one sale. Due to the cashier having a conversation with the customers, the retailer claimed that she knew them. This cashier had many write-ups in her personnel file where she had received high marks for customer service and for being “friendly” with the customers. A review of the video revealed she had conversation with all of her five previous customers.



The cashier scanned the merchandise in the first cart and the second cart was scanned next. At some point, the cashier stops scanning the merchandise and questions the price of the item with the customer. The item was a piece of winter clothing and she noticed that it was very low for the item. The cashier then started reviewing the cash register tape, decided that there was something wrong with this sale, and proceeded to call for a manager to come to their register. After a period, a manager appears and the cashier tells them what has taken place. While the cashier is engaged with one of the customers about the pricing discrepancies, and while waiting for a manager to appear, the first cart is pushed out the door by one of the customers.

At this point the manager “investigates” and determines the cashier is involved in collusion with the customers, but decides to let the remaining two customers leave the store without even as much as getting any information from them. A couple of minutes another manager along with the cashier exit the front of the store in a futile attempt to find the cart of merchandise and customers but they are long gone.

The cashier is then escorted to the office where the police are called to respond to the store. Based on a manager’s statement that the employee appeared to have a conversation with the customers the store preferred criminal charges and the police police charged her with felony theft. They handcuffed the cashier (part of police procedure) and removed her from the store. On the way out of the store, other employees came to the front and shouted at the employee, calling her a thief.

The employee pleads not guilty in Court and when it came time for the case to be heard none of the subpoenaed employees appeared to testify and the Prosecutor dismissed the case.

Keeping in mind what you have read – do you think this was a case of theft/collusion on behalf of the cashier?

(1) Ticket Switching - Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention - An Encyclopedic Reference ( Sennewald & Christman, Butterworth-Heinemann (2008)

Curtis Baillie - Security Consulting Strategies, LLC

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