Black Friday 2015 UK: Retailers must ensure their employees do not take all the best deals ahead of other consumers to “resale” items at a profit
Black Friday is almost upon us and with such a buying frenzy, retailers and consumers should have their eyes open to the risk of fraud.
Consumers face the risk of bogus websites and online scams; and retailers are also exposed to increased risk, from amongst their own ranks. A significant amount of retail fraud comes from within – from a retailer’s own employees.
Staff will have the greatest knowledge of and access to the best bargains available at any time and particularly during Black Friday. And with the growth in the use of online auction sites to anonymously sell cut-price merchandise, it is all too easy for retail staff to get in ahead of the rush or to co-ordinate with friends or colleagues, to take the pick of the offers available, to then sell at a profit, online.
Read more: Why Black Friday is too unprofitable to last
Retailers can take a number of measures to reduce this risk, including having strict controls on the number of purchases any employee may make in any given period. If so, these should be clearly stated within written policies – but retailers may need additional powers, to enforce this sort of policy or to track whether staff have in fact taken advantage of their privileged access.
Some employers may want to search employees as they leave the premises, to ensure that they have not ‘bought’ a quantity of goods to take away and re-sell privately.
But businesses must be careful not to overstep the mark, given individuals’ personal rights and freedoms and the need for an employer to maintain trust in their relationship with staff. So, it’s best to be able to fall back on a written ‘search’ policy – even if this means introducing something now, in advance of and possibly solely for the duration of Black Friday.
Read more: After Asda pulled out of Black Friday, will it fade to grey?
Another channel to watch is online activity and use of auction sights. As with searches, the starting point is to make the rules clear to staff, in writing – for example, some retailers will have a clear policy that in no circumstances may staff sell the retailer’s products on their personal eBay or other private sale or auction sights. But again, how easy is that to monitor?
Sites may have a public record of what a seller has for sale or has recently sold – so, if an employer has any grounds for suspicion, they can simply conduct a search and any material extracted may be used in the context of any disciplinary action.
But finding one individual’s seller profile may be like finding a needle in a haystack. So, employers are increasingly relying on powers to monitor employees’ online activity at work, to track internet traffic and misdemeanours. This can be legitimate, as long as it is justified and employees are made aware of what is being done and why.
Employees still have a right to expect privacy – so, before conducting any detailed forensic searches, employers should be careful to check what their policies permit them to do.
Finally, last year the papers were full of stories of injuries amongst staff and consumers wrestling over the last bargain TV.
Retailers have a duty of care both to staff and to consumers on their premises, so should ensure they have adequate staff and security in place to deal with the surge in demand.