According to recent figures, about one-third of store theft is down to staff, with almost another 5% taken by dishonest suppliers, and yet another 15% down to ‘internal errors’ (European Retail Theft Barometer).

I get a fair number of calls from retailers suspecting they have dishonest staff. The queries usually surround how to catch them, what to do when they’ve caught them, and then how to prevent the theft in the first place.

The following story will highlight that you need to approach retailing the same way you would a starring role in Swan Lake – firmly on your toes. I must keep my caller anonymous because she cannot prove her allegations.

She does her PayPoint banking with a post office just around the corner from her store. She bundles up her takings, which amount to thousands, and sends staff around the corner with the cash in a blue bag to give it to the post office cashier.

On this occasion staff emptied the bag, containing four separate bags of £1,000 each, and one containing £280, plus the paying-in slip, over the counter and turned briefly to pass the time of day with a lady in the queue behind him. When they turned back, the cashier said it was £1,000 short. The staff members panicked and bundled the bags on the counter back into the blue bag and high-tailed it back to the store. The retailer and her husband are convinced that the post office cashier had appropriated one of the bags, taking quick advantage of the distracted staff.

They went back to the post office, of course, to close-query it and the branch boss agreed to check when he cashed up that night but, as you’ve already guessed, the money had vanished. The retailers turned their own store upside down but can prove nothing. The post office is a main branch and doesn’t have cameras trained behind the counter.

All this story achieves is a warning for others. Don’t ever turn your back when cash is changing hands. I hope the retailer feels a bit better for having shared the problem but, in this case, a problem shared is not a problem halved.