Preventing Employee Theft at Your Car Wash

employee theft at car wash

We’ve talked before in the Soapbox about the risk of break-ins at car washes and how to prevent them. Perhaps more disheartening, though, is when theft is an inside job.

There are a number of ways to prevent and identify employee theft, but you have to be diligent. Taking the following steps can go a long way toward protecting your business.

Hiring Carefully

The best way to prevent employee theft is to screen workers carefully before they’re hired. Get references. Perform background checks and drug screenings. Solicit referrals when hiring.

Taking these steps won’t guarantee you honest employees, but it will certainly increase your chances of positive outcomes.

Limiting Access to Cash

The fewer people who handle cash at your wash, the better. That’s one of the big advantages of using pay stations: Customers feed cash directly into the machines rather than handing it to an employee.

Look for a pay station that has a separate locked door for the cash and limit the number of people who can access it. Some washes even use a third-party security company to handle depositing and removing cash from the kiosks.

Locking Down Security Roles

Your POS system should allow you to set up security roles for each position at your car wash. It should give you fine control over the information each role can access and which functions they can perform, such as:

  • lock down security rolesAccessing sales and financial information
  • Accessing employee information
  • Performing returns and voids
  • Applying discounts or redeeming free items
  • Adding discounts
  • Changing prices
  • Handling pay station cash

Keeping login information secure is critical, especially for operators and employees with higher security roles. Change your password frequently, and don’t allow the system to remember your login information.

Better yet, use employee access cards that can be swiped rather than username/password combinations. Not only does this keep login information secure, but it can also make it harder for an employee to fraudulently clock another employee in.

Don’t allow the system to log you in, and be sure that you manually log out of a terminal if you are walking away.

Auditing Key Activities

Even with these safeguards, employees can find ways to game the system. That’s why you need to regularly audit certain activities. This can even help deter theft if employees are aware that you’re doing it.

Your point-of-sale system should provide reports to help you audit activities such as voids, refunds, rewashes, incomplete sales, deposits, withdraws, cash drawer balances, etc.

If you utilize DRB’s SiteWatch® POS, here are some specific actions you can take:

  • In the Operations Reports:
    • Check for differences in counted versus total cars
    • Check for over/short amounts if you have cash drawers and employees doing manual drops/deposits
    • Check for abandoned dollars
    • Check for an unusually large number of XPT door open events
    • Check that the number of washes sent by SiteWatch matches the number of washes recorded by the tunnel controller
  • Filter activity in the Sales Viewer to just show adjusted sales to identify unusual adjustments
  • Check for modified punches in the Timecard Editor that may indicate time theft

To make auditing successful, it’s important to know your baselines. Significant changes from those baselines may indicate suspicious activity.

Utilizing Video Surveillance

Reports are great, but there are some things they just can’t catch, and a dedicated thief will find ways to manipulate reports. That’s why video surveillance cameras are necessary.

Moreover, video cameras are a critical tool for deterring theft in the first place. Curtis Ray, Vice President of Acquire Video Security, says that, in general, you have 10% of employees who will never steal and 10% that always will find away. With the other 80%, it often depends on how likely it is they will be caught. By installing security cameras, you increase the chances of them getting caught and therefore decrease the likelihood of them attempting theft.

car wash video surveillance

“Anywhere you have employees, you need a camera,” Ray said. “You want your car wash to be like Fort Knox.”

This includes:

  • Above any pay station or cash register
  • Where cash drawers are reconciled
  • Above vending machines
  • In break rooms
  • In equipment rooms

This may seem extreme, but Ray said that unscrupulous employees will take advantage of any unmonitored areas. These cameras can also provide evidence of false Workers’ Compensation claims and can help in sexual harassment investigations.

“I’ve seen so many things,” Ray said. “What’s the cost of not putting a camera there? What if that’s the spot where something happens and you don’t have any evidence to prove one way or another?”

Better Safe Than Sorry

No one wants to believe that their own employees would steal from them. And hopefully that’s true at your wash. But unfortunately, many operators who blindly trusted their employees have been victims of employee theft. Putting these safeguards in place will help protect your business – just in case.

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