Over the years I’ve heard countless stories of store owners suffering staggering losses to internal theft. Sometimes it was just brazen stealing from the cases and in others it involved rigging the books, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In one case, a jeweler found his bookkeeper — a relative no less — had been writing checks to non-existent suppliers and cashing the proceeds. She was caught, but that store’s checks and balances were so bad, the new bookkeeper was soon at the same game.
A lot of jewelers find keeping on top of their financials a chore. But if you give up your responsibilities in this area, you will soon pay a heavy price. Here are nine ways to protect yourself from fraud and internal theft.
1 Someone other than the bookkeeper should reconcile/balance the checkbook. If that store I mentioned above had done this, stray cash deposits would have popped up on the radar in the first month.
2 When inventory comes in, make a photocopy of the vendor’s invoice and give the copy to the person entering items into your POS program. Never give that person the original — the bookkeeper keeps it. After entering inventory, print a copy from the POS of items just entered and staple it to the photocopy and give that to the bookkeeper to attach to the original invoice and place it in the file after entering it in QuickBooks or your financial software. If someone is ordering extra items but it doesn’t get entered into the program one of two people will notice.
3 When paying bills, the bookkeeper shouldn’t handle the whole procedure (paying/mailing, etc). When it’s time to pay the bills let the bookkeeper assemble the bills and print the checks. But the checks must be attached to the original invoice and the copy with the printout of what was entered should be handed in a stack to the owner to look over and sign. Also print within QuickBooks the accounts payable record for that vendor. Do this for two reasons: First you’re looking to see if what was received was entered. Second, you’re looking at the vendor report to see if the bookkeeper has used any credits available. I know of a case where a bookkeeper was exposed because she overpaid the vendor after failing to look at available credits. After the owner signs and OKs everything, the bookkeeper can mail the check and file the bill away.
4 Any checks written (I mentioned inventory earlier, but this applies to all checks) should have an invoice attached to the check for the owner to sign, not the bookkeeper. If you see a check that is paid and you don’t know the party, an invoice will help you. You just might ask the question “Just who is Acme Plumbing?”
5 The drawer up front should have the same amount of cash in it every day ($200). Then excess cash is removed daily. It can go to only one of two places: The bank or safekeeping in the store.
6 After a big ring was taken from my store, we copied a large chain store’s procedure. We made paper copies of the rings in each case, SKU numbers, a small description and retail price. We had two more blank columns to the right for the location of each item: Case #1, Case #2, etc. Each morning we counted the number of items in the case and checked it against the quantity listed on the paper record. If the number didn’t match what was written on the paper we didn’t go farther until we found the cause of the discrepancy. This kept everyone on their toes.
7 Instead of counting inventory only at yearend, do a count one showcase at a time each month. So over a year you will have counted all cases, and rather than be in a tizzy at yearend you’ll find mistakes monthly and be ahead of the game. The choice of case should be random and decided by the owner. This way the staff know what’s in the cases is being monitored.
8 Thought I forgot about the shop? Never! I’m sure for many years we had theft of metals, stones and findings. I had many jewelers working at home to earn extra money and don’t know how many heads and lobster claws went out the door. I once let a jeweler go because he was incompetent. When I cleaned out his bench I found to my surprise a dozen melted heads and eight melted 2mm shanks. Solution: I hired a shop foreman who gave out and inspected all jobs to the jeweler, the polisher and then to the sales staff when a repair job was done. If a jeweler needed a finding, he got it from the foreman, not the findings cabinet.
9 Bench filings and such: Many jewelers order three heads when they need only two, just in case one is melted. But unused ones should be returned to the foreman for stock or to the office to be returned for credit. On the back of each envelope we wrote the amounts needed for the job and the number enclosed. When the foreman got the job back he’d know if something was missing and yell, “Hey where’s the extra head? Give it back!” This system also helps cut down on waste and extravagant use of materials.
I’m sure you have your own stories. I wish it weren’t so.
David Geller is a consultant to jewelers on store management. Email him at dgellerbellsouth.net.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of INSTORE.