January 4, 2017

Accountability | Weighing the pros and cons



Here’s a topic you won’t hear about at your next cocktail party: What accountability do you use in your stores? Along with some of the other daily ins and outs of running a retail business, pondering the most efficient accountability method isn’t at the top of everyone’s to-do list. But if you haven’t considered what works best for your stores in a while, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of each to make sure you’re operating efficiently. The method you choose affects your operations, loss prevention and treasury departments.


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The choice between lane accountability (when a till stays at the same register all day and multiple employees use it throughout that time) and cashier accountability (when a till is assigned to and used by only one specific cashier) isn’t always black and white. Depending on the cash sales of your stores and the number of lanes in each, you might feel like one option is more appropriate than the other.


Maybe you’re thinking of switching accountabilities, or maybe you are holding on to a process that’s not quite the right fit anymore. With a new year, it’s time for a fresh look at your currency management. There are pros and cons to each approach that will affect every retailer differently.


Cashier Accountability


  • Pinpoint over/shorts by cashier easily and move quickly to discipline or remove problem cashiers

  • Maintain tighter control over cash by issuing individual drawers and counting throughout the day

  • Give employees confidence they won’t be responsible for others’ mistakes or fraud


  • Creates excess back-office labor to count all the drawers involved, as well as handle pickups and loans

  • Requires more cash on hand at the store to stock registers

  • Increases customer downtime while cashiers switch out drawers between shifts


Lane Accountability


  • Drastic reduction in balancing/reconciliation labor

  • Quicker cashier transition and greater availability for customers because drawers do not have to be switched out

  • Easier on front end, thanks to fewer tills to manage


  • Manual tracking and trending of over/shorts means you can’t discover trends as quickly and take action to isolate a cashier for more scrutiny

  • More reports to handle, manage and store

  • Inconsistency in how different supervisors monitor and track by lane


Still other retailers employ mixed accountability, which holds its own set of challenges. Tracking exceptions by both cashier and lane can cause unnecessary back office labor and headaches for your staff when their time would be better spent with customers.


Whatever your current accountability practice, consider these three pieces of advice:

  1. Implement firm policies on how and when to take action in the face of suspicious activity. With either accountability, inconsistencies among supervisors can cause issues. How many times can someone be over/short before they are isolated? Warned? Fired? What is the threshold for loss? (Typically, it’s $10-20.) Make sure your policies are abundantly clear to all stores. 

  2. Look at the fees charged by your bank and armored car service to determine if your deposit procedures could be more efficient or if you are holding too much cash at the store. If you’re cashier accountable, you keep a lot of cash on hand. If you manage your cash deposits properly, you might be able to reuse funds within the store and avoid costly cross-shipping, as well as keep labor and bank fees down.

    One retailer I worked with required back-office staff to create separate deposits for each cashier at the end of the day. This gave the retailer’s corporate staff a sense of control and benefited loss prevention, but treasury and operations took the hit in terms of cost. Multiple deposits caused the retailer to incur significant bank and transportation fees and cost store employees far too much time in deposit preparation.

  3. For either accountability, consider a currency management platform that will help you eliminate the cons and provide reporting, analytics and an overall view of your organization, plus more efficiency at the store level.