Q: Who Is Minding the Store? (A: You)

I am sure many of you saw the article about the Fried Frank employee charged with stealing $376,000 worth of copy machine toner. This is not the first time we have run up against this type of behavior; it’s office theft, a surprisingly common practice.  In the past, our team has encountered situations where employees were selling copy machine paper out on the street.

How does this type of large scale office theft happen, though? Surprisingly easily—given the opportunity and if no one is minding the store–which was obviously the case (no pun intended) here.

There are many misconceptions about office theft that lead to a lackadaisical reaction including the misunderstanding that the cost burden of theft is on the copier company since the supplies are normally covered under the service contract. This is incorrect; in the long run, your firm will be the one paying for this theft through higher supplies and maintenance pricing.  Also many service contracts have language that allows them to increase pricing if your yields are not in line with normal usage/coverage—which, of course, occurs in the instances of large scale theft.

So, how and where can firms apply the tourniquet to stop this kind of theft?

The solution is straightforward if you have the controls in place or, more to the point, if the vendors who support you do.

If your service contract includes supplies:

  • Have your vendors provide your firm periodic reconciliations on supplies shipped versus volumes ran on their equipment.
  • Require them to ask for a meter read when supplies are ordered.
  • Some companies implement automatic shipping based on projected volumes. This is can be troublesome at times but is another option.

If your service does not include supplies:

  • The reconciliation is on you. Perform a semi-annual reconciliation tying in your volumes to toners used based on average yield.
  • Better yet, tie the volume and yield into your cost recovery system’s reported volume and get a picture of your whole process.

$376,000 is a lot of toner—but you can leverage your contracts and cost recovery protocols to gain visibility and control over your firm’s office supplies, and take away opportunities for large scale theft your firm will eventually foot the bill for.