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    Prevention Inside and Out

    Rutter's uses communications and technology to curb gasoline drive-offs.

    Gasoline theft at the pump is a big problem, but often it doesn't end there. Clerks can cause internal shrink by taking money from a customer and reporting it as a gas theft. To prevent this, Rutter's Farm Stores, a 51-store chain in York, Pa., instituted a toll-free number for clerks to report a drive-off incident.

    “We require our employees to call the toll-free number and report the drive-off to be documented and sent to us,” said Scott Hartman, president of Rutter's. “We use an outside service and there is a list of questions to be answered, recorded and forwarded to us. We believe it curbs the internal problem of false reporting concerning drive-offs because it forces the employee to report all of the information about what occurred and allows us to validate it.”

    The stores also have highly visible security cameras to monitor the activity. “We have 12 to 14 cameras inside and outside the stores, and that is a key ingredient to controlling the store in my opinion,” explained Hartman. “We have pretty good coverage, and the cameras are quite visible. We don't hide them at the pump, and in many of our stores we even have television monitors inside showing our security.”

    Recently the company went one step further with security, and is in the midst of rolling out a system to allow operations management to view security cameras from their computers at headquarters via the company's wide-area network. “This will provide management with another level of ability to view the operations and validate the reporting that is coming in,” said Hartman.

    Rutter's is also testing the use of credit and debit cards at its stores with the highest frequency of drive-offs to determine if it actually helps to cut down the total or just moves it to another store location, Hartman reported.

    “We call it an Express Pay pump so they can't pay cash on that pump,” he said. “We have about five stores testing right now. We have it at one pump for each store because we don't believe from a customer-service side that doing it across all pumps is the right way to go.”

    The company has run ROI on their systems and security measures and has been able to justify why they are making investments, said Hartman. “I think most retailers would find economic payback on these types of implementations,” he said.

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