We have an employee-supported snack room with candy bars, chips, sodas, etc. There’s a lock box where people leave money for the items they take. The door has a combo lock and we change it frequently enough that it should just be the employees on our floor that have access. We have a locked cabinet where we keep most of the inventory and we just put out what is needed.
We were having a problem where we weren’t making as much money as we should have. Everything was just one price, and we should have been making money, but we were losing a lot. Of course some loss is to be expected and the price was set to reflect that, but it was clear that lots of stuff was being stolen.
We started looking into usage patterns to see if we could notice anything. The candy bars stood out for a few reasons:
The candy bars were the most popular, by far. Things like chips, granola bars, nuts, etc. didn’t get bought nearly as much. We’d have to restock the candy bars much more often.
The bigger the pile of candy bars, the quicker they were gone. So the rate at which they went down was directly proportional to how many were out. If 10 Snickers were put out, they would quickly go down to 5. But if just 3 were out, it would take a long time before they were all gone. Losses went down as well, which makes it seem like when there are lots of candy bars, people were more likely to steal them.
When we stopped stocking candy bars, there was much less loss and we started making a profit again.
The inventory of the other items didn’t change very much when the candy bars weren’t stocked anymore. That is, the candy bar customers didn’t switch to chips or other items.
This is all very unscientific and not very well controlled, so it’s hard to draw any clear conclusions. But it does make me wonder if there’s something about the candy bars which causes people to be more likely to steal them. Does the intense, rich sweetness create some sort of pleasure loop in the brain which reduces the guilt of the theft? Does the person feel guilty for eating a candy bar, so they make it seem more unintentional by not paying for it? Is the candy bar being used to “self-medicate” for stress and anxiety, and someone in that mindset is more likely to steal? Whatever the reason, it seems that having candy bars out caused people to steal more than they otherwise would.