Shrink Happens: Why We Lie and Steal

Shrink Happens: Why We Lie and Steal

Shrink Happens: Why We Lie and Steal

“It’s just a little white lie”— how many times have you heard that before? A white lie can be seen as a harmless cheat, to save face or to get something we want. With plenty of options for small theft, the same mentality can be translated to convenience store shrink. From minor cheats to major theft, there are some underlying factors to investigate why shrink happens.

In an article by the Wall Street Journal, Dan Ariely, professor of Behavior Economics at Duke University, reports on why a majority of people are likely to beg, steal and borrow. Over the past decade, Ariely and his colleagues have run studies and have come to the following conclusions:

We’ve all done it

At some point or another, we are more than likely to have cheated or stolen to a small degree. According to Ariely, 98% of people will cheat at some point in their lifetime. The remainder is the two outliers, 1% of the population that will always be dishonest and the other 1% that will always be altruistically honest. The majority are mostly honest people that might be tempted to be dishonest in certain situations. “Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats—just by a little.”

So what makes us cheat?

Knowing that most people cheat, even on a small scale, begs the question –why do we do it? In Ariely’s findings there are definitive factors that increase dishonesty:

  • Rationalization – if we can justify our crime, we are likely to still consider ourselves as good people
  • Helping others benefit –when applying the “greater good” logic, we are more enticed to cheat, so more people can gain an advantage
  • Social conformity –when we are surrounded by a dishonest act, we will likely follow
  • History of immoral acts –if one already views themselves as immoral, chances are they do not need to rationalize their next misdemeanor

How do we improve honesty?

These factors leave us wondering, how do we keep people honest? During the studies, there was a significant increase in honesty when groups were reminded of moral codes.

Ariely reports, “In the group asked to recall the Ten Commandments, we observed no cheating whatsoever. We reran the experiment, reminding students of their schools’ honor codes instead and we got the same result. We even reran the experiment on a group of self-declared atheists, asking them to swear on a Bible, and got the same no-cheating results yet again.”

Just a simple affirmation that moral codes do in fact have a significant effect on behavior. Applying this in the real world can help discourage petty crimes and increase honesty. For more information, read the full article here.

Loss prevention

By understanding the way people think, you can apply this to your c-stores to reduce shrink. Knowing that the nature of honesty is contagious, create an atmosphere that upholds moral standards. Hire employees with strong ethics and values to reduce dishonest behavior. Consider increasing supervision during store hours or establishing an honor code for your staff, preventing internal shrink.

Although implementing methods to reduce shrink require strategy and time, Quantum Services can help! Our auditors specialize in c-stores and have a unique knowledge of things that impact shrink. Contact us to get the conversation started!

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