How much cash on hand does Store 1527 have right now? Why has Store 386 been $100 short the last two weeks? What happened to last Tuesday’s bank deposit for Store 190? And why on earth is Store 2116 always late with their reports?
You can probably come up with all this information with a little – or a lot – of research. But the answers to all these questions start with store balancing procedures. If you get those right, you’ll find yourself armed with information that lets you govern your currency operations more efficiently.
Balancing registers, self-checkouts and more
When I visit stores to observe their currency management practices, I spend a lot of time watching exactly how they handle their cash. While some newer technologies like scales, bill counters and smart safes have found their way into many back offices, most of the procedures I see are largely manual – and fairly antiquated.
Many retailers, faced with tough competition and slim margins, just don’t prioritize currency management productivity, instead focusing on customer-facing technology investments. But efficient, productive currency operations begin with proper store balancing. I typically see one of three methods:
- Manual counting
Counting by hand does not give many benefits in terms of efficiency: It’s slower, it requires writing down all information as you count funds, it often leads to recounting, and it’s easy to make errors during manual reporting processes like completing paper reports or ten-keying into spreadsheets.
- Counting with a scale only
Scale options do provide increased speed when counting, track each denomination during the count, provide a limited user interface to reconcile tills, and sometimes will interface to a printer. However, there’s still manual work involved – the user still needs to count, rebuild, report, and then input data into another system.
- Counting with a bill counter only
Bill counters are only focused on one thing, counting paper bills, and most lack a built-in interface to send data to another system, which would help reduce manual labor. However, if your stores have self-checkouts, a bill counter will help you through the time-consuming process of rebuilding them. As with scales, the user still must perform several manual tasks to complete balancing.
Verifying and managing accountability
And of course, when it comes to managing accountability, it’s important to verify all these manual counts. But what’s the best way to hold both cashiers and the employee who’s counting the money responsible for accuracy?
Methods in which the person counting the funds can’t see what’s expected and doesn’t have the opportunity to game the system are used by some retailers to guard against back-office fraud. Without an automated platform that alerts corporate to over/shorts, however, it still falls on a divisional, regional or corporate employee to spot and address these issues.
More often, I see retailers verifying currency management functions like register balances and deposits either with a second, higher-level employee like a manager or by asking cashiers to count funds first.
However, if the cashier is dishonest, this method takes up a lot of a manager’s or back-office employee’s valuable time to verify the count, determine if it’s a recurring issue, document the problem and discipline or remove the employee. For honest employees, this method still creates a labor deficit, keeping the cashier on the clock and taking a manager away from other duties, like working with customers. Comparing the cashier or lane total against the expected amount from the POS in the back office is a less-time consuming process, especially if it’s automated.
How can you build a set of best practices to avoid these issues? Check out Part 2.