Overnight burglars leave a store in shambles and take the PC containing customer records. Where to begin?

Heather cradled her cellphone tight between her shoulder and ear, and wiggled the store key into the lock. She stepped closer to push the door open, when she realized she was stepping on broken glass.

“Hang on Lee,” she said to her friend on the phone. “I’m at the store and something’s happened, let me call you back.” She put her phone in her coat pocket and swung the door open.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual jewelry businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Liebrand is a former marketing manager for a successful doggie spa and boutique who is now helping others promote their local pet businesses. She writes about pet biz marketing at mybrandbuddy.com and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Her heart pounded wildly as she stepped into her store. There was more broken glass everywhere and a red brick on the floor by the smashed window. Everywhere she looked, there were turned over shelves and dog toys and leashes strewn across the space.

Eyes burning with tears, she knelt down to pick up some of the Italian leather collars from the floor and frowned when she felt how sticky they were. It seemed like someone had poured out dog shampoo and spread out kibble all over the floor.

“This must be the same kids who broke into the art gallery down the street earlier this month,” she thought to herself.

She heard footsteps behind her, and she spun around. It was just Caroline, her groomer, who just stood there and seemed at a loss for words. Heather breathed a sigh of relief and felt the tears running down her cheeks. She gave Caroline a big hug.

“Oh my god Caroline, our first dog will be here any minute. I need to call them and cancel.”

She walked over to the counter, taking special care not to slip on soapy floor. She reached to switch on the monitor, and when her hand grasped nothing but air she realized it wasn’t there. She looked for the computer itself and found the shelf under the counter empty.

“Oh no, not the computer!” she thought. “I just bought it a month ago! She wracked her brain to try and remember who was booked in for this morning, when Caroline finally spoke.

“You’ve backed up the computer, right?” Caroline asked. When Heather didn’t reply and there was a long pause, Caroline whispered, “Right?”

Heather buried her face in her hands. Not only was the new computer gone, but she suddenly remembered she’d forgotten to put a password on it, and she definitely hadn’t backed it up. Her client records and bookings diary could be anywhere by now. She hoped the kids who stole the PC just wanted to sell it quickly and didn’t look at the files inside.

“What about the registration forms?” Caroline asked. “We file those somewhere, don’t we?”

“Yes, but that won’t help us,” Heather replied and pointed to the mess on the floor where hundreds of papers were stuck to the floor with shampoo and sticky dog food all over it.

Heather wiped tears away with her sleeve and took a deep breath. She had worked so hard to build her pet store, and now it was all destroyed. There was only one thing left to do, and her hands shook as she picked up her phone and called the police.

The Big Questions
  • Apart from a password, how could Heather have protected her business from the loss of her computer and paper records?
  • How can she manage the day-to-day business without her diary in the coming weeks?
  • Did Heather break any data protection rules by not encrypting her clients’ personal information?

Real Deal Responses

Thomas N.
Merrillville, IN

I’ve been broken into many, many times over the years. And I’ve had data files lost or corrupted before as well. It’s a sick feeling. You have to figure out how to best protect your store and your data going forward. Kicking yourself isn’t going to help. First, get an alarm system. And make sure it’s linked to a call center and has glass-break sensors on doors and windows as well as motion sensors. Then, lock down your laptop. Most thieves don’t want larger PCs but if so, lock that down. Last, all data has to be backed up, ideally to the cloud. The horses are out of the barn. Without having a way to contact your clients you will have to wait it out. You can get through it.

Eric M.
Columbus, NC

We keep nothing important in our system. All of our data is backed up each night to a Dropbox account. She can use a written journal to get started until things get back to normal, or use something like Google Keep which syncs across all devices.

Cassandra P.
Phoenix, AZ

Heather could have protected her business with higher security measures. Unfortunately, Heather will need to start from scratch. It would have been a smart idea for Heather to have kept all of her information on a cloud service such as like OneDrive; she would have been able to access her information from anywhere. 

Terri E.
Salem, OR

We back up to a cloud system every day. Use an online booking program. Have a backup computer available. Shut down the computer every night. Use passwords. Have a visible camera security system. She did break security rules, especially if she had credit card data stored on the computer. Hope she has decent insurance.

Mike O.
Columbia, TN

She has an obligation to protect all her customers’ information. Run a computer backup after every day’s business to prevent loss of information by fire, weather, computer crashing or theft. As far as the everyday business, without that diary, she’ll have to start from the ground up through contacts and memory to rebuild her business.

Paula R.
Glasgow, KY

She could back up certain files to a jump drive attached to a USB hub, or back them up on a cloud server. Do a monthly backup of the entire hard drive to an external hard drive that is kept off-site or backed up to a cloud server. Also, set a secure password for each employee. Why there was no alarm system is beyond me. Alarms and surveillance cameras are a must-have for any small business. If sensitive information about a customer is kept on file, then I would certainly consider it a breach of privacy. Her clients could potentially come after her legally if their homes are broken into or their dogs are stolen. At the very least, I would not want to do business with a company that was so lax with security. 

Suzanne A.
Tinton Falls, NJ

Besides a password, Heather could have used several cloud-based companies to store customer data and business data including a calendar with the schedule. She could view the data from anywhere with a secure connection (not public Wi-Fi). As far as moving forward without customer contact info and the schedule, I would hope that she has a Facebook page; Instagram or some form of social media where she could post the situation and how clients can get in touch with her. Data protection is a very serious issue these days. Depending on what client data she maintained, anything is possible. She should probably seek professional legal counsel just to be on the safe side. An unfortunate lesson to be learned, but she could turn it into a positive by being proactive on the protection of client data as well as her shop data.


This article originally appeared in the July-August 2017 edition of PETS+.

 

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