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An Employee’s Phone is Stolen While On the Job. Should the Store-Owner Replace It?




The vintage doorbell jingled cheerfully as a man with an old schnauzer walked into Tilly’s Pet Paradise.


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 pet businesses and people.


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 and can be reached at linda@

“Good morning! Buddy here would like to try out the cute dog bed we saw on Instagram a couple of days ago!” He smiled and walked up to the counter.

“Of course, it’s right this way,” Tilly smiled back and showed them to the bed section of the store.

The man was the third customer this week who’d asked for something he’d seen on social media, and Tilly made a mental note to thank her assistant, Erin. She was doing such a great job posting all the photos she took in the shop using her fancy new cellphone, and her customers loved it. The extra sales would sure come in handy ahead of the shop refit later this month, Tilly thought.


Buddy stretched out on the comfy bed, and his owner asked Tilly some questions about the memory foam base. Tilly could hear Erin helping another customer choose food for her obese cat, and the doorbell chimed in the background. “It’s turning into a really busy Saturday,” Tilly thought as she grabbed a smaller sized bed for Buddy from the top shelf.

Tilly rang up the bed and then waved the man and his dog goodbye. Then she turned to face Erin who was rummaging through some paperwork at the side of the till. The papers were strewn everywhere. What on earth was she doing making such a mess?

“Have you seen my phone?” Erin asked with a worried frown on her face. Tilly helped Erin move the stack of papers away.

“Are you sure you put it here?” she asked. “Perhaps it’s in the office?” She nodded toward the cupboard-sized room behind Erin.

“No, I’m absolutely sure I put it down here right next to the cash register after posting a picture of the new dog bowls this morning,” Erin replied and looked around. “I can’t believe it’s just gone!”

Out of the corner of her eye, Tilly noticed something that didn’t look quite right about the Italian leather collars display. The door of the glass cabinet was ajar, and as she glanced across the shelves, the truth slowly dawned on her. Someone had snatched Erin’s phone and shoplifted at the same time!


“Look!” she said, pointing at the empty shelf. “They snatched the bling collars too!”

Erin spun around and gasped with surprise when she saw the ruined display.

“They took the collars?” she began, but then her voice grew shrill as she remembered her phone. “But my phone was brand new, and I had everything on it! Your insurance will pay for a new one, won’t it Tilly?” Erin looked at Tilly for reassurance. “Tilly?”

Suddenly deep in thought, Tilly didn’t hear Erin’s question. She felt sick to her stomach wondering who might have done this to her shop, and how they hadn’t seen it happen.

Someone must have snuck in behind the counter while we were both serving customers earlier, she decided.

“I need to get Erin a new phone,” Tilly thought and shuddered as she remembered her insurance premiums. She would have to pay it out of her own pocket, and the shop refit might have to wait a while longer while she figured this out.


The Big Questions

  • Should Tilly have allowed Erin to use her personal phone for social media updates for her pet store?
  • Is Tilly ultimately responsible for replacing Erin’s phone?
  • How can Tilly protect her small store against shoplifters in the future?

Real Deal Responses

Angela P. Stratford, CT

As far as shoplifter prevention, cameras are commonplace in this day and age. A simple chime when the door opens and closes can help too, to alert sales people that shoppers have entered. Protocols for salespeople to greet at the door are important as well. As business owners, we know and acknowledge that things that we do not expect are going to happen each and every day. It’s our business and in our best interest to reduce our liability.

Marvin S. Grand Junction, CO

Shoplifting is part of doing business. Always will be. I have found that no matter what you do, if someone wants it bad enough, they are going to get it. The employee should not have left her phone on the counter. That’s asking for someone to take it.

Audree B. Fort Lauderdale, FL

First, Tilly should invest in a camera system to confirm that the items have been stolen. File a police report and check with her insurance to see what’s covered. Secondly, It’s impossible to keep employees off of their phones while at work — whether it’s for company business or not. Tilly would be a peach if she offered to pay the replacement cost, but she’s not obligated. Erin needed to be more careful with her phone. And it may be time to look at hiring additional staff, or revisiting the layout of the store. High-ticket items shouldn’t be that easy to walk out the door.

Ramie G. Evanston, IL

The best security is also the best customer service, take a moment to greet and make eye contact with every customer even when you are helping someone or have to put a phone call on hold. Most folks are happy and understanding when you have to juggle multiple things as long as you can keep a smile on your face. They are coming to a smaller store for the personal experience and service. Make a place for employee belongings away from the counter in an office or storage area that can be locked. Staff should leave their phones with their coats and other stuff so a personal call or text does not distract them while on the floor helping customers. It will also keep their stuff safe when you are busy.

Zachary F. Columbus, GA

Erin should absolutely be able to use her personal phone for business purposes. I wouldn’t let a new employee who hasn’t earned my trust do this. If Erin had access to be an admin on social media, she should be able to use her phone as well. It is not Tilly’s responsibility to buy Erin a new phone, but a good employer will eat the cost because of the hard work and dedication from the employee. The only way to stop shoplifters is with cameras and giving the best customer service possible. No one can steal if you are constantly helping them. I often find shoplifters give up once you spend a couple minutes talking to them, even if you’re not actively trying to sell them something. It is impossible to stop all shoplifting.

Dawn T. Vero Beach, FL

Tilly is not responsible to replace the phone. It is Erin’s phone and ultimately her responsibility. However, because she was helping out Tilly out of kindness she should offer to replace it or at least split the cost with Erin to replace it. Tilly can protect her small store from shoplifters in the future by getting a camera system, locking up expense items and/or hiring additional employees especially on busy days so that there is always someone at the register, watching the door and greeting individuals who enter and exit her store. This will also help for good customer service.

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