Lessons Learned from Stolen Merchandise in a Warehosue

What Happened

Packaged boxes for FedEx pickup were left over the weekend at an unsecured warehouse loading dock. Security camera footage shows that the boxes were taken by an unidentified male around 1:30 pm on Saturday.

Immediate Lessons Learned

The warehouse has many tenants with individual units, so many people have access to the warehouse loading dock. This makes it very difficult to maintain a secure area, and the obvious lesson learned is to avoid leaving unattended packages outside of the locked storage unit, especially for long periods of time (e.g. overnight / weekend).

Small loads should be taken directly to the post office or FedEx for direct hand-off, and for larger items, the courier should call and pick up directly from inside the storage unit.

Secondary Lessons Learned

It can be easy to expect the best in people, and that can work well in personal relationships, especially if the “worst-case” scenario is not consequential. In business situations, however, it is important to always be prepared for the worst in people. That includes protecting your business and property against theft and fraud at all times.

Protecting against theft and fraud requires a robust policy and procedures (e.g. never approve wire transfers to personal accounts) but also exercising good judgment as not all situations can be prepared for with a checklist.

Open-mindedness and imagination are important to be aware of potential worst-case scenarios and risks. It can be easy to fall into a false sense of security by assuming things work out the way they should work (normalcy bias) or have worked out in the past (e.g. other packages were left here without getting stolen before). If something has happened before, it can happen again.

Improving Judgment Ability

For business owners, judgments and decisions need to be made all the time. The essence of a decision or judgment is quite simple in theory – evaluate the likelihood of various scenarios and their relative costs and benefits.

Many decisions are quite straightforward, but good judgment requires being aware of cognitive biases as well. Overconfidence is a common type of bias that can affect judgment. This goes hand in hand with overconfidence in the “goodness” in other people, or that things will just “work out” because they have in the past.

Awareness that overconfidence is a potential bias source is an initial step. Stop to consider the alternative outcomes and the logic behind the judgment.

Do not let emotions or fatigue cloud judgment. This incident occurred late on a Friday after a long work week with many hours spent on manual packaging labor. This made it easier for me to lean towards the option to leave the packages at the loading dock, rather than spend extra energy to move the packages back into the secured storage unit.

Fatigue can be caused by excessive work hours, so controlling the number of hours worked per day or week is important to avoid situations where poor decisions may be made. Critical decisions should also not be made towards the end of the week or day when fatigue is more likely to play a role. Discipline is needed here.