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What can Oklahoma companies do to fight employee theft?

Employees talk about theft they’ve seen in their Oklahoma workplaces, and attorneys talk about what companies can do to fight it.
by Paula Burkes Modified: August 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm •  Published: August 10, 2014

Oklahoma City kitchen designer Jennifer Miller once worked for a company that spent more than $25,000 at Home Depot in one year.

“None of the charges were ever applied to job costs, and that drove me crazy,” said Miller, who discovered something after she started her own company. When a Home Depot customer returned merchandise bought on credit, the retailer reimbursed him in cash.

“I believe to this day the project manager was supplementing his income,” Miller said.

According to recently released research, such “maverick spending” is common across workplaces.

In a June online survey of 500 American office workers conducted by uSamp for California-based Coupa Software, 33 percent of respondents reported taking from their companies in devious ways.

Those include inflating the cost of a taxi ride on a blank taxi receipt, 16 percent; padding tips given to waiters, 11 percent; accepting refunds for already expensed items, 13 percent; and expensing personal items, expensing items more than once and creating fake expenses, 14 percent, 10 percent and 7 percent.

Devious spending

Researchers found that 54 percent of workers buy things without the advance approval of their managers, while 66 percent make risky purchases, including overly expensive dinners, 38 percent; office supplies for home use, 23 percent; airline upgrades, 22 percent; smartphones, 18 percent; exercise equipment, 9 percent; and apparel, 7 percent.

Pat Reeder, publicist for the Will Rogers Memorial Museums and former longtime news editor of The Claremore Progress said she’s always feared that “if I stole anything, there’d be a ‘red thief’ written across my forehead. Those times when I thought my meal ticket was too much, I just didn’t turn it in.”

Reeder said she was shocked to learn from a co-worker who stocked the restrooms at the newspaper that employees took home toilet paper.

“I told him if they were so needy they would take that scratchy stuff, I was all for it,” she said.

Another Oklahoma City professional, who wanted to remain anonymous, admitted she has a thing for her company’s Sharpie Pens and has a habit of slipping them into her purse.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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