How to steal / lose a billion rubles in retail or online store


An offended employee is always a source of problems for an employer, a potential source of losses. Anything can cause an offense – the absence of a prize, the fact that the offender was publicly reprimanded for educational purposes, something else. No one can predict what will blow up a powder keg and start the process of revenge. Only at first glance it seems that ordinary employees are deprived of the opportunity to spoil the life of their employer, sometimes they cause damage, which amounts to hundreds of millions of rubles. As a rule, it is impossible to show them compensation for losses, since the “mistakes” are such that they do not imply any liability. Often, revenge hides something else, namely the ability to quickly and painlessly “earn” big money using your official position. Of course, there are human errors that lead to exactly the same results, they also happen.

The first story is about an iPhone for one ruble, it happened in Moscow about five years ago. In the retail network of one of the operators, they constantly held some kind of promotions, selling some phones at a discount, then others, everyone got used to it. But the sellers at one of the outlets were surprised that, selling the iPhone at the regular price, they suddenly received a one ruble value on the cashier’s receipt! This was clearly some kind of system error. The buyer felt in seventh heaven, as he won a super prize in the lottery and refused to return the device. Here is a check, it contains an amount of one ruble, and I am ready to take a phone for this money, everything else is your problem. Sellers barely persuaded him to try to break through another iPhone, the situation repeated itself – the check again had a price of one ruble. The happy buyer left with his purchase, and the sellers began to puzzle over a moral dilemma: call the authorities and report the problem, or buy the remaining iPhones and then sell them at a profit. Greed won out, and the salesperson’s small salaries helped prevent them from reporting the mistake. The guys turned out to be smart, invited their friends for shopping, and until that moment they held these iPhones. They didn’t buy these phones themselves, as they thought that they could be bothered for this.

A similar remorse that day worried sellers at a dozen outlets, they found that the iPhone was worth one ruble when they pushed this product. Any iPhone, without exception, for one ruble. Upstairs, the bug was reported only at one point, sales were temporarily stopped, all other points continued to release the iPhone at this wonderful price. By evening, the central office noticed that iPhone sales exceeded the usual thirty-something times. A quick check showed that iPhones are going away like hotcakes, new quantities are being delivered to individual points, but the sale price is one ruble. You can call what happened later in one word – hysteria. In total, about 300 smartphones were sold, the company received 300 rubles. The loss in wholesale prices amounted to more than $ 200 thousand in one day and only one mistake.

The security service played out this story for a long time before turning the page and forgetting about it. The unofficial version was that one of the programmers, due to resentment and broken promises of the employer, made a mistake that led to such results. He was also able to arrange for a sufficient number of iPhones to be purchased that day, but it was impossible to prove it, and he left the company without any consequences. The sellers who did not report the mistake were fired, but no one could force them to pay the losses for the company, the retail lost this money. It was a demonstration that a person from the inside can do a lot of damage alone, especially if he believes that he has been wronged.

This story did not stir up the market, as it was given the appearance of an urban legend, other players discussed it as an anecdote. But for many employees of large federal networks and online stores, this became a guide to action, they began to look for ways to cash in on their employer as quickly and painlessly as possible.

The operator, who was the first to suffer from the actions of his own employee, quietly and without much mention introduced restrictions within his own sales system. In the database, prices for different commodity items began to be checked, the average price in the period, the change in value were taken into account, and if it exceeded the threshold values, then several people received a warning at once, and the position itself was frozen in sales. This made it possible to avoid a repetition of the situation with the programmer, it seemed that everything was now arranged correctly and there should be no problems.

But life is much more interesting, and there are always flaws that unscrupulous employees can use for their own good. The story about the miracle programmer who punished the company has become a legend, people began to forget about it. Product discounts were approved by management, the price list was checked, and no holes were observed in the system. Exactly until one of the programmers considered himself to be no worse and stupider than his predecessor. And, perhaps, he really was smarter. In any case, it is certain that he was much more organized and had amassed a group of like-minded people around him. Maybe they saw Ocean’s Eleven or something like that, but they thought they had a chance to clean up the retail and leave clean. The scam consisted in the fact that only prices were checked according to the price list, but discounts were approved by the top management and entered into the system. The actions went one after another, they went all over the country – from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, in different time zones. For example, one discount was 25% on smartphones of a well-known Chinese brand, which is extremely popular in Russia. The next day, this discount was canceled, and instead of it another one – 30% – was already in effect.

Both discounts were approved in advance, a budget was agreed for them, the supplier partially compensated for the discount. Everything was cloudless, beautiful and simple. Standard marketing activities. On the first day, when the discount changed from 25 to 30%, sales skyrocketed to unimaginable numbers, smartphones flew away instantly. They were bought up in all major cities; by lunchtime they could not be bought almost anywhere. In small towns, people realized that a new topic had appeared and they were happy, because they bought a smartphone with a 25% discount, and then an additional 30% discount was charged on it. The cost of the smartphone was not just low, it was noticeably lower than the wholesale cost from the manufacturer. By the time the “bug” was discovered, total sales were over 10 smartphones. Record values ​​for one day, this was not the case for smartphones of such a cost, either before or after. The loss of the retail network just barely reached $ 000 million.

The mechanics of breaking the system turned out to be quite straightforward, the shares were approved, but in the system they were superimposed one on top of the other. Yes, it was possible to do that, no one had foreseen this moment in advance. And the employees responsible for security were paid too low salaries to worry about any potential vulnerabilities. The threat seemed impossible.

Who massively bought these phones in big cities at such a big discount? Several dozen people who were provided with sufficient resources for this. We can safely say that it was a well-prepared, planned action that brought about a million dollars to those who carried it out. It was impossible to make any claims against anyone, it was a software glitch, a coincidence. In any case, the failure was attributed to this. And we closed this vulnerability.

These are just two examples of how employees in a retail company can cause significant harm to their employer. But not always there is malicious intent behind such actions, sometimes it is a banal human error.

Human error and selling technology for a penny

Vitaly N. was looking for a new smartphone for himself, flipping through websites, reading reviews. On a popular site, he unexpectedly saw that the cost of the Galaxy Fold is much lower than it should be – 65 thousand rubles instead of 179 rubles.

How to steal / lose a billion rubles in retail or online store

This was clearly a mistake, such a price could not be in nature. However, it was proposed to pay for the product, and after that it will be sent to the specified address. Vitaly paid for the smartphone, the money was debited from the card, a confirmation letter arrived in the mail. Bingo!

A few hours later, the seller contacted him and said that the smartphone could not be delivered, since such a price does not exist and it was a mistake. I think that someone, uploading the price list to the system, made an involuntary mistake and set prices that were different from the real ones, and they were surprisingly low. During the few hours that the trade was going on, hundreds of people managed to buy goods at bargain prices.

How to steal / lose a billion rubles in retail or online storeHow to steal / lose a billion rubles in retail or online store

Buyers, paying for goods for ridiculous money, understood that this was a wrong price, but for them it did not matter. They felt that this was a problem for the store and that it must comply with the terms of delivery. This is not a new situation on the market, it happens more or less constantly. Most online stores have rules to avoid such situations (checking price changes, several employees are responsible for checking the price list, including for many thousands of items). To some extent, customers want to cash in on the store that they made a mistake. But we cannot assume that these are buyers’ problems. As much as I would like to say that here we are dealing with consumer extremism, this is not the case. This is a mistake of the store, and he should be responsible for it.

How to steal / lose a billion rubles in retail or online store

The store strategy in such cases is always the same. In manual mode, calls are made to customers, an attempt is made to cancel orders. As a rule, only a few agree on this. The next level is the offer of a discount on the purchase, it can vary widely, in the particular case that I am describing, it reaches 10 thousand rubles.

How to steal / lose a billion rubles in retail or online store

For some, it is better to have a bird in their hands, people refuse paid goods and choose a discount. Such, as practice shows, the majority. But a small number of people insist that they want to get the goods and are ready to go to court. Stores win the courts in one case: if the price of the goods was indicated, but the payment did not go through. But if the goods were paid for, the de facto sale and purchase agreement took place and it is impossible to somehow prove that it was a mistake. The buyer has bought the item in good faith at the price assigned. Another issue is that only a few are ready to go to court, since it often takes a long time and requires additional time and effort. Most give up and agree to a discount, since it is almost impossible to convince the seller to ship the goods without a trial.

The moral and ethical aspect of this issue can be viewed from different points of view. For a person who was wrong on the side of the seller, this is a big test. He is not financially responsible for his mistake, but usually people lose their jobs. A friend of mine made a similar mistake some time ago, spent a lot of time fixing it, getting in touch with clients. Most of them turned out to be loyal to the store and met halfway, losses were minimal. And, as in the old adage, “for one beaten, two unbeaten give”, he kept the work and improved the system to make such mistakes impossible.

Buyers often think that they won the lottery and hold on to their “winnings”; they have no idea that there are people on the other side who are paying for their mistake. This is the lyrics, and you don’t have to go towards them, but here everyone makes their own choice. Most, buying goods at such prices, know for sure that this is a mistake in value. Nevertheless, people are ready to go for it in order to gain something in the end. Is this good or bad? I hope that in the comments you will tell about this and show your attitude to the question – who is to blame and what to do in such situations for the buyer.

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