Audit: Secret shoppers ignored at state liquor stores

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26 2013 5:05 p.m. MST

Closed State Liquor stores Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. On most secret shopper visits to 11 state liquor stores as part of a new audit of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control released Tuesday, customers were not greeted or offered assistance.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — On most secret shopper visits to 11 state liquor stores as part of a new audit of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control released Tuesday, customers were not greeted or offered assistance.

"In addition to being good customer service practices, greeting customers and offering assistance can help deter shoplifting," according to the audit by the Office of the Utah State Auditor.

The department said customer service is already part of the training employees receive, but pledged to ensure that the auditor's "particular concerns are included in the training provided."

The secret shoppers also reported other concerns, including being able to access employee-only areas, return products valued at more than $50 without a receipt, and distract cashiers, leaving cash drawers vulnerable.

At one store, a cashier left a cash drawer open while bending over a credit card reader to see what was on the screen. At another store, a cashier left in the middle of a transaction to find a manager after being asked for a receipt.

The stores were visited just before the July 4 holiday to make 38 purchases with at least three different shoppers visiting each store. After the holiday, 29 visits were made to return items, the report stated.

Other recommendations in the audit, conducted between May and November and presented Tuesday to the DABC Commission, included requiring receipts for all cash purchases and better inventory controls.

For example, the audit cited trucks arriving at stores with unlocked trailers and unsecured areas at the trucking company that present "serious security weaknesses at the carrier that could result in significant loss of DABC inventory."

Those concerns have been addressed, the department stated in its response to the audit, noting that trailers must now be locked before leaving the warehouse and the trucking company that delivers goods is being regularly checked.

Additional auditing will be done over the next several months and another report issued, according to the report.

The DABC said in a statement the auditor's work is "critical to the department's continuing efforts to improve both operations and controls" and that it "agrees with the control principles underpinning all of the report's recommendations."

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