The Cold Case of the Baskin Robbers

By Staff writer

In the summertime, ice cream sales heat up. July is National Ice Cream Month after all (thanks to a Presidential Proclamation by President Ronald Reagan in 1984). August has plenty of ice cream themed days to celebrate also, including Ice Cream Sandwich Day, Frozen Custard Day, Ice Cream Pie Day, and Banana Split Day.

A Summer Tradition

People have been eating ice cream for more than 2,000 years. Ice cream was invented in China in approximately 200 BC when a milk and rice mixture was frozen by packing it into snow. Roman emperors supposedly sent slaves to mountaintops to bring back fresh snow which was then flavored and served. Ice cream sundaes were invented in the late 1800s when it became illegal to sell soda on Sundays. Shopkeepers couldn’t sell ice cream sodas, so they replaced the soda with syrup and called the dessert an “Ice Cream Sunday.” They soon switched the final “y” to an “e” to avoid upsetting religious leaders.

More than 70 years ago, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins decided to try selling 31 different flavors of ice cream. They liked the idea of offering a different flavor of ice cream every day for a month. Burt and Irv’s decision paid off and today Baskin Robbins has 8,000 locations in 50 countries. They have sold more than 1,300 flavors, including Beatles Nut in honor of the Beatles’ first U.S. tour and Lunar Cheesecake to commemorate the 1969 moon landing. They’ve also tested a few flops, such as Ketchup and Lox & Bagels.

A Tasty Temptation for Thieves

However, for as long as people have been making and selling ice cream, people have been trying to steal it—from Baskin Robbins, supermarkets, and mom and pop shops. A few years ago, a ring of ice cream bandits in New York City committed a string of thefts, nabbing and reselling more than 1,200 containers of ice cream. It’s not just people off the street stealing a carton of Häagen-Dazs here and there – store employees are guilty of theft too.

Neil Williams, now the owner of TurnKey Parlor, a national ice cream equipment sales store, and his brother previously ran an ice cream distribution business in the U.S. Virgin Islands. At first, their profits looked good. But before long Neil’s brother, John, became suspicious. “Come on John, my employees? I treat them great and they do a great job. No way they’re stealing from me,” Neil told his brother. A quick inventory one day proved Neil wrong. The brothers performed a secret inventory on each employee and discovered they were all pocketing cash—some more than others.

The brothers eventually hired all new staff members and established ways to measure inventories at opening and closing. They let every employee know the policy. They counted cups, cones, and novelties twice a day. And their profits increased significantly.

Even if your business is not selling sweet treats and even if you believe that none of your employees would steal from you, the temptation to steal is always present. Every business owner needs to be aware of that temptation and protect against employee theft.

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