That Thursday began like every other day. I woke up, had breakfast, got dressed and walked to work… completely unaware of the disaster that awaited me.
I arrived at my practice and saw that the glass door I had locked up just nine hours prior had been replaced with a temporary shutter door.
As I entered my practice I was assaulted by sounds I was not accustomed to in my quiet little workplace. The loud clang as the shutter door banged behind me, the sound of broken glass beneath my shoes. Broken glass everywhere, splattered throughout my reception area, among all my designer frames. Drawers thrown open, papers littered the floor, gaps in my sunglass display.
I scanned the area, saw my broken door smashed into a thousand pieces on the floor and looked blankly at my practice manager and my first patient, not knowing what to say, what to think, what to do. My poor patient, she looked as shocked as we did!
Our cash drawer was taken, many of our sunglasses, but only the designer ones (of course, they had to be the expensive ones!)
Someone had broken into – violated – my practice. The emotions refusing to surface, the confusion, not knowing how to act. Then the police walked in, my practice manager spoke to our patient about rescheduling, and I introduced myself to the police as the business owner. The police dusted for finger prints, found none, handed me the police report, filed seven hours prior, then left. We did a quick stock take of what was missing, and started cleaning, trying to remove all the broken glass so the practice could be ready for patients.
Our cash drawer was taken, many of our sunglasses, but only the designer ones (of course, they had to be the expensive ones!). Our designer sunglasses are placed near the entrance to attract potential customers, but evidently also potential thieves. Thankfully our thieves were mainstream and went crazy on Gucci and Fendi but left our brand new Lindbergs.
Thinking about it now, I realise that we were, in fact, very lucky. They didn’t enter the consulting room or the ancillary testing room which is where the real dollars in the practice are made and all the expensive equipment is. They did not take or cause damage to any of our computers.
Within an hour of walking into my shattered practice, we were ready to consult again. Unfortunately our CCTV, malfunctioning at the time, failed to capture any video of our unwanted late night visitors.
Because I had no alarm system set up, I was not alerted to the break in until I arrived at work. Fortunately, the intruders had spent little time inside my practice, and the police were alerted by a nearby witness. A short-term shutter door, organised by the police, was installed in no time. We replaced our glass door later that day, and made contact with our insurance company, Guild Insurance.
Guild was extremely helpful, guiding us through the steps to follow. We paid the excess, and were assured that the rest would be taken care of – the damage, the lost stolen goods and cash. Knowing the insurance company would cover the costs helped me breathe my first sigh of relief in that very stressful day.
In the short time following, we’ve fixed our CCTV, installed an alarm system, installed shatter resistant glass for our door, purchased a cash box that is easily removed from the premises, and added signage alerting thieves of our surveillance. We’re ready for the next unwanted visitors now!
So what have we learnt out of this gut churning exercise?
If you don’t have security, get security.
Install alarm systems and CCTV. Alarm systems and CCTV prices vary, depending on the number of entry points you want protected and the level of security. Alarm systems range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the number of entry points and sensors. Back to base monitoring is at a cost of just over a dollar a day.
If you do have security, don’t assume it works (like we did!). Make sure you check it on a regular basis.
Once your security is set up, tell potential intruders that you are well secured. Use signage to display that you are protected Those big ugly stickers I previously had thought were tacky and ugly I now find comforting as they really are useful for deterring intruders!
Insurance is an absolute must. A theft isn’t just about lost stock and cash, it’s also damage to your practice – damage that needs to be fixed. The shock will only be amplified if you are going to have to wear the cost!
Insurance is one of those things, it’s not cheap, and it’s painful paying for premiums, especially as premiums aren’t cheap these days. However, the relief when you need to claim is infinitely greater than the pain experienced for the excess.
The cost of the temporary shutter door was AU$385, the shatter-resistant replacement glass $1,300, signage $420, replacing all the lost stock thousands of dollars, but knowing that it would all be covered was priceless.
Insurance is probably the only thing we did right in this scenario. We were a sitting duck, waiting and tempting thieves to rob us.
Having a cash drawer unlocked and located predictably beneath our main reception computer, where most businesses would keep a cash drawer, is a stupid idea. I’ve seen many business display empty cash drawers to say that the cash is no longer on the premises. Not a bad idea, telling potential thieves there’s no sense damaging your premises to get cash that isn’t there.
Fortunately, our thieves were amateurs, at best. They didn’t touch our consulting rooms, left other items such as iPads, and didn’t take or affect any of our computer systems. It was only a few days later I woke up and realised that if they had damaged our computers then we could have been in strife. We perform automatic back-ups most days which go onto an external hard-drive, however, we didn’t always take back-ups home. We are now looking at automatic back-ups that go instantly into the ‘cloud’.
It was a shock when it happened but thankfully it wasn’t any worse. All we lost was our cash, several pairs of sunglasses and a few optical frames. New door, new signage, the excess with our insurer, the shock and the inconvenience was all our complacency cost us. We also forewent the chance to catch these thieves. All in all we were lucky. We’ve learnt some lessons so that in the future we’ll be better protected.
Since the incident, I’ve spoken to a few colleagues and most that have businesses have experienced break ins themselves, many of whom were unfortunate enough to be hit multiple times. My practice, Eyetech Optometrists, suffered two break-ins under its previous owner. Many local businesses have also been hit recently, with one business being hit three times in three months. I don’t doubt that it will happen again to us, nor do I doubt that it will happen to you also – not that I would in any way wish it upon you! (I so don’t want that to happen). Everything is easier in hindsight – so please let my hindsight be your foresight!
So, if there is one final lesson I have learnt from all of this: please take my advice and ‘safeguard your practice’.