I answered my phone to a buddy of mine ranting like Rosie O’Donnell at a republican convention. For the first 60-seconds or more, I don’t think he took a breath, nor could I slip in a single word. I could tell he was pissed off about something, but for the life of me I had no idea what. Nothing made sense.
“They pulled up with a big truck … at least I think it was a big truck … how else would they get them all on there … I thought the chain was good enough, you know … How they cut that son-of-a-bitch I don’t know … they got away with five of the big commercial mowers … can you believe it … That’s over 50-grand!”
As more and more of the rambling spewed out, I realized that my friend had been robbed. His power equipment store is a few blocks east of my dealership, which threw up red flags; after all, if they hit him, there’s a good chance that they’ll come after my stuff as well.
As I listened to my friend’s tirade, I remembered the first time I was in his shoes — like him, I was in total panic mode. Of course, the fact that my wife and I were out of the country at the time didn’t help matters. There was absolutely nothing that I could do. My friend, on the other hand, was right in the middle of the action — watching surveillance video, getting in the cop’s way while they took fingerprints and making up new cuss words at an amazing rate.
The fact is, if you own a dealership of any kind and you’ve not yet been robbed, you will be. It’s the nature of the beast. If you think about it from the crook’s point of view, our businesses are like a huge magnet. We offer a relatively high-dollar product — oftentimes stacked in crates outside — and unlike shoplifting at the local Wal-Mart, a single haul of our product can net these guys several grand. And, according to our local sheriff, a single phone call lines up a buyer for specific product in a non-titling state long before the actual robbery takes place. Basically, we’re like a baby holding candy, and these thieves have one heck of a sweet tooth.
No two thieves operate the same way. There are a million ways that you can get hit, and I’ve experienced several of them. I mentioned my first time, while I was in Europe on vacation. Some crooks cut through our fencing, backed two trucks up to our loading dock and using their own forklift, made off with 25 crated ATVs. Multiply that figure by the $1,000-per-unit deductible and you can see how badly that one hurt. That figure doesn’t include the panic-induced purchase of an additional $10,000 in security system upgrades following the event.
At one point, I responded to an alarm sounding to find a walk-through door open on one of our warehouses. Along with the local deputies, I searched the place thoroughly, even looking beneath a row of go-karts along a back wall. Shortly after leaving, my phone rang again, this time alerting me to an overhead bay door that had just mysteriously opened. Upon further inspection, we found disrupted dust and fingerprints inside one of the go-karts — the guy had curled up inside of the bodywork. I can’t tell you how soiled my skivvies would have been if I’d have looked inside that kart and seen some guy lying there!
A few years ago, I got a call from the county dispatch saying that a deputy had come across a robbery in progress and was calling for assistance. It turned out that I was that assistance! When I arrived at the dealership, I found a stolen panel-van in the field behind my store, several half-assembled ATVs lined up behind it, some mouthy lady in the back of the deputy’s patrol car and some major damage in our lock-in. By watching the surveillance video later, I was able to see that the crooks came in, knocked over several stacks of crated ATVs in order to get to the ones they wanted, then partially assembled the bikes and wheeled them around the building to load them into a panel truck that they’d stolen from a factory just down the road. They’d neglected to bring a ramp and were struggling to lift the ATVs by hand when the deputy drove by. Sometimes these guys are pretty stupid.
These are just a few of the wonderful experiences that have allowed me to learn some valuable lessons. First and foremost, I’ve learned that getting robbed is not the end of the world. Sure, at the time it may feel like it and granted, it can nearly put you out of business, but you’ll get through it. I’m also sorry to say that it actually does get easier each time.
Secondly, I’ve learned that no matter how much of your precious money you spend on additional security, there is nothing out there that can totally guarantee that you won’t get hit again. Crooks are a lot like cockroaches; they find a way to survive against all odds.
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important, I’ve learned an important thing about security companies. No matter how much money you offer and no matter how much you beg and plead, they will not mount fully automatic weapons triggered by motion sensors, nor will they run 24,000-volts of electricity to your perimeter fencing. Believe me, I’ve tried.