Key-Control Lessons I Learned From Becoming A Covert Camera Theft Video Depository

by Mark Manney
Posted On: 12/5/2018

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From 2005 to 2015, I was in well over 70 vending operations in 27 states fighting vending crime with great success. One of the reasons for that success happened in 2005. I called Mark Janco who owned a small CCTV company called Total Loss Controls.

Mark had worked under me in two retail companies, and I knew how skilled he was with electronics and covert cameras. I told him if he would build a covert camera that could be easily installed and hidden in a vending machine or a dollar bill changer, and it was motion activated, I would supply the clients. Soon after that, VendingCam was born, hand-built by Mark in his shop. I kept my word and the clients came in one after another, year after year, until Mark retired in 2010.

From the very first installation of VendingCam in a machine in Lincoln, NE, exposing a theft with keys, to countless videos from cameras later installed all over the country in every type of vending machine and dollar bill changer and even in trucks (both in the back and once in the cab), I became the depository of countless covert videos. They were sent to me by clients and exposed who was stealing their missing cash and exactly how they were doing it -- often with stolen or untracked keys. Management had no idea that they were missing or given out , or who now had them.

I do not know of anyone else in the country who came into possession of so many covert camera theft videos from so many vending companies in such a short time. This gave me unique insight and knowledge that I used throughout my client base and in loss prevention seminars I gave in more than 25 vending conventions, including one in Mexico.

Here is what I learned in vending companies from installing VendingCam in a large national company, a large national franchise group, multiple large regionals, dozens of midsize operations and many smaller family operations in 27 states -- companies in urban, suburban and rural locations.

Most of the thieves were former or present employees who had keys no one in the company knew they had. In some cases, these were stolen; the employee took them along when he or she left the company. Or the keys were given to the dishonest employee and were not tracked or recorded, and no one remembered that they had them. Many were master keys. Sometimes there were entire rings of keys missing, and no one in management realized it.

In some cases, the former employee knew the route well and simply continued to skim cash long after leaving the company, but the smart ones did not clean out the machines or changers. Like smart parasites, they didn't want to kill their hosts…just bleed them like hidden leeches.

They wanted their former employer to think it was the present routeman, technician, customer service manager, money room counter etc. who was skimming. I do not know how many routemen have been "managed out" because management was convinced they were stealing because of stolen or untracked keys being used by someone else, but I suspect it is a countless number, and it still goes on daily in the industry.

From former mangers to former technicians to former routemen to former route jumpers to friends and sometimes even relatives of former and present employees, stolen keys were used. I realized a common denominator across the industry was the complete and total lack of structured and disciplined key documentation and key control throughout the industry that was behind much to most of the cash losses.

I did not go into one client that had anything close to the simple, inexpensive, one-time cost, disciplined key-control program I developed and brought to them.

I have been extremely successful in reducing my clients' cash losses, and key control is one of the most important reasons, and a program I learned to lead with.

I was involved in a case where I suspected a long-term vice-president of a large 38-route urban vending company of using keys to skim cash. I eventually convinced the surprised owner to take his keys off of him. The vice-president said he used the keys for spot quality-control inspections all around the city, and he did. But immediately after his master keys were locked down out of his control, cash shortage in the company fell like the stock market after the bursting housing bubble in 2008…and stayed down.

The timing of both was not lost on the owner and others in the company who also had suspected him but were too scared to vocalize their suspicions to the owner, fearing reprisal from the vice-president. This was a vice-president with more than 20 years of service. Check your managers…no one should have keys unless they really need them.

Covert camera videos have proven in vending company after vending company that up to, and often well over 50% of their theft was caused by the complete and total lack of key control caused by former/present employees who became silent partners with stolen or untracked keys.

Do not underestimate the revealing power of a well-placed covert camera. I have been privy to what a countless number of them have revealed. Do not underestimate the cash theft-deterrence power of a low-cost, disciplined loss-prevention key control program. Proactive loss prevention eats reactive investigations for lunch.

Interested in a free key-control program? E-Mail Mark Manney at:

 » Mark Manney is the founder and chief executive of Loss Prevention Results Inc.(LPR). He is also the author of: “The Brave New World of Micromarket Loss Prevention” a 50-plus page step-by-step Micromarket Loss Prevention manual available in the Vending Times Bookstore (  For more information on LPR’s versatile capabilities, call (919) 812-3602 or e-mail or visit the LPR website at