Video Surveillance Investment Pays Off for C-Store Chain
By Amy Schneeberger, Distribution Channel Account Manager, March Networks
One of our retail customers recently shared how it uses its March Networks video surveillance solution to cut losses and keep an eye on operations. We’re pleased to share it here with the PSA Security community and hope it provides some valuable insights into the measurable benefits of intelligent video when used for more than simple security.
Digital video was still in its infancy when Quik-E Foods of Lynchburg, Virginia, began equipping its convenience stores with video recorders 10 years ago.
Times have changed. Today, the company’s VP Todd Burgess can pull up video from any of the company’s 12 stores and five car washes on his iPad using the March Networks Cloud service, but several of those original recorders are still in service.
“We have replaced some of our original recorders with March Networks 4208 and 8516 recorders, but I still have four 3108s,” said Burgess. “They’ve been up and running 365 days a year all this time. The only reason some of them have had to be replaced is because their power supplies have gone bad, but I guess nothing lasts forever.”
Quik-E Foods experience is consistent with March Networks’ reputation for rock solid reliability.
“The thing that most impresses me about the technology is that it’s a piece of equipment that I never have to fool with,” remarked Burgess. “I’m the IT guy who has to fix every printer, every keyboard, every point-of-sale system. If it’s plugged into a wall, I have to fix it, but I can honestly say that I never have to fool with a March Networks video recorder. I’ve never even had a hard drive go bad.”
Burgess was especially impressed when all of his March Networks recorders came back to life following a derecho, a wall of storms with 60 mile-per hour winds that tore through Lynchburg and area last summer.
“We all lived on generators for an entire week, but when the power was restored, all of my recorders came back up. I had no issues at all.”
Equally important, the c-store chain’s collection of older and next-generation recorders illustrates the importance of backward compatibility. There was never a reason for Quik-E Foods to replace its perfectly functioning 10-year-old recorders to take advantage of software upgrades or other enhancements in video surveillance technology.
When Burgess powers up his iPad and goes to the Cloud to review live or archived video from his 12 stores, for example, it makes no difference if it’s a 3108 recorder or a brand new 8000 Series Hybrid NVR. All three generations of recorders co-exist across the Quik-E Foods footprint.
The effectiveness of Quik-E Foods’ video surveillance system is also attributable to the solution’s user-friendly interface.
“Our managers use the Live Viewer, Evidence Manager and Investigator software on a daily basis,” said Burgess. “They all know how to use them as well as I do and they’re all self-taught. I haven’t had to do any training, which speaks to how easy it is to use.”
Five or six years ago, March Networks worked with Quik-E Foods to integrate its video surveillance and point-of-sale systems, allowing Burgess and the company’s store managers to review recorded video with text overlay.
“It’s invaluable to be able to pull up a camera and see what’s being rung up overlaid on top of the video,” said Burgess. “It’s the greatest feature ever because a lot of theft occurs when a friend comes in with a two-liter drink, and a pack of cigarettes, and the employee just rings up the two-liter drink.”
Quik-E Foods is now in the process of upgrading to the March Networks Searchlight for Retail application, which offers several advantages over the current POS integration.
“Before, with text overlay, I could only search for voided or canceled transactions by logging in at each recorder locally,” explained Burgess. “With Searchlight, all the transaction data is stored at corporate on a server, so I can go in and ask to see all voided transactions at all locations in a specified time range.”
Better still, Searchlight will automatically deliver a daily emailed report identifying suspect transactions with links to the corresponding video.
The integration of video and transaction data is critical for combatting POS fraud in a c-store environment.
“Just recently,” said Burgess, “we caught a cashier who was ringing up sales, putting them on hold, collecting the money and then canceling the transactions when the customer left the store. So far, our losses from this one employee add up to $6,000. These transactions show up as voids in my system, so with an emailed report from Searchlight, I’ll get a list of all the voids by store and click on a link to watch the video. There won’t be a need to search for hours and hours. It’s instant.”
Quik-E Foods is slowly transitioning to IP cameras for higher-resolution video of activity at its laser car washes as well as its gas pumps and parking areas.
An IP camera would have come in handy last year when a truck pulling a trailer with an asphalt paving machine decided to run through one of the company’s car washes, knocking a $50,000 piece of equipment off its track.
Burgess posted the video on the Quik-E Foods Facebook page and the local media picked it up. Luckily, the contractor responsible for the incident saw it on the news and called Quik-E Foods offering to pay for the damage.
“If I had had an IP camera at that location, I would have known right away who it was because I would have been able to read the logo on the side of the truck or pick up the license plate,” said Burgess.
Each Quik-E Foods store is equipped with a microphone at the check-out counter and a centrally located speaker. Audio is recorded along with the video, and if absolutely necessary, Burgess or anyone else at head office can push a button and communicate with store staff.
Searches Made Easy
The audio came in handy one day when a gang of cigarette thieves used sledge hammers in the middle of the night “to beat the brick out of the back” of one of company’s stores and made off with $18,000 worth of cigarettes. There was no camera outside the back of the store to record them, but when Burgess checked the video the next day he found an image of a suspicious looking character peering through the window at the front of the store.
“It was 3 a.m. and you could hear the beating on the back of the building, so we just put two and two together,” said Burgess. “We also went through archived video thinking they may have cased out the store in advance and, sure enough, there was the same guy. We also had an image of the car in the parking lot.”
While the system is primarily used for loss prevention, Todd’s father and Quik-E Foods founder Wilton Burgess also takes advantage of its live viewing capability to make sure the stores are neat and tidy. Physically inspecting all 12 stores and five car washes would take him two or three days. With the March Networks system, he can sit in front of his computer and accomplish the same thing in 20 minutes or less.
Over the years, Quik-E Foods’ video surveillance system has paid for itself many times over. It’s also a valuable source of evidence for Lynchburg Police Department officers investigating credit card theft, car accidents and other incidents in the community.
“The local police have the March Networks player on their PCs, so it’s a piece of cake for them, and I’m in court a lot, even for matters that are unrelated to us,” said Burgess.
Looking to the future, Burgess is resigned to the fact that his remaining 3108 recorders will eventually need to be replaced, but looks forward to standardizing on the more powerful 8000 Series hybrid recorder with additional IP cameras, browser-based Command software and the investigative smarts of Searchlight for Retail’s fraud fighting tools.
Learn more about March Networks at www.marchnetworks.com.