Success Story

How a thrift store proactively deals with incidents using Solink

March 8, 2022


  • Reactive not proactive to incidents such as customer complaints
  • Lack of visibility to monitor employees’ productivity or compliance with operating standards
  • Unable to quickly view video footage using current platform to find issues such as discount abuse


  • When an incident arises, head office can check how stores are handling it and correct their actions in real time
  • Motion-based search presents opportunities for employee training and compliance
  • Better quality video and easy-to-use interface make reviewing videos a breeze

“Bottom line, this has been the best product that we’ve ever used. The training that we’ve gotten makes it such a smooth process. I couldn’t thank you guys more.”

The client:
Volunteers of America Michigan (VOAMI) run thrift shops to support charitable pursuits

We spoke with Brandy Sturgeon, the HR Coordinator of the Thrift Department at Volunteers of America Michigan, to discuss how use of Solink helps their charitable organization.

“Volunteers of America Michigan is a nonprofit agency that specializes in providing critical services, shelter and food for veterans, affordable housing for aging seniors, and supportive services for struggling families. For 125 years, we have been empowering veterans, seniors, and families across the state of Michigan.”

To fund these efforts, they have five thrift stores that sell donated clothing and merchandise. Solink is the video security platform they chose for these five thrift stores as well as the central warehouse.

The challenge:
Manage six safe and productive work environments remotely from head office

VOAMI is a not-for-profit organization, and running lean means more money to help those in need. Keeping track of five thrift stores, one warehouse, employees, and volunteers is hard enough. Doing it from head office with outdated equipment was even more challenging.

“The camera system that we had before was not user friendly, put it that way. And we were looking to be more proactive than reactive to incidents.”

Brandy was looking for a way to use video analytics to prevent potentially expensive incidents such as slip and falls, keep an eye on employees, and audit video transactions to find discount abuse. She also needed to be able to do all of this remotely from the head office.

Solink provides a much easier-to-use video security system. The way it integrates with the POS, the customer success team that teaches clients how to get the most out of the system, and the features, such as motion search and heat maps, were all major selling points for VOAMI.

For the return on investment, Solink is great. The way we can now use our camera system for preventative measures, it is easy to find incidents or prevent them. I mean, it’s excellent. I love it.”

Solink provides remote access to any location from anywhere. Store managers, department heads, and Brandy at the head office can now monitor all five stores and the warehouse easily, from a mobile device. This was a major selling point for the VOAMI team.

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  • Some employees were not following standard operating procedures during incidents, which was leaving the organization open to legal risks.
  • Employees were not always fully productive. This was usually a result of not being trained on things to do when main tasks were completed.
  • The legacy camera system was low quality, and it rendered poorly in VOAMI’s video monitoring platform. This combined with the difficult-to-use interface made viewing the videos difficult.
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Improperly trained employees and poor adherence to guidelines could leave VOAMI open to liability.

Brandy spoke of one case where a storm was causing wet floors across multiple stores and employees were not proactively protecting the customers from potential harm. She was able to see the issues quickly in Solink and call the store managers to get wet floor signs out in minutes.

“We had a lot of rain coming through and we noticed that none of our stores were using the wet floor signs, and nobody had a fan out front to dry the floors.”

Some employees, especially those away from the customers and management, were less productive than Brandy would like to see. They have their main tasks, and when those were finished, would stand around instead of looking for other ways to help out.

“We looked in on our dock employees. They’re in the back room, so their manager isn’t close by all the time. We noticed that they weren’t always productive throughout the day.”

Using motion search, Brandy was able to identify the issue and have store managers guide the employees on appropriate tasks during down time. She could do this remotely from the head office for several stores at once.

VOAMI has a mix of newer and older video equipment. With their previous system, it was hard to see what was happening in video recordings. It was also hard to find specific events without searching through hours or days of video. Solink reduces the time it takes to manually search for events to minutes, and according to Brandy, it has even improved how the video renders for the older equipment.

“Our second location has an upgraded camera system. The other stores still use the same existing cameras, but the quality looks better in Solink even though the cameras didn't change.”

The result:
VOAMI can keep on top of their employees and stores without spending hours watching grainy video

Solink helps VOAMI operate safer, more productive thrift stores. This was Brandy’s goal from the beginning, and she is happy to say Solink exceeds those expectations. She has also found ways to improve the bottom line.

For example, she uses the events-based reporting function to find discount abuse.

“One of our managers was giving many discounts compared to everybody else, and they were on the register the least. That indicated a problem to me. Solink saves us money by helping us find discount abuse too.”

Heat maps have quickly become one of Brandy’s favorite features. She can use them to see how people are moving through the stores and plan the layout to improve sales.

A few months ago, our coat aisle wasn’t getting any traffic. It was strange for winter, but digging deeper into the issue we found that we didn’t have many coats. So there was hardly any traffic going down there because we didn’t have much inventory.”

Unfortunately, they had not received enough winter apparel donations and the aisle was mostly empty. Knowing an aisle is empty opens the opportunity to have focused donation drives for much needed inventory.

In VOAMI’s words

Brandy has a lot of good things to say about Solink:

“Solink’s perfect. It’s awesome.”

“If it were an employee, Solink would be employee of the month—or year!”

VOAMI’s three favorite features

Brandy was looking for a way to find specific events, incidents, and transactions. She found all of this and more in Solink.

Her three favorite features are heat maps, motion search, and events-based reporting. Heat maps help Brandy see how customers flow through the thrift stores. Motion search gives her eyes in all six locations to see how employees are behaving. Events-based reporting helps VOAMI detect discount abuse.

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Heat maps

Heat maps give you amazing insight into how customers flow through your business. Placing the right products at the right place on the floor has never been easier.

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Motion search eliminates the need to fast forward through hours of video footage. Solink automatically shows you all video clips in an area of interest where there is movement.

On the one hand, you can see employees who are being unproductive. On the other hand, you can find employees who hide merchandise until it goes on sale.

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Event-based reporting

Events-based reporting allows you to search for videos that meet specific criteria. For example, you can find all videos attached to discounted invoices or returns.