Gone in a Flash: Catalytic Converters Poached at Pardini Appliance

BrandSource member and burglary target Mark Pardini shared his experience — and solutions.

BrandSource dealer offers advice on safeguarding your fleet 

By Andy Kriege, YSN

Mark Pardini, owner of Pardini Appliance & Mattress in Ukiah, Calif., is a 48-year veteran of the appliance business.

In those nearly five decades of retail, he has done and seen just about everything imaginable. Yet what happened earlier this month to his fleet of trucks caught him totally by surprise. 

Pardini Appliance Gets Hit

One morning when the delivery drivers reported to work and started up the vehicles, they immediately knew something wasn’t right. It didn’t take long to determine that all three of Pardini’s delivery trucks had become the latest targets of a crime wave sweeping the country: catalytic converter theft. 

“It was a rainy morning,” Pardini recounted, “and the security cameras showed two vehicles pulling into our side parking lot at 5:40 a.m. In the span of 14 minutes they syphoned the gas and cut out six catalytic converters from all three of our delivery box trucks.”

“When the guys came in to tell us what had happened, they had a look on their faces like someone had just died,” he said. “We knew we were dead in the water.” 

Although the parking lot is equipped with lights and security cameras, the footage was too grainy to identify the culprits or make out their license plates. 

A view under one of the trucks shows how easy it is to get at the catalytic converter and the surgical precision with which the thieves cut them out.

Why is This Happening?

Catalytic converters are stolen for two reasons: money and ease. They are comprised of the precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium, each of which skyrocketed in price in recent years, making a stolen converter worth anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to north of a thousand on the black market. Couple that with how easy it is to remove them, how little time it takes (sometimes as few 30 seconds) and how readily they can be fenced, and you begin to understand why they are a such a hot item.

Adding Up the Cost

While the replacement costs are still being calculated, the impact on Pardini’s business is inestimable. “It cost us thousands in lost delivery time alone, plus the hours spent on the temporary fixes,” he said. “Hopefully insurance will cover the catalytic converters at $3,800 each. But the final cost will be many thousands of dollars along with the untold headaches.” 

Indeed, the trucks were down for an entire day while temporary exhaust piping was welded in, and Pardini spent countless hours working with the police, consolidating security footage, completing insurance claims and bringing the vehicles in to replace the stolen parts. 

What Can You Do to Prevent It?

With the ordeal largely behind him, Pardini, as he has in the past, offered his fellow BrandSource members advice on preventing theft.

“The first thing we did after installing the new converters was to have metal plates welded around them,” he said. “Thieves want to get in and get out quickly, and these plates will make the converters harder to get at and take considerably longer to swipe. Hopefully they’ll take one look and run away.”

The metal plates were custom made at a cost of $480 each, but Pardini considers it cheap insurance “if it spares you from going through what we did.” 

Pardini had custom steel plates welded around each of the replacement converters to deter future tampering. 

The Cost of Doing Business

Pardini is spending an additional $10,000 on extending his parking lot fence to better secure his trucks at night. As additional deterrents, he recommends investing in good lighting and security cameras, and to park company vehicles in high-visibility areas where thieves can more readily be seen.

 “If you don’t protect yourself,” he said, “this can happen to you too.”

YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.

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