Is there a speed/efficiency reason not to put the slips in the register after each sale?
November 2, 2011 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal for cashiers to put all the sale receipts in a pile to 'speed up the line'?

Tonight I was at the grocery store and noticed that the young man was not putting the sales receipts into the register after each sale, just ringing each person up, slamming the register closed again without putting the sales slips in the drawer and stacking the slips on the counter. I asked him curiously if the register was not opening after each sale (I tried to sound amiable and curious rather than obnoxious). He said he was waiting to 'clear the line'.

I just wondered if that actually made it faster or if I should be concerned. It's been a long time since I worked retail and it's possible that it is actually faster. Or he could just be a slightly odd young man working out his brilliant theory of efficiency (I admit when I was his age I tried many notions to try to make things go quicker that really didn't). Or he could be a fiendish identity thief, though he'd have access to the slips anyway when he counted out for the night, right? And they just have my name, not the full account number so it couldn't be all that helpful.

Essentially I'm not particularly afraid of the young man at the organic grocery store being up to no good, but I did wonder if there was some actual school of cashier thought that made what he was doing reasonable. I don't want to get him in trouble, but it was a little weird. Should I let his manager know?
posted by winna to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I've never worked as a cashier, but I worked at a restaurant. We waited until the end of the night to turn in our credit card slips.

I do have to say it sounds faster to not have to open the drawer all the way and stick something in a certain spot, if all the slips are going in the same spot eventually.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:49 PM on November 2, 2011


I have worked as a cashier, and we had to separate our receipts by cash, credit card or debit card. You could either sort them as you went, which definitely did slow the line, pile them up and sort them whenever you had a minute, or leave them all to the end of the night and sort them then (unwise if you wanted to get home in good time).

Not sure if this applies here, but it is a possibility.
posted by scrute at 5:56 PM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bet he's setting them aside to sort them out when he has time, rather than stuffing them in the register which may not have a designated receipt slot.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:01 PM on November 2, 2011


I've worked for two national chain department stores, and neither store required employees to lock up receipts during the day. They were kept in the vicinity of the cash register... at one store receipts were put in a basket next to the register, and at the other they were kept in an unlocked drawer under the counter. The receipts didn't get bundled up and locked away until the registers were cashed out. I've also worked as a server, and we just kept our receipts in our apron pockets until the end of our shift. So I can't imagine that your cashier was stashing receipts for some sinister new purpose that retail companies aren't onto yet.

On preview, I think scrute has it. Sorting receipts by payment method is a common practice at many retailers. Maybe your cashier figured he could save a couple seconds per transaction by piling up the receipts for sorting later.
posted by keep it under cover at 6:08 PM on November 2, 2011


Yeah, they may even have to sort by credit card company.

Your credit card slip is going to end up in a copy-paper sized box full of slips, just one box in one stack in a room full of boxes in a storage unit, until the statute of limitations passes and they get rid of them.

There isn't much you can sneakily do with a receipt like that. Your CC number is not on it save for the last four digits. If someone is going to try and hack your account, they aren't going to bother with your sales slip. They are increasingly meaningless pieces of paper that nobody wants, and hopefully they'll disappear soon.

The "I agree to pay..." contract you sign is becoming increasingly meaningless as more businesses (AND consumers) are gravitating toward whatever is just the quickest way to do a transaction.

At the retail company I work for, posthumous credit card charge disputes are looked up in a database on a computer rather than hunting for your signed charge slip. The only situation that comes to mind where what is written on that slip is important is if, say, you needed an alibi for a murder case and your verified signature at a verified hour proved your innocence.
posted by TheRedArmy at 6:21 PM on November 2, 2011


I have, at various points in my life, jockeyed a register at a pharmacy, a movie rental store and a coffee shop. I also was bottom rung 'management' at the latter positions, wherein I handled daily deposit and basic bookkeeping routines. Uniformly, not one of these businesses cared about credit card receipts except that they all went in one large envelope per month/quarter, and the computer tracks all the purchases, so there's no need to even think about them when counting out a till.

By 2005 or so, many places stopped keeping or receipts for purchases less than a certain amount (generally $25 in my experience) , only printing for the customers. I would hazard an estimate that 99.999% of the kept receipts ever leave the envelope until they're shredded in some number of years. There's not much useful information on a credit card receipt these days, and you can usually find significantly more information about someone via Google.

I wouldn't tell the manager, and were a customer to tell me something like this about a cashier, I would probably thank the customer politely and forget about it all together.
posted by ndfine at 6:27 PM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is, the receipts never leave the envelope.
posted by ndfine at 6:31 PM on November 2, 2011


When I worked in retail not only did we have to sort our slips by cash, credit and debit, but then we had to further sort by store charge, Visa/Mastercard, Discover and Amex. In theory we were supposed to keep them partially sorted in a plastic accordion envelope during our shift, but when you're staring down a line of impatient shoppers - especially during the holidays - sometimes it's just easier to let them pile up until you have a few spare minutes when your customers don't have places they'd much rather be.
posted by alynnk at 6:49 PM on November 2, 2011


Receipt? As in the itemized list of the things the customer purchased along with amount tended and change? I thought that was given to the customer.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:40 PM on November 2, 2011


I don't know, I think you are right to think all might not be on the up and up. You can sort receipts at the end of your shift. Besides which, is it easier to sort them from a pile on the register or from the drawer? I understand retailers might not mind this, but I bet the IRS would, and I can't think of a better way to lose receipts than to leave them out where a breeze or false move could scatter them around. If I were a manager, I'd insist on them going in the drawer under the tension spring.
posted by Miko at 8:30 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Receipt? As in the itemized list of the things the customer purchased along with amount tended and change? I thought that was given to the customer.

one copy for customer, one for merchant.
posted by sweetkid at 8:52 PM on November 2, 2011


Thanks everyone! I didn't really think I needed to talk to the manager, but didn't know if there was some reason I should. I will just file this under arcana of other people's professions that I had not considered. I have, now that I think about it, seen those little plastic baskets full of sales slips next to the register in other places. I've noticed that this store has some kind of odd setup where the sales slips go in a different slot in the register, so I thought another possibility would be that it was crammed full and he would just stick them on top until he counted out.

I marked everything best answer because it was. I appreciate you all sorting out my vague befuddlement so speedily!
posted by winna at 9:18 PM on November 2, 2011


I do this sometimes at my cigar shop job, when things are fast. When there's a line of customers, the main bottleneck in terms of getting people through quickly becomes the credit card machine. So I'll just ring up the purchase, swipe the card, and then as soon as the card is approved I'll charge it out (open and shut the drawer) and start ringing up the next purchase while the receipt from the first purchase is printing (which, when you have a line of customers, takes an agonizingly long amount of time).

I'll keep doing this until I get a cash purchase at which point I'll stuff all the accumulated credit card receipts under the drawer and make change for the cash. If I do it carefully and keep track of what I'm doing it ends up coming out exactly the same as if I'd done everything the normal way, only it saves time.
posted by Scientist at 9:26 PM on November 2, 2011


Receipt? As in the itemized list of the things the customer purchased along with amount tended and change? I thought that was given to the customer.
one copy for customer, one for merchant.
Why would the merchant need a paper list of the items I've purchased? Wouldn't his/her register keep track of that and decrement the stock counts accordingly? I don't see why they would want to keep track of all these scraps of paper. Does someone go through them at the end of the week and manually re-enter each sale into some inventory system? That seems horribly inefficient.

Credit card receipts, which usually just indicate the amount charged, the name and the last four digits of the card, on the other hand, need to be kept since producing the signature is necessary in the event of a chargeback. (Identity theft should not factor in here, the credit card receipt should only have the last several digits of the card used, not the entire number.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:30 PM on November 2, 2011


Identity theft should not factor in here, the credit card receipt should only have the last several digits of the card used, not the entire number.

This. Quite a while ago, we had to update the software on all our credit card machines which were printing the full card number on both copies of the receipt; now they only print the last 4 digits of the number. Our CC processor told us this was required by law. So I wouldn't be too worried about credit card receipts, even the store's copies, falling into the wrong hands. (There is no reason for stores to need a record of your full card number anymore; if they should have a problem with any given transaction, they can refer to it by batch number and transaction number and their CC processor will take it from there.)
posted by xedrik at 10:17 PM on November 2, 2011


Also, there is such a thing as a receipt spike, or receipt spindle, which is just as it sounds- a base with a spike onto which receipts are impaled.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:49 AM on November 3, 2011


Why would the merchant need a paper list of the items I've purchased? Wouldn't his/her register keep track of that and decrement the stock counts accordingly? I don't see why they would want to keep track of all these scraps of paper...

It's a double check that lets you know if the employee is shorting the drawer! It's pretty basic cash balancing. You need one record that shows you what was rung in on that register all day or all shift and a separate record that shows you what happened with each cashier (that's the separate receipts). All these records have to "zero out" at the end of the business day; they have to agree, and the cash they both say is remaining has to equal the cash in the drawer. If there's any discrepancy, something is amiss. If the cashier is saying they've just lost receipts, in fact, they could be shorting the drawer. This is the kind of procedure done on a cash drawer at the end of the business day.
posted by Miko at 6:54 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You need one record that shows you what was rung in on that register all day or all shift and a separate record that shows you what happened with each cashier (that's the separate receipts).

Really? I've worked at two supermarkets, two fashion retail stores and a cinema and they all just had login systems or lanyard scan cards. The computer keeps track of what was sold on that register all day AND what each individual sold all day. If the cash in the drawer matches the total on the computer, you're golden. Is logging in not commonplace in the US?

The only receipts we kept copies of were ones with signatures (which is pretty rare nowadays) or receipts handed in by the customer for returns.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 2:05 AM on November 4, 2011


Agreed with lovedbymarylane, it's all done by computer now. Even a place that doesn't keep electronic inventory and has a dumb register as opposed to a computerized POS terminal has a register that will keep track of what should be in the drawer. The idea of adding up receipts is something I haven't seen since I was a kid.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2011


The computer keeps track of what was sold on that register all day AND what each individual sold all day. If the cash in the drawer matches the total on the computer, you're golden. Is logging in not commonplace in the US?

For heavens' sake, you whippersnappers, I'm not ancient - we used POS systems at my last 2 server jobs, the last of which I had just six years ago - and at that last one, I was also a shift manager and settled up the whole restaurant, which is how I know all this.

So I get what you're saying, but there's a lot more to it than "it's all tracked by computer!" (though it's good that you believe that because it means you probably weren't stealing!) Despite tracking, you can still manipulate receipts in order to steal in a few different ways.

There are still two records in these systems -- the drawer total for the whole day, and per-cashier total. In settling up the drawer, the two (or more) records have to be compared and have to come out even. Example.

That means that you, cashier, need to show cash or the equivalent of cash for every transaction at the end of your day, and the total has to equal what your register total is showing for the day. Your cash, together with the pieces of paper that represent cash, have to equal your drawer record. Signature slips and often receipt dupes, if you're a cashier, are part of your documentation that shows you've taken in cash and the equivalent of cash. They are balanced against the drawer journal. That's why they have to be turned in as part of reconciling your drawer. I am sure if you've been a cashier you can remember the misery of ending a late shift and haggling through the reconciliation process when you were $4.27 over, or short, or whatever, until you discovered and corrected the error. If you didn't have to stay for that, a manager did.

If you want to short, one of the ways you can do it is to ring short. An illustration: A customer brings up five items which should total $22.50. The cashier rings up the sale as only $20.00 into the register, but tells the customer the total is - as it should be - $22.50. The customer pays $22.50, the cashier makes change, and at whatever point he can, he slips $2.50 into his pocket or wherever he's storing the cash. If you're doing this, it's really important to keep a running tally of what the drawer "owes" you, or it'll come out wrong. So if the customer is watching you make change, you can't very well slip it to yourself all at once. What you might do instead is stack up the receipts, add up the total when you have a good round number, and remove the excess change you've assigned yourself from the drawer when you have a quiet minute. Managers have a hard time figuring out when this theft is happening, because the drawer record actually does match the employee's receipts. But the employee needs to keep the receipts available to balance them out when he has a chance to "get organized" and put them into the drawer - also an opportunity to slip out your $10 or $20 or whatever total you've accumulated.

Other things people can do to mess with the cash, depending on their degree of mastery of the POS, are ring no-sales, run voids, and give fake refunds or fake errors, void, and re-ring at a new amount. Despite the advent of computer cash management, these systems still depend on human inputs and outputs and where there isn't 100% supervision every moment, there are many ways to scam them.

One of the main clues they teach you to look for in "shrinkage control" as a manager is messing with receipts - doing any strange or unusual procedures with receipts at all. It's just instantly shady, an immediate red flag - because of the kind of thing I just described. If anything is happening with receipts other than that they go right into the drawer after change is made, it's worth looking closer. There may be an innocent reason, but even so, as restaurant staff we were always corrected for habits like that and they need to stop, because it makes your job as a manager harder.

So I would proceed on the assumption that the kid might be scamming the register, until shown otherwise. Because you need dupes and signature slips to cash out your drawer, you need to save them, and stacking them up in the breeze is a risky way to manage them in the first place. On that principle alone they should go in the drawer. Add in the possibility that someone paying an undue amount of attention to receipts is using his or her imagination, and you have something worth being suspicious about.

Not that it's your place as a customer to call him out, OP...but if you ever run into the owner, you could say "I was just wondering because this seemed so odd...." And check your own receipts there.
posted by Miko at 7:15 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I think the shorting is even more a likely possibility because the organic grocery store seems to give the cashier a dupe receipt for every transaction in the first place, printing it out rather than retaining it in the machine. That is old-school, so I suspect that register is not fully POS equipped anyway, and those receipts actually have to be used to reconcile with the daily journal even for cash sales. Otherwise, he'd just give the customer their receipt, and his own dupe would be recorded in the system - he wouldn't have anything to stack up in the first place.They have to be used to represent the goods exchanged for the cash that has gone missing from the drawer.
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on November 7, 2011


Types of POS Theft
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on November 7, 2011


Miko, there's one thing that doesn't add up in what you're saying. You say that the cashier would ring it up wrong, but still tell the customer the right amount. Yet most grocery stores now have screens that the customer sees, either with all items as they get rung up, or with the final total. Are you assuming the grocery store doesn't have this? Or that most customers aren't actually paying attention to what the total says and what they're being told to pay? Because I find that hard to believe.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:28 PM on November 7, 2011


I am definitely assuming the grocery store doesn't have this, because it's an organic grocery store in which the clerk has paper dupe receipts. It points to smaller, less high-tech store - only the OP can confirm, of course, but thinking about the "organic" stores near me, they are definitely not on the technological cutting edge, and the specific features of the system described here indicate that it certainly isn't.

Although I'm also certain that despite the screens in major grocery stores, it's still very easy to shortchange people, because most people don't pay close attention and it's pretty easy to pick out which kinds of people are and are not likely to be paying attention.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on November 7, 2011


(I mean, in the scam the paper receipt doesn't read the right amount either, but most people don't take this fact in - otherwise the scam would never work).
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on November 7, 2011


And if someone says "Hey! You made a mistake - the total's wrong!" the cashier can just say "Oh man, I don't know how I did that! Must need more coffee...." So the stakes of getting caught are extremely low - a void and re-ring, with no one the wise. Voids happen multiple times every day. Only if there were enough such incidents to form a pattern would a supervisor start looking closer.

It's the reason they call cons "cons" - for "confidence games." Most of the time we're just confident people aren't ripping us off - which is why it's so easy for so many people to do.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well I see your point, but I find it hard to believe that they don't have a display of some sort that the customers see. And how does a paper dupe equal low-tech? For example, Starbucks has those, and they aren't low-tech.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:53 PM on November 7, 2011


What do you mean by "paper dupe?" What I mean is a paper copy of the receipt that the business keeps, while the customer keeps their own copy. This is standard for card transactions but not cash transactions any more.

Well I see your point, but I find it hard to believe that they don't have a display of some sort that the customers see.

Well, they do: the receipt. But you're talking about a screen display. Is it really so hard to believe? Do you never go into small independent businesses? Very few of them have any screens that a customer can see.
posted by Miko at 8:01 PM on November 7, 2011


(Dupe = duplicate)
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on November 7, 2011


What do you mean by "paper dupe?" What I mean is a paper copy of the receipt that the business keeps, while the customer keeps their own copy. This is standard for card transactions but not cash transactions any more.
Yeah, I was talking about the credit card copies. I assume from the original post that's what the OP is talking about because of the mention of account numbers being on there. Also because if the cashier has receipts from cash transactions, its easy enough to put the copy in the drawer with the cash, but he wouldn't be slamming the drawer shut again immediately as the OP states.

Is it really so hard to believe? Do you never go into small independent businesses? Very few of them have any screens that a customer can see.
Yes that it hard to believe. I'm not necessarily talking about a large screen - I mean even a small display of numbers on the front of the register. I live near a ton of mom and pop places, and the only stores I can think of that don't have this are the Chinese takeout places. Other than that, even the tiniest stores have some sort of display.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:15 PM on November 7, 2011


I grant you that you can see numbers even on a small, non-screen-based display if you are able to face the register. However, most people really, honestly, do not pay attention to this. They're rifling in their purse, dealing with their kids, ticking stuff of their list, checking their messages, checking with the cashier (who, if they're shady, may be good at being distracting). Most people don't stand there checking each transaction against the price they maybe remember was written on the shelf or on the product. Some do, but they're in the minority. And if a cashier is planning to steal, they will size the people up, and they won't try their moves on people who are watching like a hawk. It's a matter of choosing your marks.

Yeah, I was talking about the credit card copies.

The OP might have to clarify, then, because she said "receipts." But I see your point that these might simply be credit card transactions. In that case I think the potential for skimming from the register is less. However, it's still not a completely safe and normal behavior and I think should still draw manager attention and monitoring. From a Microsoft POS blog:
A common scam of dishonest employees is to cancel a transaction after receiving the customer's payment and keep the money for themselves. The employee will enter the items into the transaction screen normally, allowing the customer to view the items on the pole display. However, the employee takes the customer's payment without giving a receipt, and then cancels the transaction after the customer leaves. Should a customer request a receipt, the employee can recover by simply completing the sale.

A dishonest cashier also can steal from you by using quotes. The cashier can create a quote, which appears to the customer to be a normal transaction, and then provide the quote receipt to the customer. The employee can then pocket the cash paid by the customer.

In addition to requiring receipts at every transaction, here are two ways you can...guard against such dishonesty:

Deny the Allow to abort transactions cashier right in Store Operations Manager. For more information, see "Cashiers Options" in Store Operations Online Help.

Prevent cashiers from substituting quote receipts for real ones by setting security on the Quotes function button (CTRL+F1) in Store Operations POS.

SAFEGUARD CREDIT CARD PROCESSING
Credit card numbers are an easy target for dishonest employees. Obviously, there are several ways an employee can obtain a customer's credit card number. To help thwart such theft, you should mask the credit card number on the customer's receipt. Microsoft Dynamics RMS masks credit card numbers in the database.

Many stores include the full credit card number for reference on the signed merchant copy of the transaction receipt. If this is the case for you, it’s wise to require employees to store receipts in a locked box or cash drawer to which only the store management has access.
The last point is particularly crucial, because most of us are used to seeing our credit card numbers masked with X's on our own receipts. But business credit slips don't always mask the numbers. In restaurant work, I know ours didn't, because sometimes when reconciling at the end of the night I would need to call the credit card companies about a particular transaction and would read the full number from the credit slip over the phone. Selling credit card numbers is advanced theivery and would not be super likely at the local grocery, but I wouldn't want the numbers floating around regardless of how much I trusted a cashier. In any case whatever, this is bad register practice. Slips not in the drawer are vulnerable to loss and manipulation, and it's reasonable to raise an eyebrow and watch more carefully in the future.
posted by Miko at 4:58 AM on November 8, 2011


Hi everyone! Sorry I hadn't come back sooner, but I did want to say that the paper copy I was referring to was the merchant's charge record, which was what he had stacked up. I received the customer copy from the pos. They do appear to have an integrated inventory and charge system at this point.

It's more like a whole foods than a co-op. since this happened I've seen that young man in there, but he's apparently stopped doing this, so I guess someone else mentioned it to him.
posted by winna at 9:04 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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