Was I being tested, or am I just being paranoid?
June 5, 2015 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Unsure whether my new boss was testing my integrity, or whether I should take his actions at face value.

I started a new job in hospitality recently and my manager, one of a team of a few different managers, is a pretty relaxed kind of guy. The other night I worked an incredibly busy night. So busy that I did not even take a toilet break in the 6+ hours that I was there, because I was completely alone in my area of responsibility. I coped for most of the night by myself, only needing my manager's help to deal with a particularly busy period of about ten minutes to get everything back under control. During that ten minutes he didn't actually ring anything up, he just put the cash in the till.

At the end of the night my till is, of course, over. This would normally be remedied by retroactively ringing things up. Instead, my manager put aside two thirds of the extra money and gave me the other third, almost worth an hour's pay, and told me to consider it my tips for the night. I asked him twice whether he was sure and he insisted. For so many reasons (he's my boss and I didn't want to question him again, I was exhausted and not thinking straight etc) I accepted. I'm now questioning whether I was actually completely stupid to accept the money. I really like and need this job and I'd hate to mess it up over basically a few dollars.

Is this going to come back and bite me later on? Or am I totally overthinking it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Whoa, boy, this is bad. I wouldn't be worried about whether your manager is testing you, I'd be worried about finding yourself in jail.
posted by jon1270 at 3:39 PM on June 5, 2015

Unsure whether my new boss was testing my integrity, or whether I should take his actions at face value.

He's doing both. He's testing (and implicating) you to see if you will go along with his stealing. And yes, you should take his stealing at face value. Unless he owns the venue, he's a thief. And he is gearing you up to take the blame once he gets caught.
posted by Thella at 3:40 PM on June 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

(Maybe that's overly alarmist, but really, this is bad.)
posted by jon1270 at 3:40 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sound like he wants to make you the junior partner of his scam.
posted by mono blanco at 3:41 PM on June 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I used to work for a guy who did stuff like this all the time. He was priming me to ignore all of the stealing he was going to be doing later.

At the place I worked he happened to be effectively the owner, though the money he was stealing wasn't his. The money he was trying to buy my loyalty with was ish-sorta his.

Every single time it happened I said, "no, that's ok, no that's not necessary, no, I'll just wait for my paycheck," etc, etc, but he always kept trying, with larger and larger amounts. I always mentioned it in an offhand way to my supervisor-ish coworker (very relaxed management style, very small office, so chain of commands weren't clear and boss dude answered to no one). But I always mentioned it, like "guy tried to give me 50 bucks last night for a cab ride home after work, but I declined."

Part of my job was doing the books. After a few months I started to notice chunks of cash go missing, all surrounding this one guy. Supervisor-ish guy and the owner were really slow to believe me that boss dude was actually stealing money, but I kept records and kept mentioning it as often as possible. Boss dude kept offering me little cash gifts to keep me "happy". Finally ended up firing the son of a bitch after two years because they finally clued in that he was a thieving lying bastard.

Anyway, the takeaway here is that yes, your boss is testing you, but it's not some gotcha thing where he's going to turn around and tell on you tomorrow. He is priming you to shut up about him stealing shit in the future.

Find whoever supervises your manager, go in on Monday with the ill-gotten cash, explain the situation and turn it in.

Some people might tell you to be more tactful than that, but I've been through this before and personally I could give fuck all about playing nice. Don't let the cheating bastards win.
posted by phunniemee at 3:50 PM on June 5, 2015 [38 favorites]

He put it aside for another manager. At least that's what he said.

lol he is lying
posted by phunniemee at 3:50 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

The manager doesn't have a code to ring things up, but was able to open the register? That seems fishy in and of itself.
posted by zachlipton at 3:55 PM on June 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

I have a friend who thought she was a partner in a restaurant, until she discovered that her "partner" was doing essentially this. And snorting it.

If the money is not going through the register, generally that's because someone wants to keep the audit trail of the money away from others. Sometimes this is simple tax evasion, sometimes it's stealing from the owners, sometimes it's both. In either case, the state department of revenue would probably be interested in this because of sales tax, the owners would like to know because... yeah.
posted by straw at 3:56 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Or in case a manager decides to tip an employee whose job doesn't receive tips? That's the stinkiest part.
posted by rhizome at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Go and speak to the person who does the books and ask them whether the money was accounted for. Make a point of giving them the money that he gave you back. If nothing fishy is going on and you get to keep the money, then there's no problem. If something fishy IS going on, you're covering your own back and drawing attention to the rotting fish.

It sounds to me like he's setting you up to be the fall guy. Whose float was it that you were working on? If it was yours, I'd be doubly worried. That money that's gone missing has your name on it.
posted by Solomon at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

I assume that this manager is not the owner? Talk to the owner about what happened.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

And if there are multiple owners, or owner-managers, see if you can get multiple in one place at the same time.
posted by straw at 4:57 PM on June 5, 2015

I waited tables in a hotel restaurant where the other servers had a scam going. The guests rec'd vouchers for a free cold breakfast. If the guest wanted to upgrade to a hot cooked to order breakfast, they paid the difference of $3.00. Very little was rung up, the servers kept most of the upgrade cash. They were pros at it, walked around with aprons stuffed with money from the upgrades. It made me uncomfortable too.

You could tell this 'boss' person that you were tired and have thought it over and you feel you shouldn't have accepted that money, and ask what he wants it rung into the register as? Then ring in whatever you can to get as close to the money you accepted, in front of him. Say it's been bothering you a lot. Best to do this when it's just the two of you abviously.

Another option is telling someone above him, but he might try to blame you, you're new and it could turn into a mess. I wouldn't tell upper mgmt. as a brand new employee. Watch how the dynamics are for a while to determine who the right person to talk to about this is, then tell that person. It may take a month or so but you'll figure out who needs to know. It stinks being new and learning coworkers are dishonest/stealing.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nothing positive will ever come from bringing something like this up. Either it's normal, and you'll get your nail hammered down for bringing it up, or it isn't, and you are now the fall guy while anyone else doing it circles the wagons(or that guy has a GREAT story that makes him completely skate). Doubly true if you're new.

This kind of stuff happens freaking everywhere in service jobs.

The main reason i wouldn't bring this up though, is that they were ringing(or not) stuff on your till. That's hugely bullshit. Either it's defacto a shared till from the beginning, or it's YOUR till. If they took more than they were putting in "off the books" it would be on you, and you'd be on shaky ground to prove they did it and be doing it vs someone whose been there longer and is higher up than you.

Try and avoid other people, including managers, using your till in general and especially unless you know them very well. But i'd never report something like this on my till unless i was asked about it, and give that exact reasoning if pushed.

I've seen this sort of thing go very "snitches get stitches" before though, where the messenger just gets shot. Who knows who this guy is friends with? Who knows if they'd believe you, or believe you over him? It's a crapshoot.

I don't think there was any integrity test here, it's more of a "i made you complicit in my stealing, so you can't do shit, ok?"
posted by emptythought at 6:27 PM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

You need the job? SAY NOTHING.

Never ever ever ever ever accept money from this person again. EVER.

"Thanks, I'll wait for my paycheck."

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
posted by jbenben at 6:40 PM on June 5, 2015 [9 favorites]

Be worried about the future implications more than the implications for this particular job. Skimming is a crime which businesses take very seriously and while I doubt you could be charged for the amounts in question, your manager has made you party to his crime. Even "just" being fired for this kind of cause could hurt you in the future.

I would be very careful what you do now. If you give the money back to the manager, he may be worried that you will make a complaint to HR and decide to preempt you by doing so himself and placing the blame on you. He'll be aware of the potential seriousness.

If it is a large company, look to see if they have a whistleblower policy. For companies who have it, it's usually the one part of the HR policy toolkit which actually has teeth. If there is a line to audit for these sorts of matters, I would consider using it.

"Hi Mrs. Jones-- I was a little uncomfortable with something which happened the other night. It was super busy and Mr. Brown gave me a tip out of the takings for the evening. I was really happy with that! But since it got too busy later in the evening for Mr. Brown to ring up all the transactions, I'm wondering if he realised it would be hard to account for correctly and I wonder if I should give it back. He acted like this was totally normal, so maybe I'm worrying for nothing. What do you think?"

If it is a very small company, you may just want to consider leaving it out and looking for a new job. Sorry to say it. It really sucks that he put you in this kind of situation.
posted by frumiousb at 6:43 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

You don't have to quit. You have first-timer's deniability.

Just don't do it again.
posted by jbenben at 7:20 PM on June 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

Two things: Do you want/need this job? Do you have a sense of morality the type where you need to work in a place where management is honest? Now – would your answer to the second question outweigh your answer to the first?

If both, or if your need to work with management you can trust is high, report this. It is illegal.

My very first service job was with a gift shop in a National Park. They had strict rules to follow, which happen to be the same everywhere, but as national parks are under federal law, they're careful to uphold that to the letter. All that to explain why I got a very clear legal briefing on cashiering before I even opened a till. IANAL, and it's been 20 years, but you can check in to this sort of thing yourself as well.

As you can see right there in that NYT article from 1993, your boss already broke one law. Customers are supposed to be able to see what they're paying in the register display, and get a receipt for it. Your boss, even if they took the true cost from customers, essentially stole from them. The customers did not knowingly give you tips. They were paying for something.

In giving you part of the money, as others have said, your boss is making you an accomplice.

Second. Cash registers, as you explained yourself but may not fully realize, are either assigned to one person who has sole usage of them during a shift, or, if shared, each person has a code to use them. Those who do not have a code, are not allowed to use the register.

Third. If you count out your till, you are also supposed to count it in. You don't mention whether you counted in. When you count in + count out, that = legal responsibility for the content of your till; it is a written trace that you accepted that responsibility.

To get back to reporting this. If you do, and in your shoes I would, go directly to the owner, not anyone else. Explain what happened, explain that you didn't get training on the legal aspects of running a till (the owner may not be aware of that), that boss was using it without a code.

If boss TRULY doesn't have a code, there's a high chance upper management is already aware they're shady, btw.

If you don't report it, and this is indeed the case, you'll be considered just as shady. We all knew who was stealing from tills at my first job, and in all cases, it was just a matter of time for management to rack up enough evidence to fire them. Not all jobs/upper managers are like that, though.

If you do report it, yes, you do risk blowback. It happened to me in my second cashiering job, but I did not care, because that showed me it was a place I did not want to work. In my case, we could log in to our tills, but not log out. After my shift, the next person didn't log in, which left me logged in. "My" till rang up about a hundred dollars short. I was saved by two elements: the till had timed logs that ran to several hours after I had signed off work, and while I had counted in "my" till, we never counted out our tills; a manager did that. When the manager who counted out refused to listen to me, and wrote me up for a short till, I notified them I could go straight to the owners. They scoffed and dared me to. I realized I was going to get blowback with that response, but went to the owners anyway. While they supported me, the rest was something of a long story, as most stories of blowback are. I ended up quitting and did not find a job elsewhere right away, but I was happier.

Don't discount the future effects too. Your conscience will remember. It's been 19 years since I reported that cashiering case and I'm still glad I did, even though quitting put me in financial difficulty. We all have different levels of tolerance for that sort of thing, which is cool; just be aware of yours and honor it, for your own sake.
posted by fraula at 11:55 PM on June 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

I would turn in the money and tell the owner what's going on. Ask for anonymity. If they are rational people, they will be grateful. However, in the world or retail/services there's a lot of irrational people and draconian policies so there is a possibility you might get fired, but I think it's better to risk getting fired now rather than risk getting fired and possibly arrested later.

You're new enough that if you do get fired you could always just pretend this job never happened when you go to apply for another.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:57 AM on June 6, 2015

MeMail sent, but it boils down to this: if you have your own bank, put the money in an envelope and let whoever audits banks decide whether or not to remove it.

If you don't have your own bank, drop the overage after your next shift without explanation.
posted by builderofscience at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2015

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