Should I report an employee possibly stealing from the till?
June 2, 2006 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I noticed something strange on my fast food receipt. I wasn't scammed, but it looks like the cashier may be doing it to her employer. Should I call the manager and report it, or is this perhaps a mistake?

This afternoon I ate fastfood as I am loathe to do, but I caved in to the "It's fast and I have no time" excuse. When I got home, I checked over my reciepts thouroughly as I have gotten in the habit of doing. I noticed something strange. I paid via credit card, so I have two reciepts.

One is the normal register reciept pictured here, and the other is the credit card reciept pictured here. (pictures edited to protect the innocent and maybe not-so-innocent)

I was charged the correct amount on both, however something is definately fishy. The register reciept says I paid $10.00 cash. Is the cashier putting in credit card orders as cash and pocketing the change? Is this a mistake, or something else? Should I call up the manager and let him know, or should I not get involved? Ethically, I feel compelled to report it...but is it worth what may be hassle for me? My paranoid nature pictures me having to testify or something. This isn't likely to happen though, is it?
posted by crypticgeek to Law & Government (23 answers total)
You could call and ask the manager to clarify your confusing receipts. That will be non-accusational but still bring it to their attention.
posted by aubilenon at 5:42 PM on June 2, 2006

I don't see how that won't get caught when they count down the drawer at the end of her shift and she has $5.66 too little in cash and $5.66 too much in VISA receipts.
posted by oaf at 5:43 PM on June 2, 2006

depending on the business, this could just be the easiest way to get the cash register open and put the receipt away. when I worked in a video store it didn't really matter what the computer said. It's easier to just push the $10 button than it is to go through the visa process.

That said, most places aren't that relaxed. If they're stricter with it, then this would be a problem at the end of the night when they tried to balance the register.

If the cashier is stealing money, however, there would be no need to do it like this. You can just take money from the till. There's no need to trick the computer. Taking your non-existent change will result in a $5 deficit at the end of the night, as will just swiping a $5 note.

I wouldn't talk to the manager.
posted by twirlypen at 5:44 PM on June 2, 2006

You can always call and ask to speak to the owner and tell them anonymously over the phone. You do have something that isn't obviously explainable. I've worked in places where the manager was dishonest as well, so try to find out if you really have the right person on the phone.
posted by about_time at 5:45 PM on June 2, 2006

I agree with twirlypen.

When I worked for a fairly lax video store in high school, we would make an effort to correctly enter the transaction as cash, debit or credit. If we messed up though, it didn't really matter. When we cashed out at the end of our shift, as long as your grand total was correct, you were fine. The different payment categories just made it easier to sort out a mistake if you discovered you were off.

There are far better ways to steal from a crappy job than taking cash from the till. You take food, drinks, free movie rental coupons, hook friends up with free rentals, etc.
posted by utsutsu at 5:48 PM on June 2, 2006

If she didn't run the credit card for $10, but pocketed the four bucks and change, her till would come up short at the end of her shift. This wouldn't be an an effective way for a cashier to steal money from the till, unless the cashier is exceedingly stupid. More likely, since the credit card is not processed directly by the till, but by an external unit, it's probably just quick and easy to hit the Cash button on the till. As long as the numbers add up at the end of the shift, nobody should care.

Or there may be something weird going on, so by all means call the manager. I'm just saying it's probably laziness and not theft.

(I managed fast food for several years before I found a real career)
posted by Lokheed at 5:48 PM on June 2, 2006

I suspect that the cash register isn't set up to directly enter payment via a credit card. Isn't the credit card device a recent add-on to the cash registers at fast food joints? I know they are at a local McDonald's.

So your credit card is charged on one machine resulting in one receipt and the store than enters that amount as a cash payment on the cash register resulting in a second receipt.

I doubt the clerk is scamming anybody.
posted by bim at 5:50 PM on June 2, 2006

That wouldn't really make any sense, because at the end of the day the register would think there is a lot more money in the drawer than there actually is.

If the cashier told the computer she got 10.00, but only got 5.66, then from the drawer's perspective it is 4.34 short. Stealing money at this point would just make the drawer go even more short.

If a cashier wanted to steal money, they'd have to either take more money from you than the actual price of the transaction (which you say is not true because the CC transaction and the receipt price match) and pocket the difference, or charge you the correct price, but somehow lower the price of the transaction (say by not ringing something up) and pocket the difference.

Maybe the drawer only opens when you enter a transaction, and she just hit an auto $10.00 button to save time and quickly open it?

If you're really curious, you can call the manager and ask.
posted by spatula at 5:52 PM on June 2, 2006

When I worked in retail two of my co-workers had a huge argument over something similar to this. One girl was figuring out change in her head instead of having the register do it. Someone else noticed this and asserted that by accepting a bigger bill and giving out change without telling the register, she was messing up the system and causing the drawer to come out short at the end of the day. I tried to intervene with a calculator to show that accepting a $20 for a $5 purchase and giving out $15 change is exactly the same as accepting a $5 for that $5 purchase. She refused to believe in the power of subtraction.

If a clerk wants to steal money from the till, they would ring up the purchase, tell you the total, then hit "no sale" and stash the money in the drawer and sneak it out later. That way the register's total matches what's in the drawer. This is why many places require the cashier to give you a receipt, and promise a reward if you don't get a receipt and report the transgression to the manager. Most modern cash-register systems track info like the number of "no sale" and canceled transactions in order to catch sneaky theives. Other sneaky techniques involve returning stuff you didn't buy and then keeping the refund.

In short-- the fast food clerk may be messing up the store's accounting in a small way (say, if the machine calculates visa totals and those don't match the visa machine's numbers), but if she's using this technique to pocket cash from the till, her till will be short cash at the end of the night and she will likely be caught. I wouldn't bother phoning a manager about this.
posted by bonheur at 5:54 PM on June 2, 2006

You're right, spatula. I was brain dead when I posted that. It happens. :)
posted by bim at 6:14 PM on June 2, 2006

Narcing might just get the employee in trouble for something that everyone does. In fact, at stupid retail joints, sometimes you will have two managers and each manager will give you different instructions on how to do something. I was required to take short-cuts sometimes (with the permission of the on-floor assistant manager) that I really wouldn't have wanted to have dragged back to light by a do-gooder customer.

This is either a short-cut or a typo. If you do a simple typo like this, it's always easier to fix it at the end of your shift than leave the customer sitting there, waiting for their receipt, while you grab the manager to go through the bazillion step undo process. Ugh.

The till will either be balanced or not at the end of the shift. Plus, there are probably cameras pointed right at the employees for this purpose. If it was this easy to steal from the till, then there'd be a lot of rich fast food workers.
posted by Skwirl at 6:25 PM on June 2, 2006

Heh. When I say "something that everyone does," I mean, "something benign that everyone does." Heh.
posted by Skwirl at 6:26 PM on June 2, 2006

Adding to the chorus, I've worked a number of counter jobs in which a receipt might easily show that one type of payment was made when the payment was actually made with another. Registers and their accompanying systems are often not set up in the most efficient way, and the smarter clerks learn to tweak the system by doing things like hitting the 'cash' button just to get the register to open.

It's also possible that the clerk made a mistake, and at the end of the night, had to write a little note explaining that $10 listed as 'cash' can actually be found under 'credit card purchases.'

Chances are very good that if you call the manager, he/she will just be annoyed, exasperated at having to explain, or possibly suspicious as to why you care so much about the workings of their financial machinery. Worst case (but not unlikely) scenario, the manager won't even understand what you're saying, and will simply file the call under the category of 'customer complained of suspicious behavior on the part of X cashier.' You should really just drop it.
posted by bingo at 6:31 PM on June 2, 2006

If their accounting practices can't pick up someone scamming the register, or their managerial skills can't see one pulling a fast one in person, then you making a call won't really make a difference in the long run. It's not worth your trouble.
posted by cellphone at 6:47 PM on June 2, 2006

If the cashier told the computer she got 10.00, but only got 5.66, then from the drawer's perspective it is 4.34 short. Stealing money at this point would just make the drawer go even more short.

Woah, no! This is wrong. The bill was $5.66 not $10. If the cashier told the computer she got $10, then the computer told her to give back $4.34! The amount in the till would only go up by $5.66.

By the drawer's perspective it will be $5.66 in cash short, but on reconciliation they'll be $5.66 over in credit card. There's no way this is a scam.
posted by bonaldi at 6:47 PM on June 2, 2006

(Although your point is of course completely right, in that if she took the $4.34 change the drawer would be short by that much)
posted by bonaldi at 6:49 PM on June 2, 2006

Should you stick your nose in the restaurant's business, if you weren't the one ripped off. Let's say you were at work, and a friend telephoned, and a customer overheard you talking about your evening plans. Your stealing your employer's pay, you know....

What would you think if the customer tattled on you to your boss? I suspect you'd think "What a jerk!" After all, you're getting your work done to your boss's satisfaction.
posted by mediaddict at 7:03 PM on June 2, 2006

I did this evey day back in the day. We didn't keep track of cash and credit cards separtetly. And the end of the shift we added the cash in the till with the credit card total and made sure that added up with register's total sale.

I had a habit of saying customers gave me $10,000 bills (instead of lets say $10) until one smart ass demanded his $9,983 in change.
posted by sideshow at 7:04 PM on June 2, 2006

My friend says that when she worked in retail, she used to "overlook" ringing an item or two into the till, but still put the cash in. In the course of a day, you're bound to make an innocent mistake. However, if you're under, the boss gets on your case. If you're over, no one cares. This was her way of getting the over/under odds in her favor, without ripping anyone off.
posted by mediaddict at 7:12 PM on June 2, 2006

bonheur, I think we must have worked at the same store. Or maybe the retail world just has the same issues universally. I had the same discussion with co-workers about it not mattering whether you put in the correct dollar amount as long as you gave back the correct change, and the same issues with fake returns for cash. Althought there was one dim bulb at our sister store who started doing fake returns to her own debit card. Loss prevention at the home office caught on quick, and just let her keep doing it until she reached $1000 bucks, then arrested her ass.
posted by kimdog at 7:55 PM on June 2, 2006

If you're getting a receipt, she can't be scamming the owner, because the shortfall will be noticed.

It's when they don't ring up the purchase on the register and offer you a discount that they're scamming the owner. That's why so many stores offer rewards if you don't get a receipt: the reward is bigger than the discount the employee can offer, so the employee can't trust the customer not to turn them in.
posted by commander_cool at 2:38 PM on June 3, 2006

I bought a burger on credit yesterday. They had a credit card machine at one till, but not at the one I was at. The employee ran my credit card at that other till, took $10 from her till and put it in the one with the credit card machine, and put the credit card receipt and the change from the $10 into her own till. (I think I have that straight, I wasn't watching very closely.) It sounds like something like this may have happened, where they rang the order into one till and then had to use another till to actually process the order amount.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:32 PM on June 3, 2006

I tried to intervene with a calculator to show that accepting a $20 for a $5 purchase and giving out $15 change is exactly the same as accepting a $5 for that $5 purchase. She refused to believe in the power of subtraction.

Unhelpful post, but that cracked me up bigtime.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:41 PM on June 3, 2006

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