October 4, 2012 |

To Catch An Employee Thief

By Dave Ostrander

I’ll never forget the night it happened. It was dinnertime on a Friday night. My best-ever crew was getting ready for the rush and I had all of my aces in their places. I realized that I had forgotten to restock the petty cash box with small bills and change. No problem, the bank drive-thru doesn’t close for 15 minutes. I scooped up the big bills and trotted to my vehicle. It wouldn’t start. I had left the lights on and the battery was dead. I went back into my kitchen and asked my delivery supervisor to borrow his car so I could make the bank run. Bill tossed me his keys and I squeezed my rather large bucket into the bucket seat of his screaming Camaro. I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare and then I spotted something very disturbing. Between the roof and the sun visor were six of my guest check books. I pulled over and started thumbing through them. 

These were the old fashioned, 50-to-the-book, carbonless green guest check books. These books were numerically numbered and had absolutely no business being anywhere but in the store, next to the phones, or in the case in the office. As I perused the guest checks I recognized many orders that I personally made. What the heck was Bill doing with them in his car? This guy would never steal from me, I reasoned. Heck, I was in his wedding party! He had worked his way up from driver to supervisor in five years. He was well paid and a trusted confidant.

Doing quick math I concluded that the 300 unaccounted-for orders were on average worth roughly $20 each. That was over six thousand dollars!

I left the guest checks as I discovered them and started to really keep an eye on Bill. During busy times my drivers took phone orders. Bill was very good at it. When it suited him he would take out “his” guest check book from his back pocket and write the order. He then made sure he took the delivery and kept all of the money — and we had no record of the sale. He had both the original and the copy in his pocket. 

I was hurt, shocked and in denial. How dare anyone rip me off! I’d work with any employee to help them get over a financial bump in the road. I fired Bill shortly after that. Within a few weeks I purchased my first ever computerized Point of Sale System that I thought I could never afford. Almost overnight my store started making serious profit. Go figure.