Customer Catches Cashier Stealing From Company, Wonders What To Do

In a timely coincidence to the New York Times’ story on employee theft, the following story arrived in our tipline about a day ago. The tipster wants to know who he should report this to: the store or the police?

I went to the local sporting goods store, and was checked out by James* [*name changed]. I had about $140 worth of stuff, and he asked if I had cash, rather than credit card. I said no, and he said “if you had cash, you could walk out of here with all this for $100.”

I said no again, and proceeded with the sale. He then proceeded to tell me that they call him “the hook up man,” and that any time I came in, I should bring cash.

I’ve worked retail. I know what he’s doing. He takes the cash, then hands the goods to the customer without checking them out. The customer gets a huge discount, James* gets a huge bonus to his hourly wage.

Right before I was rung up, there was another woman behind the counter with him helping another customer. The woman from behind the counter walked away before James’s offer of a discount. When I called back and asked to speak to the Store Manager I was told he wasn’t in, and that he might be in tomorrow. I was afraid to tell the person on the phone, thinking they might be doing the same thing.

Question: Do I wait until tomorrow to report to the Store Manager, call back and report it to the lower-level manager, or call the police?

Since the sporting goods store is part of a national chain, I’d call and ask for information for a district manager, and report it at that level. Readers, what’s your advice?


Edit Your Comment

  1. ShruggingGalt says:

    Report to the store.

    Right now, no crime has been committed. The tipster “knows” what he’s doing, without proof. If I were the cashier, I’d demand to see my minority report.

    • CupcakeKarate says:

      Well I’m not sure if it’s a crime or not, but the hook-up man did offer a significant “discount” for cash. That’s probably not ok by the store. At the very least I’d report it to the lower-level manager and let them deal with it from there.

    • henrygates3 says:

      I bet if a manager did hear the accusation a light bulb would go off and he’d realize where his inventory had gone.

    • zacox says:

      There certainly was a crime committed. Offering a discount he knows he shouldn’t be giving is attempt theft, and a customer receiving such a discount while knowing or reasonably presuming he or she is not entitled is attempt at receiving stolen property.

      I would notify the loss prevention at the district level or the national level. They don’t need actual proof. They will generally set up some sort of sting operation to catch the employee in the act, or set their sights on him otherwise. Once they generate their own proof, then they can terminate or press charges.

    • ludwigk says:

      I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Depending on the criminal code of the OP’s state, attempt of a felony is an offense as well. Depending on the circumstances, the sales person could be charged with something like attempted embezzlement or false pretenses and intent to defraud.

      • sonneillon says:

        In most cases fraud needs to be a misrepresentation of the goods and I do not think this warrants embezzlement, now on the flip side it is theft and if he was doing it that day it may have been pretty substancial theft when added together. Since they probably have 31 days worth of security footage (which is common for small retail establishments) They probably have him doing this maybe 15 or 20 times.

      • ShruggingGalt says:

        Next time a merchant offers a discount for paying with cash, I guess you should turn yourself in for fraud….

        Again, mentioning a discount without giving specifics doesn’t mean a crime has been committed. The OP “thinks” he knows what is going on. Last time I checked we don’t have a Department of Future Crime in the United States.

        • ludwigk says:

          Ok, lets break this down: An almost 30% discount for using cash instead of plastic, when the merchant service fee for that transaction would be about 2.5%, for no apparent reason, offered in a surreptitious, exclusive manner with language such as “hook up man”. Seriously? *roll eyes* You border on willful ignorance on that one.

          And, we don’t have a dept. of “future crime,” but we *DO* have criminal prosecutors who understand the criminal code [of their particular jurisdiction]. Please brush up on your inchoate offenses. Solicitation? That’s a crime. Attempt? That’s a crime. Has been for hundreds of years, with or without Philip K. Dick.

  2. soulbarn says:

    Personally, I’d call the police. You don’t know if the store manager is in on it or not – that’s possible; in addition, since the cashier knows your name (via your credit card info), there’s a chance he’ll figure out that you snitched (“it must have been the guy who so adamantly refused the hook-up man yesterday.”)

    The police will then figure out what to do.

    (I’d pose an alternate question, just for comparison: who would you notify is you saw the same item of merchandise being stolen by a shoplifter? In this case, I’d say the store.)

    • wardawg says:

      I highly doubt the store manager is in on it, in fact they would probably be willing to wring necks to find out where their monthly bonus is going to.

      Most store managers of chain stores eat losses directly, as they are either chain owned and their profitability determines their bonus, or they are franchised and their profitability IS their bonus.

  3. Etoiles says:

    Based on my own years in retail? I’d take it to the district / regional manager level. If goods are leaving inventory without being accounted for in the system at any significant rate — particularly if it overlaps in any way with the employee schedule — the manager can’t be unaware. And if s/he is unaware, rather than willfully ignorant or participating, then s/he probably isn’t good enough to deal with it anyway.

    • soulbarn says:

      The problem with district manager level, IMHO, is getting to him or her. Finding the headquarters number, then the right person, navigating voice mail – pragmatically, tough on follow-through for anyone but the most patient good samaritan.

      • Etoiles says:

        True. There are some chains where using the website contact will get you rerouted through to the DM / RM. (In NYC, to my infinite surprise, Duane Reade turned out to be one such. GameStop routes feedback that way as well, or at least did when I worked for them in 2005-2006.) I’d try going that route.

    • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

      Sure the manager can be unaware. They don’t count the inventory after every shift, so when there is a discrepancy the manager has no way to know when it occurred. If finding an inventory discrepancy was as simple as looking at a number on a computer, then the district/regional manager would become aware of it just as quickly as the store manager.

      • Etoiles says:

        It depends on the store. My last retail job, the computer spit out a reconciliation sheet every other morning. (Though the retail job before it did no such thing, but then again I haven’t worked for that chain since 2001.)

        • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

          That reconciliation sheet ensures that what’s in the till matches the sales transactions that took place during the shift, and they’ll know if you were over or short right away. So James* wouldn’t make it past the first couple days if he was simply pocketing $100 out of the till, and he knows this.

          So what the OP’s story seems to indicate the “hook-up man” is trying to do instead is offer a sizeable discount on an item he doesn’t ring up. Thereby pocketing cash that
          s never been recorded into the till. I wonder what he’d have said/done if the OP had played along for a bit and asked for a receipt for his purchase though.

          • Etoiles says:

            Actually, ours was actually a “go count what’s in the back room and on the shelves and make sure it adds up to X” reconciliation sheet, but it was a physically small store and that was feasible to do during the first two hours of the day. I imagine if you’re running a big box store it’s harder, but yeah, our computer system actually did match “shipment received” to “units sold” and a discrepancy like this would have been caught within a couple of weeks.

            (When I worked for CVS in high school and college, my store’s manager actually was embezzling and performing merchandise scams like this… it took the district about 6 months to gather enough hard data to arrest and fire.)

      • sponica says:

        we only counted video game inventory once a week @ KB. a store wide inventory was only done once a year, usually after christmas

  4. Fred E. says:

    Report it to the store because in NYC the police wouldn’t bother with this unless the store reported it. The customer hasn’t seen an actual crime and has no proof. Reporting it to a district manager is smart because this guy may be friends with the store manager. The store can set up cameras or send in a customer undercover to get proof or just fire the guy.

  5. CRS says:

    Definitely report this to a DM or some other high-up person. The manager may be in on the theft as well…

    It reminds me of a gas station in my area… It was family-run and the owner’s kid was working there one day… He was offering for people to fill-up their vehicles for $20… Yeah, he got his a** chapped and the store soon went out of business…

  6. golfinggiraffe says:

    Chris has the right idea; report it to the DM. Appropriate measures will be taken from there.

  7. Crazytree says:

    I caught a food server stealing a credit card one time, and I told the manager… and the manager almost yelled at me… telling me that this particular server was a man of integrity and he would never do that.

  8. The_Red_Monkey says:

    Call the district/regional manager. The whole store may condone this.

  9. bonafidebob says:

    Hmm, this seems fishy. If you’d paid cash, would you still have gotten a receipt? If so, “James” will have a problem at the end of the day when his drawer doesn’t tally. If not, you could have a big problem when you try to walk out the door with your stuff…

    • tonberryqueen says:

      There wouldn’t have been a problem. The guy just wouldn’t ring up certain items, and pocket some extra cash. The sales and the cash in the register would still be in line; the inventory would just be off–and, since most large stores won’t do inventory any more often than every 6 months, and you expect *some* shrink, if the guy is being smart about his con–i.e., not doing this too often; sticking to small items; not doing it so much with the same items that somebody notices that the number in inventory is high, but the number on the shelves is low–then he could very well avoid being caught.

  10. KashmirKong says:

    I’m going to have to be the guy that says keep your yap shut.

    Take the discount, let the hook-up guy get his “bonus” and let the big box store write it off as shoplifted goods. Everyone wins!

  11. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    in the times i’ve had coworkers busted for theft like this in retail usually mutliple people go down with them.
    at KB toys once, when the dust cleared there were three of us not implicated – out of 20 and none of us were managers then, we got all new management.
    take it to the DM, as so many others have said

  12. Shoelace says:

    This doesn’t sound quite right to me. ‘James’ is asking total strangers to pay cash for a large discount, which pretty obviously implies employee theft and (when declined) says to find him in the future if they do want a large cash discount? That’s a lot of trust. Do patrons who choose the discount get a receipt? What if something doesn’t fit or work – is James also the repair and replacement ‘hook up man’? This story would make more sense to me if James wasn’t saying to come back and find him for a discount. That way he could more likely be a temporary holiday employee who was going to pocket as much cash as possible in a short time then disappear.

    If this report is as stated then I think OP should call his credit card company first and make sure no fraudulent charges were put on his card. Next, contact the police and explain what happened. Ask them what they recommend since James got his CC# and knows about how much he spent so the situation could be unsafe for him, especially if James reads Consumerist.

  13. lincolnparadox says:

    Employees stealing is a big pain in the ass for most chain managers. They have to review all sales and determine is any customers were affected. Then they have to deal with the police, and usually dozens of charges. If multiple employees were doing it, that means hours in court, or at least giving depositions. Then they have to deal with corporate, and their bureaucracy.

    Most store managers will sweep this under the carpet and just fire the offending employees. If you want to see “justice served,” or at least take a crook off of the street, go to the district manager AND cc the letter to corporate.

    To many people, this might seem like unnecessary snitching. But even though this criminal isn’t hurting a customer, stealing from the till is two steps away from stealing credit card information.

  14. sven.kirk says:

    I have never seen a proper retail store operating without a Store Manager. Something is very strange is in the majority of that store.
    Police really will not get involved unless an ACTUAL offense is being reported.
    Check their website and contact the District/Regional manager.

  15. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    We all have the responsibility to report illegal behavior. Since when was it called snitching and ridiculed?

    This is not a good direction for our society to go.

    I agree the district manager is the way to go. Police would be, but they aren’t likely to act unless called by the store.

    • wardawg says:

      It’s only snitching if you’re in the mob or grade school.

    • Seanumich says:

      It might be snitching if it was not a crime. Lets say a bartender says because you are a good customer today is buy one get one free for you. I have had many times a bartender has bought me drinks because I spend a lot of money there. The manager gives their bartenders discretion to keep guests happy and returning.They want to build that portion of their business and if people think they are getting the hook up, they tend to come back. Maybe check out the new Taco bell commercial.

      • PresidentBeeblebrox says:

        There’s a big difference between a bartender with a generous pour and a cashier offering to let someone walk out with $140 of electronics for $100.

  16. chiieddy says:

    He should skip the store manager in this case and ask for the district manager’s number directly. This way it can go right to loss prevention.

  17. rekoil says:

    I’ve been in exactly this situation – at a chain eatery I noticed that the cashier had applied a “manager discount” to the total amount of my order after I handed her my cash, obviously intending to pocket the difference. I contacted the headquarters office – for all I knew, the cashier *was* the store manager – and faxed the receipt on their request.

    A few days, I received a thank you note from the company with about 4-5 coupons for free lunch entrees. A week or so later, I received a call from the store manager, who told me they’d fired the cashier – they’d gone through past receipts and identified over $1000 of embezzled funds over the past few months – and told me for the next month, anything I ordered was on the house.

    Since this was a place I ate lunch at a good 2-3 times a week, this offer was definitely appreciated! And they kept my business well afterwards.

    • SnoopyFish says:

      That’s really cool!

    • vesper says:

      Good for you,,,my mom would be proud of you. LOL.

    • BytheSea says:

      $1000 over weeeks is nothing to a resturant. You got aguy canned for taking pennies outof the take a penny jar. It might have been wrong but it’s not like you broke up a big sting.

      • BBBB says:

        $1000 is what they identified. No one knows how much more they couldn’t find. Cash skimming is hard to find.

        I was helping in a friend’s restaurant after the manager was fired for embezzling. There was very little that could be proven, but a lot that didn’t make sense. [i.e. the orders for a regular customer who always paid cash were paid for with a credit card. OR too frequent occurrences of two tables’ checks being paid together – – these were found by comparing the kitchen slips with the register receipts (and some help from the cook/owner who remembered the habits of the regulars.)] Later, some suppliers started sending overdue notices for bills that were usually paid with cash on delivery.

        We suspected there was more, but hadn’t found it. Since there was no proof that would hold up in court, there was no point in spending more time on it. [Although the network of restaurant owners knew about the waiter/manager – he left the area.]

        One thing to remember if you tip off the management – don’t ever eat there again if it is possible that any of the accessories to the crime are still there and they know you are the one who stopped the extra cash flow into their pockets.

      • mythago says:

        The cashier probably had an attitude like yours. Stealing a thousand bucks is not “pennies”.

  18. Nogard13 says:

    Take the discount. I can’t be the only one here who would accept the offer. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing I’ve done.

  19. Mr. Kelly R. Flewin says:

    This is exactly what a tape recorder is for. That way if ANYONE calls you on this and says you’re full of crap, you simply say “Oh, so is this not your employee?” [press play, having a spare copy somewhere else, or sent to the police even]

    Not sure if that’s illegal though.. as I’d figure it depends on state law and other things.. but a thought none the less.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      In most states only one party needs to be aware, IE the person making the recording. Though even if it is a two-party state, that just means the recording would be inadmissible in court. The store or police could still use the information and just terminate the employee or gather more evidence to prosecute without the surreptitious recording.

  20. rwalford792 says:

    Id speak with the manager first, over the DM. If you feel that the problem wont be resolved then its time to contact higher up

  21. SaraFimm says:

    Shortly before I was in a car accident and had to leave my retail employment, there was a disruption in funds from the tills and the cash the managers held out of the safe for breaking large bills at the registers. I had never been short a large amount of money in my entire time at the registers or as a low level manager. The money was handled all wrong (I see that now) with several managers having access to the funds out of the safe. Slowly, a lot of the registers or the petty cash started coming up short by varying amounts, but never over $50. That is until I came up short one night. I spoke with the Store Manager and told her that I had NEVER had this problem without it being explained and my record proved that. She said not to worry about it and she would look into it and see if the money showed back up through the bank deposits or the other shift registers. When I next came in (after my accident) and asked if it had reconciled for my peace of mind since I no longer worked there, she told me not to worry about it and that it was taken care of. I later found out that it was the beginning of a sting to find the people who were stealing money from the store. I had briefly been a low level suspect, but when I left the store and the stealing continued, I’d automatically been eliminated. Later on, I found out a well trusted low level manager had been “checking out” his friends just like “James” from the OP’s story. The friends didn’t pay for their merchandise, other merchandise all over the store began missing/shrinking, and the deposits kept coming up short. The District Manager had to suspect everyone in the store until the surveillance and the Sting proved it had all been one person–a low level manager who had stolen in one way or another an estimated $50k over a period of about a year. And the store didn’t sell many big ticket items. Most of the merchandise was $20 or less so consider how much this person stole! DEFINITELY REPORT IT TO THE DISTRICT MANAGER.

  22. Outrun1986 says:

    I would go with the district manager on this one, if you can get the information. If not maybe just send a letter to corporate EECB style but not for that purpose obviously. Information on most corporations is readily available on the internet. If the district manager blows you off then you will know something is up and you can go straight to corporate.

  23. phaedrus says:

    DM or HQ, for sure. Taking the stuff without a receipt and knowing you haven’t paid and you’re shoplifting. If it’s the employee, you become an accomplice and prosecutable, if it’s an employee trying for the ‘catch shoplifters’ bonus (I hear some places do reward such things) you have damn no argument against his claim when they nab you going out the door.

  24. Mackinstyle says:

    I hope OP follows up with the Consumerist. I’d love to hear how exactly these things are dealt with. Or at least what the district manager will say about it.

  25. skubisnack624 says:

    I spent the better part of a decade investigating employee theft for a large national retailer. In my opinion, you should go to the district manager. If an employee is comfortable enough to solicit strangers to collude in theft, there is a good chance this is a wide-spread problem within the store. Contacting the police is pointless. You may get an ambitious officer who would alert the store manager, but your account of what happened is not proof of a crime and will not be followed up by law enforcement.

    Typically, if you were to give money and receive the “discount,” you are not in much danger of prosecution. The cashier is acting as an agent of the store when giving you a “discount.” Since you paid, you should be ok legally. In court, it would be very difficult (but not impossible) to prove your intent to steal from the store. In an isolated incident, most retailers would be more interested in prosecuting the employee since proving his crime is easier. But, just because you can get away with it, doesn’t mean you should. Besides, if you get a defective product, you have no way to return your items. Most likely, this cashier is probably voiding the transaction, so any receipt you get would be useless.

    If you are having difficulty getting the district manager’s contact information, call the store (or another within the chain) and tell them you want to make a compliment to the DM about one of the managers. This will usually encourage a reluctant employee to give up the contact info.

  26. Rachacha says:

    Report it to the store manager. Provide as many details as possible.
    The store likely has security cameras trained on every register, so they can review tapes and look for suspicious transactions. They can then involve corporate loss prevention, and set the guy up by purchasing several items, accepting the “discount” and seeing what he does with the cash. Loss prevention can then make a determination if they want to press charges and involve the police.

  27. Seanumich says:

    I would call the store manager. If the store manager is “in on it”,then the company has said they allow it. The store manager is responsible for what happens at their store. If this is something that the store manager says is ok, the employee may not be committing a crime anyway.

    • samurailynn says:

      They would still be committing a crime. All businesses have to account for their inventory, sales and revenue. If the company is writing items off at a loss because “the hook-up man” is giving people “discounts” then they are participating in fraud. Also, if the employee is walking home with cash in their pockets that isn’t being taxed, there is probably also some kind of tax fraud going on. Even if the manager of the store condones this activity, they aren’t innocent.

  28. MrEvil says:

    I would contact the Loss Prevention folks at corporate. They would probably like to know about it and even do a sting on him if he’s been doing this for a long time.

  29. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Hmm… you proceeded with the sale. If you paid with credit card, how sure are you that they didn’t get your number? Did you show id?

    I’d think twice before busting someone that could retaliate with a world of hassle for me. Shockingly, when unemployed, one would have lots of hours to contemplate screwing with the person who busted them.

    Just look at any terrible cop movie where the criminal comes back and swears revenge?

  30. elwoodxrl says:

    Post the store and the worker’s name on slickdeals or fatwallet. But is a definite YMMV.

  31. Slottsherre says:

    I work in a grocery store, and the best thing is to report to the store manager asap. It is probably one or only a few checkout workers who do this. I promise you that the store manager will take this thing seriously, if not, go higher up. This is stealing and not acceptable in any retail. And this will eventually effect you, the costumer, with higher prices in the end. So report it!

  32. dg says:

    If it’s a national chain – call the corporate HQ and ask for Loss Prevention. Tell them what happened.

    If it’s a local store – call the owner.

    I had guys ask me this when I worked Retail – hey, can I just “pay you” for this item? I always said “nope, sorry, you’ve gotta go through the registers. I can open one for you though if you give me 30 seconds to log in…” Since I was a head cashier, my register had a camera always pointed at the line and cash register so we’d catch the faces of EVERYONE at that register – we handed out the cash to the cashiers from that location so we got everyone on tape. Once I had the fraudster in that line, we had his face on DVR’d casino-grade video. I’d then report it to LPS, fill out a form, and they’d go from there…

  33. heart.shaped.rock says:

    There was a Chinese buffet restaurant in my town that had a cash register sitting on the counter, but they never used it. They would total the order ticket and add sales tax by hand. If I used a debit card, I got a receipt from the card machine, but that’s it. One time, I asked for a receipt (after paying cash), and they wrote the total on the tear-off bottom of the order ticket and handed that to me.

    Since the order tickets were their only sales proof, they could very easily not report the sales on their tax returns, and take a loss for the cost of good being so high. Plus, they were collecting sales tax from the customers, but perhaps not paying it to the state. I called the local Dept. of Revenue office and explained my concerns. The officer I spoke with was happy that I had called, and said it wasn’t an unusual situation and he’d look into it.

    I went to the restaurant again several months later, and a cash register receipt was stapled to the hand-written order ticket when it was brought to my table. Apparently they had a visit from the DOR…

  34. u1itn0w2day says:

    If you want to shop there again you should think twice about turning somebody in to anyone.

    But if this is not one local business location I would inform district or corporate management. They’ll probably wind up investigating and wind up firing someone. Didn’t we just have a story here about a Sonin Manager cooking crack after hours-that’s why you go corporate or district management.

  35. atomoverride says:

    bring cash next time.

  36. vesper says:

    The right thing to do is to report, period. Also this guy is only a small issue now, but we’re paying for scumbags like him in the bigger picture with higher insurance rates, higher prices at stores, etc. I must say he has big balls for actually telling a customer this. He must be stupid because I don’t know anyone in my life that would go for this. As for being a snitch? That is a cop out for not having the guts and character to stand up and be a man (or woman).

  37. morganlh85 says:

    It seems to me that the store is the entity that has the most immediate power to prove or disprove what is going on here…in the OP’s case, the man technically didn’t do anything wrong, so the OP doesn’t have proof of any wrongdoing. The store can review their tapes and inventory records, then turn the info over to the police if they choose when they have solid proof. The police won’t be able to do much because they have no proof, and the store would be the one deciding to press charges or not.

  38. BytheSea says:

    cops. James is probably into drugs too, and if he’s that obvious and idiotic, the manager may be in on it. James may BE the manager.

  39. imthemommy says:

    I’ve seen this done…. It’s simple…they ring it up with a discount…give you a receipt…then void the transaction after you have left and pocket the cash. It only works if cash is paid and the cashier themselves have the authority to actually void transactions. This should definitely be taken to the level of the District Manager or Regional Manager.

    Bottom line here….Cashiers should not be given the kind of authority that they are given at the register. Obviously there are many hard working honest people out there in retail, but management should be the only ones given this kind of authority.

    • tonberryqueen says:

      He doesn’t need authority to pull this scam. It would be dumb to do it with voids, anyway, as that would look suspicious when one has such a large number of voids on one’s register over time. All he needs to do is consciously not scan one or two items into the transaction, complete the rest of the sale with cash, and pocket his cut from the change.

      A large store will probably not reconcile their inventory more than every six months, so that helps the theft seem more gradual/more likely to be shoplifting. His dangers in being caught are:

      1. If a co-worker or boss sees him pulling the scam (he’s apparently being careful to avoid that)
      2. Somebody is always actively watching the store surveillance system and sees what he’s doing on that one camera (unlikely in many stores, even with loss prevention departments)
      3. A customer turns him in (he probably assumes most won’t care enough to go to the effort to do so, and he may make a conscious choice in his marks to go for people he thinks are less likely to decline)
      4. Somebody is looking for an item, notices that the inventory lists a bunch, and sees that the shelves have none (still low danger for him, as that can easily be blamed on shoplifters without anything to tie him to it)

      Really, the most likely way for someone like this to be caught is for him to be careless and have a co-worker see what he’s doing.

  40. hamburglar says:

    Actually if the manager was in on it, I think he would be more likely to make a big show of “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I’ll take care of this right away!” That would be enough to pacify most people complaining in that situation, and would probably stop them from then going to the police (or the restaurant owner or etc.).

  41. endless says:

    maybe this is why stores like to have a 2nd person check receipts….

  42. edrebber says:

    Go back to the store and snap a digital photo of the offending sales clerk and print out a copy. Mail the photo along with the letter to the manager. Use certified mail return receipt requested.