Pinching from the till

I would be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every person that blamed discrepancies between the cash takings and the till tape on ‘over-rings’ (charging more on the till than the actual value of the sale).

If an over-ring occurs always get a senior to sign it off, immediately on the spot. If staff know you are managing the till (which is a nice way of saying you are watching them like a hawk!) then they will think twice about putting their sticky fingers in the cash register.

Here are some of the more common ways staff fiddle the till:

– Giving incorrect change. For example, being handed a $10 note but giving change to their partner in crime for a $20 note.

– Ringing off a sale as a ‘mistake’ or an over-ring or a credit. The mistake conveniently ends up in their pocket.

– Only ringing up 4 drinks instead of the 5 or 6 ordered. I recall a classic case where a barman was not all that flash with numbers so every time he fiddled the till he would write the amount in a notebook. Nobody noticed his scribbling, nor the notebook which he hid under the bar cleaning cloth! No-one suspected anything was amiss until the sums involved became so large that questions were raised. Fortunately the offending was captured on the surveillance camera, which together with the notebook(!), provided all the evidence that was required. Game over. Conviction secured. Reparation received.

Others have more imaginative ways of ‘accounting’ for their ill-gotten gains. It goes a little like this.

They keep a running total in their head until they reach $5 or $10. They then take an object of their choice (including pens, straws, cocktail sticks and tooth picks!) and place it in a glass. At the end of their day’s work they count the number of items in the jar to work out how much the till ‘owes them’.

I have also seen staff drop money on the floor and put it straight into their handbags or slip it into their bar apron or pocket.

There are lots of other more sophisticated ways staff fiddle the till but these seem to be the ones thieves learn when they attend the ‘Introduction to pinching from the till’ course.

There are some of the very basic things I suggest when putting till security procedures in place. I will address those in a future column.

Joanne Newman is New Zealand’s leading authority on club accounting and forensic auditing. She is the managing director of Club Accounting & Investigations Ltd and Smart Business Centre (Tauranga) Ltd.

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