Is This A Sneaky Method To Catch A Thief?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about catching theft:

Is it possible, if a company thinks someone is stealing money, they might purposely short a drawer for the day, so the cashier would find it and they could see what the cashier would do? If it was intentionally shorted by management, and the person finding the shortage was worried and replaced the money (thinking he or she made a mistake) would it be considered stealing because they concealed that there was a shortage?

Signed, Wondering and Worried

Dear Wondering and Worried:

I rewrote your question somewhat to reflect what I think was your essential concern. If I was in error, let me know and I’ll respond again.We are not a legal site, we are a workplace communication site, so we can’t provide legal advice. However, we can provide logical thoughts about a situation such as you mention. It wouldn’t prove anything to intentionally short a cash drawer to try to catch a thief. If the manager took money out and the thief took more out, what purpose would be served? The better way would be to know that the correct amount is in the drawer when the employee first had access to it, then check it again later. If an innocent employee found money missing and, out of fear, replaced it, the only thing they would have done wrong would be to fail to report it, if that is a rule. But, since management knows no money was actually missing, it couldn’t be considered stealing. If anything, it would show the employee was very honest, although not very confident about how the work was done. The more likely reason to short a cash drawer, knowing an innocent but nervous person is working it, would be in the hopes that the employee would replace the money. Thus, the person shorting it gets to keep the money he or she took out and the innocent person would replace it but not say anything. An even more unethical and dishonest thing is to take the money out, let the employee realize it is missing and threaten them with dismissal if they don’t replace it. A worried employee might do it, unless there was a way to prove they hadn’t taken the money.This could be done by a manager, but it could also be done by a co-worker who then sympathizes with the employee but convinces him or her to “replace” the money to keep from getting fired.Since I’m exploring all possibilities, it is also possible for a cashier who has spent more personal money than he or she can justify, to tell a spouse or partner that cash box money was missing and he or she “had” to make it up for fear of losing his or her job.

Thus, the spouse would understand why the money was gone out of the checking account and put the blame on the company or a thief at work, rather than on the spouse who spent it. (This would probably only work once, but that may be all it needs to work!) I don’t know what your situation is or if you are writing for someone else, but the bottom line is this: Shorting a cash drawer to catch someone wouldn’t be useful. And, if an employee has a short cash drawer his or her best response is to work with the boss to find out the error.The employee may have to make up the loss if there was an error that can be proven to be his or her fault, but there is no point in doing that until the mistake has been found.I hope this is helpful and that whatever the situation is, it works out OK for those involved.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.