Saturday, March 8, 2014

Those Who Steal...

   I'm feeling rather relieved at this moment, having just learned that my cash drawer (till) is not unbalanced. Is my till usually unbalanced? I hope not; if it is, no one is telling me, but I don't think so. That would typically be something that your boss would come and talk to you about, especially when taking money is one of the main duties of your job.
  So why was I worried? Well, I was hit up by a short-change artist. A short-change artist, for those of you who do not know, is someone who comes along, buys something from a cashier, and then attempts to really confuse them and distract them, in order to get more money back. While I cannot remember exactly the entire conversation, I am going to recreate the conversation that we had, and while you read this, I want you to also keep in mind the speed of the conversation; while you can read this at whatever pace you want, this entire conversation took less than five minutes.
   The short-change artist had just bought a travel size foot powder, that cost less than a dollar, and had paid with a fifty. I was counting out her change when she said, "Can I have one of those dollars in quarters?"
   "Sure," I replied, and took back a dollar, putting four quarters on the stack of change (I lay the change out on the counter as I count, so that the customer can watch.)
   "What are you doing? I'll give you a dollar in a minute, one thing at a time, one thing at a time," the customer said, so confused, but going with the flow, I took back the quarters and put the dollar bill back. She picks up the money, looks at it, and in a shocked voice, says, "What did I give you? A fifty?"
   "Yes ma'am, you gave me a fifty."
   "Oh no, take this back, I need that fifty, I think I had a phone number on it."
   So I take the change back, and get out a fifty. "There isn't a phone number on this bill." I say as I hand the bill to her. "That's fine, that's fine, I want to give you another fifty and get a hundred from you."
  "I need another dollar, this is just $49," I say, because she just gave me back the change bills (two twenties, a five, and four ones), and I had given her the fifty.
   "Sure, sure," she says and gives me another dollar, and then gives me the fifty dollar bill that I had just handed her, "And I am going to give you this as well, so that I can get a hundred dollar bill."
   "Wait," I say, "that's not right..."
   "Yeah it is, I gave you that fifty, and now I am giving you this fifty, and I want a single bill back."
   "But this fifty is the one I exchanged for you."
   "No, that fifty is in your drawer, remember, I wrote a number on it. This fifty is different, it doesn't have a number; I wouldn't lie to you."
   "But you have to give me two fifties to get a hundred back," I say handing her back the fifty, and keeping the fifty dollars worth of change in my hand.
  "No, I gave you that fifty in change that you are holding. This fifty makes one hundred." And she puts the bill on the counter and pushes it towards me.
  "Nooooo," I say slowly, because I am starting to get confused, this conversation is happening really fast, and I also have other customers in line calling out things like, "Just give her the money already!" So I am confused, but I hold on to the fifty in change, and push the single bill back to her.
   "No, you used a fifty to pay for your foot powder, and then wanted it back, so we exchanged, you didn't give me a fifty."
  "No, look," the lady says, and points to my till, which was still open (foolishly), "You have a fifty in your till. That's the one I gave you for the powder."
  "Noooo," I draw out again, because I am trying to think. "You used this to pay for your powder." And I kinda wave the fifty in change that I am holding.
   She takes out another dollar, lays it on the counter and says, "Look, this can be for the powder. Now take that fifty you're holding that I gave you, and take this fifty, and give me a hundred. I have given you two fifties."
 At this point, I say what I should have said in the first place, "Hold on, I need to call a Lead." And after I say this, the woman takes the fifty she was trying to hand me, says never mind, and walks out of the door. I tell the lead clerk (shift supervisor type position) what happened, and she takes the receipt, which I still have, to give to the manager. Because our store has security, they are able to watch the whole exchange on the cameras, and having the receipt makes this easier, because the receipt is time-stamped, so they know exactly when to look. But there was so much money pushed back-and-forth between us that security can't tell if she got extra money or not, which is a very, very nerve wracking thing to hear. When you are a cashier, and you hear that, you think, "Holy. Shit." And then you worry, because you know you made mistakes. I kept my drawer open the entire time, when I should have slammed the thing shut. Also, we were passing bills back and forth, and all in just a short period of time; during certain points of this bill passing, I was distracted by other customers who thought I should have just giving her the hundred, and were being vocal about it. Also, I should have called the Lead as soon as this started. I am not a newbie, all of these things are things that I know, so I was kicking myself for not following procedures that are designed to prevent this type of problem. I was fairly sure that I had not given her extra money, but there was a smaller part of me that was completely sure that I did, or else I kept HER money, which is something that I equally don't want to do.
   This woman knew what she was doing. 'One thing at a time' is a saying we have when we are dealing with issues like this. We do one thing at a time, fulfill one request at a time, so that we don't get mixed up and confused. It's a method taught to us in training, and her saying that at the beginning of the transaction was a way of throwing me off guard; short-change artists get you to give them extra money often by overloading you with requests so that you mess us and can't remember what you were doing, which makes it easier for them to get extra money  off of you, so with this woman saying 'one thing at a time' it seemed like she was trying to help me out. Then the supposed number on the bill was a distraction, something that would get stuck in my head so that later, she could bring it up and hopefully get me to say, "Oh yeah, there was a number." Because this was not a slow, careful conversation, this was rushed and hectic, and if that number rang a bell to me, I might have gone with it and been like, oh yeah, you did give me that, even though she didn't. In fact, one of the saving graces was that while the bill I handed back to her did not have a number, it did have a star drawn on it, and so when  I saw that same star on the bill when she tried to give it back, I remembered that this was the fifty we had traded for, and that we were even. If she had given me that fifty, and I had given her the hundred like she wanted, my till would have been fifty dollars short. But, in spite of my recognition of the bill that she was trying to hand me back, I was still a little nervous about what had happened. Honestly, this is a condensed version of the conversation, as I said, I can remember the gist, and some of the key points, but I can't entirely recall word for word, and we went back and forth a little more than I felt like typing, but all of that back and forth really confused me, which was the point after all. She wanted me confused, but I had a death grip on that fifty in change; I wasn't giving that up.
   So how did we find out that I hadn't given her extra change? Well, I had to wait for the till to be counted down, and that is how we found out I did not give her money that I shouldn't have, nor did I take money that I shouldn't have, because my till balanced out. Can you say relief? Huge relief. I deserve a cookie and a pat on the head.
      ((**NOTE** Later that same day, I found that the same lady had tried this with two other cashiers, but they followed procedures, and she didn't get anywhere with them. I was the only one, unfortunately for my nerves, yet fortunately for the store, that she had managed to get that far with. She was easily described and recognized, because she was walking around with a half-smoked, crumpled cigarette hanging out of her mouth.))

No comments:

Post a Comment