John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Weird work situation

Interesting, albeit nerve-wracking, day at work yesterday.

One of the duties of a Books-A-Million manager -- possibly the most important duty, from the corporate perspective -- is depositing each day's receipts in the bank. It's a three stage process: preparing the deposit, which includes counting the money, sealing it in a deposit bag, and recording information about the deposit in the deposit log; dropping the deposit, either in person or via the night depository; and verifying the deposit by comparing the deposit slip from the slip from the bank to the information in the deposit log. Deposits are prepared twice a day, at the end of the day shift and after the store closes. The "day" deposit is supposed to be taken to the bank that same day; the night deposit, the following morning. In practice, this doesn't always happen; sometimes we take both over at the end of the day, or both in the morning. A lot of it depends on who the manager-on-duty is, and what time the day deposit is prepared.

A few weeks ago when I was verifying several days worth of deposits, I noticed a pair of deposits that were processed by the bank almost a full week after being prepared. I brought it to the attention of the AGM, who noted that both deposits had been prepared by the same manager, RS, and that the date they were processed just happened to be one day after a payday. Hm.

Yesterday, I was again verifying deposits, and when I got to the bottom of the stack I saw that there was one deposit from earlier in the week for which I did not have a deposit slip from the bank. That's not necessarily suspicious in and of itself -- we've been known to lose track of bank slips in the past -- but given the incident from a few weeks prior, I thought it needed to be checked out. I went back to the bank and got a printed statement of all our transactions over the last month. When I checked it against the deposit log, it wa s clear that the deposit in question -- a day deposit, totalling about $440 in cash -- had never been made at all. So again, I took it to the AGM.

The manager who prepared the missing deposit, JG, had the day off, so the AGM called him and asked him what he knew about it. He said that he had prepared the deposit after the opening manager (me, as it happened) had gone home. According to policy, deposits have to be taken to the bank by two people, one of whom must be a manager, but since he was the only manager on duty, he left it in the safe, which for him is standard operating procedure. (If I close, I'll take the day deposit over to the bank after we close, but he doesn't feel comfortable doing that, and from a loss prevention standpoint, his method is probably preferable.)

The AGM then called RS, who had opened the following day. He said he had made only one deposit that day, and that he had gone into the bank to do so, since he also needed a change order. (The associate who accompanied him that morning verified that they had gone into the bank.) After that conversation, she took everything out of the safe to make sure it hadn't been overlooked somehow, and I went back to the bank and asked the branch manager to see if the deposit had gotten overlooked or stuck in the chute of the night depository. She also checked their depository log, to see if a deposit in that amount had been pulled out of the depository but accidentally credited to a different account. It hadn't, which supported JG's version of events (i.e., that he had not taken the deposit to the bank). What evidence we had suggested that RS had taken the money, probably intending to replace it at the next payday.

It was at this point the AGM and I started agonizing over what to do next. Policy dictated that at the very least we should call the District Manager to report the shortage. On the other hand, we didn't want to get RS in trouble. My nice-guy instincts said we should wait one day before calling the DM, to give RS an opportunity to replace the money now that he knew he was under suspicion. But the AGM pointed out that if someone at the home office noticed the account imbalance and it came out that we had known about it and not reported it, we would also be in a lot of trouble. So we called the DM, who showed up at the store a couple hours later to talk with me and the AGM about our deposit procedures and what we'd done before calling her, and to wait around to have a similar converation with RS, who was scheduled to close. And I susect she was back at the store today to talk to JG.

Let me tell you, this is not a comfortable situation to be in. I know that I'm blameless in this affair, since I was off duty when the money went missing. (And even if they suspect someone of entering the store after hours, I'm still in the clear, because I didn't have a key to the store at the time. (We have four managers but only three sets of keys. The AGM had forgotten to leave her keys behind when she left town for a long weekend, so before I left the store on Friday I gave my keys to JG.) But I like RS, and it's weird knowing that he might end up getting fired because I happened to notice a suspicious pattern of events. Of course, he might not get fired -- the evidence against him is circumstantial -- but he's almost certain to be disciplined in some way, and I don't want him feeling resentful toward me because of that.

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