stolen tip jar

I am a manager at a pizza restaurant and I have a situation I would like some advice on. Some time ago our tip jar lock box was stolen with quite a bit of money in it. It was hidden in an inconspicuous location in our dining room behind the waitress station, but all of our employees could find it if they looked hard enough. It would be hard to believe a customer would walk behind there, find the box and then take it, so we think that would leave only employees and a few maintenance workers(carpet and beer line cleaners) as possible suspects. It was a full week between the time the person responsible for the box saw it last and noticed it was gone. We(the General Manager and I) have a strong suspicion of one of our employees. Although he is a good worker he has his issues. He has half of his paycheck taken away for child support, he is in his mid 30s(kind of old for his line of work), and kind of a manipulative character at that. He previously worked at another location of the same company. They had their tip jar stolen twice while he was there: never had anyone brought to justice. Again all we have is a strong suspicion, absolutely no hard evidence; It was a full week before anybody knew it was missing. We don’t want to outright accuse him. If we do confront him and he is innocent, we break a certain trust and respect which I believe is important. Any advice?

Terminate his employment with no reason given. Just take the hit on the unemployment. Don’t comment to anyone on reasons, especially to him or to other employees.

BTW, what is a tip box doing sitting around for weeks, let alone days? Why would you do that?

Not really sure why you have a tip jar full of tips??? Whose tips are/were they?

I would do away with that ASAP.

As for the employee, I agree with Bodgeway get rid of him. But to avoid discussing the matter with anyone.


Anyone who leaves money lying around, for what ever reason, is pretty stupid in my opinion.

Whilst this guy MIGHT have been in a previous shop where the tip jar was taken he may well have nothing to do with it. You say he is a good worker but has his issues (don’t we all) and that you have no hard evidence. If you want to sack him for being manipulative then sack him for this but I can’t see that you can honestly sack someone on a suspicion when chances are it could be any one of your workers.

If you do have to have a ‘tip jar’ then make sure it is secured, emptied or in full site of cctv.

I too am curious why it was approximately a week before it was noticed missing. In the stores i’ve been in, all of the employees guarded the tip jar like their own wallet to make sure no one took their cut or that no customers took any of it (has happened a couple of times).

It seems that we’re all in agreement the logistics of having a tip box, locked or not, where ANYone could find it is not the best of plans. My initial reaction was “I sure hope the poster and the general mgr.etc have learned a valuable lesson from this incident”. Upon further reflection it appears this hasn’t been the case since the same act was committed in another location. Did NO one learn a lesson there?

Bodega is usally direct and spot on with advice but I’m not sure I wouldn’t seek some form of legal counsel before arbitrarily deciding it was in fact your suspect. I’m no where tuned into labor law as I should be and am working to correct that but I’d want to first make double-sure I wasn’t the one ending up in hot water as this scenario play out.

Do you have any other employee that was also assigned to the other store during the time those tips were stolen? Do you use the same service providers that would have had access to each store? I’m thinking if you can not say beyond a doubt “no” to either question, you’re making a knee-jerk judgement call when assigning blame apparently soley based on the fact this guy has “issues”.

I’d say, it would be up to the owner/manager whoever to determine based on past experience, just how much money was for some reason collected in a portable lock box…and make it right. Then, by heck or high water, remove ALL access to that box by anyone NOT responsible for managment.

I think once the trust is broken with an employee and you begin to believe they have stolen from you it is a break down between them and management. That is why I think the employee should go. Regardless if he stole or not the relationship usually cannot be repaired and the trust restored.

Usually employees such as this one has other characteristics (issues) which would be reason enough to be terminated and I think the post suggest that.


In our store, tips are split (if needed) and dispensed at the end of the shift. Can’t imagine keeping a tip box for an entire week… If so, it must have been through MGT’s direction and therefore your responsibility. I might suggest that you owe some people for estimated missing tips. Simply blaming it on theft isn’t responsible or right.

As for the ‘suspect…’ so far you’ve done well, but do not let this suspicion eat away at you, its not fair to you or him. Look for ways to develop and strengthen trust.

I really really can’t believe that two people (whose opinions I ormally agree with) have said sack the guy even when the original poster has said:

  1. that they have nothing more than a suspicion
  2. it was not seen for more than a week,
  3. that employees and maintenance staff has access to it

Sure if this guy has issues which damage or remove trust then maybe he shouldn’t be there in any case - however, the only thing that has been mentioned is a) he pays a reasonably high proportion in child support (last time I looked this wasn’t a crime or a reason to sack someone) b) has worked in a store where theft has happened and c) he is in his 30s and is kind of a manipulative character (is this a suspicious trait now?).

If any one of use left a pile of cash in the locker room and a week later checked and it was gone, we had no evidence would you really sack someone because we suspected it was them as they had issues? Sounds like a simple ‘quick fix’ to make someone feel as tough something has been done. In my experience its normally somone who I didn’t suspect. Maybe becuase I’ve either not hired the give I didn;t feel comfortable with or I’ve got rid of them as soon as an actual issue (even breakdown of trust) happened rather than letting it fester.

Ultimately, your GM and you are responsible for the environment at your restaurant, including allowing cash to be “hidden” in the shop. You should terminate yourselves for incompetence.

I don’t understand what a “tip jar lock box” is.

The OP says that it was a week since it was last seen. If it were a box where tips were put, does that mean that there were no tips for an entire week?

Because of that, I’d have to assume it is not a box where tips are put on a regular basis.

Money was stolen. You and your manager suspect the same person.
Suspicion is destructive. Left un-adressed, a destructive influence like suspicion is more damaging to the crew than the theft.

The reasons that Deacon mentions about employment rules are why I would not give a reason to anyone why an employee was terminated.

Perhaps I have gotten grumpy in my old age and over 10 years of this, but having gone through a handful of experiences with employee theft, I just don’t monkey around with it any more. If I know it is going on and I feel reasonably sure who is doing it, they are gone.

In the mean time, cash management in all forms is the responsibility of the manager. Tips are the property of the tipped. Why was that money sitting around ostensibly under the control of the business?

I’d be willing to bet thats the last we see of the OP.

I agree with 99% of your post, however, IMO you, I and any good owner/manager would have either got rid of this guy ages ago (if he were a bad fit) or resolved the issue with him/the managers.

I don’t like having people in my business who make me feel uncomfortable so if there is something i am unhappy about I seek to resolve it with the employee of if that doesn’t/can’t work we part company.

To me you’ve hit the nail on the head with the ‘destructive’ bit. These guys have stated they have no evidence but rather than addressing why money is sat about in the shop, they’ll clutch at a few straws and suggesting solving the problem by firing someone who may or may not be responsible.

The answer in the long run - Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today!

Thank you all for your opinions. Just to clear up a few facts: the tip jar was attached to the wall and removed forcibly. I don’t have a key to this box, only the other manager. I have told this manager to dole out these said tips more frequently, but my advice was not taken. We did not know of the previous thefts until we asked around. This method of tip control was in place long before I was a manager. I have since taken the initiative to control and regularly distribute the said tips. Also I asked for advice, not judgement, but I should expect nothing less from an online forum. The best advice seems to be terminating the employee, guilty or not.

If nothing else we are quick on the draw. I have coffee with a bunch of guys most mornings. We call our table the “fact free zone” and opinions fly freely. The forum is a lot like that. I find that there are some gems mixed in with the chaff if you look for them.

I think what wizzle and I are saying is that the overall morale of the crew is even more important than the cash and that you can not afford not to act.

But, take into account some of the other usefull things in these posts:

  1. If you decide to terminate the employee in question, do not do so with a stated reason to them or to anyone else. If they file for unemployement, don’t fight it. You gain nothing at all for the satisfaction of calling someone out and you might find it expensive to do. (I live in an “at will” employment state. I can fire any one at any time for no reason, giving a reason just complicates things unless you have a documented situation)

  2. Sounds like you have already taken steps to change the proceedures with the cash. Good move. I have been suprised over the years how often a manager will take my “suggestions” as optional…

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

This method of tip control was in place long before I was a manager. I have since taken the initiative to control and regularly distribute the said tips.

Sometime ago, at an early age, I learned to question. Asking why is the beginning of learning and innovation.

The best answer is, not to fire the guy, but to question WHY you want to fire him. The dynamics of your organization, your relationship with the manager and other employees, chills me at best.

As long as there are no negative legal consequences, this would be a good time to surreptitiously install a few hidden, micro video surveillance cameras covering critical areas that are secretly recorded for management’s review at will.

[anecdote] I know someone who owned a restaurant here for several years who had a camera directly over the cash register and told all his employees about it. He still found a waitress/cashier stealing quarters from it to buy cigarettes from the vending machine. He fired her. She put her job at risk when she knew about the camera. I don’t know if this incident is about stupidity or nicotine addiction, but I enjoy relating it. [/anecdote]

With respect we can’t give advice without a forming some sort of judgement.

My advice, deal with individuals who you have an issue with at the time you have an issue. In this case terminating him now is using the theft as an excuse to get rid of him for being 30, a manipulator, paying child support and being ‘suspicious’.

To be honest I do NOT think it is good advice to terminate this employee at this time for the suspicion of theft (whether you actually tell him or not). To me it gives a message to your other staff that a) you are happy to terminate on suspicion only (which is never a good thing) and b) if you do have a thief in you midst they think they have got away with it, either way moral will suffer.

As you have no evidence and are acting purely on suspicion there is a chance that you have not dealt with the theft problem at all. My advice?

Never leave money unsecured,
get some cctv to cover money,
have a system which ensures someone distributes tips regularly
deal with people problems promptly and appropriate and do not leave them to fester.

good luck!

Why hidden? Slap the biggest camera’s you can find with flashing lights on them. They are definitely a deterrent. If you had to steal from a shop (staff or non-staff) which one would you rob? a) a shop with cctv or b) one which doesn’t appear to have cctv?