Thursday, May 13, 2004

Petty Theft

Thursdays are a busy day for us and most of the "liberry" staff is present at one time or another during the day. This is partially due to Thursday being Story Hour day, with a high kid population, but Thursdays tend to be pretty busy all around.

Today we had Mrs's. A, B, C, Mrs. H and me in house all at the same time. This only leaves out Mrs. J, who's out for a few days with a bum shoulder, and Miss E, who only works weekends. Mrs. H took off shortly after I arrived, leaving the rest of us standing around the circulation desk to shoot the breeze until such a time as it struck us as necessary to find something productive to do.

"Hey, you wanna take this to the post office?" Mrs. A asked Mrs. B, handing her a letter. Mrs. B said sure, as we also had several interlibrary loan packages to go out too. Mrs. A decided it would be good to see if we actually had any money in petty cash to pay for such a venture. She took out our petty cash envelope from its place by the cashbox and began counting through it, tallying up the receipts with what was supposed to be in there. The rest of us continued to converse until Mrs. A announced that the bag had come up short. Real short. Real short to the tune of $80 short.

Now, we've been very careful about keeping track of money since our laptop theft incident with The Amazing Bladder Boy and Jimmy the "Anonymous" Snitch. The petty cash had come up short around then too and we wondered if they, or another unscrupulous patron (take your pick, really) might have had something to do with it. We'd even toyed with the notion that The Untalented Mr. Ripley might have returned to rob us again or that at some point in the past he might have managed to sneak himself a door key and was now using it. No one's seen him around, though.

Since we've been doing a daily drawer count and have been far more careful about our receipts, we've not had much problem with money turning up missing. Sure, we might come up a dollar or so behind some days, but other days we come out a dollar ahead and such occurrences are usually due to someone not writing down copier or printing charges. (Mrs. A admits she is the worst at remembering to do this.)

One of the ways we've been more careful with money that I wasn't even aware of until today has been to hide the petty cash bag in a safe place elsewhere in the library. However, for the past week it has been tucked away in its former home down by the cash box. Why was it there? Cause when I returned from a trip to the post office last Friday, that's where I put it as no one thought to tell me it didn't live there anymore.

"Someone just unzipped the bag and took the twenties," Mrs. A said. "There were five or six twenties in there and now there's only one."

Something about this didn't gel with my memory, though.

"Wait a second," I said. "There weren't five or six twenties in there when I went to the post office last week. I can't swear to it but I'm pretty sure there were only three or four." I explained that I rememberd this because I had to use practically all the twenties that were there to pay for shipping the ILLs and buy a roll of stamps. A roll of stamps is $37 and even at library rate the 10 or so packages would have come to... Well, we didn't know off hand, so we decided to consult the receipt...

...only the receipt wasn't in the petty cash bag.

Mrs. A figured that this solved the mystery. She thought I'd just forgotten to put the receipt in the bag at the post office and that accounted for the missing $80. This sort of thing has been known to happen. Trouble with this theory is, I had NOT forgotten to put the receipt in the bag. I'm the guy who had to stand in the post office for ten minutes while the new guy at the desk slowly weighed and put postage on each of the ILL packages then sold me a roll of stamps. I had the petty cash bag with me, had to take money out of it to pay for everything and I put the receipt right in there when it was handed to me. Plus, the total of my post office purchase was not $80 but more like $65, if memory serves. The receipt for the envelopes I had bought at Dollar General immediately after leaving the post office was still in the petty cash bag, but nothing from the post office.

Even with the missing receipt accounting for $65, there was still around $15 missing and unaccounted for. And I'm not convinced that $15 or $20 or whatever wasn't missing from the bag before last Friday. Like I said, I don't think there were that many $20 bills in the bag when I had it at the post office. However, I may be remembering wrong and I can't prove it either way. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me from any angle, though, because the petty cash bag had been in safe hiding before it was placed in my hands then.

The whole situation made me very angry. It's not like Mrs. A or Mrs. C suspect me of taking the money, though I couldn't blame them if they did. I am, after all, the poor starving spouse of a med-student who's been known to mention how short money tends to get. (Of course, the reason I mention this is so that I might get a few more hours of work thrown my way.) What made me angry, though was that the thing took place on my watch to some degree and I was the guy who brought the bag back and unknowingly put it by the cash box. It just looks bad to me, even if no one else seems to think so. Whether I'm at fault or not, I always feel like I'm the guy who screwed this up and who has fingers pointing at him.

Mrs. A's new theory is that whoever took the $15 to $20 that is genuinely missing probably grabbed it quickly and managed to snag the receipt from the post office as well. I don't know if I can go along with this theory. If the one receipt is gone, who's to say there aren't $15 worth of receipts gone also, accouting for the amount that seems to be missing. I know I put that post office receipt in the bag. I just don't know how it could have gone missing unless someone took it out. Then again, why would anyone remove receipts from the bag?

Only a few months ago we were so loose with the money rules that everyone on staff was able to put IOU's for lunch money in there and pay up a couple days later. Or even wait til payday. I fear such days are behind us.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.