June 20, 2022

Check out this handmade sign posted to the front door of a shuttered Jimmy John’s sandwich chain shop in Missouri last week. See if you can tell from the store owner’s message what happened.

If you guessed that someone in the Jimmy John’s store might have fallen victim to a Business Email Compromise (BEC) or “CEO fraud” scheme — wherein the scammers impersonate company executives to steal money — you’d be in good company.

In fact, that was my initial assumption when a reader in Missouri shared this photo after being turned away from his favorite local sub shop. But a conversation with the store’s owner Steve Saladin brought home the truth that some of the best solutions to fighting fraud are even more low-tech than BEC scams.

Visit any random fast-casual dining establishment and there’s a good chance you’ll see a sign somewhere from the management telling customers their next meal is free if they don’t receive a receipt with their food. While it may not be obvious, such policies are meant to deter employee theft.

The idea is to force employees to finalize all sales and create a transaction that gets logged by the company’s systems. The offer also incentivizes customers to help keep employees honest by reporting when they don’t get a receipt with their food, because employees can often conceal transactions by canceling them before they’re completed. In that scenario, the employee gives the customer their food and any change, and then pockets the rest.

You can probably guess by now that this particular Jimmy John’s franchise — in Sunset Hills, Mo. — was among those that chose not to incentivize its customers to insist upon receiving receipts. Thanks to that oversight, Saladin was forced to close the store last week and fire the husband-and-wife managers for allegedly embezzling nearly $100,000 in cash payments from customers.

Saladin said he began to suspect something was amiss after he agreed to take over the Monday and Tuesday shifts for the couple so they could have two consecutive days off together. He said he noticed that cash receipts at the end of the nights on Mondays and Tuesdays were “substantially larger” than when he wasn’t manning the till, and that this was consistent over several weeks.

Then he had friends proceed through his restaurant’s drive-thru, to see if they received receipts for cash payments.

“One of [the managers] would take an order at the drive-thru, and when they determined the customer was going to pay with cash the other would make the customer’s change for it, but then delete the order before the system could complete it and print a receipt,” Saladin said.

Saladin said his attorneys and local law enforcement are now involved, and he estimates the former employees stole close to $100,000 in cash receipts. That was on top of the $115,000 in salaries he paid in total each year to the two employees. Saladin also has to figure out a way to pay his franchisor a fee for each of the stolen transactions.

Now Saladin sees the wisdom of adding the receipt sign, and says all of his stores will soon carry a sign offering $10 in cash to any customers who report not receiving a receipt with their food.

Many business owners are reluctant to involve the authorities when they discover that a current or former employee has stolen from them. Too often, organizations victimized by employee theft shy away from reporting it because they’re worried that any resulting media coverage of the crime will do more harm than good.

But there are quiet ways to ensure embezzlers get their due. A few years back, I attended a presentation by an investigator with the criminal division of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who suggested that any embezzling victims seeking a discreet law enforcement response should simply contact the IRS.

The agent said the IRS is obligated to investigate all notifications it receives from employers about unreported income, but that embezzling victims often neglect to even notify the agency. That’s a shame, he said, because under U.S. federal law, anyone who willfully attempts to evade or defeat taxes can be charged with a felony, with penalties including up to $100,000 in fines, up to five years in prison, and the costs of prosecution.

530 thoughts on “Why Paper Receipts are Money at the Drive-Thru

  1. Doro

    Just keep using service workers as your punching bag. They’re all a bunch of criminals, thieves, moochers, dullards, and junkies anyway right? But when corporations and banks do it you just call it basic economics. Figures.

    1. Rayy

      These two, anyway, are indeed thieves. They were managers, not mere “service workers”, put in a position of trust.

    2. Woody

      Doro wins most ignorant, silly, and biased-for-criminals comment of the year award!

        1. Gerald Mcboingboing

          I know right? Obviously all service workers are thieves.

    3. Judianne

      Embezzling from a business is not okay, no matter how you spin it. These two managers were making $115,000 per year, which is hardly below the poverty line. There was absolutely no excuse for what they did, especially when you considerbthe fact that they put descent, hard working, and honest employees under further scrutiny.

      1. Dave

        No….you read it wrong……they made $57,500 each. $115k total. Chain restaurant managers dint make over 100k.

        1. Don

          Regardless, 115k in household income is solidly middle class. Not an excuse to steal another 100k.

          1. Malik

            Middle class is about if you yourself have employees like secretaries, assistants, laborers, etc. Working at a fast food joint, even as a manager is just well paid working class. Remember that the one above middle class, is the employer class, the owners of the joint. Arguably closer to middle class than the other employees of this shop, but still solidly working class (must work to live for 100% of income, vs some non-0% of income from employing others)

            1. Middle of what

              That’s not a common definition of middle class.
              Small business owners can struggle, work 80 hours a week being the primary worker, while still employing helpers. And a rich kid could still be upper class while interning for a company for minimum or no wages.
              It was subjective enough with just upper, middle and lower class terminology. Now we add, “working class”, which is very ambiguous. Rich people consider themselves “working class”, just because they work for 100% of their income and pay themselves a large salary. Rich executives like VPs may not technically “employ others” to earn $400k/yr, and they work full time.
              Middle class should at least be somewhat tied to median incomes, and should be based on the local economy (median incomes in San Jose, CA are very different than rural Alabama). In Missouri, $55k is the median household income. The STL area probably a bit higher. So a couple, both bringing in about $57k/yr is really good. Double the median in that state. That’s not typical though, to have both husband and wife working full time both making the median (I guess no kids).

        2. Michael

          No you read it wrong. ” These two managers were making $115,000 per year, which is hardly below the poverty line.”. I don’t see a per person in that sentence.

          If you are going to be an ass by correcting others, at least get it right.

          1. Tom

            “…That was on top of the $115,000 in salaries he paid in total each year to the two employees…” Total salary for TWO employees was $115K each year, not each employee. This ambiguously worded, but careful reading shows that the individual salaries were half that or some other division of the money.

    4. Jim

      Yeah, that franchisee is a multi-billion-dollsr banking conglomerate, and the people who ran the scam aren’t scumbag thieves. What makes me think you’re unemployed and will always be?

    5. Common sense

      Umm…these two actually were thieves though, caught an proved? So how are they punching bags? You sound like a thief that’s mad you got in trouble for stealing.

    6. Jimboyoo

      There were managers and they were thieves. They are punching bags full of excrement. All thieves are colostomy bags.

    7. Tom

      So, ANYTHING service workers do is ok since they’re so abused? This is an instance of THEFT. The amount stolen would support a $2 per hour raise to 50 full time workers.

  2. MBVS

    I know of bad IRS employee health care benefits got paid by her job IRS and charged her husband’s Union ins. Still employed after they we’re turned in.so nothing’s perfect….I believe in The justice ⚖️ system..I have there are Good people and there are bad IRS employee to remember every Dog has there Day. Detector of Government . Good orderly detector AKA GOD…..

    1. Pat Lewis

      Just curious, did you drop out from the second or third grade? Either way go back and finish.

      1. Joyce

        How over educated are you? Don’t you understand that English is one of the hardest languages for grammar, spelling, etc. Are you just intolerant of uneducated people, or everyone who thinks & expresses themselves differently than you?

        1. S

          I think sometimes these grammar correction replies could be an educational opportunity. Reply should IMHO include specific criticism. Maybe someone would take it that way on the learning side.

  3. Maricica

    These “criminals” probably didnt know the rest of their fast foodies brothers and sisters were munching food stamps and living in voucher housing.

  4. Ben

    Oh would someone please think of the capitalists?

    1. Jeff

      Hopefully you’re just a troll and not an ignorant jerk who understands that theft is wrong.

  5. Bob

    A good chain should catch this pretty early.
    One way is just reconciling inventory, which is often done on a weekly basis. If a location went through 1000 Jimmy Johns cups, or 1000 bags of chips, in a week, and the computer only has a record of selling 800 that week, it shouldn’t take long to put two and two together. Corrupt managers might be able to fudge the numbers for a little while, but before long they’ll run out of inventory, and Corporate should have records of both supply orders and customer orders, so those can’t be fudged.
    Another way is networked point of sale systems should record canceled orders and who was working the till, with a regular report of irregular activity that may warrant investigation. (Excessive canceled orders by certain employees or locations, compared to other employees or locations, or significant fluctuations in income on the same days of the week when certain employees are at the till). There may be other explanations for those concerns, but if a program raises a flag, let the owner know, and they can decide if it warrants investigation.

    1. Junjie

      I also found the cancelled order not being recorded, monitored and reviewed quite surprising. Even if we aren’t going after thefts, excessive number of cancelled orders obviously indicates some problems. Whether it’s customer experience could be improved, or the system is awkward to use, or employee needs more training, or even business opportunities to convert them into real orders, etc. Sounds like missed opportunities.

  6. Jess

    I love that on top of their greed, they are just stupid. As long as one of them was at the till, they could cover their tracks. But they got lazy and greedy…and caught! It’s karma when someone “smart” gets caught being so dumb!!!

  7. Swanny

    When I was a teenager, I worked in fast food. The manager and his wife (who worked the drive through) did the same thing. She cancelled the cash transactions (same as this duo) and he balanced out the till each night with the actual receipts. Then he pocketed the cash. No employees ever saw a thing. The truth came out when he dropped dead of a heart attack and the owner took over.

  8. Dave

    It maybe time to monitor all transactions at the drive thru. Count vehicles and whether they paid cash or by card. For every vehicle a receipt should be involved or some kind of payment made. Let employees know about the system and keep them honest!

    1. Jimboyoo

      Nah, thieves suck and belong in the gutter with the filth. Let the dishonest scum be exposed and maybe the can stop the rot infesting their very souls. Folks who let greed make them steal deserve nothing but contempt.

  9. Jason See

    I DO NOT feel sorry for Steve as he has refused to pay me for 20.75 hrs I worked for him in 2 days back in Jan 2022 at another business he owns. I told him from the start I may not be able to do the job because of heavy lifting so I was honest. After working a 7.75 hr shift on a Thursday evening and then a working a 13 hr shift on a Friday evening that ended early Sat morning my body could not do it so I quit. I have been in contact with Steve more than once and been lied to after completing all things he requested for me to be able to get paid. He is a very nasty individual and talks rudely to people when they ask for what they earned. MY OPINION OF THE MAN IS HE IS A FAKE WHO PUTS ONE FACE FORWARD TO THE WORLD BUT ANOTHER TO PEOPLE WHO HE CHEATS OUT OF THE MONEY THEY EARNED. I contacted a lawyer but have not pursued it further because of cost but this man should not be a business owner. Owns JJ franchises and a well established donut shop(he bought it after it was established) in St. Louis area. Thank you for allowing my post as this man cheats people while living in a over a million dollar home.

    1. Evelyn

      A lot of handymen like you do incomplete work, then quit early. I’ve had several on a home renovation. Your account of the story sounds very one-sided. Like you calming asked for deserving pay, and he suddenly got nasty. Did he have any disputes about your work quality? In your business, you don’t just get paid for time unless you actually follow through. Quitting early usually means you don’t get paid in full.
      Without hearing his side of the story, there is no way I’m having sympathy for you. What’s your business name and license number? We’ll check the BBB and local review sites and see if you have a tendency to quit projects and expect full payment.

      1. James Taylor

        It was an “employee” not a contractor. I don’t care if the hours were not satisfactory to the guy. That’s his fault! Pay up if the hrs were put in. This thief got mad because the person was smart and quit after two days. The owner sounds like my old scumlord, I mead landlord. Always taking advantage of the poorest people so he can get even richer100 plus properties all dilapidated.

        1. catmouse

          Jason was never an employee. Hired to do a job, not based on time worked. Now just complaining about his own laziness.

        2. Evelyn

          “I told him from the start I may not be able to do the job because of heavy lifting so I was honest. [Blah, blah excuses] my body could not do it so I quit.

          This contractor jason, was hired to do a job, was already making excuses from the very start.
          He should not be paid for his time if the job was incomplete.

          Steve now has to hire another contractor to do all of the work. Ask anybody who has tried to hire someone after the previous guy quit halfway through. Half the time they don’t want to finish someone else’s incomplete work at all. And those who do, start from scratch and charge you the full amount anyway.

          1. Gerald

            Who says he was a contractor? You have to pay your employees in America for shifts you employ them for, regardless of how many excuses they make.

            1. Evelyn

              He’s not even a contractor, he’s not licensed. He’s just a handyman.
              He says “shift” but don’t be confused. It’s not shift work. “7.75 hr and a 13 hr shift” is not regular employment. He worked a gig, and quit before the job is done.
              He’s pretty obviously omitting the other side of the story, that he wasn’t working an hourly job, but rather a job based on completion of a task.

              I’ve got no sympathy for a lazy workforce who thinks that time put in, with no actual productivity, deserves to be rewarded.

            2. Caro Taro

              If i hire someone to paint my fence, and he sits on his ass for 2 days, and just wastes time. Then quits after only priming half.
              He’s not getting paid for that time.

            3. carotaro

              If i hire someone to paint my fence, and he sits on his butt for 2 days, and just wastes time. Then quits after only priming half.
              He’s not getting paid for that time.

    2. Grow upgenZ

      So you worked for him for 2 days, couldn’t handle working so you quit. 20.75 hours of work is not much time to get to know someone. I know many nurses that work one SHIFT of 20+ hours. My guess is that you didn’t have have all your correct I9 documents, ID and SS card or passport, to work for him is why you needed to “complete things“ for him. Without that paperwork he can’t get you paid. Even after he gets the information from you he can make you wait for the next pay period to end and pay you on the regular payday of that pay period. That’s just the reality of working for anyone.

    3. Harriet Gilman

      I’m surprised that commenters have centered on the salary the crooked management team was being paid. Amount of compensation isn’t relevant to trustworthiness, virtue, or respect for law. One commenter expresses skepticism about the character of people who would work at JimmyJohn. O dear me! Half of American workers aged 20 to 30 work in the fast food industry. And so do about 15% of workers aged 30 to 40! Let us dearly hope that MOST fast food workers are people of good character because they represent a big chunk of the American people. Working is the most dignified way to earn a living.

      Good managers make sure good people are not exposed to great temptations. Even ethical workers appreciate measures to deter theft and reward integrity.

      1. Duh

        “Amount of compensation isn’t relevant to trustworthiness, virtue, or respect for law.”

        If you own a company and you fail to align your interest with your manager’s interest by underpaying them, you cannot be surprised when they behave in their best interest instead of yours. They did break the law, but let’s not pretend compensation wasn’t the motive.

        1. Carla Moore

          That’s some bull justification for criminals. They were paid just as well as any other. What is the minimal compensation for someone to remain lawful and not steal? Some people do it for thrills.
          Low Compensation wasn’t the motive here.

          People who suggest otherwise are projecting their own motivations.

        2. John F. Bramfeld

          Absolutely right. It’s just like careless women who deserve to be assaulted. I’m guessing you are progressive. Aren’t you supposed to be against blaming the victim?

      2. Jimboyoo

        Did you really just say that trustworthiness and virtue and respect for the law? You clearly are not a business owner or even have any experience managing people.

        1. Detective Friday

          Harriet’s sentence was saying that “compensation/wages” are irrelevant to whether an employee/manager should be trustworthy, have virtue, and respect for the law.
          From your other comment, I think you agree with that. As would I, a small business owner with plenty of experience managing people. Perhaps you misread, thinking that she was defending the criminal managers.

    4. Harriet Gilman

      Friend, please report this wage theft episode to your state labor department! Private attorneys won’t help at all (There’s no way for a lawyer to make $ in such cases). State and federal labor laws DO protect workers. Luckily the enforcement agencies actually seem to enjoy going after abusive employers. (This has been true in Texas, last time I checked. I forget which state you’re in).

      Not sure how to to find your state agency? Go to the reference librarian or the “government information” department in any good public library. Also, in many states, you can dial 211 to get find “Essential Community Services”.

      Shame on that lawyer you checked with. They should have referred you to your state’s labor board!

      1. Evelyn

        Labor laws don’t protect much for non-employees like Jason. He did a “gig” for Steve apparently. Probably no contract or anything in writing. Verbal agreements can be pursued in court, but yes the cost is high to go that route.
        This kind of handyman work is rife with problems. Clients not paying for work they deem unsatisfactory, and workers suddenly quit a job making all sorts of excuses. The law probably isn’t on Jason’s side here.

    5. Harriet Gilman

      It sounds like you’re a victim of wage theft. Wage theft is a crime. The US Dept of Labor takes it seriously. They investigate and go after any employer who commit wage theft. They ensure the employee gets paid what is owed to them, and they prosecute the employer. Go to this website:
      (The Missouri Dept of Labor also may help.)

      1. Evelyn

        Jason was never an employee. Hiring a handyman does not put Steve in any kind of conflict with the DOL. Jason would need a lawyer to prove that their verbal agreement specified that he would be paid for any time put in, even if the job was left incomplete and he stopped showing up. Generally, you don’t pay for half work. I can see why he doesn’t want to bother pursuing this legally, but would rather trash talk any chance he got.

  10. Alan Ohashi

    Credit cards only, no cash. Would have stopped this before it started.

    1. Ja Tr

      Cards can be stolen with a single swipe. I only use cash at drive thru’s. If my card has to leave my hand to pay for something I don’t need it that bad. I got burned once, never again.

    2. Jatr

      Cards can be stolen with a single swipe. I only use cash at drive thru’s. If my card has to leave my hand to pay for something I don’t need it that bad. I got burned once, never again.

  11. Stuart Gray

    Yeah, contact the IRS, so they can pay their way out of any trouble and Uncle Sam still gets his cut. That agent’s self-interest combined with disregard for any compensatory outcome for the victim(s) is insulting, but so bold that it has to be respected. An obligation to investigate doesn’t mean anything when contacting the IRS ensures those criminals will never see the inside of a court room. All they’ll do is pay their taxes and the victim is left with nothing.

  12. SDM

    Sounds like nobody was looking at the food costs. I ran a JJ’s back in the 90s and the system could pinpoint missing food very easily if you bothered to actually look at the numbers.

  13. moonewe

    Plot twist: Steve was the mastermind who delegated the defrauding couple to do their thing and they all got a cut. Only after Corporate (franchise owner) saw that the books were a hot mess & ultimately held him responsible, he concocted a bunch of hearsay cat-n-mouse tactics of how he supposedly caught them and threw them under the bus until it all blows over. He likely promised them if they don’t expose him as the 3rd musketeer, they’ll benefit in the end – but I hope the story develops and exposes him as a player in all of this. #greed

    1. plot twist

      That’s all fiction.
      What seems to be happening here is people who have skimmed from their employer are commenting here, making up fanfiction / conspiracy justifications for their actions. They desperately want a narrative in which the employers are the bad guys in order to justify their greed and thievery.

      It’s easy to see through comments like these, as coming from people projecting their own criminal justification.

      1. yeah

        Yep, I agree. The only thing fishy here is the comments that are doing mental gymnastics in order to justify criminal theft. Step one is always blame the victim to suggest they had it coming. Inventing a conspiracy is the next step. These losers are pathetic.

    2. RuthSentUs88

      Knowing Steve from a previous dealing, I wouldn’t put it past him to concoct such a nefarious scheme.

      1. Grow upgenZ

        So you worked for him for 2 days, couldn’t handle working so you quit. 20.75 hours of work is not much time to get to know someone.

      2. catmouse

        You were hired to do a handyman job and quit without finishing, then expected payment. Steve is not the bad guy here. Those who try to steal from him are the bad guys.

  14. Paper Plane

    That’s the good thing the couple did. Should give them award for defrauding corporation. Damn good!

    1. Disconcerted

      Really? Defrauding a “corporation”?

      First, the guy is an independent franchisee, he spent his money to set up those businesses and run them (and probably has several outstanding loans and a second mortgage to pay, like most entrepreneurs), providing employment to that couple and several other people. Maybe due to this loss he will end up having to close one, or maybe more of his locations. Putting innocent people out of work, sending them looking for new jobs, or worse on welfare. And yes, I’ve been on welfare before, it’s no fun at all wondering where your family’s next meal is coming from and pawning off your possessions to get enough scratch to pay the rent this month.

      Second, here’s an economics 101 lesson, for free: If it is a corporation, the corporation doesn’t see a dime of that loss. They simply RAISE THE COST OF THE MERCHANDISE to cover it! Passing the cost right on to you, pal. Have fun paying for your next $25 JJ sub! Moron.

  15. C Swenson

    I’ve heard from several of this mans ex employees that he himself is a scammer. He shaves their hours whenever he wants. I know 5 employees who have launched an investigation through labor board. So let’s just see how this plays out. Steve is no saint here. 2 wrongs do not make a right and the employees should not have stolen from him.

    1. Jane McCormick

      Sorry, but you’re too late. We already know you are the same handyman who is trying spam here with false allegations.

      You took a gig job from him, complained about your body not being able to handle more than two days of work, and quit. You didn’t finish the job and are now complaining that you didn’t get paid for your time. Steve had to hire someone else to start over from your incomplete work.
      Nobody filed any complaints through the labor board, and you have no legal leg to stand on since you have never been an employee. It would be easy to prove because investigations through Missouri’s labor board are public. You could post those case numbers if they existed.

    2. Phillip May

      You are a liar. You insult our intelligence here by thinking that we would believe some conspiracy about the victim.

      It is much more plausible that you are one of the managers that was caught stealing, coming here to make up accusations.

  16. Pat

    I’ve got relatives that are CPAs. They found a client’s employee had been stealing cash payments. They totaled up the amount and filed a 1099, making the thief owe the IRS taxes on the miscellaneous income.

    1. Salient

      I’ve heard the threat of a 1099 can result in immediate restitution. The IRS does not forget, and the delinquent taxes and fines will haunt the bad actors for years.

  17. Robert R Torzynski

    I think it’s a great article. I have worked in fast food and everyone is underpaid and overworked. Complete honesty and integrity are hard to find anywhere. What interests me is the actual mechanism of the scam and the resolution to it. Cancelling the transaction after you’ve got the order cooking and figured out the cost and the change. Then give them the food and the change and keep the cost of the food. Now I know why it’s so important to find a way to force the employee to save every transaction including the drive offs which do occur. The idea of contacting the IRS to report the crooks for not paying taxes on their ill gotten gains: I like that!

  18. Tude

    The Real problem is the POS system that post an order to the kitchen before the sale is cashed out at the till. Also, old school cash registers would run two receipt tapes, one was for the customer and the other was a detail tape that recorded every single key press on the register.

    Today’s systems are a joke and every manager and bean counter knows it.

    1. Blame

      Blame the modern need for drive thru efficiency and speed. They absolutely MUST have the order started in the kitchen before payment type is known. That’s the whole point of “fast” food.
      It also would not matter if the register prints two copies of the receipt. The order is cancelled and nothing gets printed.
      These managers only stole from the drive thru, and only when both were working each side of the drive thru.

  19. Tim2DaG

    You would think food costs would go thru the roof with this fraud scheme.

  20. Male

    The worst thing an employer can do is hire a bad employee. Always get a paper receipt and pay cash.

  21. Phil McCragkin

    TL:DR Lazy employees steal from lazy franchisee.

  22. Bryce Nesbitt

    It’s become common in my area for legitimate stores with legitimate cash registers to say “would you like you receipt” before printing one. This is meant to save paper — it’s a local eco thing – sigh.

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