I spent my college years working at a local sandwich shop. It was our store policy to give free sandwiches to any on duty police officers who came in. Being fairly fresh out of high school, I was still of the mindset that cops were out to get all the wrong people, profiling shaggy-haired stoner-looking kids. I held my dreadlocked-head high and didn’t smile a bit as I handed them their free subs.
I complained to my managers after store hours. If we were giving sandwiches out to cops, why not also give them to fire-fighters, or teachers, or doctors? I was told that the cops were out protecting us. Secretly I suspected we gave sandwiches out so that the cops looked the other way when our delivery drivers sped past.
Then one night we were minutes away from closing shop. I was on register, meaning I had to be nearby to greet anyone who came in. However, I was sweeping the back corner of the store when I heard the door chime jingle as a last-minute customer entered. I dropped my broom and trotted through the store to the register, loudly saying, “Hello!”
The customer was faster than I and made it to the counter before me. His hood covered a lot of his face and his shoulders were hunched. He barreled in, grabbed our tip jar, and sprinted out.
“That guy stole our tips!” I shouted.
Now, for whatever reason most of the delivery drivers were always up for chasing people down. During their shift they’d seem relaxed, but as soon as someone tried to take off with a stolen bag of chips, all the drivers tore out of the store after the thief. One time they’d chased a scared college student down the street, and the kid fell and broke his arm, losing his guitar scholarship. His mom made him return to the store with his arm in a cast and apologize for his thievery. Stealing chips instead of coughing up a dollar seemed to be a drunken impulse most of the time, resolved with a simple ‘I’m sorry.’
The stealing of our tip jar was calculated.
When I announced the theft, my manager looked up from his paperwork, and then quickly bolted out of the store himself. The delivery drivers were right behind him. But they soon returned, empty handed.
My manager shouted a series of letters and numbers to me. “Write that down!” he said. He repeated himself, and I wrote, realizing he’d gotten a license plate number.
We called the police and reported the theft. Then we locked the front door and returned to our cleaning. The jar held maybe two handfuls of change that we’d earned through the day. Tips gave us a little extra cash along with our paychecks, but weren’t our main source of income, and so we wrote the money off as long gone.
My manager looked up at me after a while and said, “I don’t know what I was thinking, chasing him out. I got to the corner and saw him jump into a car with three other guys and I just froze. Any of them could have had a gun.”
To our surprise, thirty minutes after we called the police, they showed up. They’d radioed out to all the cops on patrol and told them the license plate number. The cops found a lone driver in the car, but convinced him to lead them to the thief’s house. When they arrived, they found the thief and his friends sitting around their coffee table counting change.
Well, there was no way to prove that the money in their pockets wasn’t our tip money too. So we not only got our change back, we also got about forty dollars in bills.
I didn’t mind giving out free subs to the police after that.