I provide my company’s daily cash out of my personal funds

A reader writes:

I work at a weight loss center. We have limited hours, multiple locations, and unusual business practices. As employees, we are expected to provide the “bank” for the business. Each day, I bring about $200 with me for the cash drawer. This money is from my personal account. I am expected to keep a bank with small bills and change at all times. If you paid $X by cash, I would make change from my bank. I would then put your $X into the drawer (my “bank”) and then later deposit it into my own account. Later, I’d mail a check for $X amount to the company. To provide this daily bank, I’ve held $200 out of my own account for over a year without interest.

We are not reimbursed or insured to carry this cash. I am expected to have hundreds of dollars on me at all times, and this money comes from my personal account. It is in no way provided by the company. They do cover our bank fees and replacement checks.

Is it legal to expect employees to provide the cash for the business to operate? Is this normal? Appropriate? What changes (if any) can I suggest? We are a national company that has been using these procedures for decades. It’s known that we employees grumble about this, but what else can we do to suggest changes and action?

Um, what?

You are providing the business’s daily cash, every day, and basically doing their banking for them? Like as if you were the banker in a Monopoly game?

No, it’s not normal. No, it’s not appropriate. But … yes, it’s legal! It’s legal not because it’s rational or fair, but because there’s no specific law preventing it, and that’s how this stuff works. To be sure, I checked with employment lawyer Bryan Cavanaugh, who confirmed it’s unusual but doesn’t violate any laws.

Even in California, where state law requires employees to be reimbursed for all business expenses, I think this would skate by because you are being reimbursed; this is situation that the reimbursement law didn’t envision. (That said, neither Bryan nor I are experts in California law, so who knows. If you lived there, it would be worth checking out further. Hell, even aside from California, it’s possible that this violates some obscure state or local law where you live, but across the board, neither of us are aware of a federal or state law it would violate.)

In any case, if you’re working for a large national company and this is their procedure company-wide, I’m not hopeful that there’s much you can do to change it, not without being at a fairly high level yourself. And especially if it’s already known that employees dislike it, and no one has bothered to do anything in response to that.

I’m curious what would happen if you told your manager that your finances made it impossible for you to continue doing this, or what would have happened if you’d said that on your first day … but I suspect your manager would have just told you it was a requirement or tried to front you the cash.

Basically, though, this just comes down to your company being extraordinarily lame and taking advantage of employees. They suck.

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    I’m trying to figure out why this makes sense for the company. I can vaguely get the appeal of not having to have a local bank account, but doesn’t it make keeping their own books a nightmare?

    1. Heather*

      You would think so! Why can’t they just have a petty cash fund like everyone else and reconcile it monthly? they don’t even have to have a local bank account to do that actually. The person that oversees the petty cash would just submit a request to get a cheque to have it replenished and then that person would take the cheque to get it cashed and replenish the cash box/drawer/whatever.

      That’s what we do here.

      1. AnonAthon*

        That’s exactly what I wondered. It just seems so bizarre for a national corporation. I used to work for a very small nonprofit, and even there we had petty cash. I maybe fronted cash a handful of times when we ran out of small bills and the bank was already closed.

  2. just laura*

    I bet it’s because less money would “disappear” from the registers if it’s the employees’ own money. What a stupid idea.

  3. DeMinimis*

    Some kind of tax avoidance scheme, maybe? But even then I don’t know how it would exactly work….and if they’ve been doing it this long and are that big a company I’d guess they would have gotten in trouble for it by now. But maybe that’s a poor assumption.

      1. Anna*

        I wondered about the tax thing. What happens if the IRS gets a bug to audit the OP? That’s going to raise some eyebrows for sure.

  4. Sunflower*

    The only place I’ve ever heard of where employees were required to keep a bank of their own money is at some restaurants. Some will make servers bring their own bank in order to make change. But that was to avoid wasting time at the bar getting change and running out of small bills. Even so, I think it’s a terrible practice and I always worked places that we just got change from the bar (swapping a $20 for a ten , a five, and 5 ones).

    Keeping your own bank sounds like a headache and a nightmare. Eeek I agree with Allison. And try to high tail it out of there

    1. Emily K*

      Yes, I was strongly encouraged to bring my own bank when I was a delivery driver at more than one store. At both places, if I didn’t bring a bank they would issue me one that I paid back at the end of the night, but it was sort of frowned upon to make them do that extra transaction and a lot of pressure to bring your own bank. Of course, it was only $20.

    2. Lils*

      Probably the only commenter here who doesn’t think the bank is the problem. Yes, waitstaff (unless it’s 100% counter service) are required to bring a bank of at least $20 and more like $50-100 on a busy night. Yes, it’s your money. You pay the house back at the end of the shift and keep whatever’s leftover–your bank + your tips. I’ve never heard anyone complain about having to keep the bank–it’s far more convenient than begging the bartender to give you change, and you do one big transaction at the end of the night. It keeps people (mostly) from shorting the house–if you let your friends walk out on a check, you’re out for the price of the meals, not the restaurant.

      However, two key differences I would see as the problem: first, I’m not sure if the employee is ringing all the transactions into a computer. If not, I would worry there isn’t enough CYA on my end for the reported total. Secondly, the OP is correct in saying that carrying cash is dangerous. There is a risk that customers will see the bank + earnings and know s/he’s walking out with it. Making a secure deposit immediately is something that restaurants do every night…why can’t this company follow suit? I would not take this risk lightly at all. There’s also a high liability given that it’s the *company’s* money. When a waiter leaves, what’s in his pocket is HIS cash, to lose or blow at the casino or spend on groceries…and restaurants still go to some lengths to ensure safety of their employees when exiting the building. It sounds like this person is alone, which would kind of freak me out.

  5. Anonsie*

    Back on that water cooler bill post, I joked that I should start a company and just make my employees eat all the facilities costs themselves. Now adding to that business model: Making employees my bankers as well!

    If ever really do become a super villain, I’m getting some pretty good tips from the managers here. My island shaped like a skull will be even less pleasant to work on than you’d expect.

    1. Yup*

      Make sure your minions aren’t reimbursed for the cost of their uniforms and any tools used in the construction of your island. Maybe even charge them a fee, re use of your super villain logo?

      1. Anonsie*

        I will require them to visit the bank for their coverage of all my business expenses, however I will not let them use my AnonyBoats to do so because that is a liability.

        “You are responsible for arranging your own timely transportation to and from the Doom Island.”

      1. Grace*

        And…make them fetch your lunch, on their lunch hour, and don’t pay them back for gas (and fire ’em if anybody complains).
        (Horrid boss of the year for 2013 re the poor receptionist.)

    2. FiveNine*

      You need to make people pay you for the opportunity to work. See, for example: Certain cab companies in the DC area that require drivers to pay $100 upfront at the start of the shift for the privilege of having the opportunity to drive (and own their own cab, and be classified as a contractor, etc.) They have to make that back before they start making money for the day. Or see certain clubs in the Vegas area that require strippers to pay $1,000 upfront for the privilege of renting a table in the dance club for the night to dance on.

      1. Joey*

        The difference is they are usually considered contractors. I agree that it would be more acceptable if the op was a contractor and was say renting out space and the use of the cash register to sell products that she owns. The weirdness is that she’s an employee.

      2. Anonsie*

        Oh yeah I’ve seen that with cab companies. Makes more sense when the company owns the car and they’re essentially “renting” it. A lot of strip clubs charge dancers a stage fee per night, and there are salons where the stylists are considered contractors that just rent the chair from the salon for a fee.

        Maybe I’ll charge my henchmen rental fees for their skull masks and dart guns.

      3. Noah*

        I bet this will scare you.

        They do this with pilots too. They pay the company for the opportunity to build flight hours while sitting in the co-pilot seat. Think about that next time you fly with a small airline.

    3. FRRibs*

      This inspires me to call up the real estate agent who sold my house and start a search for skull-shaped islands.

      1. Andrea*

        I had to google it. Unfortunately, no skull shaped islands. However, there is a dolphin shaped island, and one shaped like a heart. Slightly less evil in appearance than a skull.

  6. MentalEngineer*

    I would then put your $X into the drawer (my “bank”) and then later deposit it into my own account. Later, I’d mail a check for $X amount to the company.

    While it’s not illegal under labor/employment law, this part makes the scheme sound suspiciously like money laundering. Cash deposits (likely with no receipts because they were cash transactions), hence hard to prove the existence of, that are then ‘gifted’ to the company? Something smells.

    But I also can’t figure out how this would actually work in any way that materially benefits the company. Since the company is receiving the money by check, there’s still a record of it as income – it’s just been scrubbed of all the information about the transactions that it came from. Which actually seems like it would be harmful, because then the company deprives itself of possibly useful data about the nature of its point-of-sale transactions.

    Either I need caffeine, or these people are morons, whether they’re trying to break the law or not. Or both.

      1. OP*

        Can you tell me more about this? At the stores and at the traveling meetings, we do not charge sales tax. If an item is five dollars for example, then you would only pay five dollars. There would not be tax attached to it. Does that make a difference?

        1. Anon1*

          ?if you are selling something and are physically located in a state with a sales tax, you must charge the customer tax and send the gov’t a cheque plus a return.

      2. TychaBrahe*

        In some places, such as the ubiquitous California, there are no taxes on “services.” You wouldn’t pay taxes to a massage therapist or a psychologist. I wonder if you could call whatever they’re paying “fitness coaching,” making it non-taxable.

    1. Anonymous*

      Money laundering only has to be about 50% effective to be profitable overall. As in, if you pay out $100 illegal dollars to get something worth $50 now-legal dollars, you are doing pretty respectably.

    2. Anonsie*

      That was my impression as well.

      My other thought was that the owner is one of those people who “doesn’t do banks” because they don’t understand or trust them, but in this specific situation I don’t think that’s the case.

      1. Liz*

        This seems unlikely because it is a large national company, and the employees are mailing in checks. I doubt they are going to a check cashing place and cashing them all. They are depositing them into a bank and probably paying payroll from a bank as well.

    3. Grace*

      I would just drop the dime on the company to the IRS Whistleblower Unit. (You can do that by email.) Just go to their website (www dot irs dot gov). Do a search for “whistleblower”.
      The IRS gives you their unit’s email address. Email the IRS the information and they will email you back the award forms to fill out. If the feds find tax cheats (they’ll also share it with the state), the whistleblower gets up to 30% of the tax the feds find they’re owed.

      I’ve done this to every unlawful employer who has interviewed me and wanted to unlawfully misclassify me as a 1099 contractor. I smile sweetly, say no thanks, and go on my merry way. I drop the dime on them every single time to the IRS!

      1. Toto in Kansas*

        Reporting someone as a contractor instead of employee needs to also be reported to the department of labor. They are trying to get out of paying unemployment tax for their employee.

        1. Grace*

          @Toto: The IRS and most of the states have tax cheat sharing agreements. What goes to the feds is shared with the states and vice-versa.

      2. Angel Eyes*

        Grace, I’m not sure why you would be a whistleblower. Sometimes that kinda stuff can get you in trouble. I hope you do what you are supposed to do all the time. Just remember Karma is a B! Also remember being a contractor is not illegal. And a lot of jobs are using contractors to not have to pay benefits. Unfortunately this us not an illegal practice.

  7. Joey*

    See to me I would consider this a scam. At the mere mention of being required to put up what’s essentially a loan to work Id be outta there. I’m wondering didn’t it sound so incredibly bizzare that you’d at least check into this before you decided to do it? And doesn’t it seem obviously shady?

  8. TheExchequer*

    Just when Allison thinks she’s heard it all, new craziness abounds. Seriously, $200 from my own personal bank account?!? Every day?!? Yeah, no, that would be a no fly situation for me.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Well, it would be the same $200 over and over. And it’s not like you’re losing much interest on $200. However, you’ve got to have $200 available to start the job, which would be a hardship for many.

      1. TheExchequer*

        $200 would be a hardship for me right now. And even if I had it, I just can’t see myself carrying that much cash on me on a daily basis! (I’m rather absent minded, so I’m pretty sure at some point, I would leave it behind – /then/ what do you do? And I sometimes must travel through areas known for high theft. What do you do if the money gets stolen on your way to work?)

        1. Joey*

          Oddly, when I worked off tips I didn’t think twice about carrying hundreds of dollars on me at all times. Now, it feels weird to have $20 in my pocket for more than a week.

            1. Stephanie*

              A waiter friend said his boss told the waitstaff to change out their all-black waiting attire after work so they weren’t targets for muggers.

          1. Noah*

            I always had a ton of cash when I was a waiter in college. Now I’m lucky to have $20 on me and use my debit card for everything.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              The more I read about Target and other debit/credit card data losses, the more I’m starting to use cash. However, I do live in a place where a mugging is pretty unlikely.

  9. MR*

    I’m sure that at some point in the history of this company, there has to have been an employee who was robbed. Getting robbed is horrible, but then to compound it by it being your own money that you would likely have to replace to ensure the company isn’t short is even worse.

    I bet if this story made it’s way to the OP’s state legislator, there might be some action taken to prevent shenanigans like this and to better protect employees.

    1. Sabrina*

      That’s what I was thinking too. Plus if it’s YOUR money you might be more likely to fight for it, which could wind up with someone getting hurt. I haven’t worked a lot of jobs that required handling cash but I’ve always been trained to hand it over, it’s not your money anyway.

  10. Mike C.*

    Report your employer to the local news. Tv, local newspapers, maybe a few websites like Gawker (it’s happened here before!) or Consumerist. Alison is right that this isn’t illegal, but only because no one has thought of it before.

    Those sites will protect your identity so you’ll have no need to worry about it coming back to harm you.

    1. Mike C.*

      Hell, call your local state representatives. You’ll get one of their staffers. Tell them you’re a voter from so and so, and that you find the policies at your workplace exploitative. Maybe something will come of it, I’ve had luck with this route as well.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Public shaming is a pretty good way to stop a scam. You can’t shut it down, since it’s technically legal, but you can expose the unethical practices so people are warned and fewer people will want to work there.

          1. Mike C.*

            Because if someone believes these sorts of activities should be made illegal, talking to the legislator that represents you is a good way to get the ball rolling. There’s nothing wrong with trying several approaches at the same time.

            1. Anonymous*

              Mike, how often do you write to your legislators or the media about things that disturb you?

              I write to my elected officials about 8 times/year to 3 or 4 people on average. Mass media )our local newspaper of record) 10 times a year though but not as tips, rather as letters to the editor.

              Am curious about your practice.

              1. Mike C.*

                I don’t nearly as often because I live in an area where the politicians generally follow where I’d want them to go anyway, and things for me personally are pretty awesome, so I’d rather that others with more concerns had the floor, so to speak.

      2. Mike C.*

        Public shaming is just for fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because that shame will lead them to change their policies.

        With the way that jobs were in the United States, bad employers are supposed to be punished by having current employees leave and potential employees look elsewhere. That dynamic doesn’t work if the bad acts of an employer aren’t made known to the public at large.

        In a nutshell, if someone is a fan of the free market, then part of that is accepting that it only works when information asymmetry is minimized. If bad actors aren’t exposed, then they get to take advantage of everyone else.

        1. Joey*

          Oh I’m all onboard with the public shaming I just don’t get how you could legislate random stuff like this away.

          1. Mike C.*

            You just have to narrowly define the practice that’s going on, and say “you can’t do that anymore”.

            Say “Employers shall be required to provide all cash and cash equivalents used in the normal operations of the business, including but not limited to activities such as making change for purchases.” Something like that.

            Even if you have situations where employees might have to buy things for the company to be paid for later, that’s what corporate credit cards are for.

            1. Joey*

              See to me that’s laws getting too deep in the weeds. If that’s the philosophy then you’d probably also be looking at legislation that covers travel expenses, required equipment/tools, etc . It’s just overkill in my opinion.

          2. MentalEngineer*

            Most likely it’s not going to result in national, or even state legislation. But knowing that bad actors end up on the government’s radar might, on its own, convince some more marginally ‘evil’ companies to straighten up and fly right. Those that are willing to continue despite increased government scrutiny are probably going to do something flagrantly illegal sooner or later anyway.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          With the way the economy in the United States is now, having current employees leave bad employers doesn’t work anymore. There are too many people desperate for work, even at bad companies. So public shaming is even more important, although probably less effective.

  11. Rayner*

    This is a disaster waiting to happen. If something should happen to the money – it goes missing, a co-worker or customer steals it – then it’s the OP on the hook, not the company.

    It’s also depriving the OP of any interest or financial rewards that keeping it in a bank account might earn her, which is, for some people, very serious.

    Also, say, if the OP has a major life incident. A large medical bill, her car breaks down and then ooops, there goes two hundred bucks in repairs, something like that – what are they going to say to their boss? “Sorry, I can’t do my job, I’m too broke to be the large national company’s bank today.” Or, “Manager, I don’t have enough money to be a bank today, please don’t write me up for it.”

    OP, if they’re not willing to change the policy, look for a new job. It’s very risky for you have such a large amount of money on you that isn’t backed by the company, and they’re doing something weird with their accounting if they think this is an acceptable practice for an extended period of time. Can’t say it’s definitely illegal, but I would definitely be interested in poking it as an investigator.

    If I was one.

    There’s unusual, and then there’s just plain stupid ways to do things.

  12. Anonymous*

    This screams money-laundering to me. They have employees act as banks because real banks won’t work with them. Do you perchance dispense chemicals for ingestion? Like “weight-loss” drugs? Do you do anything that resembles a pyramid scheme (take in monthly dues, distribute them to the weight loss winner)? Is there any aspect of gambling, like a lotto, a random drawing to win stuff, or a chance to win based on losing XYZ pounds? Do you operate in Chicago? Do you transfer lots of material things from one person (or company) to another? Do you resend unopened packages around?

    1. Ornery PR*

      Yeah, I’m wondering if this company sells HCG, by chance? My first thought was that the company couldn’t get a bank account because of garnishments or debts. But it still doesn’t answer how the company makes payroll or pays vendors or taxes. This is a very odd situation, but it definitely reeks of impropriety somehow.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I was kind of thinking this too. If it’s a franchise, maybe the owner has something going on the side and this is his way to get clean cash.

      *makes note for books*

      1. Poe*

        YES! Hahaha, I knew it had to be, a friend of mine was going to work for them but couldn’t come up with the $200, so they wouldn’t hire her. She said “look, I applied for this job because I believe in what you do, but also because I desperately need money because I had a kid with a deadbeat loser. I don’t have $200 to lend to a company that wipes its butt with my rent money.” I love her.

  13. KB*

    My mother used to work for Weight Watchers and if my memory is correct, they were required to bring cash with them to meetings in order to make change for people who wanted to purchase the items (weight watchers food, scales, recipe books, etc). That was 10 years ago, not sure if they are still using the same procedures.

    1. Catzie*

      This was my first thought too….that this company is Weight Watchers. I’ve heard some pretty strange stories about working for that place.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Yeah, Weight Watchers was my first thought. I did WW a number of years ago …the weekly meeting was held in either a school or a church and change came from a metal box like at a bake sale or what not.

      In the context of WW meetings, none of this is that weird (but not something I’d want to do).

      If this were taking place in a company owned facility and the OP was the receptionist or what not, it would be a lot weirder.

    3. KarenT*

      Interesting. I go to Weight Watchers and they do have a till there with cash in it for making change. It never occurred to me the cash could belong to the employees!

      1. Former WW employee*

        Yes, it’s definitely Weight Watchers.
        I used to lead meetings for them.
        I sent money to them with money orders from the post office, not my own personal checks, and I was reimbursed for the cost of the money order.
        As far as theft goes, if a meeting is at a WW center there is a computerized record of what’s sold, and if a meeting is in a non-center location there’s a sales tally sheet that needs to match the total of funds that are being mailed (and the product inventory you’ve been sent).

        Honestly, having to store product inventory in my apartment & not be told when packages would arrive, was a much more difficult part of the job. (I lived on the 3rd floor, with no elevator. Coming home in a dress & heels after a meeting to find large boxes from my employer in the lobby of my building was never fun.)

        1. Another WW employee*

          And then you were stuck saving all the materials and storing them in your own home. We were not offered any sort of storage options like shelves. We have the option to order giant plastic bins that are not always stackable because of the wheels. We are responsible for selling products and keeping accurate inventory of what we store at our own home. Then we are expected to often bring these two various businesses who host our meetings. That is one of the worst parts of the Business: storing products in our own homes, taking up space, and being responsible for shuttling these products back and forth. My car was never clean for the time I was there. It was always filled with materials for my job.

  14. KB*

    WW meetings are not often held in a formal office or location. I attended one that was in the basement of a college building. There may not be a physical cash register that is available or a safe to store the money overnight.

    But I agree, it’s a strange practice and a lot to expect from employees.

    1. L McD*

      WW actually makes a lot of sense. I’ve never heard this before, but as a member I can say that even their formal “store” locations seem devoid of a typical retail setup with a cash office, safe, etc. They have register drawers but seemingly nothing else. I never really thought about it, but it’s possible that this is their way of not worrying about storing large amounts of cash in the store 24/7.

      Meeting room employees need to be lifetime members (meaning they’ve reached their goal through WW and maintained it), which means WW has already cultivated a great deal of loyalty and goodwill by the time people are working for them. So it would make sense that people aren’t raising as much of a stink about it as they probably should. However, I’ve poked around on Glassdoor and while there’s lots of complaints, nothing about this specific issue – so who knows.

      1. Mike C.*

        If they’re worried about storing large amounts of money overnight they can do what every other store does and have an armored car pick it up and take it to the bank.

        1. Another WW employee*

          But then they would have to pay for a driver and those services. And they just can’t be bothered to spend money to make things easier on their employees.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            That would be a daunting infrastructure to build…it would have to be Amazon.com like in reach, given the coverage of WW meetings throughout the US, in tiny little burgs.

            I’m just sayin’.

            I think the part that makes it weird is the “employee” thing. Obviously Avon reps, or anybody like that, also do the same thing but they aren’t employees.

        2. doreen*

          Every other store doesn’t do that. Target and Walmart do that, but smaller stores often have the manager use the night drop or take the money to the bank during business hours.

          1. Saturn9*

            Every time I’ve worked retail or food service (somewhere that doesn’t have armored car service, basically), the process is that the day’s cash is locked in the big safe overnight, then the opening manager deposits it the next day during bank hours.

            None of the places I’ve worked have trusted anyone to make a night drop. I suppose they realized that if someone is expected to come back from the bank within half an hour, they’d be missed a lot sooner than someone who was making a deposit before going home for the night. Trust!

  15. Elysian*

    Yeah, like others have mentioned, I don’t know that this would violate an employment-related law, but I feel like its gotta be violating SOME law – tax evasion, fraud, something related to the business’s bookkeeping? There has to be something, though we’d probably need to know why this policy is in place and what’s going on behind the scenes to figure it out.

  16. Kate*

    I’ve been working for the same company for about a year now. I don’t remember the banking policy coming up until I was already on board. My husband hates it. (For the record, I have two banks of $50, plus a cash box at home with more change.) I think this is an issue that corporate is aware of and working to change. We can only hope.

  17. Jess*

    This is a pretty common practice in food service. In my experience, you’d usually bring an assortment of bills with you to use as change at the beginning of your shift and then at the end of the night you settle out with the cash register. There really wasn’t a big risk of theft (at least any more than normal). Cash purchases were input in the computer just as every other order was, but instead of running a credit card you’d label it as paid w/ cash. So at the end of the night the computer knows how much cash should be in the register as well as who owes what.

    1. Joey*

      Weird! The only time I ever thought of bringing change to work was when I worked off of tips so I wouldn’t lose out when people decided that waiting for me to get change wasn’t worth it.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I’ve worked in fast food places, a coffee shop, a “fast casual” sandwich place, and a buffet with waitstaff, and have never seen this.

    3. Saturn9*

      When you say “food service,” do you mean “waiting”? Because I have worked my share of food service and I’ve never been expected to front change.

  18. Anonymous*

    It actually is very similar to situation with automotive technicians and other similar professionals are are required to use the own tools.There is a whole bunch of history behind the reason, but the end result is that mechanics take very good care of their gear. So I agree with the comments about reducing loss of the float. Another example would be casual warehouse workers needing to supply their own safety boots.

  19. OP*

    Im glad others see the money practices as utterly bizarre. The company I work for knows that the employees love the people they work with. They sort of exploit this and the goodwill they’ve established when we were members ourselves. Still, the banking practices are absurd. We are paid for bank fees, checks, the time to drive to the bank in the time spent at the bank. Those are fine. But it is strange to provide the money. In the event that you are robbed, you would give up the money, called the police and file report, and call your manager. You would eventually get reimbursed by the company; however, I don’t know what the practice is for that.

    I do know that this practice causes lots of issues at the bank. For example, when I opened my new account, the banker looked at me like I was insane. He could not understand why the business would work this way. When my partner and I started searching for homes, and we were applying for loans, we ran into some trouble explaining the bank account. We see the check goes to one company every time; we also see cash come in. However it is not always a check for $X being cashed immediately after a deposit of $X. There is not a clear money in/money out exchange. In addition to the cash I provide, there is my personal money padding that bank account in the event that they lose a check or deposit it earlier or later than expected. I had checks bounced because they went through so late. I was reimbursed for those fees.

    I don’t know if it is worth noting, however, we do not have sales tax on any of the items or membership that members might purchase. This has been the way things have always been done, and they always will be done. I agree with other posters that, yes, an armored vehicle and petty cash would make things much easier. I don’t know why it doesn’t seem to work. Some posters are correct that we do have the sessions at alternative locations, not just at official storefronts. In that case we would also bring our own products to sell and we would bring our own cash. Those options are nice, but I still don’t understand why it is my money. We have been talking about changing it, but change I s very slow at this company.

    I am reluctant to say more because there is a culture of retaliation at this business. They may relieve you of your shift and claim it is for something else, so it is hard to say, “I was fired because of XYZ.” I don’t want to say too much and have it come back to me. There was a big story last year, it broke and it was easy to track who provided the information to the news outlets. The backlash professionally and personally and within the organization was tremendous. I would like to avoid that.

    I actually love this position, and I love the people I work with. This is sort of a side job for me, so it is meant to help pad my savings account and help me afford things that my full-time job does not allow. This company knows its workers love the people who come through our doors, and I think we are often exploited for the good feelings we have toward our members.

    1. Ms Enthusiasm*

      I’m more curious how this might impact Accounting, if at all. I would assume that since technically it is not their money then the company would not list it as cash on the balance sheet – at least I hope that is a safe assumption! But then they do receive the cash you send them which they must deposit into some bank account someplace. Plus whatever you sell must be counted as revenue. And I guess the fees they reimburse you for would be cost of goods sold? I wonder if the money you front them is listed anyplace in the financials? Maybe Goodwill or some other intangible? I wonder what the SEC thinks of this practice?

    2. Poe*

      Um…no sales tax? And all things in cash? I feel like there are some states that might want to take a look at this.

      1. OP*

        Not all purchases are in cash. The cash part affects the bank that I provide. We do get credit card sales, but those aren’t taxed either.

  20. The IT Manager*

    We are a national company that has been using these procedures for decades.

    This could be a hardhsip for an employee, but did commenters just skip over the above sentence when they started writing about money laundering and it being a tax evasion scheme. It’s probably not an elaborate money laundering operation that has been sucessfully propigated for decades. Also it has proven not to be disaster waiting to happen since it has been going on for decades. I totally agree with Alison’s assessment that unfortuanately the LW probably has little recourse.

    And it seems to me it could be Weight Watchers. My mom is a member and meetings are held in various public spaces where there would not be cash registers or safes. I could see how how the historical system where the employees provide the bank for change at the meetings came about.

    1. Kelly L.*

      It’s probably not money laundering etc., but it is possible for a company to be around for a long time and still be…questionable in its practices while still staying legal. Some MLM companies have been around for fifty years at this point while being a little shady the whole time. There’s a culture of blaming yourself when you don’t make money, so people don’t tend to speak out, at least until fairly recently (read Pink Truth for more than I can fit in this comment box).

      And WW has always seemed a little iffy to me on its business end, just from what I’ve heard from some acquaintances who became lifetime members and also essentially saleswomen for the brand. Caveats: I’ve never been a member of any kind, so all my knowledge is from an outside perspective; and I’m also not knocking the diet itself which seems to work for a lot of people. But I remember them being weirdly controlling about things like how you dressed if you were one of the saleswomen (i.e. you couldn’t wear pants because that didn’t show your thinness enough, legal but kind of made me go o.O). And the extremely narrow range of weight you could fluctuate before you had to pay again, which seemed to me to set people up to fail, especially women with their cyclic water retention.

      1. Kelly L.*

        (Note: I’m also not saying it’s a MLM; just that it kind of reminds me of one in some ways.)

        1. Another WW employee*

          I was never told that I could not wear pants by my management. We were told to dress in a way that if you walked into the room, you clearly know who works for the company. There is not a “pants ban” of sorts. The only rule I’ve heard is not to wear jeans or shorts and to have some sort of sleeve. It could be a spaghetti strap, but they did not want us in tube tops in the summer, for example.

          As for the free status, members know they can weigh once during the calendar month. For their weight to count toward being free. So you have complete control over when to come in. In some ways, it is very flexible and generous with what we give in terms of free status, free meetings, and free tools.

  21. Stephen S*

    This is a fairly common practice for restaurant employees (although it’s not typically in amounts as large as $200). I was a server for several years and we had a “bank” of ~$40 in smaller bills that we brought with us every day. The way it works is–if someone owes $16.50 for their meal and gives you a $20, you make $3.50 change from your own bank, and you hold on to that money until the end of the night, when you cash out with the manager, collecting your tips and handing over the cash for any cash payments that customers made. However, you haven’t ‘lost’ any money–you owe the restaurant the $16.50 that the customer owed for their meal, and you still have your $3.50, just those two amounts of money are now together in one $20 bill. At the end of the night you leave with the exact same amount of money that was in your ‘bank’ when you arrived. I never thought of this as an odd practice–giving employees cash to carry around with them might lead to stealing, and it was never really an inconvenience to have $40 of my own cash not in my bank account.

  22. Ruffingit*

    Dafuq?? This is crazy. And I am definitely in the category where I could not afford to front that kind of money to my employer. Every penny counts for me right now and I just wouldn’t have it to give. Nor would I want to, this is totally insane. Get another job OP. Seriously, start looking right now this really weird.

  23. Jazzy Red*

    This just seems kind of dodgy to me. I don’t think I’d care to work in a place like this. I can see too many things that can go wrong.

    And what happens if you’re robbed during the day? Does the company pay you back? If you’re robbed after hours? If you’ve never discussed this with TPTB, you should do so. Their answer would be quite revealing.

    I don’t like this at all.

  24. Anon for a minute*

    OH! WW? hahah. I thought it was a government job. Yes, government thinks this is okay. Boss provides the “bank”. Oh yeah, if there are any shortages, boss pays out of his pocket.

    And that is all okay with our leaders. Perfectly fine.

    OP, I feel for you. Not a job I would take on, for sure. My resentment would grow and grow…. I’d put this one under the heading of “The countless ways employers break their employees’ backs.”

  25. Helen S.*

    The OP made it sound like a retail store was doing this, and if that was the case this would be strange. This actually sounds more similar to being the treasurer of pretty much any kind of group/club with a cash box that has to be mobile to be taken to meetings. If you think of it like that, this is not so out of the ordinary. If you ever leave the company, you’ll take your $200 and be none the poorer.

    I don’t really understand the concern about not earning interest on $200. I think most people keep some kind of buffer in checking with low/no interest anyway. If someone was routinely paying thousands of dollars in cash for travel and having to wait to be reimbursed, then I would understand complaining, but the interest on $200 in a year is literally a couple of dollars at best. No one leaves the house and goes to a job without incurring some kind of expense that they wouldn’t otherwise have had to incur, and you can’t ask for the lost interest on that, you have to factor that into your compensation to begin with.

    1. OP*

      In some ways, this would be a retail setting. There are plenty of days where I mostly just sell products or membership. People can come in and buy anything on the shelf, and I make change using the bank I bring. I realize the interest would be negligible here, but my main concern is having that money taken out of my own account and used for the business. If we do not have a meeting, a person may be working for several hours in what we call “open hours. “These open hours are meant to be for people to drop in and purchase items, speak with someone, or purchase membership. That to me feels awfully like retail.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Honestly, I think the bigger problem is the low pay (especially reading the NY Times article linked). If you were making twice what you’re making now, and had to handle the bank as is, I bet it would feel less burdensome.

        In the context of WW, the only way I think they could change this is to stop accepting cash and only run cards. I don’t see how they could move small amounts of cash at tiny locations all around the country from a corporate level.

        The bigger problem in my eyes is that the compensation system seems to be based on a legacy idea of housewives running WW meetings for pin money.

  26. WW Fan*

    One thing about Weight Watchers: I am a Lifetime Member, (meaning I reached and continue to maintain my goal weight. ). I was finding it hard to stay at the weight I had chosen, which was at the low end for my height, and they just adjusted it upwards. It is a positive experience and very supportive…while you are on your weight loss journey, and after.

    1. Poe*

      People are not knocking the weight loss part of it, they are talking about the way the employees are treated.

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