We've been noticing for a while now that our register is always off...usually it's short, but sometimes it's over. Not just a few dollars, usually like $30-$50.

Another problem is we have a change "bucket" in the safe that's supposed to have $250 regularly. We're supposed to count it every few days to make sure it's on track. Often it's short. I've told the staff to keep adequate change in the register so that they don't run out during busy periods and then stress out and get the wrong change.

Initially, we thought there was something wrong with how we were counting the till, and we did find some trouble with how the credit card tips were accounted for, but we've since resolved that and the problem is still occurring. I've talked to the staff about being more careful, but the problem only seems to be getting worse.

Part of the problem is not just one person uses the register. We're in a bakery setting with usually one barista up front. When the line gets long or when the barista gets stuck making a bunch of drinks, either myself or my other baker steps in and rings people up for their pastries and such. So it's really hard to isolate where the problem occurs.

Here's some of our ideas:

1. staff not allowed to pull credit card tips out of the register. Instead, I will distribute them with their paychecks. They will not like this.
2. staff not allowed to change back their tips.
3. we have two tills, one for am barista and one for pm barista. I am the only other person allowed to use the register. If the problem still occurs, we go to only allowing the barista to use the register and I will shift to making coffees (which I don't necessarily like because I'm not as good at coffee) Or we can just make our customers wait which might backfire since most of our customers have short breaks.
4. I will probably keep the change "bucket" in my office and they will have to ask me for change.

I know how prevalent theft is in the industry, but I really want to trust my staff. However, we really need to isolate the problem so we can resolve it in the best way.

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The cash register we currently use allows for Cashier numbers to track what person is ringing up what. If your register has this feature, just assign everyone a number that only they know and have them use it when they ring somebody up.
Hi stephanie,
We have had the same problem at our cafe for many months. The till should only be short for several reasons...
1. Incorrect change
2. Rounding up tips
3. Void gaps
4. Theft
All of the above have been causing us problems (including theft unfortunately), but we have found a few solutions.
The first step was to change out the drawer twice a day, followed by reminding our staff to make correct change out of our equivalent of the "change bucket". The last step was to retrain our staff on how to void transactions and reopen incorrect transactions as well.
Turns out, the void issue was the main perpetrator.
I dunno about your POS software, but ours makes it more than difficult to void transaction (arguably a good thing). When our staff would incorrectly ring things up, they would just ring it through as exact change and start over to avoid taking the time to void something. This creates huge gaps in the gross sales for the day and the cash drop. Once we showed everyone how to quickly void or restart transactions, we lost these gaps and the till was back to break even.
Chances are you're not actually short on cash, the register just thinks there were more transactions than there actually were.
Good luck!
You have already received some great advice and i agree that the usual reason for large over/shorts is because of voids. My first priority would be to retrain the staff on your procedure for refunds and voids/cancels. If a void or return is made, have the employee print out a receipt and initial it. your register should be tallying the void transactions so you should be able to match the receipts

Here are a few other ideas:

*have cashier or shift leader count out the new till before popping it in the register
*count the "change bucket" before counting out the "used" till
*pull credit card tips every transaction
*don't change cashiers mid-order

hope this helps and good luck!
ok. this is good advice. Now, I have a new easier worksheet mocked up and I'm racking my brain trying to figure out how to count the till mid day. I'd like to have the starting money as a separate drawer so we don't have to shut down the place while the counting is going on...here's what I have...

Daily Sales Report
Opening Person
Opening Money:
+other bills
=Total Opening money

Closing Person
Closing Money:
+other bills
=Total Closing Money

To figure the cash brought in:
Closing money in hand
-Today's Opening Money
=Actual Money for Deposit

Now figure if we're off:
Total Sales from report
-Credit cards including tips
=Total Day Sales (should match money for Deposit)

Now make adjustments to the drop (this part needs some work)
Misc not part of retail sales (wholesale accounts, cash bucket adjustments, etc.)
Subtract money pulled from deposit to adjust cash bucket.
Subtract money pulled from deposit to adjust drawer.
Add money from checks from wholesale accounts, misc. NOT accounted for on register.

Actual Bank deposit

Tips from credit cards
Tips for AM Shift, please initial
Tips for PM Shift, please initial
Total Tips
Tips on Report

So the above seems really confusing, even to me...then add the whole second counting of the money and it gets even more confusing! Any thoughts?
it's a great idea to get a second drawer for your till. this makes the mid-day switch way smoother. while both drawers are out of the machine run your reports. i'm not sure what kind of register you are using, but pull a report (ours is called an x-report) that does not settle the drawer. at the same time pull a non-settling report from your credit card machine (batch review). make sure that ALL the credit card tips from the AM shift have been entered before as well.

i like this method because it make the closers drawer way easier. the closer needs to enter the PM tips and run the settling reports on the register and credit card machine. the only extra step will be combining the AM and PM's cash for deposit. hopefully this method will help you find out where the mistakes are being made.

could you help explain some of these steps?

[ Now make adjustments to the drop (this part needs some work)
Misc not part of retail sales (wholesale accounts, cash bucket adjustments, etc.)
Subtract money pulled from deposit to adjust cash bucket.
Subtract money pulled from deposit to adjust drawer.
Add money from checks from wholesale accounts, misc. NOT accounted for on register.]

Thanks Rita, that totally helps.

could you help explain some of these steps?

[ Now make adjustments to the drop (this part needs some work)
Misc not part of retail sales (wholesale accounts, cash bucket adjustments, etc.)
Subtract money pulled from deposit to adjust cash bucket.
Subtract money pulled from deposit to adjust drawer.
Add money from checks from wholesale accounts, misc. NOT accounted for on register.]

Those last steps are what I would do separately...like we have a few wholesale accounts and those are entered into quick books and not the register so when we get a check, I just deposit it with the rest of the money...but need somewhere of knowing why the deposit was higher and such.

i might leave off the cash bucket adjustments...if I'm handling the cash bucket directly, it will be less likely to be off.

i also need to figure out how to do a mid-day tip report for the credit cards so my baristas can properly note what tips they should be getting.
We had a very big issue about a year back with this. The problem at the 20-30 dollar level was it was too consistent on specific shifts. No one wants to assume that the barista's they hire, befriend, have over to their home and then find out that they are stealing...heartbreaking. I am not suggestion that this is your situation but don't be naive. On this specific situation we had shortages that matched up with missing voided sale slips. Long story short, the customer and manager sign the new voided sales slip and it is placed in the drawer. If their is no manager on duty the responsibility goes to the employee who created the void. They must sign the slip and detail the reason. If the slip is lost the employee pays the loss.
Also, we have a back up till that has the same "bank" as the other. At every shift change we take the active till replace it with the freshly verified till. Total up all the credit cards, gift cards voids, tips and then count the till total. If you have two shifts you have two count outs. The cash totals are placed in envelopes and sealed and signed. You use those totals to balance the end of the day till but there is usually no need to open the envelopes.
I will try to find you a copy of our closing sheet and email it. I realize after reading this that there is a lot of info that may not make a ton of sense. I have a lot to share with you on this.
You need to get tighter on your procedures and controls. Double drawers is a good step but enforcing responsibility in absolutely necessary. Assign a shift lead or manager who will take ultimate responsibility for the drawer and paperwork. Maybe 1 or 2 percent off the register is okay, but greater amounts need to be properly accounted for.

Most registers I've worked will void transactions but account for that void in the totals. Your Cash In Drawer report should match the actual cash in the drawer.

Sounds like things have been running pretty relaxed and new, stricter measures will be met with resistance. Prepare yourself for that. Prepare yourself for the reality that you may have to fire some of your staff over this. But remember, this is business and we're in the business of being profitable. Theft or poor performance hinders profitability and you lose everything if your business goes under. They go and find another job somewhere else.
Boy, a ton of good advice here with how to manage this. One other thing to think about long term is to look at replacing the cash register with a POS. This is one of the main reasons people start looking at POS systems. Add a second drawer, set it up to only open based on employee codes, cards or even fingerprint and get some serious accountability. If shortages are occurring because of theft, then the natural thought is what else is going missing? Are they charging correctly for drinks, add ons etc?
There are some great ideas here. The second drawer thing is something I want to suggest we try as we (more often that should be) have major trainwrecks during shift change. Our current system is that the day person completely closes the drawer and register, and settles the credit card machine, the incoming night shift manager double counts the drawer for them, and then goes to tally tickets in the office. This creates a problem because it inevitably gets busy at 5:30 and you are tying to count the drawer, help customers, make sure everything is stocked, and fill in the new waitstaff on what is going on. there are always customers that can't pay right away because the drawer is out, etc. Over all it can be a very frustrating and stressful start of the day for one person and end of it for the other.
i know, that sounds all too familiar. Second till saves us the headache of loosing count or giving up on doing an accurate job. Also pinpoints errors at least narrowing down who was on the till by the number of baristas on shift.
So we've tried implementing a new counting system, and it's becoming immediately clear that my baristas are not able to count, nor enter data into the form correctly. The money is still off, but by like $10-20 over every day. So, rather than live in eternal frustration, I will start counting the money at the end of the nite so all they have to be responsible for is that they count $200 out of the drawer after their shift.

So next week, we will be implementing the "one person runs the register" thing. My question is, if a person's register is continually off, what are other people using as punishment. Something like, if your register is more than $5 off 3x then probation. If it happens another 3x, then termination? What do you think is fair.

Honestly, if they can't work the register, they can't work at the bakery. I am prepared for the consequences.

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