Steal Or No Steal!

The story about the bingo manager who got sent to jail for stealing £31,000 from her employers does not surprise me. Although I never saw anything on a huge scale like this, I have seen instances of money being ‘borrowed’ from the staff in clubs that I have worked at. When you are working in an industry where the majority of people are overworked, underpaid and living on a shoestring budget, any chance to keep yourself ticking over until the next pay packet is appreciated.

When I first started out in bingo, I was working for a small independent company which paid there staff in cash every Thursday. Now I know what I am like with cash, so I had to make a concerted effort to go straight to the bank and put it into my account before I found the nearest pub (and subsequent fruit machine) otherwise come Friday I would be skint! However not all my work colleagues would be the same and Thursday/Friday/Saturday would be a popular time for socialising and spending, before the inevitable hangover on the Sunday and the realisation that they would have to borrow from the club to pay for the essentials (rent, bills etc) My first club were very good with this and after a chat with the manager you were usually given a few quid which would be taken straight out of your pay packet come the following wage day. The problem is for some of the staff this became a vicious circle of borrowing money/paying it back. I had one friend who, come pay day on the Thursday would come round to everyone he had borrowed money off; the club, staff and even in some instances the customers and pay them back what he owed, only to find out he didn’t have enough left over to cover himself for the rest of the week. So the next day he would be back to borrow a tenner here and a tenner there until the next Thursday!!!! I don’t think I ever saw him with a full pay packet in his hand in the 2 and a half years I worked there.

The other problem you have is when the staff decide to make up the difference in illegal ways. Stealing is an unfortunate truth in any job that involves cash and underpaid staff with the right opportunity, and bingo is no different. My first job in the club was as a change giver-we only dealt in 10ps but at the end of a busy night my pinny would have about £500 in notes in it!!!!! When I moved up to giving the prizes away on party bingo on busy nights i would start off with £2,500 in my hand. There was not a lot to stop me from just walking out of the building and getting on the first train out of town! And a couple of times other staff did just that!!!! Also I had to come face to face with a supervisor once when my float which was correct when I counted it at the end of the session, mysteriously was £15 down five minutes after I handed it to them to check. After a few ‘careful words’ the money was surprisingly found before senior management became involved!

The staff that used to disgust me though were the ones that actually took money from the customers, especially the vunerable ones: things like giving £9 in change to a customer who gave them £10, short-changing people at the diner and bar a few pence here and there. This sort of staff were the lowest of the low and they made me sick. It’s one thing to steal from the club; but to steal from a poor old-age pensioner who can’t remember whether they gave you a £10 or £20 pound note is despicable!

Fortunately this sort of crime is becoming rarer and rarer as bigger clubs use CCTV to not only protect the staff and customers, but also the huge amount of money on the premises as well.
In my experience at these modern clubs any sort of illegal activity is dealt with swiftly and efficiently, and in the case of money being legitimately borrowed it is all strictly monitored and policied so both parties are protected.

7 years ago when i started in bingo i was on £2.75 an hour as a 25 year old!!!!!!!!!!! No wonder all this sort of borrowing was going on, especially in the small clubs. But one good thing the goverment has done for the industry in the last few years is to introduce the minimum wage scheme (currently £5.52 an hour). Small compensation I know for the rest of the burdens they have given the industry, but it does mean that IOU’s in bingo safes are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

And to end with something my dad used to say to me ‘if you can’t afford to buy it then you can’t have it’ Wise words Dad!

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