While working as a waitress in a busy restaurant/ bar, I observed a practice that was very common but appeared questionable. Often, in busy places of business, it is all too easy for employees to bend the rules and get away with it. Managers have so much on their hands that they have to trust their employees and, sadly, not everyone is trustworthy. In our restaurant, servers and bartenders were given a daily “spill sheet” on which they were supposed to record any alcoholic (and, especially, expensive) drinks that were accidentally spilled in the course of business that day.
When an employee is moving fast and dodging customers, spills are a natural occurrence, and the “spill sheet” was meant to take those accidents into account for the restaurant. When I began working there, I realized that at the end of the night not all of the spills on the list were genuine. Employees, typically bartenders because they had direct access, would serve free drinks to their friends all night and put the drinks on the spill sheet. To accommodate large numbers of missing drinks, bartenders would serve their friends the same kind of beer all night and then claim a dropped case of that brand of beer. They could also claim a dropped liquor bottle and have enough to keep alcohol flowing for their friends. Other employees would also take responsibility for some of the spills to make the bartenders appear credible. I was asked on several occasions to take responsibility for a fake “spill.” In this way, employees used the spill sheet to their advantage instead of for its intended purpose. They would serve free drinks courtesy of “spilling” until the volume reached was just under the suspicious level. As long as a pattern was not formed, the managers never knew they were being deceived.
1. What type of ethical standards, if any, were the employees in the restaurant living by when they committed this common but questionable action? Is the “entitlement mentality” at work here?
2. If you were an employee and you saw this situation, would you think it should be reported or would you keep your mouth shut and let the practice continue? If you were asked to participate and take a “spill” for the team, what would you do? Why?
3. If your manager ever confronted you about some excessive spilling, would you personally think it was more ethical to protect the other employees or tell your manager the truth?