To Catch a Thief

oh wow – people sure enjoyed my old Starbucks’ story. I have many.

Since I worked in the food service industry for nearly 13 years, I’ve come across a lot of situations about theft. I’ve seen people get fired, I’ve fired people and I’ve been a part of two huge investigations at Starbucks. Here is one of those stories, for throwback Thursday. (name used is fake)

I worked in a store that in its past life was a bank – complete with a giant safe and lots of rooms that we used for storage and meetings on the second floor. This store had a fire place, a team of incredible partners, hilarious regular customers and a decent sized display of merchandise that I LOVED transforming whenever a new promotion rolled out. One Tuesday night, I was asked to work with shift supervisor Dirk to set up for our big espresso machine sale.

Because we were such a big store, we had a lot of inventory. We also had the luxury of space – something rare at most Starbucks locations. To get into our stock room, one had to go through a door, down a hall, up some stairs, punch in the code on the door lock, walk down another hallway, and then use a key to open the stock room door.

Dirk and I were in the stock room, organizing the last big order, counting inventory to make our display plan – and then Dirk asked me to hand him the machines, so we could arrange them by colour before bringing several downstairs.

I picked up the first box – empty. Ok, must be the display model.

I picked up the next box – empty. Oookay. Maybe that’s the demo.

The next box was empty.

The next box…empty. And the next… Empty.

Empty.

Empty.

Empty.

Empty.

Imagine the look on both Dirk and I’s faces as I picked up each subsequent box to find it empty. There were at least 10 espresso machines missing. How? How could this happen?

I felt violated and thought to myself, somebody did this. I adored everyone that I worked with at this store. There was not one person on my shit list. But how could it have not been an inside job? I was devastated. Dirk almost cried, he was so upset at our discovery.

We called our manager and the police. The investigation ensued over the coming days and weeks and eventually I think every employee at the store had to fill out some kind of report to prove their innocence. I had no idea that they were actually thinking that Dirk might have done it, but when he told me how his interview went, I knew this must be the case comparing it to my own. There was no way. I was there and saw the look on his face that mirrored my own. While they had their suspicions, nothing was proven.  Nobody got let go, in the end, and the case remained unresolved.

…Fast forward a month…

Dirk and I were working together again, on a closing shift. He sent me on my break, so I got in line, ordered my drink and, when I was about to walk around the counter to the back room, I saw a man that I didn’t know walking out of the door that would lead to the stock room. All he had to do was turn the corner, then exit the store from our side door. That’s what he wanted to do. But he saw me, startled, then quickly walked straight ahead towards the bathrooms. People have gone through that door mistaking it to be where the bathrooms were before, but seeing that he had intended to exit, then changed his mind after seeing me, set off my spidey senses.

and he had a duffle bag.

A pit formed in my stomach: panic. Act, Janine, act. Do something. Now.

I shouted, “Dirk! Come here — RIGHT NOW!” Dirk came running, hearing the urgency in my tone. When Dirk got to where I was standing, the guy came out of the bathroom and tried to make a beeline to the exit. I shouted, “He just came out of our back room”. Dirk saw the duffle bag and leaped at it, grabbing hold of it like his life depended on it. The guy dropped it, then ran out of the store.

Inside…2 espresso machines, out of their boxes.

Dirk and I both spontaneously bursted into tears and hugged each other. His sense of relief was obviously deeper and more personal than mine, but I was just grateful that the impossible had happened – we had been targeted by someone who figured out a way past our security measures. None of my beloved partners had done it.


The police indicated that the number punch on the door handle are pretty easy to crack. And, they figured that he got past the locked door using a knife of some sort. We changed both locks, installed alarms and all felt safe again.

But, what an experience!

side note: the image you’re seeing is from 2007 when I left a bouquet of flowers and card for my old Starbucks after it turned into a short-lived Yaletown Sofa. The building has since been torn down and redeveloped.

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