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Stealing from the Till

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"Take stuff from work.
And goof off on the company time.
I wrote this at work.
They're paying me to write about stuff I steal from them.
Life is good."
King Missile, "Take Stuff from Work"

It can be as minor as taking pens to as major as budgeting an entire chunk of the company to fund a private island. Whatever the case may be, it's Stealing from the Till — committing some form of theft on resources, money, or items that the thief's workplace uses.

How acceptable the crime is perceived as depends on narrative focus and the relative scale of the theft. If you work at a soul-sucking job with awful pay, then it's "okay" to take money out of petty cash to help cover the bills, but your boss wiring money to an off-shore account is not. If you take supplies rather than cash, that's even less frowned upon, because the company was expecting it to be used, right? (Similar logic applies to Stealing from the Hotel.) Large-scale schemes to defraud people are almost always seen as a worse crime than other kinds of theft, not just because of the number of people ripped off, but because of the breach in trust.

The legal term for this sort of behavior is embezzlement. It's such an ugly word, though.

A subtrope of White-Collar Crime and Inside Job. Compare Stealing from the Hotel and Fake Charity. Not to be confused with stealing something from Till Lindemann.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Henkyou no Roukishi Bard Loen: King Windellan has been sending a lot of allowance money to Kaldus Coendera, to support Aidra Tersia who is a mother of his child, but nobody is allowed to know Kaldus isn't the father. Kaldus uses all that money for his own political gain. And Windellan doesn't know his lover has passed away some time ago.
  • Spy X Family has Loid and Franky go on a sub-mission alongside the main Strix mission, where they have to bust a smuggling ring and take back a load of stolen jewellery. Franky is hesitant to do so until Loid suggests that a few small pieces could go "missing" in the process. Loid pockets a diamond ring intended for his fake marriage with Yor but loses it in an ensuing gunfight alongside her, so he opts for a grenade pin ring.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix in Helvetia, Gaul's governor has been skimming off the taxes the province sends to Rome. To illustrate the depths of his embezzling, when the taxmaster arrives, the governor gives him a lapful of gold, chucks most of the money in his private coffer, and throws a couple of coins into a small moneybox for Rome. This is what forces Rome to send an inquisitor to check the accounts, so the governor proceeds to poison the inquisitor. The poisoned man manages to call for Getafix, who sends Asterix and Obelix to Helvetia to collect an edelweiss for the antidote. It turns out Helvetia's governor is just as corrupt as Gaul's.
  • While it's usually not portrayed as a bad thing when he does it, Batman spends a lot of the Wayne Enterprises budget on weird bat-themed gadgets, and sometimes a space station. While Wayne Enterprises is referred to as "his" company, it's also generally portrayed with a board, occasionally at risk of a takeover, and other things that suggest that like most large companies it's a publicly traded corporation, or at least has multiple shareholders, and Bruce Wayne is simply the majority shareholder. Consequently Batman has embezzled, or caused Lucius Fox to embezzle on his behalf, millions of dollars.
  • Thug Boy in Empowered used to make a living working as a Dumb Mook for various supervillains, stealing their expensive gadgets and ebaying them after the villains got caught. 'Til they steal from the wrong guy...

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert:
    • Everyone in Dilbert has stolen something from the company, from office supplies to computers to prototypes of superweapons and time machines. Wally once brought a large rechargeable battery to work in order to steal the company's electricity to power his home.
      "If they cut my benefits one more time, I'll make a play for their water too."
    • The Dilbert book Build a Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies.
  • Retail:
    • Pops up occasionally, mostly in dialogue that indicates the person that Grumbel's is considering hiring would do that...which causes Grumbel's to not hire them.
    • During the South Heights liquidation arc Cooper decides to fire an employee because she's been stealing from the till, and gets advice from Marla on how to do so without outright accusing her of such (cause that could lead to a lawsuit). Marla tells him to fire her not for stealing, but incompetence. Stuart (who has never trusted Cooper) is appalled that Cooper took action without consulting him, and then laughed at him when he found out Cooper consulted Marla because he knew Cooper didn't do it right on his own. (The thief's reaction to being fired was 'whateva'. Should be noted this was at a store that was closing anyway.)

  • In Pom Pom's Eleven, the main plot point is Homestar Runner and his friends getting back at Homeschool Winner for embezzling money from them. The reason that he did this was because he grew tired of Homestar Runner being in charge of the website despite being less intelligent than he was.
  • In Bequeathed from Pale Estates, the Westerlands' Miner's Guild features the Winter Fund, a crowdfunding protocol in which every member, highborn or lowborn, donates a small part of their earnings to prepare for purchases to be made on long and hard winters, buying lumber and furs from the North and food from the Reach and Essos. The fact Tywin hasn't called up the Guild to begin arrangements on the disbursement of the Fund in the face of the looming winter worries everybody in the Westerlands. This is because Tywin's been skimming off the fund to pay for Cersei's extravagant lifestyle and to prop up Robert's failing reign. He's fully aware of the sheer folly of what he's doing, especially as not only per ancient treaty is the Guild legally allowed to execute him for daring to touch the Fund, the Guild represents the core of his army. He resorts to having Gregor Clegane murder the Master of Coin - one of his own bannermen - to make sure his fortune will be inherited by one of his cousins, allowing him to replenish the funds he stole.
  • A Darker Path: Atropos makes it clear to the mayor that if any members of the Brockton Bay revitalisation committee try to skim funds for their own use, she will know and will persuade their colleagues not to repeat it. Some of them still have sticky fingers, though.
    Taylor: And Janice Templeton keeps trying to push the idea of issuing physical checks instead of handing out debit cards so she can arrange for a certain number to be 'lost'. I'll deal with it.

  • XX: In "The Birthday Barty", Clara is helping herself to her employers' liquor.
  • The title character in Alfie is quite proud of the fact that he has a "fiddle" on the go with the company that employs him as a chauffeur, and even claims that this makes his work more interesting for him. His supervisor is actually aware that he's helping himself to the company's fuel and money, but rather than discipline him he warns him not to be too greedy, in addition to pointing out that Alfie's relatively cheerful demeanour at work makes it all too obvious that he's up to something nefarious.
  • The Blues Brothers: One deleted scene (restored in some versions) showed that Elwood worked in a glue factory while Jake was in jail. As he was quitting to restart his old band, he stole at least one bottle of the glue they made; this turned out to be a Chekhov's Gun, as he later used that same glue to sabotage the Good ol' Boys' vehicle.
  • In The Candy Snatchers, Candy's Wicked Stepfather is very wealthy from constantly embezzling money from the jewelry store he manages.
  • In Canyon Passage, George pilfers gold dust from the express office safe to cover his gambling debts. This catches up with a miner returns much sooner than expected and wants his gold before George has had a chance to replace it.
  • In Casino, the mafia bankrolls a Casino in order to fleece it. The skimmers take offence about their own operation being in turn skimmed off the top.
  • In The Cheat, a rich socialite who is tired of her husband's penny-pinching ways steals the money from the Red Cross charity she administers and tries to use it in a get-rich-quick scheme. It turns out to be a bad idea.
  • After waking up from a coma, Durant in Darkman II soon finds out that one of his men has used his absence to take a piece of his organization's earnings for himself, and has him killed by putting him in a golf cart that drives off from a building.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy has a a sympathetic example. Lucius and Bruce are technically embezzling assets from Wayne Enterprises to equip Batman, and they are discovered and blackmailed by an auditor (technically again).
    Lucius Fox: Mr. Wayne, the way I see it, all this stuff is yours anyway.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 2: In "Dust", George learns that the Martian dust might destroy cancer cells, he immediately steals a sample to test on his wife.
  • Sue Ellen's 'borrowing' from petty cash and her subsequent attempts to repay it before the theft is noticed drives a large chunk of the plot in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.
  • In The Dry, Scott is doing this on a massive scale by having an educational grant worth $70,000 earmarked for the school redirected into his personal account.
  • Fargo: It's implied that Jerry's been doing this at his car dealership, and is on the verge of being found out, necessitating him to set up his wife's kidnapping to replace the stolen money (and make a nice profit on top of it).
  • George Bailey is falsely accused of this in It's a Wonderful Life.
  • The title character of Marnie is a serial thief, preying on one employer after another.
  • Most of the plot of Office Space revolves around a trio of friends who attempt to do this to the company that screwed them over. They plan to siphon off the fractions of a cent left over from various electronic transactions, which is too small to be noticed but over years will amount to a huge payday. Unfortunately they make an error in their coding and wind up with over $300,000 in just a few days, which instantly sends the corporation into panic. Milton, who is unconnected to this plot, coincidentally burns down the building that night, which shuts down the company and destroys all the evidence. The three conspirators are happy to just not have this hanging over their heads, and Milton escapes with the money to a tropical island.
  • The first half-hour or so of Psycho follows Marion Crane as she steals from her place of employment and escapes to the Bates Motel. Then she meets Mother.
  • The Mickey Rooney movie Quicksand has him as a naive auto mechanic who wants to impress a girl with expensive tastes. So he borrows twenty dollars from the till. Then he learns that his tightwad boss has decided to run an audit early this month, well before payday. Each thing the mechanic does to try to fix his mistakes just digs him in deeper, until at the climax of the film he's fleeing to Mexico to avoid a murder rap.
  • In Road House (1989), the bartender is literally stealing from the till (cash register) until Dalton fires him. Too bad he's the nephew of the local crime boss...
  • A major subplot of Say Anything... is Mr. Court stealing money from the clients of his nursing home.
  • The SPECTRE meeting in Thunderball had Number One accuse an underling for stealing from him when the illegal drug trade racket he's in charge of earned less than expected, despite the man's explanation of competition from The Cartel driving prices down. He's nervously sweating like his side operation's just been rumbled and he's about to be fired and fried...until Number One abruptly zaps a different member that was acting nonchalant the whole time. Said underling even looked smug, but Blofeld knew that he was the real thief. Blofeld even uses it to warn the other members to not betray him. Truth in Television as real life criminal gangs have killed members who knowingly stole from the organization.
  • The War Wagon: Wes Fletcher pilfers from the supplies he delivers for Pierce. At the start of the film, he steals two bags of salt and hides them in a secret compartment under the drivers seat. Taw sees him and tells him to put them back, as he's no use to him if he gets sacked for stealing before The Heist.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dolores indicates that she borrowed from the bar's till for Eddie's sake. She is adamant that he restore the money before her boss checks the books.
  • In The Young Poisoner's Handbook, Graham steals thallium from the lab and uses it to poison his co-workers.

  • A bank manager calls the head of security to his office. "There's $2,000 missing from the safe. And we're the only two people with the key..." "Tell you what boss, we each put $1,000 back and say no more about it."
  • Every time a customer in a certain bar pays for a drink, the bartender puts half a dollar in the register and half a dollar in his pocket. After doing this for a while, he puts the whole dollar in his pocket. The owner says "What's the matter, ain't we partners anymore?"

  • Wayne steals part of the Dairy Barn's earnings in Graham McNamee's Acceleration.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: After the antagonistic High Bishop who was in place at the beginning of the story is replaced, his former assisstant mentions that he didn't make any difference between the money meant for his own expenses and the money meant for temple expenses. This resulted in both budgets being in the red.
  • In Banco, Papillon can't resist a little criminal action even while doing honest work. He winds up running the executive's kitchen for an American oil firm and he embezzles from his department's budget. The high-quality food eventually gets the executives to bring their wives along for meals, which only helps Papillon skim more money with less risk — he's already breaking the rules by feeding extra mouths and nobody is paying attention to the extra expenses.
  • The Bible notes this of Judas in John 12:6 when he is among those to complain when Mary Magdalene anoints Jesus:
    "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it."
    • There's also the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, who faced unemployment because he wasted his master's funds. So he cleverly marked down a few of his master's creditors' bills (possibly making up the difference out of his own commission, so he may not have been committing new embezzlement), ingratiating himself with the potential new employers. Moral: If even crooks are wise enough to use their money to do good for people, you should too!
    • Tax collectors in Roman-occupied territories were notorious for claiming more payment than their managers demanded and pocketing the difference, which was part of the reason why tax collectors were so hated by the Jews at the time.
  • In Big Trouble, Arthur Herk has been stealing bribe money from his employer, Penultimate, Inc., to pay off his own gambling debts. Penultimate, a major government contractor whose Corrupt Corporate Executives have far more professional experience in skimming money, decides to punish the embezzling employee by hiring a couple of New Jersey hitmen.
  • The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries: The villains in book 7 were embezzling from the library budget for over a decade using a phony e-book company, which they themselves had set up and then got a subscription to it for the library, allowing the college access to the e-books it provided. Except all the items were permanently checked out, and the money supposedly going to the company went straight into the villains' pocket. When the library director tried to cancel the subscription in order to reduce the library's spending, the villains killed him and faked his resignation; when his successor figured out what was going on and tried to blackmail the villains, he was killed; and a witness who tried to continue the blackmail was also killed.
  • Chocoholic Mysteries:
    • This is what the villains of Cat Caper were ultimately up to, embezzling from the murder victim (who only caught on when her credit card was rejected because they'd spent too much from it) whom one of them worked for as a secretary, handling all her bills and such.
    • The villain of Book Bandit was doing this too. As treasurer for several community organizations, she stole funds from them and funneled it into her husband's failing business. He, it turns out, is completely innocent in the matter, having had no idea what his wife was up to.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count notes that his head servant has a salary of 1500 francs per year, and is making as much again by taking a cut out of the household expenditures that he is in control of.
  • Death on the Nile has this as a possible motive for Andrew Pennington, who was stealing from the victim. It's also implied that Simon Doyle was doing the same thing to his previous employers, which is why he was "out of a job" when the book started.
  • Discworld:
    • Discussed and averted in Unseen Academicals, Lord Vetinari (while a little tipsy) says that,
      Every job has its little perks. Why, I don't expect that Drumknott [his clerk] here has bought a paperclip in his life, eh, Drumknott?
    • However, Drumknott later feels the need to set the record straight:
      I would not like it thought that I do not buy my own paperclips, sir. I enjoy owning my own paperclips. It means that they are mine.
    • However, played straight in other Discworld books with Nobby of the Watch. It's said that if you need petty cash in the Watch, you go and shake Nobby until he gives it back. In Making Money, when Moist von Lipwig learns that the City Watch also serve as bank security, he reflects that the money might be safe, but the coffee and pens almost certainly aren't.
    • Feet of Clay features a palace maid who takes home food and candles, and is quite clear that this isn't stealing, it's perks. Commander Vimes agrees with her.
  • In the short story "Divinity" by Joseph Samachson, when George Bailey is looking over his life after landing on the alien planet, he remembers dipping in the till as his first crime. He initially blames it on his over-protective and controlling mother; "she'd taught him to resist everything but temptation".
  • Hannah Swensen: As revealed in Cream Puff Murder, this got Ronni Ward fired from one of her previous jobs — she was a cocktail waitress at a bar, where she totaled her customers' bar tabs early, took their credit cards and rang them up. Then, when they'd order another round, she'd ask them to pay in cash and pocketed it. When the owner complained to the bartender about his coming up short, the bartender started keeping a closer eye on the cocktail waitresses and caught her in the act.
  • In I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Harry Bogen convinces Meyer Bushkin that Apex Modes is making so much money that it needs to hide its earnings from the government, so they can set up a scheme where Apex Modes writes checks to a personal bank account, on which checks of equal amount are drawn. Harry makes sure Meyer's name is on all the checks, so that Harry isn't the one facing jail time when the company goes bankrupt.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries: It's discovered that in Killer Cruise, that Kyle Pritchard has been embezzling from his aunt Emily so he and Leona Nesbitt can run off to the Cayman Islands. Neither of them are the killer, but they get disinherited and fired respectively.
  • Brandon from Kea's Flight used to be the CEO of a company. He was sentenced to the Flying Dustbin for disguising an illicit personal fund as a non-profit organization.
  • In Anthony Bourdain's memoir Kitchen Confidential, this is one of the many problems that restaurant managers have to deal with. Bar staff are particularly prone to it, and Bourdain gives an anecdote about a bar person who had his own till — at the end of his shift he would take the whole lot home with him.
  • Although not stated outright, the contents of the Grants' flat in the Rivers of London series suggest that Peter's Mum has been taking home "perks" from her office-cleaning jobs, like paper towels or tinned biscuits left out for the cubicle staff.
  • Safehold: The Church of God Awaiting expects bishop executors to pocket some of the tithes, to the point of counting the average skimming percentage as part of the bishops' salary. This is also standard operating procedure in Desnair and, especially, Harchong, where nothing gets done without bribes.
  • Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold:
    • The framing story in the Borders of Infinity Fix Up Novel involves an alleged peculation plot by Miles Vorkosigan for several million Imperial Marks. Two of the three component stories explain the rather large cost overruns his missions incurred that form the basis of the accusation. (The third story is about why Miles would never steal from the Imperium.)
    • Captain Vorpatril's Alliance begins with looking for a ring stealing military equipment.
  • Many Scott Adams (featuring his Dilbert comics) books feature submissions and other brainstorming over things to do with stolen office supplies, including roof thatching with floppy disks.
  • Denis Leary tells an anecdote in Why We Suck that involves him and a handful of friends stealing office supplies from the Atlantic Monthly offices while working there as night janitors. The group (minus Denis, who was fired earlier for unrelated reasons) eventually gets fired when they get caught trying to steal a desk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mr. Humphries is accused of doing this in Are You Being Served?, and asked to resign. Fortunately, Mr. Harman finds that the till is faulty, and the missing pound notes were actually jammed into the back.
  • Maeby steals from the till in the Banana Stand on an episode of Arrested Development, and on a larger scale, almost everyone steals from the Bluth company.
  • In Batwoman, Ryan Wilder's tenure as CEO of Wayne Enterprises almost comes to an abrupt end after its board of directors suddenly notices all the money that's been siphoned out of the company over the years. She herself is not a suspect, as she was only recently appointed to the job, but she and Luke have to figure out a cover to avoid the board discovering that two of their former CEOS were Batman and Batwoman, respectively. In the end, Luke forges some documents to "prove" that Bruce Wayne had a top-secret deal with A.R.G.U.S.
  • The murder plot in Betrayal kicks off when powerful Corrupt Corporate Executive Thatcher Karsten suspects that his late wife's brother is stealing from the company. Before the accusation can be proven or disproven, the brother-in-law is murdered.
  • Better Call Saul:
    • Jimmy's childhood Start of Darkness was working at his father's general store and watching his father get duped by an obvious conman. The conman tells Jimmy that there are two people in the world: wolves and sheep. An angry and disenchanted Jimmy apparently resolves to be a wolf and helps himself to cash from his father's register. Many years later, Jimmy's brother recalls their father going out of business, with thousands of dollars having gone missing over the years. (It's later acknowledged, though, that Jimmy didn't steal as much as Chuck thought; his father was a major victim of con-artists over the years.)
      • Jimmy is guilty of more petty thievery while working at Davis and Main. As well as a water bottle he leaves the firm with an awful lot of Davis and Main-branded pens, which he has no shame in displaying in a Davis and Main-branded mug in his office.
    • Craig and Betsy Kettleman conspired to embezzle $1.6 million from the County Treasury while Craig was working there. When they later start their own tax rebate business they're found to be giving clients smaller rebates than expected, pocketing the difference for themselves. They justify their theft by telling themselves they work hard and are entitled to reward themselves.
    • Daniel "Pryce" Wormald steals medication from the pharmaceutical firm where he works and sells it for profit.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Walter initially makes meth by stealing chemicals and lab equipment from the high school where he works.
    • On a much grander scale, this is what Lydia's job is in Gus and later Walt's organization. She makes chemicals useful in meth production disappear. While Gustavo is careful enough to make sure Madrigal is more than compensated for the "losses," without him, the group just outright steals chemicals.
  • In early episodes of Better Off Ted, Linda takes petty revenge on the company by taking absurd amounts of creamer packets from the office kitchen. She stops when Ted becomes worried that she will get into trouble, but is later seen repeatedly triggering an automatic paper towel dispenser, rolling out yards of paper towel out of spite for its only dispensing a couple inches at a time.
  • On Corner Gas, Wanda replaces the gas station's phone because the old one was starting to have terrible battery problems. However, she treats the instruction manual for the new phone as Serious Business, particularly the part that says the phone must be fully charged before it is used for the first time, and prevents anyone from answering it.
    Brent: [annoyed] So you replaced the phone that doesn't work with one we can't use. What'd that upgrade cost me?
    Wanda: [shrugs] Whatever's missing from the till.
  • A CSI episode eventually reveals that the motive for the murder of several Buddhist monks in their temple was the killer stealing from the temple money box. One of the monks caught him doing that. The thief panicked and shot the other monks.
  • CSI: NY had an episode where the victim was discovered to have been taking money from the cash register of the department store where she worked and giving it to other people.
  • In an episode of Desperate Housewives, one of Susan's best friends turns out to be an embezzler.
  • Doctor Who: In "Turn Left", Donna Noble helps herself to some office equipment after being fired. Loudly, in an effort to draw attention to herself.
  • The whole reason Father Ted "That Money Was Just Resting in My Account" Crilly works at Craggy Island parish. The dots aren't entirely connected, but it appears that at some point in the past he took money intended for a sick child's pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and spent it on a trip to Las Vegas. At the end of season 2, the charges are expunged, but the season 3 debut starts with an accountant looking into his expenses at his new mainland parish, and before you know it, he's back on Craggy Island.
  • FBI: Most Wanted: In "Caesar", Sandra, a nurse's aide, is stealing anti-seizure meds from the hospital where she works for Cleo, who has epilepsy and, as a wanted felon, cannot risk visiting a pharmacy.
  • This trope is referenced in Friends. Chandler, whilst on the phone to his boss asking him to take his job back, says that "It's a lot less satisfying stealing pens from your own home."
  • The final episode of The Games showed the staff jetting off with various items they had 'souvenired' from the office.
  • Inverted on Halt and Catch Fire when an employee is arrested for stealing money from the company's owner and putting it back into the company accounts. The company was going bankrupt and the owner refused to put more of his personal money into it, so the employee stole the money in order to keep the company going.
  • In the commentary for the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Final Page", Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris said that they both steal Christmas decorations from the sets of the Christmas Episodes.
  • Goetz does this in Jericho (2006).
  • On Mad Men, Lane Pryce forges Don's signature on a company check. He insists that it is just a "13-day loan" that he will repay once the Christmas bonuses are given out. Then the bonuses are postponed till January. Then the bonuses are canceled altogether and he has no way of returning the money. He kills himself shortly after being found out by Don. What makes this doubly tragic is that Don would have gladly authorized the loan if he had simply asked him. The only reason he didn't was out of pride.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Reese gets a job at a fast food restaurant where his supervisor is Richie, one of Francis' lowlife friends. Richie encourages Reese to perform "pocket transactions" (putting the money in his pocket instead of the cash register), but Reese uncharacteristically can not bring himself to actually do it, only pretending to pocket the cash to get along with Richie. When $400 is missing from Reese's drawer at the end of his shift Richie says this is too much from him to ignore, but Reese denies doing it and confesses he never even did the original "pocket transaction". Later, Malcolm deduces instantly that Richie is the real thief and is trying to frame Reese because it's Richie.
  • Married... with Children:
    • Al Bundy was known to pocket the money customers gave him on the extremely rare occasions he sold a shoe.
    • Peggy played it straight at least once. Being more specific, she got a job as a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman and purchased a bunch of cosmetics for herself, completely ignorant of how commissions work. Al was not only gleeful to explain to her that detail, but forced her to work at the shoe store to get the money to pay the company.
  • Radar on M*A*S*H stole a jeep from his employer, the US Army, by mailing it home to Iowa one piece at a time.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Happy Families", one suspect is the Victim of the Week's Beleaguered Assistant, who has been commiting fraud by charging extravagant purchases to his boss's corporate credit card, knowing that his boss never checks the statements. However, an insurance company check about why a purchased item was not showing up on the policy threatens to expose him, thereby giving him a motive for murder.
  • Mystery Diners is a series where bosses ask the producers to spy on their employees using actors and hidden cameras to see why there are some issues believed to be caused by employees. Theft of money and goods from either the business or customersnote  are common issues faced by these investigators.
  • In the NCIS episode "Reunion", Tony realizes how the team can track down a missing cop by guessing that the man was carrying a cell phone "borrowed" from the evidence locker. The missing man had previously confiscated a bunch of burner phones from an identity-theft ring.
  • Ozark's plot is kicked off by a money launderer doing this to a client... who happens to be the head of the second-largest Mexican drug cartel. It ends exactly how you'd expect.
  • One episode of Party of Five (2020) sees Emilio forced to account for missing money from the restaurant, which he initially believes was stolen by a busboy with a known gambling problem. It later turns out that the money was siphoned off by his mother, Gloria, and passed along to Emilio himself to help him pay his bills.
  • Rome. Marc Antony is given a strict budget to recover Caesar's eagle. Half a talent. While he's briefing Vorenus on the mission, Antony steals half of it without a second thought, measures the weight of the money bag with his hand to make sure he's being rapacious enough, then pours out a bit more.
  • In Savage River, Ivy is using her job as a sales assistant at the chemist shop to steal pharmaceuticals for herself and her friends.
  • One episode of Scrubs had Kelso take punitive action on people taking their hospital scrubs home. He relented when he realised that by being so draconian over something relatively minor, he'd created a culture where staff were no longer prepared to bend the rules when it was important, either.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, after a mind-altering event causes the Ferengi Grand Nagus to devote his vast personal fortune to charity, Rom signs on as the Nagus's top assistant... and embezzles money from the charity. Rom's generally more underhanded brother Quark expresses pride when he learns about this at the end of the episode.
  • On Suits, the official story is that Danial Hardman resigned as Managing Partner and went on an indefinite leave of absence so he would have time to care for his dying wife. The real story is that he embezzled money from clients' accounts — already an extreme violation of attorney ethics (seriously, do it once, with an amount however small, and you're supposed to be disbarred) — and then, compounding the violation, tried to frame Louis for it. Some of the money went to pay for his wife's treatments, but most of it was spent to fund his affair with one of the junior associates. When he tries to gain back control of the law firm, he leaks information that causes the firm to be sued, thus costing the partners millions. The kicker is that he was the one originally responsible for the serious ethical misconduct that caused the lawsuit.
  • In one episode of That '70s Show, Leo tells Fez that he steals money from the register when the boss isn't looking. Hyde points out that Leo is the boss because he owns the store he's "stealing" from, and Leo defends himself by saying he isn't looking when he does it.
  • Happens a few times on the street with the dealers in The Wire, and also the dockworkers in the second season often divert product to their own benefit.

  • The King Missile song "Take Stuff from Work". (See page quote)
  • Mentioned in the chorus of the Los Campesinos! song "Death to Los Campesinos!", connected to an extended metaphor about an ailing relationship, where "value" is obfuscated through modern technology and wishful thinking.
    If you catch me with my hands in the till
    I promise, sugar I wasn't trying to steal
    I'm just swimming in copper to smell and pretend like a robot!
  • Mentioned in passing by OK Go in their debut single "Get Over It":
>Make you sick, make you ill
Makes it cheap, slippin' change from the till
  • A classic music version is Johnny Cash's song "One Piece At A Time", about a Cadillac assembly-line worker who, over the course of two decades, steals all the parts necessary to build an entire car. (It takes a little tinkering to get all the mismatched parts to fit together, and the vehicle's title weighs sixty pounds when it's finally registered.)
  • Sting's song "Fill Her Up" is about a gas station attendant who considers stealing his boss's cash box so he can take his girlfriend to Vegas to get married. He decides not to do it because it would only "Fill her up with sadness and shame" to know she married a thief.'
  • Tears for Fears: "Cold" includes the line "King got caught with his fingers in the till" during two of the pre-choruses, jabbing at former manager Paul King, who declared bankruptcy in 1990 after being outed for embezzlement.
  • Mentioned by Kanye West in the opening lines of "Spaceship":
    If my manager insults me again I will be assaulting him
    After I fuck the manager up then I'm gonna shorten the register up
    Let's go back, back to the Gap
    Look at my check, wasn't no scratch
    So if I stole, wasn't my fault
    Yeah I stole, never got caught
  • The first verse of Warren Zevon's song "Mr. Bad Example" has this:
    I started as an alter boy, working for the church
    Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
    Which led me to a cash box labeled "Children's Fund"
    I'd leave the change and take the bills inside my cumburbund

  • In Evita, the song "And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)" strongly implies that Eva and her family were taking money from her charity foundation and secreting it in a Swiss bank account.

    Video Games 
  • Used in Assassin's Creed II as a way to justify the revenue cap. When explaining to Ezio (and the player) about the revenue chest, Claudia mentions that whatever excess appears in the chest, she'll take for herself.
  • In Cute Knight, working as a cashier in the local shop would at some point trigger an event that gives the player an option to steal from the till. Not only does this raise her sin level, they may get caught. If so, the shop owner would not only stop working with her, but also charge her more for merchandise.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Arl Rendon Howe is helping himself to silver from the royal treasury (seemingly uncaring of the fact that Ferelden's army is desperately underfunded and trying to fight a Civil War with their own people, one triggered primarily by his and Loghain's brutality and incompetence, while simultaneously trying to fight off the darkspawn horde moving up from the south. One of the Warden's side missions involves swiping said silver from a warehouse in Denerim before Howe can ship it to his private estate.
  • One entire series of collectible eggs from the Facebook game Hatchlings is themed around goofy "animals" that bored workers can assemble from office supplies - tape-dispenser snails, binder-clip snakes, etc - that they pilfer and squander.
  • The protagonist of the strategy/management game Mad TV (1991) can keep spending company money on increasingly expensive gifts for his love interest. Nobody seems to notice or care.
  • Persona 5: One target in Mementos has been doing this at the convenience store he runs, to the tune of about 50,000 Yen (roughly $400), all whilst pinning the blame on a part-timer and forcing said part-timer to repay it.
  • A significant part of the gameplay of the Tropico series, at least if the player so chooses, is embezzling as much money as possible into the player's Swiss Bank Account.
  • Averted in Pharaoh. Building a mansion allows you to give yourself a salary from the city's funds every month, which is then stored away to be used at a later date (to boost your kingdom rating via expensive gifts to other nobles or to give back to the city in times of debt), even in later missions. However, the game explicitly tells you that siphoning money directly from the city's coffers to your own is embezzlement (even if you're literally making more money than you know what to do with). ...And That Would Be Wrong.


    Web Originals 
  • Freeman's Mind is a machinima of someone playing through Half-Life while narrating Gordon's thoughts. He fantasizes about looting office supplies throughout the earlier episodes. First, when he assumes he's going to be fired and wonders about how much he can sneak out with him, and then later, after the Resonance Cascade but before he realizes the damage goes beyond just Black Mesa. This gets dropped once the full scale of the disaster becomes clear.
  • Bubs of Homestar Runner frequently admits to embezzling money or items from pretty much any fundraising event he takes part in. Nobody seems to really mind, though.
  • Gordos obtained his position as one of the Twelve Heroes of Altador after he alerted the police of a greedy governor who was embezzling the heavy taxes that his citizens gave him.
  • Not Always Working has a few examples. Sometimes, it isn't even the highlight of the story.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Marge Vs. The Monorail", Lyle Lanley is ultimately revealed to have kept most of the money the citizens of Springfield entrusted him to build a monorail with, thus endangering its citizens when they go on the monorail's maiden voyage.
    • Homer in "The Last Temptation of Homer": "Another day, another box of stolen pens."
    • In "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment", when Mr. Burns shows up Homer asks Bart to hide everything the former borrow... er, stole from work, up to a computer.
    • In "Brother from Another Series", Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil pulled a stunt similar to Lanley when hired to build a hydroelectric dam, but instead of fleeing town he planned to blow the dam up and pin the blame on Bob.
    • In "I Am Furious (Yellow)", when the company making Bart's Angry Dad web animation goes bust, they explain "Bart, it's not about how many stocks you have, it's about how much copper wire you can get out of the building with!"
    • In "How I Wet Your Mother", Homer finds the office supply depot door open, and everyone in the plant proceeds to loot it empty. By the time Burns notices, everyone's trying to make off with everything they could grab, from a photocopier to the taxidermied bear in Burns' office.
    • In "Elementary School Musical", after running away from home to find Kurt and Ethan, a pair of hipster art camp counselors who have inspired her, Lisa is shocked to find that they're actually a pair of Starving Artists who have to resort to stealing food from the Subway expy they work at in order to survive.
  • In Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the Creeper ultimately turns out to be a bank owner that's been embezzling money from his bank and had been trying to take away evidence that incriminates him.

    Real Life 
  • Catalyst Games Lab — producers of Shadowrun, CthulhuTech, and BattleTech, among other things — went into deep financial trouble in May 2010 from flagrant embezzlement and shadiness by the CEO. The story gets murky as to who stole the money and whether the CEO was trying to cover for a close friend who actually embezzled the funds or up to his neck in it himself.
    • It's been alleged that something very similar happened with West End Games. According to the story, the owner used West End as a slush fund to support his other business, bankrupting the company.
    • The same thing happened to Decipher, coincidentally another 1990s Star Wars licensee. Both companies' problems may or may not have contributed to Wizards of the Coast getting both sets of licenses (the RPG and the card game, respectively).
  • Many current online job applications now come with questionnaires about personal and ethical preferences of the applicant (which the website will always insist have no bearing on your consideration as a hiree). Expect a question regarding your thoughts on this trope to follow shortly.
  • It was popular among Hackers during the BBS-era to find various ways of appropriating other people's modems and phone lines for their use (preferably an employer or a neighbor they dislike).
  • There is a popular document where one very bored, and very unscrupulous man had compiled at least a hundred ways one can steal from their gas station employer. Trying any of it is not recommended, since the document is no doubt very out of date. Also, Stealing Is Wrong.
  • China's crack down on corruption in the mid-2010s at all levels of government has resulted in a rapid decline in the number of prospective employees for government positions and a creeping poverty effect: if an official previously lived decently thanks to corruption (either personal or from "trickle down" from higher officials), they suddenly found it much harder to make ends meet.
  • When Enron collapsed in 2001, employees walked out with a lot of valuable items — laptops, Blackberries, cell phones, etc. — despite the company's claims that they belonged to the bankruptcy courts. This was almost right — the stuff the employees stole didn't belong to the company, but it didn't belong to the courts either. When an American debtor declares bankruptcy, all of their assets become property of the debtor's "bankruptcy estate," a legal entity separate from the debtor. The bankruptcy estate in a Chapter 7 liquidation case like Enron's is administered by a Chapter 7 trustee, who represents the interests of the debtor's unsecured creditors. Basically, nobody can do anything with a Chapter 7 estate without the trustee's say-so. The employees didn't care, walking out the door with boxes full of expensive stuff. That said, the trustee didn't care that much about the piddling equipment theft; it was a drop in the bucket compared to the massive assets Enron was sitting on. Plus, with how much else they had to deal with in the shadows, the employees just walking out with stuff they stole in their hands worked like a charm.
  • This trope is the reason why those who work registers have to give customers receipts for any and every purchase — documenting any and all transactions makes sure that the amount of money in the drawer and the amount of money listed on the ledger at the end of the day match up. More generally, the principal-agent problem is about how to get someone acting on your behalf to do what you want to do, not what he wants to do.
  • The invention of the cash register and quite a few of its upgrades is a result of this trope. A cash box can easily be opened and stolen from. The addition of the paper roll added a way to keep track of all the day's sales. The bell ringing when the register opened was a way of alerting the manager/owner to a sale being made. The tactic of "odd pricing" (prices ending in .99 or .95) was designed to ensure that the register 'had to open to give the customer change. Even the way that the National Cash Register business flourished involved an example of this: initially, they would mail letters and flyers to businesses offering their services, but the employees who were already stealing money would then steal or destroy the letters/flyers to keep the boss from knowing about it. So owner John Patterson set up demos at hotels and civic centers showing how much theft it stopped.
    • Many countries have a lottery system for tax purposes; each receipt has a number and every month or so the numbers are drawn for (usually small) prizes. It's self-policing: if a customer's purchase hasn't been registered by the store (and sales tax paid), all hell breaks loose when the customer tries to collect their winnings.
  • If you're a lawyer, there is no quicker way to lose your license to practice law than to take money from your clients without their knowledge or consent. It doesn't matter if you didn't take that much money. It doesn't matter if you pay the client back. It doesn't even matter if you pay the client back with more than what you took from them. As more than one law professor has said: touch your client's money, and you're done. Period. Whatever organization regulates the legal profession in your area will bring down the banhammer on you, swiftly and mercilessly.
  • This is one of the main reasons why senior accountants and other positions with intimate access to large amounts of internal funds are mandated to periodically take vacations, and why people in this position never taking vacations or time off in general is such a massive red flag. While the person is on vacation, the organization will conduct sweeping internal audits on their books, up to and including bringing in forensic accountants, and the general assumption if a person in this position refuses to ever take a vacation or promotion is that they are stealing money or otherwise up to shady business and don't want to give anyone an opportunity to look at their books.
  • A big reason why labor unions are viewed with suspicion in the States stems from The Mafia's notorious involvement in labor racketeering. Once the mob took over a union, they essentially ran everything and stole from worker benefit plans to line up their wallets. Food preparation, construction, transportation, clothing and garbage hauling were some of the industries worst affected by labor racketeering. It became so serious that Congress held numerous hearings over this in the 1950s and 1960s. The movie On the Waterfront is a good example depicting the rampant corruption and bribery on the New York dockyards. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act has provisions that allow the government to place a union under federal control. Prosecutors have to prove the union was a cover for organized crime.
  • MGM was practically drained dry by Italian fraudster Giancarlo Parretti when he briefly took over the company in the early 90s; he was an old hand at misappropriating funds from his other businesses, and it resulted in him being kicked out and arrested on the order of his creditors, the French bank Credit Lyonnais, who weren't much better at stealing, getting bribed and general financial chicanery. (See this article for the whole story.)
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fraud occurs when employers would steal money meant for benefit plans. It's a breach of fiduciary duty as ERISA essentially holds employers liable for anything affecting their 401(k) plans. Enron was a notorious case, where its execs raided its 401(k) plan before it went belly-up. This is a form of "reverse embezzlement," where the employer robs its workers of their benefits. Sadly, many don't even notice the breach as they usually toss their 401(k) statements. To detect ERISA fraud, employees should be extra vigilant on things such as erroneous contributions, unusual transactions, or abrupt changes to the plan. As an additional requirement, benefit plans must be covered by a fidelity bond, as it insures against theft by persons who handle the plan.
    • Sadly, no equivalent protection appears to exist in Britain: there have been at least three well-publicised cases of big businesses in trouble "borrowing" from the employees' retirement pot to make good shortfalls elsewhere, or in one case, outright theft. As this is not illegal in the UK, the delinquent CEOs got away with it despite moral opprobrium and a lot of suddenly impoverished pensioners.
  • An elementary school teacher in the old Soviet Union wanted to teach her pupils that it was bad to steal from the state-owned enterprises. Every child described with glee the things their parents stole- until one child burst out crying because his parents didn't bring home any pilfered goods. His classmates clustered around him and hugged him, assuring him that they would share their loot. An inspiring lesson, but possibly not the one the teacher hoped to make.
  • In the criminal world, this practice is called "burning" where one underreports the take in crimes such as theft; an example would be a robber who tells his boss that the vault they robbed only had three gems but the robber secretly kept two gems for himself. This is considered bad form and anyone caught doing this can end up maimed, crippled or even killed.
  • Rita Crundwell, the comptroller and treasurer of Dixon, Illinois, managed to embezzle $53.7 million from the city for a period of 22 years. She did this by creating false state invoices and write checks to a secret bank account she had opened.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Embezzlement, Embezzling


Number 11 and Blofeld

At the SPECTRE cabinet meeting in Paris, both Numbers 9 and 11 were involved in a drug-running scheme, but it generated less than expected. When asked why, Eleven insists it was competition from rival cartels that drove prices down and states everything was accounted for. Blofeld isn't satisfied with the response, determines one of the men had stolen from him, and executes the real culprit for the theft. In fact, Number 9 was a Smug Snake during the entire time, thinking he'll get away with it and that Number 11 will be the fall person. Blofeld proves him spectacularly wrong.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / StealingFromTheTill

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