Friday, June 22, 2007

Work's a Crime

by Cathy Anderson Corn

We Stiffs write about crimes, using fictional characters and situations, although some writers base their stories on real life persons and activities. But how about real life crimes in our workplaces? What illegal acts of outrage have been committed where we generate the incomes to fuel our writing endeavors?

I work at a health and dining club, the Rivers Club, in downtown Pittsburgh as a massage therapist. This elite facility was established in 1983, and I've been established there since 1991. In sixteen years, four months, ten days (who's counting?) I've observed a number of laws being broken. I've noticed a few times when morals were shabby or absent.

The greatest crime of all time at the Club took place over ten years ago. Our athletics director--I'll call him Ted Howell, not his real name--was demanding, inflexible, and pretty strange, but I liked the guy, anyway. The college age employees called him the Pillsbury Doughboy (he was handsome in a preppy way, but pudgy). If a kid punched in five minutes late, Ted fired him or her on the spot. Ted's father was a psychologist, and one time after Ted rambled on incoherently for an hour to me, the captive audience, I wondered if Ted's dad played warped mind games on him when he was little, just as a joke.

Anyway, after five or six years of questionable judgment on Ted's part, he disappeared altogether.

Overnight, he was gone.

I learned shortly after the fact that the Club discovered a storeroom stripped of its contents. Ted sold paintings, furniture, and other items that belonged to the Rivers Club and pocketed the money. By the time he was caught, a lot of loot had been "spring cleaned" from the premises.

I wasn't there that day, but they said Ted left the floor running for his life. He'd never been witnessed moving so fast before, as the door slammed behind him.

The Rivers Club never prosecuted him.

About a year later, I passed Ted at the airport, me outgoing, him incoming. He looked fabulous in suit and tie, and said he'd taken a job at a prominent local institution in finance.

I still liked this guy and wished him well.

And hoped he'd do better this time.

What are your stories about crime where you work, live, just around the corner? What true life stories have you to share?


Anonymous said...

When I worked at WPIC, we'd hear all about the aberrant morals of the upper administrators. (Believe me, if I heard about them, EVERYBODY heard about them.)

Actually, the stories of top executives being hired because their wives were other top executives mistresses I found rather funny (particularly considering the airs Mr. hired top executive gave himself.) I had a harder time swallowing the illegal bookeeping that went on with government funds . . .

Joyce Tremel said...

Nice post, Cathy. I can only imagine what happened with Ted's job in finance. He didn't work for Enron, did he?

Annette said...

I once worked briefly (keyword: BRIEFLY) in an office doing data entry for a medical supply company who sold to nursing homes across the country. The entire operation was only borderline legal. At the time, Pennsylvania paid the highest amounts for certain items of any state. So, while the company was actually based in Texas, they set up an office (as in hole-in-the-wall) in Pennsylvania so they could bill PA's medicare or whatever. I took orders on the phone, sometimes from homes in Texas and entered the orders in the computer to be billed to PA, but shipped from Texas. I was told, if anyone asked to say our business was based in Pennsylvania. NEVER mention Texas.

As soon as Pennsylvania caught on and closed that loophole, the office shut down (literally overnight) and was moved to another more cooperative state.

Anonymous said...

When I was in the army, stationed in West Germany, our armorer was ordering extra M16 parts, then assembling them in his room and trading them to the Germans for WWII memorabelia. This guy was so ballsy (or stupid) that he actually had business cards made up. When they caught him, he also had a bunch of kiddie-porn stuff. I think he's still in Leavenworth.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This stuff is really good. Tory and Annette, those stories are amazing. Joyce, I thought I'd get a crime among the crime fighters story from you (just kidding).
Jody, welcome to the blog. Your story is equally wild.

Joyce Tremel said...

Cathy, the only crime we have is the guys stealing my stapler or tape. I've since put my name in very large letters on everything to make things easier to find!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't have any stories for this one. I think I must be too honest -- all my employers must have suspected that I'd turn them in if they were up to something like illegal bookkeeping with government funds . . .

Anonymous said...

I remember working in a restaurant as a teenager, and all the guys in the kitchen (everyone who cooked was male, everyone who served tables was female--why is that??) stealing stuff from the refrigerators on a regular basis. Steaks, mostly. Never salad. I wonder why?

I saw a piece in the newspaper that the more well-to-do the employee, the more likely s/he is to steal from the workplace. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks to my investigation our own chief of police was arrested for forging state documents. Does that count?

Joyce, you can't have anything of value in a police department without someone trying to steal it, including spouses. There's a Romeo wannabe in every bunch.

Anonymous said...

I once worked for a large insurance company in a local district office. There was such immoral practices going on. The manager acted like he didn't know about it but he rewarded those thieves that were making him quite a bit of money.

Hmm, if he didn't know about it, I wonder why the insurance commission eventually took his license and almost landed in jail.