The story you’re about to read doesn’t really shine the best light on me. And I say that with no small amount of irony considering the other stories of my life I’ve told here. I know, I know. We’ve all done worse things as kids, but I wasn’t accustomed to being grounded for life. Which, to jump to the end of the story, is what happened.

But I digress.

I’m not entirely sure how recycling works where you live, but growing up, the government added an extra $0.10 to the cost of every soda bottle and $0.05 to the cost of every can. This was the “deposit” that would encourage people to bring their empty soda (“pop” to all you weirdos) bottles and cans to the “recycling” center.

I had two things going for me that allowed me to take advantage of this situation: 1) My mother drank a lot of soda, and 2) I worked at one of those recycling centers.

I Worked Hard for the Money

The bottle and can “recycling center” was really just a back corner of the grocery store where I was employed. Shoppers would bring in their loads of bottles and cans, I’d total them up and run the cans through the giant crushing machine, and hand the customer a deposit slip to take to a cashier. The cashier would have them their money, and they’d be on their merry.

It wasn’t odd for a customer to rack up $40 or $50 worth of deposit refunds in one go. Rare, but not out of scope. Now, you probably know where this story is going, and you may be right. But I swear I never turned in a false deposit slip. That would have gotten me fired. I wouldn’t risk a good job like that.

But then I quit.

A week or so after my employment ended, I still had my apron. No big deal; they go through them like nobody’s business. But left in the pouch of this apron was half a pad of unused deposit slips. To my friends and me, that was like free money!

Money for Nothing

So, we hatched a plan. I’d fill out the deposit slips, and they would take them to the cashier for the payday. One small hitch… I was no longer an employee. And I wasn’t about to use my old employee number for the authorization. I was dumb, but not that dumb.

Nonetheless, here’s how it went down wrong.

While my buddies waited in the car, I casually browsed the store. When no one I knew was around, I slipped into the employee corridor, where we kept the overstock, time cards, and employee roster. I bee-lined it to the little employee station, grabbed the binder with all the employee’s names and numbers, and thumbed through it.

And then Jason showed up.

Jason was an existing employee I worked with many times. And Jason knew I was no longer working there. Yet, Jason seemed unconcerned about my presence in the back area. I guess I was that good at chatting him up and making up reasons for being there. The hard part, was memorizing Jason’s employee number while I was talking to him.

Struggling to keep the employee number in mind, I told Jason I had to go, made my exit, high-tailed it out to the car, and wrote down the number. I subsequently filled out two bottle return slips, forged Jason’s name, and handed them off to my friends.

My job was done. Their turn.

Take the Money and Run

I waited in the car, uncertain if our plan would work. And the longer I waited the more uncertain I was. Next thing I knew, both of my friends came bolting out of the store, jumped in the car in a panic and told me to drive. We had to get out of there fast!

Our plan failed. Both of them were deemed suspicious by their cashiers, who called the manager. They took off before the manager could find them. Luckily, none of it got tied back to me.

Phew! We got away.

Until we didn’t.

Turns out, my buddies lied. They had no issues with the cashiers and had decided to pocket the cash and not tell me about it. They made out with close to $80 between them and shared none of it. #friends

Mo Money Mo Problems

One of my buddies’ mom found the cash he wasn’t supposed to have and inquired about it. He told her the best version he could; we returned a bunch of my mother’s coke bottles. The problem is, why did he end up with the money? The interrogation was just too much for him, and he spilled his guts.

Unfortunately, his mom and my mom were close, and news travels fast.

We were busted. My life ended that day. I don’t know if I ever fessed up to the actual amount we took, I think I admitted to almost $20. My mother made me return the money (and the bottle return slips) but thought it best if I returned it to another location. I, of course, gave them a false name. He was suspicious, but what could he do?

My mother, however, had all the power. I was grounded from pretty much everything except food. I, of course, learned a vital lesson: There are no partners in crime. Oh.. and crime doesn’t pay.

Soundtrack to this post:

  • Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) — Pet Shop Boys
  • She Worked Hard for the Money — Donna Summers
  • Money for Nothing — Dire Straights
  • Take the Money and Run — Steve Miller Band
  • Mo Money Mo Problems — The Notorious B.I.G.