Your first job is always special and some incidents from your first jobs will forever remain with you. This particular incident still haunts me.
In 1998, I started working for a bank and had joined their Mumbai branch. I was put on a one year training program to get accustomed to ways of working. Initially, I was made a cashier. Being a fresh MBA graduate, I had lofty ideas of work I should be doing and didn’t like being cashier. What grey matter you need to count currency. I hated the job.
After a month, I was asked to go to Pune branch for two months as they had staff issue and was to handle cash teller there too. I hated the assignment but did not mind going to Pune as I my grandmother and most of my cousins lived in Pune. I liked Pune and looked forward to spend the time there with my cousins.
I joined the Pune branch and took charge of the cash counter. It was a busy branch. At that point of time India was a cash driven economy. ATMs were new, debit cards were non existent and credit card usage was low. I recollect we actually used to give a demo to our customers on how to use an ATM card. In short, the cash transactions were high and I got very busy managing cash teller.
The standard operating procedure for the cashier in the bank was, not to leave the cash teller unattended. If you took a break, then cash drawers needed to be locked and cashier had to carry the keys. At the end of working hours, the cashier has to balance the deposits and withdrawals and put the balance in the cash vault. If there was a difference then the cashiers were expected to pay it from their salaries. Job of a Cashier sounds to be a very mundane but it is one with lot of responsibility and risk. If there is a robbery cashier is the first target.
The cashier drawers are pretty standard. On top, there is a small drawer with slots to keep notes and coins of different denominations and below there is a bigger drawer to keep the bundles of 100. A cashier is supposed to make the bundles of 100 as and when more cash comes in.
That particular day, it was very busy and we had a big cash deposit from a business account. It took me some time to count and keep it. By the end of the branch working hours, I was tired as hell and decided to take a small coffee break. I tried to lock the drawer but it wasn’t getting locked as it was overfull. I had spent almost a month in this branch and had gotten pally with everyone. My coworkers told me not to worry and have a break.
After the coffee break, I sat down to balance the books, tally the cash after deposits and withdrawals. I counted the cash in the drawer and found Rs.20000 less in the drawer. It didn’t alarm me at that time. I thought may be I have made some errors while entering the amounts for transactions in the system. So I rechecked all the deposits and withdrawal transaction slips and found there were no errors. I decided to count the cash once again. I still found the difference of Rs.20000. Now I got bit worried.
I called out for my colleagues and told them about my cash not being tallied. They decided to come and check and two of them did all the checks and again found a difference of 20000. Now the atmosphere got tense. Our branch head came out to check. The branch head started making enquiries and told me you shouldn’t have left the teller without locking and now you will have to pay this from your pocket. I was new and felt embarrassed about being told in front of everyone that I made mistake and have to pay. My colleagues offered to put some of their money to help me. In a bank losing money, not having accounts tallied, wrong entries are mark of incompetency and worse than that dishonesty. I started crying. My colleagues tried to pacify me but I was really scared.
Watching this scene being played out, another senior staff member intervened and offered to check it once again. He repeated the entire exercise and again found a difference of 20,000. I was crushed. He sat in that chair thinking for a minute and removed all the cash from that drawer and pulled it out from the channels. Thats where the missing money was! Two bundles of 100 notes were lying there and I felt they were looking at me if they were pulling a prank on me. As the drawer was overflowing with cash, those two bundles slipped in the back while opening and closing the drawer. We all heaved a sigh of relief.
I always remember this incident and every time I cant find something in my drawer, I always see if something has slipped in the back.