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B.C. pot shop owner hopes thief who took employee tip jar has ‘change of heart’

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Jar contained hundreds of dollars in holiday tips meant to be shared by employees

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The owner of a cannabis store in downtown Penticton, B.C. is hopeful that whoever took her staff’s tip jar will consider bringing back the cash or reimburse the workers in some other way.

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According to Castanet, Mariana Wolff, owner of Cannabis Cottage, was more than a little disheartened to learn the tip jar had been stolen.

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Housed in a cottage built in 1914, the recreational weed store opened its doors in the summer of 2019 and provides a full range of pot products, including flower, vapes, hash, shatter, THC and CBD gummies, capsules, topicals, unique accessories and more.

“Come by to say hi. We are happy to answer any questions and always eager to chat about all things cannabis, from strain discussion to homemade edibles and hobbyist growing,” the website notes.

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After the theft, though, Wolff opted to post security footage on Facebook in the hopes that would convince the thief to simply give back the tips, which are meant solely for employees.

The video shows a customer going to the shop counter and asking a staff member something before then taking the jar, unzipping her jacket and stashing it inside so it remains hidden.

Pot shop owner dumbfounded by theft

“I was like, this is so ridiculous. Everyone already works for a pretty low wage, I mean, we do what we can, but that’s the reality. And then they take their tips? Seriously?” Wolff told Castanet.

Penticton Western News reports that hundreds of dollars, thanks to holiday tips meant to be shared by employees, were taken.

There are potential consequences for sticky-fingered individuals. For theft under $5,000 treated as a summary offence, six months is the maximum jail time, while if treated as an indictable offence, the sentence could be up to two years.

Indeed, earlier this year in Illinois, a woman was banned from Nature’s Treatment of Illinois dispensary and charged with theft under US$500 after stealing US$6 from a tip jar and trying to use it towards her cannabis purchase.

WGIL reports the 55-year-old woman stole the money, captured on security footage, while her weed purchase was underway at the store. As per Illinois law, where recreational cannabis is legal, the woman had to show her identification before entering the pot shop that offers everything from flower to edibles, tinctures and topicals.

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Quora commenters frown on tip theft

Although unrelated to the Penticton incident, a discussion about stealing tip jars on Quora attracted plenty of comments. “Stealing tip jars is theft and is punishable by law the same way any other theft is. In my opinion, stealing tip jars is the lowest thing a person can do,” suggested one poster. “That is money that other people gave in appreciation to someone they have just watched perform, or who just gave them great service somewhere.”

Earlier this year in Massachusetts, the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division cited Bud’s Goods & Provisions and its CEO, individually, for violating the state’s law against improper tip deductions, Green Market Report noted at the time. Accused of unfairly distributing employee tips — customer-facing workers had to share with workers who didn’t interact with the public — the division ruled on the complaint and sided with the employees.

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“Every employee in Massachusetts is entitled to workplace benefits and protections, which is why our office’s Fair Labor Division works actively to protect earned wages, hold employers accountable to our laws, and inform and educate businesses about their obligations,” an Attorney General spokesperson said.

Tip jars and donation boxes stolen from all sorts of businesses

Anyone thinking — or, perhaps, hoping — the Penticton tip jar incident was a one-off would be disappointed.

Three years ago in Stillwater, Okla., a woman was caught on camera stealing tip jar at Doc Green’s dispensary, a medicinal shop serving customers with qualified medical conditions, containing hundreds of dollars and being used to raise money for veterans and disabled medical marijuana patients, per KFOR. Security footage from just days before Christmas shows a woman slide the tip jar into her purse, right in front of counter staff, and later return to buy some products.

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In fact, early in 2020, police in Oak Bay, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, issued a warning to local businesses about thefts involving donation boxes and tip jars. There was only about $20 inside the donation box of one of the businesses, according to Victoria News.

Though not involving a cannabis store, a tip jar was also taken from an ice cream shop in Vancouver this past September. The owner of Hype Chocolate posted a video of the theft as a warning to businesses in the Strathcona neighbourhood.

She reported to CTV News that a man, who she initially thought was browsing, asked for something on the other side of the store. After turning for just a second to call an employee to the front, she turned back and saw the jar was gone. She asked if he had taken the tips, estimated to be $20 to $40, but he denied doing so and left the store.

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Penticton theft not reported to police

The theft at the Penticton pot shop has not been reported to the RCMP. “It’s such a petty theft and (the police) already have so many that they already deal with,” Penticton Western News quotes Wolff as saying. “It would just be one more little thing on their plate so it’s easier for me to just top up the tip jar and move on.”

Telling Castanet she is fully aware many people have fallen on tough times, Wolff suggested that if the person returned the cash to staff, “then the ownership can leave her a Safeway food card, if that’s why she felt the need to steal.”

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with feedback and story tips at thegrowthop@postmedia.com

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