The Cashbox

It might have been Peter Drucker who mentioned that most people leave their jobs due to problems that crop up and persist from their first six weeks on the job. In other words, your fate is sealed early on.
I think it’s worse than that; the first day or week can reveal all the sticks and stones in your path. Some you can detour around, others climb over, but there can be one thing you stub your toe on daily that will eventually drive you to spruce up the resume and look at the job listings.

After working for many years as an applied anthropologist, I found myself a quiet posting as an executive director at a tourist information organization. We ran a kiosk that provided maps, brochures, and guided tours. It was a volunteer-fueled outfit, and a large part of my job was caring for and feeding around fifty volunteers.

The organization provided many services for free and was the first stop for many visitors. The problem was that not all products or services were free. Volunteers took in cash for brochures and fees for tours. In those days, nothing was computerized, and all recording of sales was on paper forms. Money was placed into the cashbox, and I collected the cashbox and the paper tally form every Monday.

The form, the cashbox, and the behavior of the volunteers were the issue that could not be surmounted. Some volunteers are very accurate, some less so, and some did not even try for accuracy. Voluntary contributions to the organization were freely mixed with sales receipts. Sales were not accurately recorded or recorded incorrectly. Settling the sales account and reconciling it with the sales receipt that first Monday was hell. therre was about three hundred dollars too much. Not knowing what to do, I put the excess aside. The following Monday, I was glad I did because the numbers were negative by about two hundred and ninety dollars.

My predecessor had not briefed me on this issue, so I polled the Board of Directors. This was not the wisest course of action. Some of the volunteers were friends or relatives. Did I doubt their honesty?

I lasted one year before accepting a job back in the government, where accounting practices were tight, and I never handled even a loose dime. The weekly juggling of money got to me.
But the amazing thing was that the organization closed out its fiscal year not long after I left. And there was a rather handsome surplus in the budget.

I fielded a few congratulatory calls and felt relieved that someone else would be figuring out the cashbox on Mondays.

One Reply to “The Cashbox”

  1. I handled our petty cash drawer for a while at work and had to balance that out every day. I cannot imagine handling the big bucks that you did.

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