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Restaurant Owner Guilt-Ridden After Firing Single Mother-Of-Four For Constantly Stealing Food

Benu Marinescu/Unsplash

Generally speaking, most of us like to help others out whenever we can, but sometimes people take advantage of that.

In a small business, when their behavior starts to impact the workplace, it’s time to stop helping, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor aitapizzaplace was happy to help out his employees by allowing them to take home leftover food at the end of the day, but one of his workers began overstepping.

When she refused to stop what she was doing when asked, the Original Poster (OP) did the only other thing he knew to do.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for making my employees throw away food instead of taking it home and then firing one when they wouldn’t stop taking it?”

The OP recently welcomed a new employee to his restaurant.

“I own a restaurant that specializes in pizza. There are a few other things on the menu, like sandwiches, kinds of pasta, salads, but the bulk of what I do is pizza and sides.”

“We use higher quality ingredients, so we are priced a little higher than the average pizza place in our area ($4/slice, $20/specialty pizza, etc.).”

“We are right down the street from a college, so most of my employees are college students.”

“My wife is a doctor and volunteers at a free clinic often, which is where she met Linda.”

“Linda is a single mom with four kids all under the age of 10 and has fallen on hard times recently. My wife asked her if I could give her a job and of course, I said yes, I was happy to help.”

“So Linda came to work nights at the restaurant.”

The OP had a rule about the leftover food at the end of the day.

“I have always let my employees take home whatever food is left at the end of the night.”

“Usually by closing time, there are a few slices and some breadsticks left over, and often the employees will sit together and share everything before heading out for the night, or take a slice to go on their way out.”

“They are usually all broke college kids and I would be throwing the food out anyway.”

Linda quickly took advantage of this arrangement.

“Shortly after Linda started, however, I noticed that there was more and more food leftover at the end of the night, and it would be items that we don’t usually have leftover at all, like pasta or entire pizzas.”

“I mentioned to the team that it seemed like there was a lot more food waste and asked them to be mindful of what we’re making so late at night, but it continued anyway.”

“I found out that Linda was making extra so she could take the food home to her kids.”

“I wish I could afford to help her out in this way, but our ingredients are all sourced organic and it was adding up very quickly.”

“I brought it up to her specifically and told her I don’t mind if she takes home an extra slice or two when they’re available, but we can’t afford to be spending all this extra money on food that wasn’t being sold.”

“She apologized and seemed to understand, but she didn’t stop.”

“I had one last team talk, trying not to single her out again, and it still continued.”

The OP was out of options.

“I told my wife I was going to fire Linda because she wouldn’t stop and she begged me not to.”

“Instead, I told all my employees that the leftover policy was changing and that I would be discarding all the extra food at the end of the night because I wasn’t sure what else to do in the situation.”

“However, a few days later I realized there was still something off.”

“An employee told me that Linda was putting food in her bag toward the end of her shift.”

“I asked Linda if it was true on her way out that night, and she denied it, but when I asked her to show me her purse, she broke down crying and apologizing.”

“I told her I was sorry but that I was going to have to let her go because of the consistent problem this had been.”

“She was very upset when she left, as was my wife when I told her.”


The OP updated the post multiple times with more information. 

The OP answered some frequently asked questions.

“I did change the leftover policy back after Linda was gone, so the college students are back to free dinners.”

“We are located in a rural area in the midwest US. All employees do get a shift meal.”

“This started happening immediately after Linda was hired – before she would have ever seen a paycheck. Linda was making a little over $11/hr when she was with us, plus a portion of the tip jar for carry-outs. That is my base starting wage.”

“She was not a server, she worked in the kitchen. We are more of a fast-paced self-serve place and we do not have ‘servers’ that go back and forth and check on you.”

“She was only with us for the span of about a month and a half. She was having money problems before she started. Her wage was about average for our city.”

“I don’t know much about her personal life aside from the four children all being under 10 and that there are three different fathers who do not pay child support, per Linda’s words. My wife can not give me any personal details because Linda is her patient.”

“I employ 12 people, 2 of whom are managers. They kind of make their own hours around their classes and switch shifts around with each other when they need to, so having more employees works better for the bulk of the group (they’re all college students except for one retired man who came to us looking for a hobby).”

“I have been in business for just under a decade.”

The OP responded to concerns about his hourly wages.

“While I do appreciate everyone’s input on my wages, I do want to reiterate that Linda started doing this immediately upon being hired.”

“My wages were not the reason behind her stealing, in any way, shape, or form, because she was doing this from the start of her employment.”

“I understand if you think $11/hr is not enough, but it is not the root of the issue here.”

“Linda was unemployed for two years before we hired her. I am aware that $11/hr can’t feed a family of five, but $11/hr is better than $0/hr. I did tell her the starting wage before I officially hired her.”

He provided what he knew about Linda and how she was financially keeping up.

“Linda wanted the night shift so she wouldn’t have to pay for childcare. I don’t know who was watching her kids, I just know that she requested it for that reason.”

“$11/hr in my city is on par with the average hourly wage and well above what other restaurants are paying.”

“Again, I don’t want to give out my location for obvious reasons, but it’s not ‘poverty wages,’ and I’m not exploiting my workers with this wage – I am one of the highest-paying employers in the town, aside from the college and the actual government.”

“$11 is the base for no experience, the first raise is at three months, then six months, and I do regular raises after. I didn’t include any of that information because it has nothing to do with Linda’s actions that were occurring before she was ever paid.”

“The $20 item is the most expensive item on my menu, not the across-the-board price, and I have edited the original mention to say ‘specialty pizza.’ A large plain cheese pizza, for example, is $10. Pepperoni is $13. Slices for non-specialties are cheaper as well.”

“I didn’t want to write my entire menu in the post, I just wanted to give a feel for the restaurant.”

“I included the part about the fathers of her children because quite a few comments were talking about child support. I in no way insulted or talked down about her for it.”

“I opened this place right out of college and it was just me and my sister trying to make it work, and yes, my wages have gone up since then. Again, it’s largely a locational thing, but $11 is a high starting wage for my area, no matter how unbelievable.”

“Someone mentioned how you could go to Walmart and get better pay, but the Walmart’s starting wage in our city is less than mine. I’m not sure if there’s that big of a disconnect between my location and a lot of Reddit’s location or what, but I assure you that $11 is a fair starting wage, debates about the US system barred.”

“Yes, my wife wants to help every single person she meets, and yes, it is sometimes her downfall, but she means well.”

“And again, my wages were not inherently involved in the situation at hand. I see that a lot of people are blaming the wages for her actions, but she came to my restaurant and was doing this right away. My wages are not to blame for her doing this on her very first day.”

“If it started a month into her working for me, that would be a valid argument. But it has no place in this situation.”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some agreed with the OP that this was simply stealing food.

“As much as I’m with you, that it would be great to help Linda out, she is stealing from you.”

“You’ve been awesome so far, letting your employees eat what was left at the end of the night. Linda is taking advantage of your kindness. You tried warning her. I don’t see how you have another choice.”

“NTA.” – Total-Being-4278

“Instead of being happy to have a job and get a few slices of pizza for free, she was greedy. She ruined it for everyone and even stole.”

“OP doesn’t need to let her ruin his business just because she is a friend of his wife. And so many single mothers have it hard (even harder) and still don’t steal!”

“NTA.” – Sheeps_n_Birds

“All those mouth to feed seem reasons enough to do everything in her power to keep her job. But nope, she got to be selfish, dishonest, and stupid. No wonder why she’s struggling.” – louloutre75

“It was really short-sighted of her, because now she has no job or free pizza. Rather than asking OP to help her out somehow, she chose to steal.” – tenuousemphasis

“I’m surprised that OPs wife is still friends with her honestly after her immediately taking advantage of her husband, and his wife’s kindness by connecting her to the job. Obviously, I’m going to go with NTA as well.” – no_usrnme

Others agreed and wondered if the mother could have planned her finances better.

“I hate to sound like a meanie, but there are food stamps which she could draw right up until her first paycheck. Then it would be reduced according to her income. And if she’s been unemployed for two years, I’m sure she was getting them.”

“It would have been so much better to ask for help, maybe an advance on her check if things were tight, than just continuing to steal. So maybe she was desperate, but she completely screwed a chance for better.”

“And I can say this because I’ve been that single mother with four kids on food stamps starting a new job after extended unemployment. Rice and beans are cheap and will get you through until your first paycheck.”

“Also, there are food banks, churches, all kinds of help if you need extra food. There’s just no excuse for stealing and ruining a chance to make things better for your kids in the long run” – General_Yak_3741

“I understand her desperation, and possibly trying to have a little extra food left over to see if he actually missed it, but once she was caught and told to stop… she was just making bad choices after that.”

“As you said, she lasted 2 years on her previous level of assistance… if it had started after her first paycheck or two, when possibly she was just figuring out what her benefit reduction was based on her new income, that might have been a different thing, but right off the bat and not stopping (and just asking for a raise instead)… none of that is any good.” – OrindaSarnia

While the OP felt guilty for what he felt he had no choice but to do, the subReddit insisted he had done the right thing for his business.

Linda had openly taken advantage of the kindness he had shown his employees, instead of talking to him about what could be done in the workplace to help her take better care of her children.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan has been a part of the George Takei family since 2019 when she wrote some of her favorite early pieces: Sesame Street introducing its first character who lived in foster care and Bruce Willis delivering a not-so-Die-Hard opening pitch at a Phillies game. She's gone on to write nearly 3,000 viral and trending stories for George Takei, Comic Sands, Percolately, and ÜberFacts. With an unstoppable love for the written word, she's also an avid reader, poet, and indie novelist.