Fact of the Day (17 Apr): Caltex-BMW Driver Issue is Partly Real & Partly Not Real

Image: scmp.com

So, we’ve all become pretty immersed in the Caltex-BMW issue: the latest reveal is that the pump attendant was allegedly rude to the BMW driver, and that the BMW driver had decided to pump just $10 because he was going to drive to Jurong to trade in the car.

But we’re all curious about one thing: what is the legality of having the pump attendant to cough up the $125, presuming that he earns $1,500 a month?

Fast fact: it’s legal, and companies are implementing it.

I worked as a part-time cashier in a supermarket after my O-level over ten years ago, and once, at the end of the day while doing my settlement (i.e. counting money to ensure it tallies), I was short of $50. Back then, $50 was my life.

It was almost 10:30 p.m. and everyone was ready to go home, but the chief cashier said that unless we find the $50, it would have to be deducted from my pay. You see, as a cashier, this rule has been clearly defined on the day that I signed the employment letter: we as cashiers would have to pay the difference should it be more than $5.

If there is more, we would usually just give it back to the chief cashier.

Usually, there would be differences of $1 or a few cents at the end of the day, and that could be absorbed. But $50? That’s very uncommon.

We spent 30 minutes looking for it, and finally found it stuck between two trays.

After that, my chief cashier explained the policy: as much as they would like to absorb, that would lead to employees abusing the system. She then told me about how people have tried to abuse the system.

As a 16-year-old, I totally didn’t understand and just thanked God that the $50 was found.

A year later, while working as a part-time cashier in a bookstore, this happened again: the difference this time was $80. We spent one hour trying to find the money but eventually it turned out that someone’s NETS purchase with his or her ATM card had been declined: but I still gong gong put it as “paid” in my POS system.

This time, $80 was deducted from my pay.

From then on, I became an expert in counting money, meticulously ensuring that every cent is accounted for. But of course the problem nowadays is that I don’t have money to count.

The point of this is simple: it’s real, though not that common. I know of a cashier who had more than $200 deducted from her pay.

But here’s the other thing: despite that, there’s a limit to how much pay could be deducted.

According to MOM rules, the maximum that can be deducted is 50% of the total salary payable. In other words, if a person earns $1,000 a month, the amount that can be deducted cannot be more than $500.

Unethical companies can still bend the rules by requesting the employee to pay up instead, so it won’t be considered a deduction but a payment instead.

So far, the places I’ve worked as a cashier still use the deductible system, which at least still protects the employees.

The takeaway from this article is this: yes, it’s legal to deduct the pump attendant’s pay for his “mistake”. But no, in most organizations, everyone would try to help recover the “mistake”.

And also one more fact: it’s true that $10 can bring one from Tampines to Jurong in a BMW 5-Series (our boss used to drive the exact same model).

Now you’ve become smarter.