2242. The house is quiet. I’m feeling a bit better. My stomach is a little hungry. I barely ate today because I couldn’t.
I woke up this morning, prepped Clarissa for school as usual, and went to get changed for my weekly run.
I was in my closet/changing room and I noticed something different about the red packets I’d placed on top of my drawers. They were stacked too neatly together and they didn’t look like that yesterday.
I opened the red packets, and my heart sank.
This was the trap I set.
2 red packets with $80 each – one $50 notes and three $10 notes. I wanted to see if money would go missing from here.. and sure enough there was only $60 left in each of these red envelopes.
Our helper has stolen the money, barely 3 weeks after returning from her 2-month long trip home.
Back in November, I had 2 red packets from my mum, who gave them to the girls for their birthdays. I remember leaving the red packets around the dining table for a few days, before I took them into my closet room.
I remember opening the red packets to peek into how much my mum gave the girls.
There was $70 in the first red packet. I remember thinking, how odd. My mum is a “even” number giver (first digit of the amount needs to be an even number), so $70 is an odd amount.
I remember opening the second red packet to check, because I thought she might have miscounted the first one. But nope, it was also $70.
I didn’t think too much about it, and simply put them away in my drawer.
Fast forward to the end of the year. Helper was at the embassy sorting out the documents to return home. I was on leave and the plan was to take all the cash out from the girls’ angbaos and to deposit them into their bank accounts.
I took out the two angbaos from my drawer.. and this time there was only $50 left in each of them. My skull went numb. What was happening?
I told the hubs about it. I second-guessed myself. Was I hallucinating about the initial $70 I saw? Did I take the cash without remembering I did?
I simply couldn’t believe that money was stolen from our house. I decided to ask my mum, in a subtle and casual way, how much she actually put into the red packets.
She couldn’t remember exactly but it’d always be either $80, $100 or $120 in each.. and she thought it was $120 in this case. She visited our place to celebrate with the girls and gifted them with these angbaos.
By the time I checked with my mum, our helper was already in the Philippines. There was no way I could ask her about it, and certainly not over the phone.
We had the option of cutting her off immediately and blocking her return, but it didn’t feel right to do it. I did not have any evidence that it was her who took the money.
Life has been so hectic I couldn’t trust my own mind completely. It didn’t feel fair if I didn’t give her a chance to either admit or deny it.
So we discussed and decided to plant a trap when she returns.
Of course there is a chance she might not do it again, and in that case I’d take the incident as one of life’s many mysteries.
Yet I was sure she did it, and would likely do it again.. because there had been other incidents where we had money and things gone missing, but we had no idea where they went.
I was so, so sure that if she took the bait and stole the money again, I’d send her home immediately.
Afterall she gave us so much trouble with her retun to the Philippines and back to Singapore.
But this morning, I faltered.
It was such a difficult run. I thought about her family back home. They need the income. I thought about her son. What would she tell him? “I got sent back because I stole money from my employer”?
I thought of letting her go but allowing her to work elsewhere. But stealing is a crime and how could I knowingly let a thief work with anyone else?
I guess this trap was just about satisfying my own curiosity and proving to myself that I wasn’t going crazy imagining things. I don’t actually have the heart to send her home over.. $40. Or even $140. Maybe even more.
The hubs called the head of the agency to seek her advice. She said petty theft like this is very common. They would definitely not admit it.
She said we had 3 options: 1) Confront her but give her a second chance if she’s ok overall. Afterall this is common and there’s no guarantee the new helper won’t steal, 2) Send her back today and wait for 2 months for a new helper, 3) Start looking for another helper and send her back once the new helper arrives.
She would obviously be happy to earn some money from her by recommending to get a new helper but her advice was for us to give her a chance.
We discussed and decided it was too harsh to send her home because of this. And with that decision made, we went out to speak to her.
I started by showing her the red packets and asking her, point blank, if she took the money.
I was waiting for her to falter, to turn pale.. but she said, without missing a beat, “I did not take the money. I can show you my wallet and purse.”
She got up and went to the room to grab her wallet and purse, “I don’t have any $10 notes. I only have a $50 note. You can check all my belongings. “
So I started all over again. Nov. 2 angbaos. $120 to $70 to $50. Each. Why I planted these 2 $80 angbaos. Why they have to be taken by someone because there is no other explanation for it. We told her we want to give her a chance but she needs to come clean.
“Like that I’m so scared to work here,” she said to me. “I didn’t take the money.”
So we asked her if the girls took the money. “I don’t know! But it’s not me,” She answered. I repeated my story and question for the third time, this time casually mentioning the serial numbers of the $10 notes I’ve recorded and “cctv footage”.
She finally broke down and admitted she took the money because her dad is sick and they have already spent a lot on their mum’s hospitalisation fees. She’d already spent the $40 she took from the angbaos to top up her IDD card.
At this point I was just totally mindblown. It was not what I’d expected. I thought she’d admit it immediately. But she was so calm and cool and adamant about it, even saying things that imply “I’m scared to work for an employer who plants traps and accuses me of stealing”.
The way she went about stealing was so.. thought out. She knew the angbaos came in pairs and so she took equal amounts from each, instead of stealing from just one of them and risking me suspecting why there was a difference.
She got rid of the money almost immediately so we couldn’t find it on her. She must have taken them in the past 2 days, because I’d checked the angbaos at the start of the week and they were still intact then.
It was such a difficult conversation to have, way harder than the one we had with our previous helper whom we had to send home immediately due to mental and behavioral issues.
She was so unwavering in her denials I almost changed my mind about giving her another chance. I was relieved when she finally broke down. We told her stealing is not the way. She could have asked for an advancement if she needed money. She said she was afraid to ask but I asked her, what is the worst that could happen if you asked? Maybe I’d say no? Even so, the outcome would not be worse than stealing.
So she cried and cried and asked us to give her a chance. We communicated the ground rules again and finally we asked her if she took the money from the earlier angbaos in November.
She said no. We told her to come clean now. We won’t ask her for the money back.
“No, I didn’t take. I only took this time.”
We asked her about the missing gold ring. Nope, not her! What a ridiculous question to ask! I don’t touch your drawer sir.
At this point I was just sorely disappointed. And scared. I know I still have the option of sending her home immediately. But I want to keep my promise. Yet I question if I could ever believe her again.
Would we be able to cross this hurdle? Would I keep second-guessing myself?
Just the night before all these happened, Allie told me how much she loves Yaya’s cooking and asked me not to ever let Yaya leave. It was as if she knew something might happen the next day.
I’m not afraid of her letting her go and going without a helper again for yet another 2 months. We have done it before, it’s hard but we can do it again.
So this decision to give her a second chance is made out of.. compassion.
Is it the right one?
Would it turn around and bite us?
I need to think this through.
For now, only time will tell.