A man has been visiting several businesses in Central Austin and stealing from tip jars.
Amy's Ice Creams on Guadalupe caught the whole thing on surveillance camera.
The man appears to be a customer at first, but once employees turn their backs, he quickly takes advantage of the situation. “He distracts you and he steals your money,” said Steve Simmons, co-owner of Amy’s Ice Creams. Guadalupe wasn't the first Amy’s Ice Creams location hit by the thief.
He also stopped by the South Congress shop. “We've actually had it happen twice and, I just found out, it's also happened to some other businesses,” Simmons said.
Sa-Ten barista Alex Daboub said the man visited their coffee shop Friday afternoon. “He was ordering some food, and he just stuck his hand in there when I was half looking away, and I saw him take the money,” Daboub said.
Daboub confronted him and told him if he returned the money they wouldn't call police.
“He just kept sort of denying that anything had happened and that he didn't know what I was talking about,” said Daboub. So far the thief has only gotten away with a handful of cash from each location, but that's enough to impact employees lives.
“For people in the service industry, tips are such a major portion of our income that they're really important to us,” Daboub said.
“He's taking money that these people work long and hard for. Austin is very expensive to live in these days and they’re relying on these tips to pay their rent, to pay their electric bills, and it's very personal for me because they work hard for it,” said Simmons.
Amy's shared video and images of the man to all of its employees and other service industry professionals to warn them about the serial thief. “I had seen a picture of him that my coworker showed me because she said he'd been going around to different places stealing tips,” Daboub said.
Police said they are investigating the reports they have received, but have not located the thief yet. In the meantime, Amy’s and other shops are taking precautions. “We've moved our tip jars back, all of our folks have the footage and have a still shot of this guy, we've told our people to call 911 when you see him, don't try to stop him, just call the cops,” said Simmons.
So far six places have confirmed the same man entered their establishment and stole or tried to steal tips. All of those thefts occurred this week in Central Austin.