Likely Wine Theft- What would you do?

Short Story: We suspect our cleaning lady whom we have had for almost 20 years of taking wine from our cellar. What would you do and how would you confront her?

Long Story: So this one is eating away at my wife and I. Last month I noticed some gaps where my 2005 Bordeaux are stored in a section of rack in our cellar. After a quick Cellar Tracker search it looked to be just under a case of mixed bottles. Now it’s possible some were consumed and not logged out of CT, but unlikely that all (or even 1/2 were) since some of the missing were multiples of the same label while others were some I know I wanted to wait on to open and I wouldn’t miss that many as I am pretty diligent with CT.

So, last week we were going away for the week so I took some pics of my racks in order to get a record of bottles in the racks so that I could compare to the racks to the pics when we returned. We came back last night so I checked today (did not want to- felt awful doing it because didn’t want to see any missing). When I compared the current racks to the rack pictures, sure enough one bottle of 2005 Bordeaux was undeniably missing. All other racks in the basement had no missing bottles. So again, there appears to be a “leak” in my dwindling stash of '05’s specifically which are in the same rack area. The pics was taken the day before we left so it was as current with absolutely no wine taken by us since. While away, we had a good friend come everyday to feed our cat- she and her husband do not drink. We also had an Aunt and Uncle stop at our house briefly but we know they wouldn’t have needed to go to basement and it would be a shocker if they took any wine without at least asking first. There is not an easy resale value for these wines. Recently I have become suspicious of our cleaning lady- who we have had for almost 20 years!- since she does venture to the basement once in awhile and wine first been noticed missing after some recent visits- also times we were not at home. She comes once a month and has always had a key as we have trusted her for all these years. We have never noticed anything else missing and have trusted her implicitly up till now. Sometimes she has a helper but lately she has been working alone in the house.

To complicate things, she also has customers that include our good friend who feeds the cat, other friends, and my wife’s boss at work. This creates an added dilemma as we would feel obligated to share this story with them. We do not want to get the police involved, even though the total missing wine is valued under $1000 (keeping in mind that some could just have been an oversight on CT) and there is no real proof anyway other than a single incident picture/rack comparison. We do want to confront her but want to be tactful. Her reputation and a significant part of her business could be ruined if we make this claim which would be made even worse if we are mistaken somehow. We work with her directly as she is self employed so there is no agency involved. I don’t expect to be compensated as I have no proof of what was actually taken. We hate to have to let her go but this makes us very uncomfortable. I’d appreciate your opinions on how you would address her as well as how you would handle the situation in general. Thank you.

If it were me I’d put a camera in the cellar. You would know 100% who is taking the wines.

That was my first thought too.

100% this. Otherwise, it’s just a game of “He said, she said” and you could end up with nothing but damaged relationships to show for it.

Agree…camera first!

get an Arlo Q webcam, $132 at best buy and easy to install if you have an electrical outlet in your cellar. If no outlet use the battery operated version. It will solve the issue and provide proof. Also not very noticeable.

take pictures or just lock the cellar. I don’t think you are going to get any wine back

Absolutely grab an inexpensive camera and catch them. Grab a Blink XT, Waze cam, or yes an Arlo Q to catch them. Then just leave it in there to keep an eye on things.

I would just lock it.

That’s ironic, as we were just discussing this in our household. SO’s grandmother had an heirloom ring go missing, and basically the only person who ever accessed their house, was their cleaning person. This same person had been there for 15 years, and had never had anything like this associated with her. Still, family members confronted the cleaner, and she confessed. Apparently she had developed a gambling problem, and assumed an older person would not not notice theft, or do anything about it.

Very sad. That side of the family were never able to recover the ring (cleaning lady had a 16k gambling debt and had sold it for a song) and didn’t have the steel to go with police complaint. Although realistically, in most jurisdictions, I doubt law enforcement would be able to do much.


A camera seems like a good idea, superficially. But the problem is this: you would have to discreetly set it up so that it actually captures the person stealing the bottles, and implicitly you are also going to have to sacrifice more theft from your cellar. I don’t know what your expected loss would be from that, but personally, I wouldn’t want more losses if the end game is that you are not willing to file charges with the police. That’s even assuming the police might pursue, and it gets referred for prosecution. (At the very least, some kind of interaction with law enforcement might cause other mischief in their life) In my area, most property crime isn’t a priority. LEO take reports because people need them for potential insurance claims, and it helps the sheriffs determine hot spots for where to station cruisers for deterrence. Perhaps it’s different in your town.

If I was in your shoes, I’d just text the cleaner and tell them their services aren’t needed any more.

You could additionally give careful verbal advice to associates who use them to consider putting internal cameras in their house, with even perhaps some bait, and see what happens. No need for disparagement, especially if you don’t have proof that rises to a courtroom level, but at the same time, giving a hint to friends to be aware is also fair.

You can only be betrayed by someone you trust.

My first thought was the same, a camera. NEST will give you real-time updates on activity as well, so you can see it real time (to minimize the loss). Having a camera does not mean you have to prosecute either, you can make your decision – but as of now you don’t know who is stealing! As far as discretion, the ideal is a camera on the bottles themselves, but a starting point could be just recording who had access to the cellar.
There is a chance you may get the old wine back too if you identify the culprit and don’t have stomach to prosecute anyway. Maybe they are holding onto some bottles to consolidate? I see no reason why you wouldn’t have the camera, when you are yourself even wondering if its friends visiting and what they may be doing - let alone to mitigate future losses even down the road (future cleaning staff).

I would take away the key so she does not have access when you are not there. Also, if there is a helper involved, they might be the guilty party, not your cleaner. Unfortunately when people come into the house, these things can happen.

SO the camera is a great idea. Will provide proof.
Then what (assuming it is the cleaning lady) …

  • involve police?
  • fire her?
  • notify other customers?
    I would confront her, ask for bottles back (or a $xxx for what you suspect she took), and notify your friends who also use her.

Shoot first and ask questions later.

Well, that’s what Dirty Harry would do if somebody was stealing his Bordeaux!

Are there any licensed casinos which allow gambling on credit?

Because “a 16k gambling debt” sure does sound like someone’s in hock to the mob.

Wireless tags has a tag that will alert you if a door is opened. If you can’t put a camera in that would tell you immediately when someone opened your cellar door. At least you could identify who was at your house when the door has been opened.

You can also start cleaning your house yourself. [snort.gif]

I would ask her directly in person.

I expect you will get a satisfactory answer from her response, sufficient to know what to do thereafter.

invite her to a 2005 Bordeaux tasting and see what she brings.

No camera, no “real evidence.” Don’t bother law enforcement. Decide if you want to let the person go or pursue civil and/or criminal action. If you decide to pursue, install cameras, itemize and document your inventory.