SAN DIEGO - A local newspaper carrier struggling to make ends meet spoke to Team 10 about the tips she hasn't been receiving.
When Suzie made her rounds delivering newspapers Thursday morning, she saw one of her customers standing on his driveway at 4:30 a.m.
The customer asked Suzie, "Did you get my tips?"
Both checked their records and learned that five months' worth of tips paid over the past year never made it into Suzie's bank account.
"He said, 'That's not right,' Suzie recalled. "He said in August 'I increased my tip by $15 a month for you and you're not getting it.'"
The conversation came one day after Team 10 reported that newspaper carriers across San Diego were sending out Christmas cards asking subscribers to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers to send tips directly to the carriers because they claimed the tips designated on their bills were being withheld.
Both the Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times said they pass the tips to the carriers.
The money passes through several hands before getting there, however. Newspapers pay a media delivery service called ACI, which then pays several local distributors the tip money. The distributors are responsible for paying the money to the carriers in their paychecks.
Suzie showed Team 10 investigator Allison Ash several pay statements that show tips are irregular, at best. Some months there were no tips, even though customers said they added a tip every time. One pay statement showed a single 59-cent tip.
Suzie is a single working mom who supports two children. Her voice began shaking as she told Team 10, "The one budget that we have to cut back on is the food budget."
She claims other carriers face similar challenges, adding, "I'm losing thousands of dollars in tips each year."
Suzie told Team 10 she would welcome an audit of the El Cajon distributorship where she works.
The head of ACI told Team 10 his company is going through the distributors books to see if there are any tip irregularities.