A court heard last week that Gary Beecher, who worked at Volvo dealership HR Owen in New Kent Road, had pocketed customers' money to pay for building work at his home.
Beecher, 40, admitted the offences at Inner London Crown Court, where he was given a 150-hour community punishment order and ordered him to pay costs of £430.
Beecher used a stolen Switch card on 11 November 2003 when a customer paid £1,000 cash for repairs on his Volvo. After accepting the payment, Beecher pocketed the notes and used the card to cover the cost of the body work.
He later stole two further amounts – £488 and £194 – from customers getting car stereos fitted.
He also used the card to pay for £190 worth of Volvo spares from a supplier of parts.
The owner of the stolen card noticed the debits and notified police.
Jeannie Mackie, defending, said Beecher had been under "extreme financial pressure", with just £100 a month left after paying bills to support his wife and her two children.
• HR Owen
Judge Robert Prendergast said: "Business quite simply would not work if everybody stole from their employers.
"That is why the breach of trust is regarded as being such a serious offence.
"There was a time when even a plea of guilty of stealing from an employer would have meant 18 months in prison."