When It's OK To STEAL
Is it ever really OK?
Sometimes it's clear, sometimes it's not. Or, is it?
A very dear friend of mine recently handed me a bag over lunch.
"What's this?" I peaked in the re-used grocery store plastic bag to find a really cute hat.
"I ordered it from a catalog. They messed up and sent me two, so I'm giving you the extra one." She smiled.
"You mean, you only paid for one?"
"That's right! You're welcome!"
This friend is an honest person. I would be very hard pressed to come up with anything else she's done in the 5 years I've known her that could be classified as questionable.
So why this one thing? She knows the difference between right and wrong. She knows not to steal. Why was it not clear to her in this instance?
MY FATHER IN-LAW
My father-in-law gave us a gift certificate for a weekend getaway to Colonial Williamsburg. Apparently, this is a popular travel location for some people. I'm not one of them. But I digress. The gift certificate was issued by a time share company. This apparently great deal included 2 nights stay in a hotel, and all our meals. All this, under the condition that we give them our attention at a few short lectures on time shares. We have no intention of ever buying into a time share situation. Ever. And my father-in-law knew that, but decided, so what? All you have to do is go along with the lectures and you spend about a third of what you would spend if you booked this weekend direct.
I wondered if the time share group would have given him this deal, had he told them he was just looking for a bargain, and that we would never ever even dream of buying in.
PICTURE IT: BROOKLYN. 1969.
When I was a little girl, I stole a piece of candy from the corner store. I couldn't have been much more than three years old. I was with my mother. When she was paying the clerk, I apparently helped myself to a chocolate bar. I am sure that I did not intend to sneak it; I am sure I just didn't understand the concept. About a half a block away, my mother realized I was eating something.
"Where did you get that!" As soon as she realized what I had done she marched me right back to the store. She was mad. She told the clerk what had happened. I was scared, I was crying. The clerk seemed to feel as bad as I did.
"Please don't worry about it, Mrs. M. It's not a problem. She can have it."
"No!" My mother was serious. "She has to learn, you can't just steal things."
She made me apologize, and give what was left of the candy back. She then paid the man, who didn't want to take it, and we left.
30 years later, she and I are splitting up the dinner bill at a restaurant where we had enjoyed a nice dinner and coffee. But when we looked at the bill, we realized that the coffees weren't on there.
"Oh, the girl must have made a mistake. I'll get her." I begin to stand up to find the waitress to have her correct our check.
"Shh!" My mother waves at me to sit back down. "So we get a free couple of coffees. So what. They can afford it."
I was shocked. This was the woman that dragged me crying into a store to apologize for taking candy when I didn't even understand what stealing was. And now here she was encouraging me to steal coffee.
I explained to her, "I've waited tables. And it's not uncommon to charge the wait staff for mistakes like this. Her boss could catch this and take it out of her pay."
"Oh. I didn't realize. Alright then, tell her."
I had to ask. "Let me get this straight. Are you saying that if it was the restaurant paying, you'd be willing to steal the coffee but if it's a waitress, then it's not ok?"
My mother looked a little annoyed but answered me. "Well the restaurant can afford it."
Robin Hood lives.
ISN'T IT STILL STEALING?
Is that the rule? If you're stealing from a company that can afford it, then it's ok?
I have had several moments where I was in position to take advantage of that rule, but I didn't. I couldn't. I was a kid once, like everyone else. And I learned lessons over time. But I haven't stolen anything as an adult, aware of the cosmic repercussions of my actions. For every action there is a re-action. We reap what we sow. Like attracts like.
AS AN ADULT
One time I was shopping in a large family super center. The first thing I threw in the cart was a fly swatter. The second thing was a large cooler for camping. After a few other things I got in line, paid, and pushed the cart out to my car. Upon packing the cooler into my car, I realized the fly swatter had been underneath it, no one saw it and I hadn't been charged for it. I walked it back into the store. I stood on line at customer service, and when I got to the clerk I showed her my receipt and handed the fly swatter to her. I explained it was an honest mistake; it was underneath the items I had already paid for. I explained that I was putting the other items in my car when I saw this and realized what had happened. She sounded appreciative, and rung me up.
In any one of these circumstances reversed, I am sure no one would have allowed themselves to be ripped off. Had my friend ordered her hat on line and not received one, she would have called and complained. Yet the opposite wasn't true of her when she received two.
If the waitress charged us twice for the coffee, we would have asked her to correct the bill.
If I had been charged for the fly swatter but wound up at my car without it, I would have gone back in to the store to try to find it.
AS A KID
When I was younger, I didn't quite understand. It took me years to really grasp what stealing even was.
I worked in a few food establishments, and had helped myself behind my boss's back to snacks or let my friends have sodas "on the house." I stole those sodas. I stole those snacks. There was even a lip gloss in a store once.
HOW IT FEELS
I've been robbed. A few times. The worst was a break in, in my first apartment in New Jersey 20+ years ago. They stole my camera and my little TV. They took some cash and a few other things. It was a horrible and violating experience.The police did nothing. It was one of the worst feelings in the world. I felt unsafe and helpless.
An ex-boyfriend stole books from me. Another stole a guitar. But any time you have to use the prefix "ex", there's a story and a lesson, and so maybe these doesn't count so much.
But anyway, there have been other things. Other times. For example, a seller on Ebay, an online auction site, took my money and never sent the item. A couple of others either misrepresented the item for sale, or stole my money in one way or another. I was in an online trading group and a little bitch from England stole about $80 worth of product from me, as she never sent me what she had promised to trade. These were kitchen items, not anything sentimental or important. And I can survive an $80 hit. But does that make it right? Does that mean it's OK for her to do that?
I think a lot of us have been a victim of thievery in one form or another. And it didn't feel good. So why would any of us think it's ok to take what's not ours?
IT'S STEALING. PERIOD.
Stealing is stealing. Whether it's from your grandmother, a stranger on Ebay, or from the largest corporation in the world. It's wrong. And you know in your gut that it is. You know in your gut that if it was the other way around, you'd feel bad. And "Do onto others" makes perfect sense if you think about it, doesn't it.
The victim's ability to take the hit is not a defining factor.The victim's face being hidden behind miles, or a large storefront, or the internet, doesn't make them any less a victim. When you take something that isn't yours, it's stealing. Period.
We have the chance every day to shape the way people will see us. The way we see ourselves. And that alone should make all the difference.
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All text is original content by Veronica.
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