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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Conscience, Clear

Every so often, one of the people in your online social circles will post something that makes you wonder if people everywhere are all living out the same basic scenarios, but with possibly different outcomes. You read a brief post and say to yourself, "Hey, something just like that happened to me two days ago!" What often makes things interesting is that the same basic situations may come up, but the endings change because of our different behaviors, or philosophies, or perhaps our personalities.

Case in point: our visit to the supermarket a couple of nights ago. Trent and I had to pick up just a few things because we hadn't remembered them on our last trip to the store. When we got out to the car and began putting our super-cool, very responsible, reusable grocery bags in the trunk of the car, Trent said to me, "Hey, there's something in here that we didn't buy." It was nothing major, just a couple of boxes of pasta. But we hadn't put them in our shopping cart, nor had we paid for them. This, in my opinion, is where things get interesting. How would you view the situation? How would you react?

I am not here to advise or judge, nor do I really expect to get an answer from anyone. Just think about it for a moment if you would, please. There are a variety of ways that people could react to this situation. Some people might look at the item as a bonus, and be glad to have it. "Score! Guess who's having free pasta for dinner tomorrow night!" Another variation on this would be thinking, "Hey, if they aren't careful enough, and give me stuff I didn't pay for, it's not my problem. It's in my bag, so it's my pasta now."

I have seen people I know do both of these things, and have, in fact, seen them gloat about it. They had the mixed attitudes of having gotten away with getting something for nothing, and having profited from someone else's mistake. There's also a bit of "not my problem!" thrown in. Again, I am not here to moralize or anything of the sort, but rather to give some food for thought. I imagine (hope?) that none of the sales clerks or baggers lost their jobs because more product went out of the store than was paid for, but the stores certainly have to do things to recoup their losses. Prices don't just go up because of inflation, they also go up because of product losses. There's also the variables of honesty, and caring about the companies you do business with, and living with your conscience. 

How did we react to the situation? Trent showed me the packages of pasta, and while he loaded the bags in the car, I took the pasta back into the store. The clerk, one of our regulars, saw that I had come back and gave me a quizzical look. I told him that the items were in our bag but we hadn't paid for them. He shrugged, took them back, and put them under his counter. We went on our way, our consciences clear. If you think I was silly, that's okay. Our budget is sometimes so tight that we could certainly use a couple of free boxes of pasta. We just couldn't use them under those circumstances. We'd never have been able to eat them because of our feelings of guilt. To say nothing of the fact that we'd feel uncomfortable every time we went back in the store, because we'd feel almost like we had stolen something, rather than just taking home what we knew wasn't ours.

And my internet friend? She went to the grocery and found that there were some things in her bags that she hadn't purchased. She got back in her car, drove to the store, and returned the items. The store employees were very happy and grateful that she had returned them. She left the store for the second time feeling good about herself because of what she had done. For her, it was the right thing. Her conscience was clear, and she was happy because of it. I guess that's not so bad.