Friday, March 5, 2010

Stealing vs. Oops! I Made a Mistake

One evening, late, Deus Ex Machina and I went to the store with the intention of purchasing a particular DVD we wanted. We picked out the DVD, and a couple of other things, and then went to the checkout. The cashier was really nice and chatty. She rang in our purchases and told us the total and gave us our stuff, and we came home.

We talked about how inexpensive the purchase was on the way home, and how we were a little surprised, because it seemed like, maybe, a mistake had been made. When we got home, we looked at the reciept, and sure enough, the DVD hadn't been charged.

By this time, it was our girls' bedtime. It had been a long day, and we were tired.

Since we didn't purposely take the DVD, is it stealing for us to keep it? It wasn't even our mistake. We even tried to pay for it ... in fact thought we had paid for it.

Now, I stop, and ask you, if it were you, if you found that you had brought home a DVD, which you intended to pay for, but found that you hadn't, what would YOU do?


  1. I would have to go back. The guilt would keep me from sleeping, even though it wasn't my fault. I know... makes you think I was raised Catholic :)

  2. I would take it back because it would be the right thing to do. But then again...I was raised Catholic too.

  3. I'd go back and pay. I don't think it has anything to do with a guilt complex brought on by religious training, it's simply the right thing to do in an orderly society.

  4. Gotta agree, I'd take it back and take the register too and explain what happened and pay for it. It's just the right thing to do.

  5. I have been in the same boat and I took the DVD back to pay for it. My good name is worth more than a $15 dollar DVD. True nobody but me would know about it but me but isn't that enough? Do you really want to know that you would sell out your values for $15.00?

  6. I'm guessing this is meant to be an analogy, in response to my comment on your previous post? (premeditated fraud vs. stupidity in defaulting on debt)

    Thought provoking. I hope my devil's advocacy is not becoming bothersome. I find it an interesting debate.

    But I'm not sure what to take from this. Is it that intent never matters? Is hitting the brakes and swerving to avoid a pedestrian to be treated the same as speeding up and not altering course?

    Or am I to assume that you're advocating criminal penalties for people who default on loans, since they are "stealing," regardless of circumstance? Should they all go to debtors' prison?

    Or am I reading too much into it?

    (Or should I just drop it?)

  7. I woulda called the store to explain the situation and offered to come in and pay for it--but I'd make sure they'd let me before I went to the store. Some stores, well OK, the one's I've dealt with for online purchases, will let you keep it if they mistakenly send you something you didn't order. It was the store's mistake and maybe they have a policy for dealing with it. Better to call beforehand and save a little gas if you can!

  8. I'd call the store and ask them. In my case, the place I'd buy from is 30 min away, so another trip would cost me an hour (more in traffic - time I really don't have these days), and another gallon of gas. B/c of that, and having already tried to pay for it, I'd ask for a deep discount if they wanted me to come in.

  9. e4: Yes, defaulting on one's debts, in my opinion, is stealing, but I also think there are degrees. For instance, stealing a pack of gum from the grocery is still stealing, but should it carry the same consequences as, say, armed robbery, which is also stealing?

    It's been proven that prison does very little to deter crime, and so should we send the kid, who steals a pack of Juicy Fruit to the slammer? And if he just goes to jail, how is that going to help the owner of the pack of gum, who has lost the revenue from the stolen gum and won't get his money back, especially if the kid is in prison?

    Shouldn't we, instead, require that the kid pay restitution? Should he not be required to pay for what he took? And if he does not have the cash to pay for it, should there not be some other consequence, some way that he can repay his debt to the owner of the gum?

    Maybe if he is forced to acknowledge, accept and attempt to correct his behavior, and recognize that HIS actions directly resulted in the trouble he is in, he'd be less likely to repeat it.

    Perhaps if we were forced to acknowledge that our debt problems are OUR FAULT, instead of being encouraged to believe that we've been victimized by some slick corporate entity, we'd be less likely to repeat the process.

  10. I'd keep it. It has happened to us before, we got home and found something that was not paid for, though it was on the belt and the cashier bagged it. We count ourselves lucky and think it was Karma. You didn't do any tricky, sneaky things, and no alarm went off when you walked out of the store.

    On the other hand-- when we got home from the food store once and found that the store forgot to give me over $16.00 in discounts, we went right back and drove the 18 miles to get it. We figured we paid $5 in gas round-trip, so it was worth it to me to get $11 back when we don't have that much to begin with. That's $11 I can use to buy a 50lb bag of chicken feed.

    Would the store hunt you down if they knew the cashier goofed and you got a "freebie"? I doubt it. They'd chalk it up as a loss and tell their employees to do a better job.

  11. I'd pay for it, but not until the next time I swung by the store. I'd go to sleep with a clear conscience, knowing I'd done nothing wrong. It's their error, so I wouldn't feel compelled to inconvenience myself (or use up gasoline for a single-purpose trip) to do the right thing. But I'd do the right thing as soon as convenient.

  12. "Shouldn't we, instead, require that the kid pay restitution? Should he not be required to pay for what he took? And if he does not have the cash to pay for it, should there not be some other consequence, some way that he can repay his debt to the owner of the gum?"

    I guess that's my point on debt default. There *are* consequences - very real and significant consequences. Some spelled out in the contract, and some built into the credit rating system. If you walk away, good luck ever buying a house. Good luck getting a decent job. (More and more employers do credit checks.) Good luck getting affordable insurance. (Again, credit checks.)

    If you pay 90% of your mortgage and then lose your job and can't pay, the bank still gets *the whole house*. And almost triple the cost of the house. Does that mean the bank is stealing?

    I'll just finish by saying again that defaulting on your debts is not considered a crime. Theft is considered a crime. So they are fundamentally different in our society, whatever we might think personally.

    This has been fun and interesting for me, but I can see that your views are deeply entrenched, so with this comment, I'll drop it.

  13. I just stumbled upon your blog (can't remember how I got here) but had to send a message regarding this dilemma, which by now has probably been settled. I came home this week after being out of town for more than a week. By my back door was a box that was labeled "Gevalia." On the box was a name I did not know, but it was indeed our address. I had not placed an order with this complany. So, I brought the box in, set it inside the garage and because I was tired decided to figure out what to do the next day.
    The next day came and being human I wanted to open it! But, that little voice kept saying to me, it isn't yours. So, I merely took off the enveloped glued to the top of the box and went in the house to start my investigation. I first looked in our neighborhood directory. No one by that name. Then, the phone book..also a dead end. So, I decided to call the coffee company that the box was from and see if I could get better results. After explaining my dilemma to the Gevalia person on the phone, the told me they would cancel the account. They weren't sure how the mix-up happened and no need to send item back, which to me was pretty exciting. I waited for my daughter to get home as she knew about the box and I wanted her to be there when I opened it. It was a brand-new programmable coffee pot with a new stainless scoop, filters, a bag of Irish creme ground coffee and a bag of french roast decaf. I wouldn't have been able to drink that coffee and enjoy my new coffee pot if I hadn't gone the extra mile to try and find the owner. Things are so much sweeter when you know you have done the right thing. Especially, when there are kids involved. I have been enjoying my coffee every morning and with no guilt. :D