During a recent shopping experience, I got to explore what I considered stealing. I was at a big box store and I’d purchased duplicates of some items. I wasn’t paying attention when we checked out and when I got to my car it struck me that the amount I paid couldn’t be right. My bill had been $19 but I’d purchased sixteen of one particular item. That would have been $16 right there. So, I looked at the register tape and sure enough- she’d only charged me for one of those sixteen items. The self conversation in that moment was fascinating.
My immediate thought was that “I need to go back in the store.” I knew I saw her enter the 16 but only one registered. I sat there, in my car, and just let the thoughts stream through.
“This is a big box store. It’s not like it’s an independent small store.”
“That doesn’t matter. Taking it knowingly is stealing.”
“Huh. I wonder where such a strong presence of right and wrong came into my life.”
“I have plenty of time to go back in there.”
“Will the cashier get in trouble if I bring it back in? I need to make sure to mention I saw her put in the quantity”
“I wonder what they will think when I do go back in. Will they be shocked?”
“Walking back in will give me more steps on my fitbit.” Ha- truth. I thought that.
“What’s the lowest dollar amount I would consider walking back in for?”
There were other thoughts, I’m sure, but I was most fascinated by the ping pong and the ways in which I could have justified it if I had wanted to just drive away. I found myself analyzing the comments. The justification (based almost in an anger) at it being a big boxed vs. independently owned store and how it would be ok if I drove away because of this fact. I could even hear the societal conversation of “well, they are out to get us so get back at them.”
Yes, I walked back in and waited on line for almost 15 minutes. As I stood there, I DID wonder if they would reward my honesty by not charging me. When I got to the young man behind the counter, I shared with him that I needed to pay for the 15 items. He was in training and I could tell he was thrown off so he asked the person with more experience. Her words were “This is something you don’t see very often. Someone who is honest.” Yes, they rang up the fifteen items. ha!
This is something you don’t see very often- someone who is honest. Sad, right? Imagine coming from that internal conversation and assumption eight hours a day. That’s a jaded space from which to live. However, I saw a fleeting glimpse of all the conversations I had going on about going back in the store to pay for this item. Of course this got me wondering about all the conversations I have about all kinds of things. You know. All those shoulds. Don’ts. Cant’s.
One piece I’m acutely aware of, though, is that the action to bring the items back in and pay for them came from a deeply ingrained conversation of right and wrong that was instilled at a very young age. I knew the moment I realized the mistake had been made that there was NO way I was driving away. I just had the luxury of listening to the chatter. It made me wonder, though, about all the conversations I have that are deeply ingrained that I’m not present enough to hear. What conversations am I missing? My conversation about right and wrong, in my opinion, is a good one. What conversations do I have that don’t serve me? THAT’S the lesson within this lesson for me. That’s what I continue to seek.