Stories are fun, right? Let me start off this post with a story.
I know a guy. Since I’m all nice and discreet and whatnot, I won’t mention his name. Before a long weekend, he decided he was going to take advantage of his time off and visit his folks. His parents live a few provinces away, so it’s a bit of a trek for him to get home. Wanting to maximize his experience, he decided to ask for the Friday before the long weekend off. And, if you can imagine, his boss had the audacity to say no.
What did he do? Did he go into work and perform well, feeling guilty of asking for time off for something that wasn’t really that important? Did he go into work and half-ass his day like most people reading this blog would do, pouting because his boss is such a jerk?
Nope. He called in sick. By the time his replacement was starting their day, his ass was on a plane heading across the country. This wasn’t an impulsive decision either. This was planned, almost immediately after the initial request for time off was denied.
Where’s The Line?
I would hope, if you have any sort of ethics, you would agree that this type of behavior is wrong. If not, knock yourself out hitting up kids for their lunch money and stuffing your pockets full of office supplies. Just stay away from my house.
Let’s look at another example. Say you’ve been sick for a day or two. It’s really nasty, and you feel as terrible as it gets. So work says don’t worry about coming in for the rest of the week, use it to recover. Well, it’s now Thursday, and you feel fine. You know somebody is covering for you, so there’s really no need to go back to work. What do you do? Do you go back and do the honest thing? Or do you relax and catch up on episodes of Pawn Stars? Now the line isn’t quite so clear, is it?
We can go down this slope all day long. Is stealing a pencil from work really wrong? Most people would argue that it’s just a damn pencil, and that you should just steal away. But what happens if a pencil turns into a stapler? And then the stapler turns into a paper shredder (try smuggling that out under your sweater) which turns into something else, and so on.
At what point do we draw the line?
Does Stealing From A Company Make Us Justify It?
Let’s say you’re shopping online for cheap car insurance. You input all your data, click the submit button, and a quote pops up on the screen. It’s hundreds of dollars less than the quote from any other company.
You take the steps to sign up for this insurance, when you realize that their algorithm is messed up. It’s giving you far too big of a discount for that defensive driving course you took 4 years ago. Would you keep on going with the process, telling yourself it’s okay because it’s a for profit venture that screwed up?
I’m willing to bet that most people reading this post would be willing to take the cheap insurance. Yet I’m also willing to bet that most readers would be honest with the cashier at Wal-Mart if she gave them too much change. If someone can explain the difference between the two situations, it would be helpful. Because, from where I stand, they both are pretty much the same thing.
If the Wal-Mart cashier gives you too much change back, nobody is getting hurt besides the big, bad conglomerate from Arkansas. The cashier isn’t out that extra toonie she gave you. (Canadian reference!) She’s not taken to the back and spanked for her faux pas, unless she’s really sexy and the manager is into that. She’s not out of a job, unless she screws up a lot, in which case she’d be out of a job because of incompetence.
I know a guy who specifically didn’t pay his satellite tv bill for as long as he could get away with it. I would probably lend this guy money, I don’t think he’d intentionally screw anybody. And yet, because he was dealing with a big faceless corporation, he had absolutely no problem milking the system for free tv.
In case anybody is wondering, he got tv for 8 months basically for the price of 1 month, since he would mail them $20 when they’d really threaten to cut him off. I wouldn’t recommend his methods if you value your credit score.
The reason why people are willing to screw big companies (including the ones they work for) is because they view the big company as having all the advantages, having all the wealth, when they’re just a little guy trying to make ends meet. It’s unfortunate, and we shouldn’t do it, but we’ve all been guilty of it at some point, even just a little.
I’ll leave you with the best example of all. In late 2001, Martha Stewart avoided a $45,000 loss by selling all 3,900 shares of Imclone Systems right before they came out with some bad news, thanks to information supplied by her broker. She was later convicted of insider trading and sentenced to 5 months in jail. Her net worth at the time? Close to 1 billion dollars. That’s not such a good thing.
This post was originally published in January, 2012. Sorry you had to read the whole thing to get to this part. Just kidding. I’m not sorry for most anything.