A few days ago, I came across a thread on a forum where a member wrote about something dishonest she had done in order to save money. This individual was cleaning out her kitchen pantry and came across some jars of pasta sauce that she had gotten in a Buy One Get One Free sale some time ago and forgotten to use. She had exactly ½ the number of jars left as she originally came home with, so technically these could be regarded as the free jars she had gotten in the BOGO sale.
She saw that these jars of sauce were coming up on the expiration date (a week away) and since she didn’t have time to use them by the printed date and didn’t want them to “go to waste”, took them back to the store to return them. She told the cashier that she had lost the receipt and ended up receiving a $10.00 store credit for these items that she had gotten for free in the first place. She knew that what she had done was dishonest but said that she thought it had been worth it.
Now, I am all for frugality (which is defined as “prudence in avoiding waste,” see Language Lesson: Frugality is a Virtue) and saving money, but there has to come a point where one draws a moral line and takes responsibility for one’s own mistakes. This person had herself neglected to use a product she had received for free and taken it back to the store under false pretenses and made a financial gain.
Besides, as my sister Madoline often says, the bacteria in that carton of milk (or package of food) doesn’t look at the expiration date and think, “I’d better go bad now.” It is most likely that those jars of sauce would still have been usable for a little while. If “avoiding waste” was her sole concern, she could have had pasta for the next few days, made a lasagne, calzone, ravioli, or even donated them to a food bank or charity. She could also have put the sauce in a bag or container and frozen it to use over time at her leisure.
Instead she took them back to the store where they most certainly would have been wasted. The likelihood of the store being able to re-sell those jars of sauce so close to the expiration date is slim, and they most likely would have to throw these close-to-expired products away if operating under business and food services policies.
I have heard people reason and rationalize about taking advantage of businesses saying, “Well, they can afford the loss.” It may be true, but it doesn’t make it right. It is true that the wholesale cost of a jar of pasta sauce might be small, but the retail price the store charges the consumer takes into account other costs associated with selling that jar of sauce – lease, tax, business fees, storage space and equipment, employee wages (to organize and clean the store and products, run the cash register, bag the items), and all other expenses of making that jar of sauce available to you. Of course the business makes a profit, for that is the primary and accepted purpose of a business.
So, in actuality, one could say that this dishonest customer really cost this business $20.00 – $10.00 for initially getting the products free of charge, and then $10.00 of store credit she received for returning them later. In my opinion, taking advantage of a businesses’ desire to provide good customer service in this way is no less than stealing.
Yes, it was only $20.00, but it was still $20.00 dishonestly earned. $20.00 is 3 hours of work for some minimum wage workers. $20.00 is capital for a business to turn into a much higher profit. If $20.00 is worth stealing, it’s worth keeping to the rightful owner.
Money is a wonderful thing. It may not be able to literally buy happiness, but it can buy a lot of things that contribute to happiness. However, as someone once said, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” and a high percentage of crimes is committed in the name of money.
I know there are many levels of wrongdoings and everyone has their own standards in their moral code, but there has to come a time when one draws a line between what is right and what is wrong in order to save, or make, money.