Thursday, June 19, 2008

Those Darn Morals!

I meant to do this post earlier, but it got sidelined by other things.

A couple of weeks ago I stepped out of the office for a few minutes to make a Starbucks® run. The girl behind the counter took my order and a few minutes later I had my iced mocha in hand. And no one had rung me up! Usually, the person who takes the order rings it up and another barista prepares it. But this time, no one had bothered asking me to pay.

I stood there for a few seconds pondering what I should do. I was a little ticked that they were out of soy milk and had to make my iced mocha with skim milk instead. Not to mention that Starbucks is a very profitable company, and they wouldn't notice the missing four dollars and change.

"Screw em!" I thought and walked out the door into the Rockefeller Concourse. I had gotten away with it! There was no one to stop me.

And then I stopped.

"I can't do this," I said to myself. "This is stealing and I am not a thief."

I turned around, walked back into the Starbucks, and walked up to the person manning the register to pay for my iced mocha.

I am writing about this little incident, because it serves as a rebuke to all those theists who claim that atheists have no morals. I wanted to walk away without paying. I did walk away without paying. But in the end I went back and did pay. Not because I feared what some sky daddy would think of me. I went back and paid for my drink because I recognized the value of not stealing. If everyone did what I did, then it would have a negative impact. A civilization worthy of the name cannot survive in the absence of trust and honor.

And now I anticipate comments from everyone telling me what an idiot I am for going back and paying for my drink!


Spanish Inquisitor said...

No. I would have done the same thing.

I was in Starbucks the other day, and a man walked up to the head of the line and butted it, nonchalant as can be. Did I yell at him? Nope. I figured he was in a hurry, so what the hell, I wasn't.

But I'll bet he was a Christian.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a lawyer but I think that any exchange of a good or service requires a two-way transaction. The seller provides and the buyer must offer something in exchange. Until this is done, the good or service is the property of the seller. So, in effect, you would have stolen the drink.

But, is this a moral or ethical issue? Since they neglected to request your money do you have a moral duty to go back and pay?

I'm leaning toward a no but I have difficulty explaining why...

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, not only would I have done the same thing but I applaud you for having done this.

Anonymous said...

I have had to do this several times over the years. Clerks hand me (sometimes several dollars) too much change without any clear idea of how much it should be. So I fix it. They thank me. That's life.
Getting things right is such an obvious principle I'm surprised that it's even associated with "God".

katharotes said...

Well, I would have felt guilty, and there's the fear of getting caught even though it's the clerk that forgot to bill me. I'd pay up.

On another note, I've always believed that people don't need religion to be good or moral etc. Too often it's the people with religion who fuck things up.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

humanistdad said:

But, is this a moral or ethical issue? Since they neglected to request your money do you have a moral duty to go back and pay?I'm leaning toward a no but I have difficulty explaining why...

I think it is a moral duty to go back and pay, and here's why. When you walk in the store, the prices are posted on the board. You KNOW you have to pay for what you receive. You KNOW that when someone forgets to ask for money, they are not making a free gift to you, they simply forgot. It's a consumer transaction, where they have an obligation to give you the product and service, and in return (we lawyers use the term "consideration") you have the obligation to pay for it. Taking advantage of a slip of memory is not ethical.

karat said:

Too often it's the people with religion who fuck things up.

This is anecdotal, and no proof of any grander observations, but my wife used to work for a doctor who was a fire breathing fundogelical who never lost the opportunity to proselytize. She, however, knew how he conducted business. Between insurance fraud and cheating his own partners, he was the biggest hypocrite, not exactly a poster child for his religion.

PS. Tommy, you really ought to consider getting rid of the word verification. It's a PITA. ;)

PhillyChief said...

What exactly is the distinction between morals and ethics?

I'd have to agree with SI, the expectation that payment is required is too overwhelming to dismiss, so the failure to ask for payment is a mistake and not paying would be exploiting the mistake.

There's also the possibility of harm. The cashier at the end of her shift has to cash out her drawer and she'll be short. Aside from the money she'd have to cough up to cover YOUR drink, now she's got a black mark against her at work. Not cool.

Speaking of morals, the word verification is unduly burdening us who comment, so I think you should remove it. ;)

Tommykey said...

Thanks all for your comments.

I'm sorry the word verification is a pain. I originally did not utilize it when I started this blog, but then I started getting spam in my comments boxes.

When I get home tonight I will see if I have time to remove the word verification and see how it goes. But if I start getting spam again, then it's going right back up!

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I think I must be spoiled, because Wordpress has a really good spam filter. Very little gets through. Right now it's telling me that since I started my blog, it caught over 12,000 spam comments.

Don't change things if the spam gets too bad, not for us. It's just that the WV is a pain, and lots of times I have to do it 2 or three times before it allows me to post.

For instance, this time. ;)

PhillyChief said...

There's some sort of time limit that the word is good for. I believe that time limit is exactly one second shorter than the time it takes you to write your comment. When time runs out, it makes a new word, but doesn't update what you see. What you have to do is type, click publish, then when the window refreshes with a new word you type that in and click publish again.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

As I said - a PITA!

No offense Tommy. Don't let us cranky curmudgeons, who only hunt and peck on the keyboard, influence you.

bullet said...

I agree that you did the right thing. Fairly obvious, it seems to me.

However, consider this scenario: You pay for your coffee and then, distracted by the lack of soy milk, walked away without getting your change. If you come back later to get your change, would they give it to you? What would be the just action in that situation?

Tommykey said...

Just to prove my point, not a single atheist commenter here told me that I should have continued walking away without paying. Wow, what a bunch of degenerates we are! How would society function if everyone were like us?

Bullet, it probably would depend on the disposition of the clerk manning the register. If he/she recognized me as a regular, they might have given me the benefit of the doubt.

Matt M said...

Two good reasons to pay: 1) They might suddenly realise as you're walking away, making you look like a jerk in front of everyone, and 2) Some of the staff might get into trouble if the till comes up short at the end of the day.

No religion required, only a concern about others and what they think of you.

tina FCD said...

I went to turn bottles in for the money. Someone had left their bottle slip in the machine it was quite a bit for bottle return.
I took it out and looked around, didn't ask who's it was, just looked around for someone with a frantic look on their face. Gave it back to them, and got a lot of thank you's. I do this all the time. :)
You're one of the good guys. Tommy. :)

Tommykey said...

Thanks Tina!

Matt, the thing is, if you read my post, I had gotten away with it. I had already gone out the door.

Stardust said...

You did the right thing. I would have started talking loudly saying "did you forget something? Like ringing me up?" This has happened to me on more than one occasion.

My husband is quite humorous when this happens. He leans on the counter, chin in hand and with that smile in his eyes and says "is this a freebie?" and they look stupified...and look around like "huh?" and he says again..."is this a freebie? You giving them away today?" and they then check the register, look at the item, look at the register puzzled and then it finally clicks and they say oh...that'll be such and such, however much it was.

The ones that are the most amusing are the ones who argue with you that you paid already when you didn't. That has happened a couple of times at fast food places. This one youngster at a Burger King was getting quite hostile about it and then finally saw her error after she got over the need to be right.

Poodles said...

I would have made sure I paid, if I had remembered. I sometimes forget things from one minute to the next. However to me, the true robbery is 2.00 for a small coffee. :)

Harry Nads said...

I am surprised you walked out the door without paying. Kudos for going back, though.

Tommykey said...

Hey Harry!

It was a slow walk actually. I paused a few times thinking "Wow, I'm actually doing this?"

I remember years ago I got into a discussion with a coworker over a scenario where an ATM machine at a bank gives you more money than you requested. I said that I would return the extra money to the bank, because it did not belong to me. She told me that she would keep the money because in her opinion banks were thieves, so taking the money was justified.

I was playing out this scenario in my head as I was walking out of the Starbucks.