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Stealing from Starbucks
Mom with a View

Stealing from Starbucks

Is my friend a hero?


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I have a friend who ? along with millions of others -- is addicted to Starbucks. She can't get through the day without her grande nonfat one Splenda latte.

If she can't leave the house (due to work and child demands), she sends her housekeeper to purchase her daily fix. I don't begrudge her this habit. It seems a relatively minor and relatively inexpensive indulgence. And it seems to brighten her day. As they say in those credit card ads: priceless.

She told me about her recent experience. It was another insanely busy day -- so once again her housekeeper did the errand for her (not under duress; she welcomes the opportunity to go for a walk in the beautiful California sunshine). When she returned with the change, there was $5.00 too much. Perhaps the bills were stuck together (there were some new ones), perhaps the cashier was in a rush. Whatever the reason, there it was.

Although it's not like winning the lottery, it's always nice to discover extra money, even $5.00. It's one and a half free lattes!

But my friend knew it wasn't hers to spend. Not only doesn't she buy into the philosophy that big corporations are greedy and won't miss it (why does that make it hers?), not only was she conscious that perhaps the salesperson would be held personally responsible and liable, but most importantly, she knew it was stealing.

So even though it wasn't a lot of money, even though it wasn't her mistake, even though it was inconvenient and time-consuming, my friend trudged over to Starbucks and returned the money.

A returning war hero could not have received a more enthusiastic reception. They applauded her honesty, offered her a free cup of coffee and waxed enthusiastic over her good deed. They did check the tills and found one that was $5.21 short. My friend could not account for the missing 21 cents.

Although I congratulated myself on my wise choice of friends, something about this story struck a disturbing note. Why was it such a big deal? Has honesty become so rare that we are shocked and admiring when we see examples of it?

I'd like to think that if I lost something it would be reported and returned. I'd like to think that if I overpaid, I'd still get the correct change. I'd like to think we all look for ways to help one another, not exploit and take advantage. I'd like to think that simple human decency is alive and well. I'd like to see returning $5.00 relegated to the trivial and commonplace.

The last straw, so to speak, that sealed humanity's fate and triggered the Flood was robbery. Why that of all things? Because robbery shows complete indifference to others. "I got $5 extra change? Great. More for me." There is no consciousness of any other factors at play. It is soul-numbing and character-destroying.

I guess I mistakenly characterized my friend's actions. They were not insignificant or trivial. It's these small actions that say, "I care." It's these small actions that build personal character and create community. It's these small actions that sustain the world.

December 17, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 20

(20) Polly Anderson, April 10, 2018 9:04 PM

Catch the little foxes

I am a committed Christian who had a Jewish grandmother and I enjoy reading
I really enjoyed reading this article. In Song of Solomon 2:15, it reads, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards,our vineyards that are in bloom.”
I have often thought of this verse because it’s not always the ‘big foxes’ that cause destruction: seemingly ‘little’ sins can gnaw away inside us and lead to destruction too. This article is a good example of a ‘little fox’ (temptation to keep the $5) that many people would think was harmless. Little foxes grow into big foxes!!
You are fortunate to have a friend who catches the little foxes!

(19) Nancy, April 10, 2018 7:21 PM

Returning a lost item

Several years ago my husband and I were in NYC when we found a wallet on the ground. It contained a woman's credit cards, along with some cash. We called the woman and fortunately she happened to be nearby. She told us she was flying out to North Carolina the next day and did not even realize her wallet was missing! She wanted to give us a reward, but both of us refused to take anything from her.

(18) java mama, March 20, 2008 1:54 PM

get a grip

get a grip

(17) Anonymous, January 4, 2006 12:00 AM

I think that honesty is rare in many sectors of our society today and that this is why Ms. Braverman's friend was applauded for her honesty. A similar situation happenend to me while I was in college. I went to buy a cup of coffee between my morning classes and discovered, after ordering, that my Student ID card (which was linked with a debit account for student concessions) and the small wallet I carried on campus with a few dollars in cash had fallen out of my backpack. I was so embaressed. They told me to come back when I found my ID card or my wallet. I went back to the lecture hall where I had my first class and found my ID card and the wallet. I took it back to the coffe stand and all of the ladies working there were shocked that I actually came back. They congratulated me for being so honest and added that they wished more people could be as honest as I was.

I think sometimes we forget that not everyone is brought up with the same values that many of us are, or if they are, that they are not stressed as much in other homes. I hope that actions such as those of Ms. Braverman's friend, inspire others to do what is right.

(16) Cathy Lentz, January 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Long live Honesty

Concerning commendable for making the right and honest choice to return the money. I also heard from friends in Israel that
starbucks just could not compete with the Aroma coffee shops. Everyone liked Aroma better and they are right!! Aroma coffee is better.
I recently dropped my expensive Burberry scarf that my husband had given me, in a parking lot outside some small shops in our area. It never occurred to the finder to come in and inquire who might have lost it. It might have taken 5 minutes to ask in two or three shops...max. this was not some gigantic mall. Disappointingly...the finder just kept this scarf. Why not just try to do the right thing when we find something that has been lost? God is watching.

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