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January 11, 2008


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Umm, yeah, that was stealing. I'm not sure how someone would think that an attempt to pay is a substitute for payment. It's not that someone said that they'd give it to him for free.

Transactions require a meeting of the minds. When someone in a store doesn't ring up your sale, it is a failure to reach a meeting of the minds. To interpret that as a counter-offer that you can just take the merchandise for no charge is ludicrous. To suggest that an announcement that you are about to take something for nothing and the failure of someone to gang tackle you as you do amounts to an agreed-upon transfer of the merchandise for no charge is ludricuous.

I'll say it-- this guy's an ass. Just because customer-service of a company is contemptible doesn't give you a license to steal.

Obviously this was stealing, but I have to admit the story is pretty funny.

Definitely stealing. The same thing has happened to me - I was at a small drugstore and waited at the checkout for about 5 minutes and rang the bell and no one came. I went back to the pharmacy and stockroom and asked someone if they could check me out and they said they would be up right away. After another 5 minutes of waiting, I simply left my items on the nearest shelf and walked out. I never even thought of taking the items. Amazing the difference in people's attitudes.

Nope, not within his rights.

A private vendor may refuse service to anyone they choose. There is no "right" to conduct a business transaction with someone else. Indifference by the staff doesn't make stealing right.

What he did was theft, plain and simple. Blogging about it is tantamount to publicly admitting the crime.

At a minimum, he should have left enough money to cover the purchase cost and tax on the item. In his story, he should have left $50 on the counter and then left.

Threatening to shoplift in order to attain customer service is simply immature.

I would have left some money on the counter, but I can't bring myself to pass judgment on this guy. This story is too funny! (Also too sad.)

100 PERCENT STEALING. NO QUESTION ABOUT IT. Someone is always watching, if not physically, spiritually.

I have a similar situation... I recently bought one of those customizable Starbucks cards. I received it in the mail, and it was the wrong design, so I emailed them and told them they screwed up. A few days later I received the correct one.

In the meantime, I used the mis-designed card. It had $15 to start. After a few purchases, my receipt said the balance was $20-ish. After a few more transactions, again, the balance was higher than when I started.

I went to and did a balance inquiry on the card, and discovered that someone is using it and reloading it. I think the original card I got was not mine, but a duplicate of someone elses. They must be so confused about why their balance went down so fast.

Anyway, I cut up my card, but I have been wondering if I should contact Starbucks so they can rectify it with the "real" card-holder. I feel bad that I spent their money. What does anyone else think?

I totally agree w/Glen.

It's stealing, and it's childish. He should have just left the stuff, and made a complaint to corporate.

ShanBeth -

I think your conscience is already telling you what to do :) If you are bothered by it and you feel you have done something wrong to someone the good thing to do would be to rectify it.

Contact Starbucks, explain your confusion and the mistake and offer to pay them back. Tell them you want the original card holder to be credited.

If this happened to me and I had the cash, I would put it on the register (walk out with the goods). If I didn't, I would walk out without the goods and resolve to never going back to the store. And blog about the poor service.
Stealing is just wrong.

The service economy at its finest ;P

Still, it is stealing.

I've been in a situation like that before, where no one would check me out. My response? Just start hollering. "HELLO! CUSTOMER HERE! WANTS TO GIVE YOU MONEY!" There were other customers around, so part of my intent was to shame the staff, even if it meant making a bit of an ass of myself (something I don't much mind doing anyway). When someone finally did come up, I lectured the guy about how if there's one station in a store that must be manned at all times, it's the register. This was a Radio Shack, by the way.

Bottom line: I'd rather leave with my integrity, even if it comes at the cost of my dignity. And if I truly couldn't get someone to come check me out, I'd leave the stuff on the counter so that they know what sale they lost (and *they* have to put it back).

I pretty much agree with everybody, it is stealing. Just because the owner of the store hires morons doesn't give that guy the license to take whatever he wants.

Cash on the counter if I really needed the items, but most of the time (and in his situation) I would just leave things behind. Either way, I wouldn't go back.

You guys are pretty prudish...I am with this guy, I would've left with the stuff. No one tried to stop him or objected, if anything, I'd say the staff essentially stole the merchandise and gave it to this guy, as they did nothing about it.

The employees gave him permission to steal when he repeatedly announced what he was going to do / what he was doing, and they responded with complete and total apathy. If any of them said so much as "don't take those without paying, I'll get a cashier", then he never would have the right to take them. It sounds like nobody said not to take the stuff.

The gripe that this company has is with its employees. They implicitly gave a customer permission to take merchendise for free, and they probably aren't authorized to do that. On top of that, they're the real thieves! They're stealing the $X/hour they're getting paid to sit on their butts and claim they're on "lunch break"

@ Brian O'Shea: Prudish? Of course, we need to "get with the times". Stealing stuff is all the rage! Just like doing illegal drugs!

Can I call you a prude when you call the cops to report a burglary at your house? Or when someone steals your car stereo. "Don't be such a prude, stealing stuff is cool, you need to relax and let it slide."

The employees were incompetent, but that would hardly give you or this guy the right to steal. Your rationalization is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Would announcing your actions ahead of time absolve you of any crime? Assault and battery? Murder?

Try thinking with your brain before talking out of your ass.

-Prudishly yours

Toby --

Please refrain from vulgarities (your last full sentence) -- I try to keep this blog family-friendly. I'm sure you can express your dissatisfaction with Brian's comment without resorting to those sorts of expressions.


My father tells stories about this type of thing happening to him when I was little. He would put me up on the counter and tell me to play with the cash register. That usually sent someone running. He's also been known to walk to the door and waive the item in front of security sensors--which in that particular story still didn't make anyone come. I don't think he'd ever have just taken the stuff, but I can't be too sure...

I wouldn't ever take something without paying, no matter how bad the service.

That is stealing. I have done the yelling part like Matt did to get someone to come to the register. And when that does not work, I just the items on the counter.

Ummm, yeah it's stealing.

I once dated a guy that thought stores overcharged you for everything and made too much of a profit on your hard earned dollars. So if he wanted to by a soda, he'd stick one in his jacket and walk up to the register and pay for the other. The sad thing is, he never got caught and somehow he could justify it to himself.

One of these days karma will get him back. I didn't stick around long enough to find out.

Matt, pretty funny tactic. I'll bet it works!

I understand the frustration, but yeah, it's stealing. He's just lucky that he wasn't met at the door by the security folks. I don't think "There was no one around to take my $$" would hold up in court.
I'm not sure I'd leave my $$ on the counter, either. Again, if security intercepts you, how are you going to prove you paid? And what if that$$ is no longer on the counter?

That is definitely stealing. We didn't get the entire story but in the situation, I would have taken my business elsewhere.

I did that once with a newspaper. Nobody would ring me up, so I just walked out.

I don't think I'd ever do that with a more expensive item, though.

Definitely stealing.

The store's employees were also stealing from their employer by not doing their jobs.

On the one hand, the guy lodged an appropriate protest with the employees. On the other hand, the store owner got ripped off twice -- once by employees and once by the customer. The right response would be to find out who owns the store and send the money directly to him, and suggest he fire at least the worst of the offenders who were working that day. This resolves both thefts at once!

btw, in some countries, a stealer is shot to death legally for stealing even just a candy bar.

Ie; in some countries, its legal to kill somebody stealing from you.

stealing is stealing, no matter what the justification.

Interesting story. I once had a teacher who was in a similar situation, but instead of stealing the items, he just went to the register himself and started pressing buttons. That got someone there in a hurry!

Stealing is stealing no matter the circumstances.

Definitely stealing, but I think that he was within his rights at that point!

A more complex moral question is what to do when you discover that you have left a store without paying for an item unintentionally. This has happened to me a handful of times. Each time, I decided to keep the item, but I sometimes wonder if I should have returned it.

Even more complex, what about when you put your money in a snack machine and get two? Who would you even return it to?

I would've left money on the counter (using quick math to guess the total and if I underpaid, so be it--employees are often authroized to give discounts for various reasons so I'd consider their lack of concer as authorization). If I didn't have cash/checkbook, I would've left the items on the counter. Like others, if it was something I needed, I couldn't get them elsewhere, and didn't have any cash (or a checkbook) on hand, I would've taken them--but probably offered to pay through a letter of complaint.

(And whether or not I go back if I'm not charged for something depends on how much the item in question costs and how often I go to the store. If I go there often and it's less than $2, I'm likely to ignore it. If it's more than $8, I'm definitely going back in. Between that, it depends on many factors, including how busy the store is, how often I shop there, what type of item it was. Conversely, the same applies if I'm charged twice for an item.)

what about stealing from the rich to give to the poor? I think Robin Hood was justified. I guess if you REALLY wanted to, you could call the store "the rich" and the customer "the poor" but that really doesn't give it the same situation. I was just looking for opinions on Robin Hood's situation, which is heavily connected with the subject of stealing.

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