Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taking From Others

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Addy and I watched “Odd Girl Out,” a movie based on an advice book by the same title and written by Rachel Simmons.

In one scene, several girls are shopping at an expensive store. Vanessa can’t afford to buy the clothes the other girls can, and her best friend Stacy gifts her with some of the clothes. As they are walking out Stacy turns to the girls and says, “I forgot to pay for this scarf. My purse is too small.”

The girls look at one another. Some repeat the “my purse is too small” line. Then they all turn to Vanessa.

Vanessa caves in to the pressure. She sticks the scarf in her oversized bag. She walks out of the store and doesn’t get caught. She leaves the burden of paying for the scarf to someone else; in this case, the merchant who will foot the bill and pass the cost on to other customers, to you and to me.

Stealing happens frequently. Electronic devices and locked cabinets point to a problem massive enough that merchants pay big bucks to hang on to their stuff. Retail stores aren’t the only ones with “stealing” problems. The music industry is still trying to stop the bleeding.

This summer presented several opportunites for Addy and me to review this theme. The first was a few months back while we shopped at Rue 21. Addy wanted to know why the store locked its dressing rooms and why we were limited to how many items we could have in the dressing room.

As I explained, something hit the floor with a thud. It was an electronic tag that had fallen out of a pocket of the shorts she was trying on. I knew what it meant. She didn’t. I explained that someone removed the tag, stuck it in this pocket, then strolled out the door with stolen merchandise.

But stealing isn’t only about intentionally shoplifting. A few weeks before school started, we did our annual back-to-school shopping. At the cash register, I noticed the man didn’t charge us for one of the items.

The thought drifted through my head, “Should I tell?” It was immediately followed by “Not telling is stealing.” I spoke up and paid for all of our merchandise. Addy had the opportunity to learn knowingly taking advantage of other people’s mistakes is also stealing.

A few weeks after that experience, she showed me a CD her friend Mark made for her. I asked what was on it. She named the song and the band. I said, “Addy, that is pirated. We can’t keep it.” When I explained that copying songs you don’t buy was stealing and illegal, she didn’t want the CD anymore. Right then we broke it.

More recently we visited another store, this time to purchase a watch for my husband. We looked at a wide-variety of sports watches and finally selected a medium-priced model. Once home, we realized that the clerk had given us the most expensive watch, but charged us for the mid-priced variety.

This time there was no second-guessing. Addy and I knew immediately our only option was to jump in the car, return to the store and correct the oversight. And that’s exactly what we did.

There is a moral to this line of stories. The moral is that taking something that isn’t ours is stealing. It’s a lesson that our children need to understand. And there are many, many ways to teach it. For starters, use this article and the examples included to teach the children in your life this most important lesson.

Allyn Evans
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