Ethics, Aisle Three.

My Sweetheart is awesome.  A while back I had asked him to update my outdoor lighting and today was the day for that project.  Off we went to Lowe’s and we spent a good 45 minutes evaluating all our choices and making decisions.  Walkway lighting?  Solar?  Low voltage?  New transformer?  Timer?  Spotlights?  I felt like an episode of DIY Backyard but finally we were ready for checkout.

The cashier was very friendly, and we all chatted as my Sweetheart unloaded items to be scanned and then back in the cart.  The cashier told us the total, we paid, and then headed out to the car.  As we were driving away he said, “That didn’t sound like it was enough.”  “I know,” I replied, “I was wondering that too.  Wasn’t the transformer alone $120?” I pulled out the receipt and sure enough, somehow we had missed having that scanned.  “Oh my gosh, we stole a transformer!” I said.

A whole bunch of thoughts came up as we drove to our next errand, a store right around the corner.   I knew the right thing to do was to ‘fess up and go back and pay for the transformer and yet there was a part of me that wanted something for nothing.  Don’t we all?  “Ethics really get in the way sometimes,” I said to my Sweetheart.  “What would you do in this case?” I asked.  “I’ve done both ways, kept some and returned others.”

I knew all along I was going to return it but it was interesting to consider the consequences of keeping the transformer.  Most likely we would not be caught, but I wondered if our cashier might ultimately be held responsible at the end of her shift.  I would hate for someone else to pay for an action of mine.  But the biggest question for me would be, “With our commitment to being honest in our relationship, would my Sweetheart lose respect for me if I chose a dishonest action of keeping the transformer?”  Sooner or later that would impact our relationship.  Maybe not directly, but it would cause a little blemish.  I wasn’t willing to risk that, nor was I willing to risk losing respect for myself.  If I’m committed to living in integrity then back the transformer must go.  And so we returned it.

So, what would you have done in that case?  Would it have made a difference if you were by yourself or with someone?  What would you advise your teenage child to do?

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