By Craig Funston
I suppose this could be the start of a couple of Christmas newspaper columns in a roundabout way. I plan one or two Christmas-themed papers columns in a couple of weeks, as I take a break from my Ten Commandments series.
The token link between this “do not steal” commandment, so cleverly expressed in the title, and Christmas, is because Christmas is one of the busiest shopping frenzies of the year (next to Black Friday)—and one of the most fertile times of this vile practice of shoplifting.
I work a few hours a week in a thrift store, and even there, the epidemic of thievery is out of this world. It is beyond me how people can stoop to taking what is not theirs, especially in a retail outlet that already has rock bottom prices, to say nothing of a store that provides high quality wares for those who need a break. Another factor in these low prices is that the workers are volunteers.
It’s the retail version of biting the hand that feeds you.
Thrift stores are not the only vulnerable venues for stealing. There are job sites, supply yards. regular retail outlets, public places and institutions, and, of course, houses, where it gets its own designation, namely, breaking and entering.
I am appalled, yet aware enough to recognize that stealing, whatever form it takes, is not on par with sexual assault, murder and any other form of violence. But stealing is stealing, and taking something that is not yours is wrong
That’s W-R-O-N-G, as is selfish, ignorant, evil, and costly. We may play the “blame game” by attacking the rich retailer, or playing the “needy victim card” by blaming our family life, but taking what is not yours is still so very wrong.
We may even play the word game, and sugarcoat it by calling it pilfer, poach, filch, borrow. I like “five-finger discount,” but I don\’t want to sound glib about it.
I once stole a candy bar from a local corner store when I was ten-years-old. My parents made short work of that, one of many blessings coming from a traditional family that embraced common sense, along with consistent, caring virtues that we sadly lack today. We really need to get back to having parents who are allowed to be, well, parents these days.
I have always wondered why people steal. I don’t know directly, of course, so I can only surmise the following reasons:
1. Need. There is no legitimate reason to steal, but this could be the closest. However, clothes are so inexpensive these days in thrift stores, and soup kitchens and food banks are so plentiful, that “need” is not a really good reason. It’s a sad reflection on our society that these safety nets are necessary and available, but it’s helpful they are around.
There used be the other safety net (family) that took care of its members when the chips were down. But then someone stole the chips. Of course, with family life imploding, no longer an option anymore.
2. Thrill. I suppose there is some rush in getting something for nothing, daring the clerk to catch him, pleasing the gang that’s watching. If the thief would take a second to think that one man’s thrill is another man’s ill–loss of inventory and sales, as well as security issues, for example—he might give it a second thought.
But then again, I can’t use “think” and “thief” in the same sentence. Scheming and stealing are not hallmarks of a rational person, no matter how clever they appear to be. I would put “thief” and “ignorant” in the same sentence, though.
3. Dare. The daredevil approach seems courageous and heroic, though neither word comes to mind when I think of common thieves. A lot of dares are picked up because the ingrate is actually cowardly and spineless. There is no positive word to describe this type of person.
Peer pressure is a crummy motivation for doing something really stupid.
We’ll finish the rest next week. In the meantime, if you take something, pay for it