Friday, March 12, 2010


This is a true story that happened to me last week.

I had bought a certain item from a local store that I ended up not needing. After driving around for a few weeks with the item in the trunk of my car, I finally found myself both in the right place and with a few extra minutes to return the item.

You see, it was not a very expensive item, under $10.

Now, I didn't have a lot of time, just about 5 minutes or so, in order to make it to a meeting.

Fortunately, the store wasn't very busy at that time of the morning, only one person in front of me at the register.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten the receipt. Worse, it was evidently this employees first day on the job, as she didn't know what to do.

She called her manager, who came over and taught her how to do a store credit.

The time was ticking away, but I still had a few minutes.

After she rang it up, I suddenly remembered that I had bought this item for JSL, a non-profit oranization, and had not paid tax.

"Wait a minute, I didn't pay tax on this."

Too late, she had already completed the return.

Do you think she knew what to do?

She called the manager again, who came over.

"He bought this tax-free, but I already rang it up, what should I do?"

The manager looked at the receipt. The "tax" that I had been refunded was 54¢.

"Can you ring it up again?"

"No, it's too hard, and it's such a small amount, don't worry about it," the manager decided.

This made me very uncomfortable. It doesn't say, "Thou shalt not steal a large amount of money." This was money that didn't belong to me or the organization.

On the one hand, the Talmud says that one should be extremely careful with other people's money. An ethical person should never want a penny that doesn't rightfully belong to them.

On the other hand, I was in a hurry.

And now I have a store credit for more money than I should.

2 Questions for your table:

1. Am I being neurotic or appropriately ethical sensitive?
2. If the latter, what should I do?

Shabbat Shalom


BillyHW said...

Straining out gnats, Rabbi...straining out gnats.

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

It's funny, even ironic, Billy, that you borrow Jesus's metaphor which he used to accuse the Pharisees of neglecting interpersonal ethics.

Nancy said...

It is good to be sensitive. But sometimes we need to overlook. Specially when it is not our fault.

This is Nancy from Israeli Uncensored News