Tag Archives: theft

“Start The Car!” Ethics

“Start the car!” shouts the woman in a ubiquitous IKEA TV commercial for its “Winter Sale.” She has received her receipt, and  the total is so low that she assumes there has been a mistake.  She quickly exits the store with bags of purchases, and while running calls to her husband in the car outside so he will pick her up and hit the gas before someone comes to reclaim the merchandise or demand more payment. As they drive away with what she thinks are her ill-gotten gains, she lets out a whoop of triumph.

The narration explains that IKEA’s sale prices are so low, this how you will feel.

The commercial is unethical. It trivializes and normalizes theft, and rejects the ethical values of honesty, integrity and responsibility. Apparently the ad has been running internationally for a long time (it only just started showing up in my region) and is very popular. Writes one industry commentator, “People relate to the message because at one point or another while shopping we’ve all had that feeling that we just got away with something.”

Really? I haven’t. My father didn’t either (my mom was another story.) I’ve told waitresses and clerks that they undercharged me. I’ve returned excessive change. I’ve handed back money to tellers when two bills stuck together. You don’t? What the hell’s the matter with you? Were you raised by Fagin?

Though the commercial was a hit and positively accepted in all of the nations where it was viewed, there is hope:  it also received many negative comments and complaints. An Advertising Standards Board—I cannot for the life of me find out which; the U.S. has no such board. I’m guessing Sweden— thus considered whether this advertisement breached   its Advertisers Code of Ethics.

The breach would be that the commercial isn’t socially responsible, since it represents taking merchandise from a store that hasn’t been fully paid for as normal and acceptable conduct. The Board viewed the advertisement in light of the complaints and decided that the ad was ethically inoffensive.

Guess why.

No, go ahead, guess.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising, Professions

Ethic Quiz: The Jean Valjean Rule

There are no good pictures of Jean stealing a loaf of bread, but here's Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket...

There are no good pictures of Jean stealing a loaf of bread, but here’s Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket…

News from Italy, via the BBC:

Judges overturned a theft conviction against Roman Ostriakov after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3; $4.50) from a supermarket.Mr Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian background, had taken the food “in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment”, the court of cassation decided.

Therefore it was not a crime, it said.

A fellow customer informed the store’s security in 2011, when Mr Ostriakov attempted to leave a Genoa supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket but paid only for breadsticks.

In 2015, Mr Ostriakov was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail and a €100 fine.

For the judges, the “right to survival prevails over property”, said an op-ed in La Stampa newspaper (in Italian).

In times of economic hardship, the court of cassation’s judgement “reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve”.

An opinion piece in Corriere Della Sera says statistics suggest 615 people are added to the ranks of the poor in Italy every day – it was “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality”.

It criticised the fact that a case concerning the taking of goods worth under €5 went through three rounds in the courts before being thrown out.

The “historic” ruling is “right and pertinent”, said Italiaglobale.it – and derives from a concept that “informed the Western world for centuries – it is called humanity”.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today, involving  the eternal confusion between law and ethics::

Never mind legal: was this an ethical ruling?

Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

The Case Of The Involuntary Naked Teacher

This isn't a picture of Leigh Anne Arthur; this is 2014 Naked Teacher Principle victim Kaitlin Pearson. But even if this had been the picture on Arthur's cell phone, she wouldn't have deserve to be fired...

This isn’t a picture of Leigh Anne Arthur; this is 2014 Naked Teacher Principle victim Kaitlin Pearson. But even if this had been the picture on Arthur’s cell phone, she wouldn’t have deserved to be fired…

The Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states:

A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The first formulation of the NTP can be found here.

I suppose I need to circulate this more widely, because some schools apparently are confused, such as Union County High School in South Carolina. In a completely warped and unfair application of the NTP, school district officials in Union County demanded and received the resignation of engineering teacher Leigh Anne Arthur after a student stole her phone, examined its contents and found a semi-nude selfie (intended for her husband’s enjoyment only), which he shared with his classmates.

 The district’s David Eubanks said that the district’s position was that the 13-year teaching veteran was at fault for leaving her phone unlocked on her desk when she went out of the room, and that she had, in effect made the pictures available to her students. He also said that the engineering teacher’s actions may have contributed to the delinquency of a minor.

The technical terms for Eubanks are unethical, unjust and illogical. The kid stole the phone before he knew what was on it. He would have stolen it even if it had been locked. Arthur didn’t make him a delinquent; he was already a delinquent. How far would the school board take their absurd logic? If the kid stole her purse, found a key in an envelope with a bank account number on it, and the student took it to a bank and got into her locked storage box, and in there was the combination to a warehouse storage locker that contained a nude oil painting of her that was painted when she was an artist’s model, and he stole the painting and held an exhibit of it in his garage, charging admission, would the school system fire the teacher, or expel the student for an outrageous invasion of privacy, as well as theft? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Science & Technology

The Cost Of Rationalizations

Employee Theft

According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer released this month by Checkpoint Systems,  employees in the U.S. steal from their employers at significantly higher rates than workers in other countries. The direct cost to businesses, as you can see in the diagram above: a staggering 16.6 billion dollars.

Most of this is taken in incremental amounts, by people who would be shocked if you questioned their character. Why is this number is so high? As far as comparing to other countries are concerned, it’s the same factor that anti-gun zealots refuse to acknowledge, and that Bernie Sanders can’t seem to grasp. Our country is not like other countries; we guarantee our citizens more freedom, for one thing, and freedom unavoidably means more freedom to do bad things as well as good.  Our national character is not like other countries. Americans are not like other people.

Good. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace

At Target, One Of Life’s Little Ethics Tests

 

target-logo

We were just shopping at Target, buying everything from dog food to throw pillows to laundry detergent. The lines were long, I was feeling crappy, and the bill was $142.78. The stuff was all loaded into the trunk of our car, a long walk from the entrance, when my wife noticed a tiny 25 watt light bulb—price: $2. 27— that had slipped into a crevice in the cart. “Ooooh, I bet they didn’t charge us for that,” she said.

Immediately, I was hit with a furious rationalization assault trying to kill my ethics alarms like Santa Anna’s men climbing over the Alamo’s walls:

  • “Who cares? They won’t care. Let’s just go!”
  • “It wouldn’t have been missed if the line didn’t make us late! Target deserves to lose the bulb!”
  • “We can tell them about it next time!”
  • “Nobody would go back and return this!”
  • “The walk and the inconvenience are more trouble than the lousy bulb is worth!”
  • “You think it’s stealing? Fine, leave it in the cart. Then we don’t get it either.”
  • “This wasn’t my fault!”

We went back and gave the unpaid for bulb to the customer service clerk. She raised an eyebrow and said, “Really?” Not “Wow, you people are so ethical. I’m going to tell my children about you” really, but “Wow, you people are idiots. Nobody does this. It’s a lousy $2.27! I’m going to tell my friends about this, and they will laugh long and hard” really.

This is anti-ethics bias micro-aggression, and in its own, incremental, crummy way, it makes society more unethical and untrusting because it treats ethical conduct as aberrational. If I had been feeling better and my usual annoying, feisty self, I may well have said,

“Oh, is a customer being honest ridiculous to you? So from that I assume that you approve of minor theft, is that accurate? Does that mean you are lifting low priced items from the store, and allowing your friends and family to do so? Let me talk with your manager, please. I want to ask him if you reflect Target policy. I’d like it clarified myself. What priced items are considered so disposable that theft of them is expected to be shrugged off as trivial? Under five bucks? Ten? Twenty? Why stop at twenty? Fifty? A hundred?”

“Before I explain your reaction to your supervisor and ask if that accurately reflects the store’s attitude toward not paying for inexpensive merchandise, let me convey this for future reference. The proper response to a customer who returns an unchecked item rather than just leaving with it is ‘Thank-you!’ and a smile. Not “Really?” and a smirk. Got that?”

Dirty Harry would have added, “Well, do ya…punk?”

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, U.S. Society

Law vs. Ethics: A Snatched Bar Mitzvah Gift, A Leaky AG, An Embarrassing Scoreboard, and”OINK”

Oink

I try to keep my legal ethics seminars up-to-the-minute, so while preparing for yesterday’s session with the Appellate Section of the Indiana Bar, I came across a bunch of entertaining stories in which the ethics were a lot clearer than the law, or vice-versa. All of them could and perhaps should sustain separate posts; indeed, I could probably devote the blog entirely to such cases.

Here are my four favorites from the past week’s legal news, involving a mother-son lawsuit, a brazenly unethical attorney general, a college scoreboard named after a crook, and police officer’s sense of humor: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Finance, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

KABOOM! University Of Wisconsin Director Of Community Relations Says That Arresting Shoplifters Is Over-Policing

exploding-head3

This story made my cranium explode like Krakatoa, and it really scared my dog. If it doesn’t make your head explode, I am worried about you. I’m worried about you anyway. I’m worried about all of us.

UW Director of Community Relations Everett Mitchell, speaking at a University of Wisconsin Madison panel dealing with “Best Policing Practices,” argued that police should stop responding to shoplifting and thefts at Wal-Mart and Target in order to reduce what he refers to as “over policing” of the community. Yes, he really believes that enforcing the law regarding property crimes against retailers is “over-policing.”  Mitchell, an employee of an institution that exists to enlighten the young and impressionable, said that communities should be able to decide for themselves what laws should be enforced, and that  the ultimate goal of law enforcement is not the actual enforcement of law, but community safety as defined by the community itself. If the community thinks declaring open season on the local Walmart—looting, essentially—is just fine, then the police shouldn’t arrest anyone for it.  Theft from big box stores, he explained, is an example of a crime that police and the community may view differently.

How the owner of the stores that get robbed, the employees that will lose jobs when the store leaves to relocate someplace that doesn’t think theft is “safe,” and the families that will have no place to shop might feel about his plan was not discussed. Mitchell, you see, is an irresponsible idiot.

He was also formerly an assistant District Attorney in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. He must have been great at that job.

Mitchell said, Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society