A man in his mid-twenties named Chase decided to go to Walmart. It was Friday evening. Chase lived in the American Midwest where the climate is cold during the winter months. Chase was going to pick up a space heater that he saw advertised online to help hold him off a few more weeks until spring. With a space heater, Chase could heat the room he was occupying rather than the whole house via centralized heating; and so he would be able to save $ on his gas bill. The purchase set him back $50.
That evening, Chase was disappointed to discover that the heater wouldn’t turn on. There were no parts to assemble, only a power cord, and he concluded that the device was broken.
“What are the odds!” he thought.
“Ain’t nobody got time for this!”
By then, it was almost midnight, and Walmart closed at 11 PM. Chase decided he would go back tomorrow to exchange the device.
The next day Chase visited the Walmart Return Center with the receipt and broken device in hand. The female clerk seemed eager to issue a refund, and didn’t even ask what was wrong with the device. Walmart was notorious for being lenient about returns, especially when it was a recent purchase and the receipt was intact. The clerk asked Chase if he wanted the money returned to his credit card, which would take 3-5 business days, or to have it issued as an in-store credit, which he could use right away. Chase opted for the latter, since he planned to go back to the aisle and purchase the same device as soon as the lady had finished checking him out. The lady handed Chase a gift card that looked a lot like a credit card, with numbers and a scratchable pin.
Chase went back to the aisle, picked out the item, and headed back toward the registers. He went through the self-check out line, inserted the gift card, and was printed a receipt. Chase usually didn’t bother with receipts, but he decided to skim over it this once given the novelty of the transaction. What he saw on the paper surprised him. The transaction amount was the exact same as his purchase from the previous day–$50.21. However, the left over balance, titled “End Bal,” read $4,970.79.
A Moral Dilemma
Chase initially didn’t know what to think. He was a bit dumbfounded by the situation, and puzzled over the receipt as he made his way back to his car.
“I’m not good at math, but that’s okay” he thought to himself, as he pulled out his iOS calculator.
Chase reasoned that the transaction amount, titled “Tran Amt,” was supposed to read $50.21. The system, however, had not punctuated the figure correctly. The system had registered it as $5021, which, minus the full amount of the space heater, amounted to $4,970.79.
Chase’s mind raced exuberantly.
“Well, it looks like today’s my lucky day!”
“Maybe God is trying bless me!”
“I’ve finally caught a break!”
Chase went back into the store with the intention of testing out whether the gift card did, in fact, have such a lofty balance remaining. He picked out some Big Red gum, Ice Cubes, and a bag of Takis from the check out line. By that time, there was a small line, and he would need to wait a few minutes before being able to self-service.
“Hmm,” Chase thought to himself.
“I wonder if this is the right thing to do?”
“Should I go back and inform the clerk?”
“No! Walmart is a filthy rich corporation. This isn’t going to hurt anyone.”
“Besides, I need the money, and I will put it to good use.”
“In any case, it was their fault; I couldn’t possibly get in trouble for something they did.”
“Oh, they will never find out. $5,000 isn’t that much for them, and I’ll be sure to break it up into small transactions.”
Chase paused for a few minutes…
He was now the first person in line. He walked toward the register. However, instead of scanning the items, he placed them back on the shelves, walked toward the exit, greeted the man at the door, and made way to his car.
It was Saturday, and Chase had plans to meet up with a couple friends from high school, Ben and Andrew. The plan was to eat out at a restaurant before heading over to Ben’s house to hang out and watch the game. Over dinner, Chase clued them in on his eventful day.
“Yo, you will not believe what happened to me today!”
Chase proceeded to tell them the story, from start to finish. His friends were intrigued, above all, by how he handled it toward the end:
“Are you crazy?!”
“Yo, why didn’t you take the money?”
“I would have taken the money!”
Chase chuckled and took a sip of water. He then looked up and addressed the table. .
“If I had taken the money and spent it, it would have been gone soon after that; and Walmart would likely have never found out. However, what I would have gained in dollars I would have lost in self-respect.
What I would have gained in dollars I would have lost in self-respect.
The Joy Of Integrity
Chase had a fun evening out with his friends. Even though his team lost the game, he went home feeling pretty good.
That evening, Chase slept like a rock.
In the night, his spirit grew.