How Stealing An Ink Cartridge Was A Test

Late yesterday afternoon I stole an ink cartridge from Staples. Sounds terrible right?  Well, I think I was being tested. Let me explain.

I am not going to get into a deeply religious diatribe here, but I have been doing  some reading recently. I will explain in more detail in a  future post. 

Part of this reading has also included books by John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach for UCLA. The initial book Coach Wooden One-on-One: Inspiring Conversations on Purpose, Passion and the Pursuit of Success, was recommended to me by Ray Lokar @CoachLok who I connected with on twitter. It has had a big influence on me. One of the statements I read that I constantly come back to is ” You do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.”

Back to my theft at Staples.

I was working in my home office and went to print out a document. It came out blank. I tried again. Same result. I knew I couldn’t be out of ink because I just bought a new extra-large black cartridge about a month ago.  I checked my ink level status and sure enough it showed empty. I was annoyed and just knew this was not possible. I figured the cartridge I purchased was defective. I  grabbed it out of my printer, found my receipt and quickly drove off to Staples.

I explained to the associate at the customer service desk and he took my story to the store manager. A minute or two later he came back and even though he looked at me with a skeptical eye, he handed me a new cartridge as an exchange. He told me the next time I would have to go direct to the manufacturer.

I noticed at the checkout that I had been given a regular sized black cartridge instead of the extra-large that was on my receipt. The cartridge I handed to the orginal clerk did seem to be the same size so rather than make another complaint, I just accepted the exchange and left.

As I was driving home, I just had this feeling that something wasn’t right. Why did the cartridge I gave the clerk not appear larger? Why did the price at the register not seem high enough? The irony is when I purchased the ink originally I had only planned on replacing my color cartridges. But since I needed to purchase $75 or more of ink to use my $10 off coupon, I purchased the extra-large black replacement.

When I returned to my office, I decided to check my drawers. There it was.  The unopened XL black cartridge box!

Apparently, I never replaced the black because it wasn’t empty at the time. I had only replaced the color. That explained why the black ink  “appeared” to run out so fast.

So now I had a decision.  After all, Staples would never know. It was an honest mistake on my part. Haven’t you ever found something in your bag, an extra french fry or a packet of gum your young child placed in your cart after checkout?

As I stood looking at the new cartridge in my hand the words ” you do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do” flashed. 

……..The store manager looked at me with astonishment in his eyes. He thanked me several times for being so honest. 

The feeling I felt as I left the store will last much longer then the ink in the cartridge.

Have you ever been in a similar situation?  Tell me how you felt or how you handled it.

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  1. #1 by Theresa on December 1, 2010 - 2:17 pm

    When shopping with my son, quite some time ago and he was in a stroller, we left the store, got to the car, placed him in his car seat, only to find that when I went to fold the stoller up….there was a stuffed animal in it. I stood there knowing that it woudl be time consuming and a pain to re-load him, and get back into the store. Didn’t take but min. to realize that the correct thing to do was to return the stuffed animal. Time consuming but I left with a good feeling and later realized that had I kept that stinkin stuffed animal, everytime I saw it, it would make me feel bad or even guilty. Why would anyone want to live with that feeling when you can do the right thing.

    • #2 by Barry on December 1, 2010 - 6:01 pm

      That sneaking little guy! Not so little any more. Your thoughts about how you would reflect each time you saw the stuffed animal is a great point. Thanks for your comment Theresa!

  2. #3 by Mark Kennet on December 1, 2010 - 3:41 pm

    Writing this on my phone, so excuse the lack of gifted writing…. Anyway, I bought an espresso machine on eBay, and after a few weeks, it stopped working. So I contacted Square Trade, and they told me it wasn’t worth it to them to ship it back and replace it, so they refunded my money. Wouldn’t you know it, it started working again. I decided to return the money, but I wanted to wait and see if the problem waa truly corrected. Sure enough, it broke down again, and I bought a very nice replacement. No sooner had I done that, the old machine began to work again! So I resolved my ethical dilemma by giving it to my brother, who used it for a few months and then had to replace it. I think I am right, but a certain queasiness remains…

    • #4 by Barry on December 1, 2010 - 6:11 pm

      Mark thanks for sharing your story. In my mind you should have a clear conscience. After all you only contacted them after the machine malfunctioned. I can assume the description when you purchased did not say “on again, off again” appliance! You offerred to return, they decided against it. The machine was defective.

      Appreciate you stopping by!

  3. #5 by Bruce on December 1, 2010 - 7:36 pm

    I am glad that my friend chose to do the right thing. It reinforces the over-the-fence discussions!!!!

    • #6 by Barry on December 1, 2010 - 8:14 pm

      Thanks Bruce! Appreciate that.

  4. #7 by Maggie Williamson on December 2, 2010 - 5:45 pm

    You definitely did the right thing- that’s integrity!

  1. How stealing an ink cartridge was a test | Single Dad Life

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