I remember playing Monopoly when I was younger and I remember landing on the squares that were marked Chance or Community Chest. You could get a card that said “Go straight to Jail,” “Pay $50 to each player” or “Win $50 in a beauty contest.” But what about that one that said “Bank Error in Your Favor – Collect $100?” I find this one a little odd because this situation could be a moral dilemma and the game doesn’t give you a chance to go to the bank and report it. If there happened to be a bank error in my favor in real life, would I just collect the money and say nothing? Or would I contact the bank and have it straightened out – since it really wouldn’t be my money after all?
I was faced with a situation the other day that made me think about this. My husband went shopping for some new clothes. It’s been below freezing temperatures for a while where we live and I decided that I needed to buy some more sweaters. I told my husband he could get an NFL team shirt for coming shopping with me. After the clerk rang up our items I scanned the receipt as we left the store, as I usually do, looking to make sure we got the appropriate discount (that night all clothes were an additional 20% off when we used our rewards card for that store). I asked my husband how much his shirt was because I couldn’t find it on the receipt. Then I realized that we were only charged for 3 sweaters when I had purchased 4 and my husband’s T-Shirt. We basically walked out of the store with 2 free shirts.
I admit that my first thought was “Alright! Free stuff!” but then my conscience kicked in. Even though I hadn’t willingly stolen those shirts from the store, if I drove away knowing we hadn’t paid for them, I would have felt that I did. So we decided to go back into the store and tell them about the error. We took our situation up to the customer service desk since the gentleman who rang us up was no longer at the check stand. The woman behind the counter looked a little surprised that we had brought them back to pay for them and stated that we received the brownie points of the year for that.
I was hoping that by being honest maybe we would get the shirts for free anyhow. That didn’t happen. We ended up paying an additional $25 for the shirts, but at least we had a clean conscience. My husband mentioned that he never looks at receipts and would probably have never noticed that (another reason I take care of the money in our household). I pretty much always look at receipts. I figured that I pretty much always catch it when we’ve been overcharged and usually go back and ask for my money back, so why would I not take the same effort to rectify the situation when it’s not in my favor? Yes, it was the store’s error, but I felt it would be dishonest of me to not point out this error when I would be sure to point it out if it was the opposite situation and I was charged with 2 extra shirts instead. Plus, it’s not like I couldn’t afford to pay for the 2 shirts – if I couldn’t, then I wouldn’t be buying them.
That evening I felt a war between my frugal self who loves to save money and my moral self who would rather be honest about the situation. I figure that if I’m willing to cheat a store, how long will it be until I’m willing to cheat a friend or family member? I definitely don’t want to be that person. So I will continue to practice honesty and integrity, even when it doesn’t benefit me. Especially in this season of giving that we are in, and even all year round, what would you do if you were the recipient of a bank or store error that favored you? Would you keep shut about it and take the money or would you realize that your integrity is more important than any extra money that could fall into your hands?
Image courtesy of scottwills