Acceptable Behavior or Stealing? What do you think?

Hello World!

What!  No milk for my coffee.  The last remaining bit of organic milk had turned, despite me hope of getting two more cups of coffee before I HAD to go to a grocery store. Until today, it had been well over two weeks since I had been to a regular grocery store; I’d been purchasing our food from farmers’ markets or using from our stockpile. Since youngest son and his wife will be visiting in the next few days, I figured I might as well go for gold and get most everything I would need to cook for all of us. Time to shop the store perimeter.

Now, everyone knows one should never shop on an empty stomach, and I had not even had morning coffee, so breakfast must come first.  Luckily, there is a Panera located next to the closest supermarket. I knew I had a free rewards coffee coming to me there, so that would take some of the financial bite out of a meal out. As I “doctored” my cup of light roast by putting in packets of raw sugar, skim milk (I hope it was organic), and cinnamon, a lady’s arm reached across me from the side next to a wall and grabbed the carafe of skim milk.  It seemed she was using me and the wall to block the view of what she was doing since she pulled the milk around to the other side of the wall and proceeded to fill completely full one of the clear plastic cups, provided for those who want water, with the skim milk intended for those who have purchased coffee.  Milk to drink is available for sale.

I carried my food and drink to a table, and as I settled myself to eat, I saw this same lady, who was seated in a corner booth to my left, with a boy of about 8 – her grandson, perhaps;  she was older. The woman put a plastic lid on the cup of milk and stuck a straw through it; she handed it to the boy.  Then, she opened a pack of crackers that had obviously been brought into the restaurant and gave them to the boy.  She, herself, did have a cup of coffee, clearly purchased at the restaurant; I do not know if anything else was purchased by her while there.

Now, I’ve always been a stickler for following rules – the goody-two-shoes type, if you will. In addition, as a teacher, rule following was important to me.  On a personal level, I usually regret in one way or another if I do not follow rules, so this obvious and blatant disregard for rules (understood, if not written) upset me.  Immediately, I felt guilty for being judgmental.  I have become aware that over the years I have become more judgmental than I would care to be, and I want to change this in me.  I’ve not always been like this.  The Biblical admonition,”Judge not that ye be not judged” popped into my mind. After all, I did not know her circumstances.

As I ate, I noticed that the woman worked on her nice little laptop, and the boy was playing with a tablet, cell phone, or some other electronic gadget that appeared to be plugged into an outlet near the table.  She did not seem to be in want, so what was her story?  Was she short of funds at the time or just cheap?  I know about being thrifty because I consider myself to be that way, and in some things I am “cheap,” but I don’t think those close to me would actually describe me as a Scrooge-type person; I do believe I can be and am generous, and it is because of being thrifty in some things that I can be more generous in others. Was this woman seeing herself as being thrifty?

Here is my dilemma:  Was filling up the cup intended for water with milk intended for use by customers who had purchased coffee stealing?

Restaurants that offer self-service drinks, by inference if not stated, expect customers to refill as desired on that one visit to the restaurant.  Many people, including myself, might refill coffee or soda “for the road.”  I do not see this as stealing as long as the person is getting the type beverage he or she purchased.  I would see taking a cup clearly provided for use with water only and being filled with soda instead to be stealing because no payment was made for the soda.  Then, it stands to reason, that if one takes milk intended for those who purchased coffee and fills a cup intended for water that doing so is stealing, especially when milk is available for purchase.

Perhaps this woman justified her actions in that she had purchased coffee.  As a result, she was entitled to the use of the milk, and if she used the milk to fill a cup for her grandson (assumption here of relationship) rather than purchasing separate milk for him, that was okay.  I am guessing here; I don’t know her thoughts or circumstances.

I know that the situation bothered me.  Heck, what if every parent or grandparent who entered a restaurant with self-serve coffee took it upon themselves to use the coffee milk to fill up a cup for the child?  How would that impact the business?  How would that impact the future cost of food for other customers?

What do you think?  What, if anything, would you have done?

Have a blessed and happy day!



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Filed under Moral and Ethical Issues, Random

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