A few weeks ago, one of my friends posted an interesting scenario on her facebook page. She had stopped by a store on her way home from being out, and paid for a couple of energy drinks using a $50 bill. The clerk however, gave her change as though my friend had given her $60. The clerk had probably just hit the “6” key, instead of the “5” key when typing in the amount given. By the time my friend got home and counted the money, she realized she had $55 in her wallet where she once had $50!
So she posed the question on facebook: what would you do if you were given the wrong change?
The responses were varied, super interesting and at times incredibly humorous. Some people thought she should give the money back, even though a trip back to the store was 25-30 minutes round trip. Other felt like the mistake of the clerk was foolish — who gives change for $60 when only one bill was given? (Oh c’mon, you’ve never heard of a $60 bill?) Several others were divided, feeling like a call should be made to acknowledge the mistake, and change given if it was convenient. Still others were somewhat undecided.
What about you? Would you return the change? What factors would influence your decision? Would it matter if you had to travel 30 minutes to return it? Would it matter if there was some inherent risk in making the trip? Would the dollar amount influence your decision?
A few years ago Traci and lived across from a Safeway super market. After we checked out and got him, we realize the clerk had given us change (on a $100 bill) and two brand new, crisp twenty dollar bills had gotten stuck together. The result was that we were $20 richer. We realized right away what had happened, so we walked back across the street, got in line with our teller, Demetrius, and returned the change.
He was so thankful. He has to count his register at the start and end of his shift, and any discrepancies in the money can result in either him having to pay back the shortage, or him potentially losing his job if there were repeated mistakes and/or a large sum missing. He was not a repeat offender, but he was so thankful he wouldn’t have to explain a missing $20 to his manager. And honestly, he was a bit surprised that someone would return $20 of his mistake. As he pointed out, “There is no way of knowing who got the extra $20 and if it had been me, I probably would have bought a case of beer and a bag of chips with the extra money!”
All of us face decisions like this in our lives. Whether it’s about getting back too much change at the grocery store, receiving credit for work that wasn’t ours, passing the blame onto someone who wasn’t at fault or hiding the facts of a situation from a spouse, or child, a boss, a legal authority or even the IRS. All of us face these types of decisions that are asking the same basic question: What is your personal integrity and character worth?
Living the Overboard Life demands integrity. Money is one of those areas where many of us can compromise our integrity in order to save a few bucks, make a few bucks or, like in our example today, to keep a few extra dollars that were mistakenly given to us. But turn the tables, and almost all of us would long for people to treat us with integrity and character. If you were responsible for the register and made a simple mistake, wouldn’t you be thankful for an honest customer who returned the extra money?
I’m notorious for leaving my wallet places. Traci and I were vacationing at the beach in Oregon one time, when we went shopping at a local mom and pop grocery store. We bought our stuff, drove back to the condo where we were staying, fixed dinner and started watching a movie. Suddenly my cell phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, it was the local grocery store calling to let me know they had found my wallet and were holding it at the front counter. When they searched inside they found a card with the name of the company who owned the condo we were staying at. They called the front desk, the front desk gave them my cell number, and they called to make sure I knew where my wallet was.
Traci and I drove to the store and realized that, unlike most days, I actually had cash in my wallet that day — closet to $100. And when we picked up the wallet, every dollar bill was still in there, and nothing had been taken. I found out the name of the young man who discovered the wallet and turned it in, and gave him a $10 tip for his honesty. He wasn’t going to take it, so I gently jammed it in shirt pocket knowing that any 16-year-old kid is happy for an extra $10.
Would you have turned in the wallet? Would you have made the effort to find its owner the way that store manager did? Both the young man who found it, and the manager who took time to find me, demonstrated something really important: Their integrity was worth more than $100. What about you, what is your integrity worth?
Have you ever lied about your child’s age in order to save a few dollars on your child’s ticket at the movie theater or at a theme park? Would you return the money given to you, incorrectly, by a clerk who had made a mistake? Would you leave a bill unpaid when a clerk made a mistake on your order and gave you your meal for free? (This just happened to me recently, and you should have seen the expression on the manager’s face when I returned the receipt and offered to pay the amount in full!)
What is your integrity worth?
I long to keep my integrity in tact, and believe me, I face challenges ever day (as I know you do, too!). I wish I could tell you I had a perfect track record, but that doesn’t give me an excuse for falling short in the future. Solomon said it well, “A good name is more valuable than great riches” and your integrity is your good name. I don’t want to give mine away for a stuck $20 bill, a mistaken return of $5 or for saving a few bucks at the movie theater. My integrity is worth more than that. After all, if I’ll compromise myself for to save a few dollars on a child ticket, what message am I sending my children?
Your integrity is one of your greatest assets. Hold the course now, and it will pay great dividends down the road later.
Go ahead and take the plunge, your integrity is stronger on the water!