Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The ethics of stealing bags (and containers)


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

Do you obey all traffic laws including all speed limits?

Do you ever lie for any reason?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why not? There must be a Pope of Rum around here somewhere who can grant us absolution for our supermarket sins....

Sure, he's called "management". :laugh:

I admit that I do take the occasional produce bag, but never with the intent to take it without using it. I usually take two or three off the roll and open them all up at once (to facilitate filling them--I don't usually shop with a basket or cart so I hang the bags from my wrist) and I often end up with one bag that goes unused. No one uses "used" produce bags, so I take it home and reuse it somehow. At least it's not ending up in the garbage unused, I think to myself (although that's just another rationalization, probably no better or worse than the other rationalizations for bad behaviour floating around this thread).

I also take single pieces of grapes, cherries, and blueberries to test them. But I ask the produce clerks before I do (I tell them I want to check if they're OK), and if the stuff is good, I buy more. In this case, I've asked permission, so I think I'm cleared of unethical behaviour here.

But I never just "graze" on food while I continue shopping. Nor do I snip off parts of food that would end up in the garbage as a loss for the store (I do break off one or two bananas from a bunch, but that's different since the leftover bananas are still buyable, and I do strip my corn of its husk at the store, but corn is priced by the piece, not by weight, so it does not affect the price I'm charged). Nor do I allow my goods to be mispriced--I inform the cashier or customer service of errors both for and against me. I've even gone back to a store to pay for a carrot that I had forgotten to ring up in self-checkout. I don't even take more than one sample unless I've asked the clerk (sometimes there are two or three different types of the same item, like three types of cheese, and they'll usually let you try all three).

I was not raised to think everything in the world was "all about/for me", so I do tend to think more about how my actions affect other people. In many ways, this manner of thinking has left me behind (I rarely accept freebies from restaurants, I don't make a stink about small mistakes just to get special treatment, and I wait in line longer because I won't cut in front of others just so I can join friends who arrived in line earlier). But I'd rather be thought a sucker than be thought a selfish, self-centered jerk. And I know when I see people do some of the possible "unethical" things that have been discussed here, I tend to think of them as the latter.

(ETA: And I don't speed beyond the allowable amount, and even when I lie, I eventually end up fessing up. Like when I had to estimate overtime for this week and I estimated 15 minutes too much, I fessed up instead of letting it go. I was trained not to lie, which is probably why I get into trouble on boards like this.)

Edited by prasantrin (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

say, a kid at school takes your kid's bag lunch from him, everyday and this lunch taking kid saves the lunch for his dinner or breakfast, so that his serendipitous new surplus of lunches never goes to waste. it's not like your kid actually paid for the lunch, it was free from his house and packed in a "free" supermarket plastic bag from his parents hoard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As several contributors have pointed out, hardly anyone's hands are completely clean when it comes to ethical behavior. However, that doesn't mean we can't look to improve in that regard. Two perceptual principles apply here ("here" meaning non-free plastic bags, shiitake stems, etc.).

The first is that a grocery store (or any large store) is essentially faceless -- just a big "them." So, when we steal (or whatever you want to call it) from "them," it's easier because it's impersonal. Perhaps you also can imagine that no one who matters is seeing you do it. This is reflected in Chris's saying he probably wouldn't remove the stems if he were buying shiitakes at a farmers market. It also was the basis of my earlier question to Fat Guy (and, by extension, to everyone else) of whether he'd do the same thing to a friend. I would guess (and hope) not.

The second is that in the big scheme of things, the transgressions are very small, so they're easy to rationalize as being inconsequential for the victim. We think in terms of the individual act, not the aggregate of our acts over time. This was the basis of my second question/observation: If we "steal" 79¢ worth of, say, shiitake stems over the course of a year, that's essentially no different from shoplifting a 79¢ candy bar.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a perfect world, there would be people who break off the caps and throw them back, because they only want the stems.

If someone says they never lie, how would you know if they're telling the truth or lying?

Monterey Bay area

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you obey all traffic laws including all speed limits?

Do you ever lie for any reason?

I guess we all make up our own minds as to what is and what is not ethical, but since you asked...

To me, speeding is illegal and although it can be unethical as well, I don't find it necessarily so. As far as lying goes, one can lie for very ethical reasons.

There are a great many things that are not illegal, but that are decidedly unethical. Like perhaps sleeping with your best friend's husband. Not illegal in most states. But most folks would probably say that's unethical.

And when my grandmother was dying of Alzheimer's, I found myself lying to her a great many times. Among other things, telling her that her husband had just gone to the store to get her some ice cream and would be right back went much better for us all than watching and listening to her grieve repeatedly every new time we told her the truth, that he had died several years back.

But hey, if that's how you justify your behavior, who am I to disagree.

And even if I did, it's obvious you don't care anyway.

I have no clue why you asked us all this question, pretending that you care what others think, when you pretty clearly don't give a rat's ass.

Just to initiate a discussion and a lively thread, I suppose.

I know that's not illegal, but I wonder...

Is it ethical?

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(I do break off one or two bananas from a bunch, but that's different since the leftover bananas are still buyable,...

You're the yin to my yang. I'm the guy who buys leftover bananas.

There is balance in the universe. :wink:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Got a few mushrooms to grill the other day, and looking at the sign, I remembered exactly why I used to break off the stems:

IMG_20110528_082937.jpg

Bought entirely whole mushrooms. Scout's honor.

Oh, and while I was there I picked up a gift for Steven -- and it was free!

IMG_20110528_083034.jpg

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When you got free will, you also got a conscience (sp?)

As an adult, it's better known as discretion.

When people ignore the discretionary option, it's usually greed that has an easy excuse.

But you should look at this from another aspect as well. There is a corporate mentality that fosters this freebie

Attitude. I have, for example, dozens of packets of catshup, mustard, soy sauce, sweet and sour, forks, sporks,napkins s&p etc

That were only prized when I was a college student. I'm stuck with them, because I just can't stand the idea of throwing them away. I try to recycle as much as possible, so this is a crazy waste to me. Why don't they just ask at the drive thru? Poor training from corporate, put the money to quality, and I'll let you know if I need extre catshup!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But you should look at this from another aspect as well. There is a corporate mentality that fosters this freebie

Attitude.

I knew it! I'll bet the Masons are involved somehow, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, it's pretty basic, they simply let the consumers shoot themselves in the foot. Eventually we'll give them an economic reason to not supply the bags because of 'misuse' and cost and have a little more on the balance sheet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...