Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

What-If Wednesday: Would You Stop A Crime?

Thanks again are due to our Beliefnet Entertainment Editor for this one. She emailed me the other day with the following ethical dilemma. While shopping with her fiance, she saw a well-to-do woman with two preteen daughters ‘forget’ to pay for a bunch of magazines at the bottom of their shopping cart. Says Dena:

As we observed the mom unloading her cart, the girls went to start packing things up. As she emptied everything out, we noticed that there were a bunch of magazines (at least 4) on the little “shelf” at the bottom of the cart–the place that you’d typically would put some bottled water or paper towels. Now, I’m sure some people legitimatly forget they have an item in this semi-hidden location, but as the woman was getting the last few items from her cart, she was literally looking down through her cart–so these mags were pretty hard to miss.

___[fiance’s name redacted] and I look at each other, waiting to see if the mom was going to grab the magazines at the last minute. But she didn’t. ___ and I were appalled and he whispered to me, “I’m going to say something.” “Good” I said. But then at the last minute, he stayed silent. And so did I. 

I’m usually not one to keep my mouth shut. And the entire rest of the weekend I was pissed at myself for not doing the right thing and saying something. Worse case scenario she would have said (whether sincerely or not), “Oops, forgot about those,” or possibly given me a dirty look or something. 

___ said he didn’t say anything because he doesn’t feel it’s his responsibility to stop crimes from happening in the store. He’s not getting paid for it—someone else is–and presumably, that person is not doing his/her job.

That excuse didn’t cut it for me. I think we have a personal responsibility in situations like this–and I’m just really ashamed I didn’t open my mouth. 


What if you were in Dena’s place at that store–would you have done things differently?  Is it our place to leap in and say something when we witness potentially illegal activity? Or should we mind our own beeswax? Take the poll below and share your own crime-stopping stories in the comments field.


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