Monday, April 23, 2012

Stealing Gas

A few saturdays ago, I was on my way to a baby shower and stopped to fill up my jeep.  I noticed the large price sign out front was advertising gas for $3.58 a gallon and so I pulled in, swiped my card and started to fill my empty tank.  As I waited, I glanced at the pump.  The digital screen for unleaded gas read $2.58.  "Huh, thats weird" I thought, "Must be a glitch with the screen".  But as I did the math in my head for the total the machine was charging me, I realized it was in fact charging me a dollar less per gallon than it was supposed to be.  I glanced around, wondering if it was a joke but the busy station looked normal.  I finished filling up and stepped into the store.  Despite a long line of customers the cashier made eye contact with me and I told him the pumps were not set correctly and charging me only $2.58 per gallon.  Another employee who overheard my comment jumped onto a computer and started frantically punching keys.  Reagan was in the jeep so I quickly left.  No one said thank you.  No one said anything in fact. 

When I arrived at the baby shower I told my friends about my savings, since I had filled up I had saved about $16 that morning.  They asked which gas station it was and told me I should have called them right away!  They were laughing about it but then seemed surprised when I told them I had notified the store of the error and I expected the correction had been made right away.

Now that I was thinking of it, several people in line also gave me the evil eye when I had talked to the cashiers.  People were genuinely surprised that I was doing the right thing.  It never really occurred to me to take advantage of the situation.  Although I had already benefited by receiving reduced gas, I didn't have any intention on continuing to steal from the gas station.

That's what it was after all, stealing.  It may not have been my error to mis-program the machine but I knew the price was wrong, I knew someone had made a mistake.  I have no idea how long those pumps were not charging the right price, but at the large busy gas station it is fair to stay they probably lost hundreds of dollars, if not thousands for that mistake.   I have no doubt the responsible employee was in hot water, if not fired for the error.

I began to think about how other people would have not thought twice about calling friends, and cashing in on that mistake.  It's easy to feel like taking advantage of that low price wouldn't hurt anyone.  It wasn't my fault, I was just buying gas at the price they set, right?  Conoco is a huge company, and a few bucks off my bill wouldn't bother them!  But if we are honest, taking advantage of that gas was the same as robbing the owner of $16.  It was still stealing, it was still wrong, and I was still responsible for my actions.

So for me, of course I told them.  I would tell them again if I had the chance, even though it came without a thank you.  The reality is, doing the right thing doesn't always come with recognition,  you don't do the right thing because of what it can do for you.  Am I annoyed that they didn't acknowledge the fact that I helped them out, even when I didn't have to?  Sure, but that's not the point.

I challenge you the next time a situation presents itself to do the right thing too.  Not because you have to, not because someone is watching, and not because it could give you a reward or recognition.  Do it because it's what Christianity is about and God will always know.

The Liberty Mutual commercial doesn't quite get it right - it's easy to hold a door, give up your seat or loan someone a quarter.  But can we have the same approach when no one is watching, and when it could benefit us when we DON'T do the right thing?  I want to take it a step further, past volunteering and donating.  I challenge you to take risks by speaking up even if your opinion isn't popular, sacrificing even when it means you do without, and making the right decision even if you do it alone.  That is when it gets hard, but means the most.

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