Honesty is the Best Policy-Maybe

Lawrence - Green Bay, Wisconsin
Entered on April 29, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: integrity
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Honesty is the Best Policy-Maybe

When I was 9 or 10 years old I stole a bag of licorice from the local grocery store. When the clerk left the checkout to go to the back of the store, I grabbed the candy from behind the counter. The woman, who knew me and my family, returned and confronted me as I was walking out the door. I insisted that I had bought the goods elsewhere and of course, she knew I was lying. She let me go and while I was off the hook, the guilt I felt wouldn’t allow me to enjoy it. Besides, it was black licorice. I hate black licorice. To this day, I can’t eat the stuff.

My over active conscience has more than once created interesting times for me and more importantly, for my children. I would always return too much change, tell the clerk when I wasn’t charged enough or even take the $20 bill found on the sidewalk back into the store or gas station and give it to the attendant. What happens to it after that, I figure is on someone else.

Today as adults one of the kids will occasionally call and complain, “Honest dad just cost me ten bucks. Yeah, I took the money back.”

Recently I went shopping for some dress clothes, buying a pair of pants and an overcoat. The store was busy and a manager opened another checkout to accommodate me and the many others standing in line. She became distracted and I, in a hurry, just signed the credit card receipt and left. It wasn’t until I reached my car that I realized I had not been charged for the coat.

I knew the time spent to straighten this out would put me way behind schedule and I really wanted to leave. But, me being me I had no choice but to go back and pay for it. Afterwards, the customer service manager expressed her renewed sense of faith in humanity and I walked out with a clear conscience, and a 15% discount.

Although I should know better, every now and then I still have to test it and when confronted I will fess up and fold like an old tent. I once told an IRS auditor, “Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.”

About a month ago, I received a shipment of books that were ordered from an online bookstore. Everything was fine, that was exactly what I requested. Ten days later I received another shipment, the same two books. Obviously I hadn’t ordered duplicates and my credit card statement confirmed that fact. A later statement however, did show a charge and the company promptly corrected the error while I returned the books.

I originally had a different ending to this that was much more interesting but-not quite correct.