Q. I was doing some back-to-school shopping at the mall and I bought three shirts, a pair of jeans and some socks. A few hours later, I was going over my purchases at lunch (in a different end of the mall) and realized the jeans were not on the receipt. Somehow the cashier must not have scanned it. I rationalized that it would be unfair to punish myself for the store’s mistake and decided not to return and correct it. Should I have gone back? —Wondering
Wow, I’m being entrusted with an ethics question! But this one is pretty clear-cut. Yes, it was their mistake, and there was no intention or even knowledge on your part as it happened or in the immediate aftermath. So, it’s not like you’re a thief. But it’s a stretch to act like it’s a “punishment” to walk across a mall to pay for merchandise that doesn’t rightfully belong to you.
Sometimes, putting effort forth for the sake of nameless others — even if they’re a nameless corporation, and even if it was their mistake — is just part of what life requires.
Kids say the meanest things
Q. My friend’s 6-year-old loves hitting and insulting people, without any real consequences. Last time, he insulted me by pointing out a physical flaw, and my husband told this kid he shouldn’t say mean things to people, and then I found myself retorting, “I don’t know, maybe he likes not having friends.” (I’m 38 … what is happening to me?). But his mom is one of my best friends from college and I would be devastated if I lost her! The last time I saw them, I spent the car ride home crying over something a 6-year-old said to me. —Cannot Stand Him
This is not some random person at a restaurant whose kid is a nightmare — this is your close friend of two decades. You owe it to her to talk about this, not just for your own relationship but for his future.
If she is as great as you say, she’ll hear your concerns with sensitivity and an open mind — eventually. Pick a private, relaxed time, acknowledge the awkwardness and be specific. “Last time we were here, Johnny said some things that really bothered me. This is a difficult conversation to have because I don’t want to hurt you, but I find it tough to be around him when he treats me this way. I want to find a way for this not to hurt our friendship, and also to support you in dealing with this.” Be prepared for defensiveness at first — after all, this is the age of “My bullying sociopath is a gifted trailblazer!” — but at least you will know you’ve planted a seed. If the seed fails to grow, make provisions to see her alone only.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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