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Petty Theft

Monday, Aug. 6, 2012
Jackie sees her best friend stealing.. What should she do?
 The best college student comment on "Petty Theft" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, August 19. Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates. 
Jackie lives in an apartment with two friends, but lately her housemate Alex has been getting on everyone’s nerves. She always has her boyfriend over, she hasn’t been helping with chores, and she’s been distancing herself from the other two. She also has a nasty habit of leaving all of her belongings strewn everywhere- wallet, keys, file folders for work, you name it! In contrast, Jackie and her other friend, Sarah, have been getting much closer, spending almost every moment together. Jackie’s a little sad that she and Alex aren't as close anymore, but feels that it’s beyond her control. 
One Thursday afternoon, Jackie gets home early from work. Alex is shut in her room as usual, so the only indication that she’s around is her typical trail of belongings. Sarah is in the shower, so she doesn’t hear Jackie come in. Jackie plops down on the couch and turns on her laptop, ready to do some much-deserved Pinterest surfing. Absorbed in the myriad of crafts and wedding decorations, she doesn’t notice that Sarah has turned off the shower and stepped out of the bathroom. Jackie is a bit out of Sarah’s sight, and she watches in surprise as Sarah picks up Alex’s wallet, takes out a $10 bill, and puts it in the pocket of her robe. Jackie almost says something, but then figures that it’s probably for something that Alex owes Sarah. And, even if Sarah is taking money, doesn’t Alex deserve it for irresponsibly leaving her stuff everywhere?  It isn’t even that much; $10 is basically an overpriced latte, right? 
Jackie feels a little put off by the situation, but gives Sarah the benefit of the doubt. They make dinner together and watch a movie, and Jackie forgets all about it. Later that night, Alex emerges from her room and grabs her wallet, about to head out with her boyfriend. Thumbing through the bills with a puzzled look on her face, she asks, “Have you guys seen any money lying around? There’s not as much in here as I remember.” Sarah shakes her head and says, “Maybe it got lost in the laundry or something!” Jackie looks at her, surprised, remembering what she had seen earlier that afternoon.
What should Jackie do? Should she tell Alex that Sarah took money from her wallet and risk damaging her closest friendship and her living situation for the year? Or should she say she hasn't seen anything, since Alex probably won't know the difference and should learn to keep better track of her things? 


Comments Comments

Yasmin said on Aug 7, 2012
Jackie should talk to Sarah first about what she saw her do (steal the money) and tell Sarah that either Sarah can tell Alex herself or Jackie will have to tell Alex, because stealing is wrong regardless of Alex's annoying qualities. Besides, why would Jackie want a close friendship so badly with someone (Sarah) who could possibly be stealing behind her back or lying to her face about other things? How can she trust Sarah if she is a liar and a thief? And how can she really have an authentic friendships without honesty and trust? - Like - 3 people like this.
Kaitlin said on Aug 7, 2012
I completely agree that wanting to protect someone who steals is just leading Jackie down a dangerous road. Stealing is not fair to anyone and could ultimately hurt all three of them if the subject is not brought up. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Kaitlin said on Aug 7, 2012
Jackie needs to consider a few things from this situation; she needs to consider whether she wants to protect her friendship, her rooming situation, or her credibility. While she has maintained a solid relationship with Sarah so far, who knows what will happen between them after she knows that Sarah has stolen and lied. If Jackie were to agree that she hadn?t seen Alex?s money, she is protecting her rooming situation and friendship for the time being, but this could cause her more trouble down the road. What if Sarah continues to steal and lie? What if Sarah began to steal from and lie to Jackie? I recommend that Jackie discuss what she saw with Sarah, after Alex leaves. Sarah may deny what Jackie saw or might get angry with Jackie for bringing it up, but ultimately, Jackie is not only protecting herself, but is protecting Sarah. The next step is to have a group discussion with all three roommates. They need to consider each other?s boundaries and resolve any issues such as the cleanliness or lack of personal space. It is not right for Jackie and Sarah to gang up on Alex, but it is important to understand how the three of them can live simultaneously under one roof without many issues. Jackie and Sarah can bring up the fact that they are frustrated with how Alex does not clean and maybe invades their personal space too often by bringing the boyfriend over. This could be a space that Alex could bring up any issues that she may have with the rooming situation and may not have discussed previously. Living with roommates is a difficult situation and achieving a relatively harmonious or at least agreeable relationship requires effort from each person. Often times, girls tend to hide their issues, gossip, and let them blow out of proportion rather than calmly and quickly resolving them. - Like - 2 people like this.
Jamie said on Aug 7, 2012
I think Jackie should talk to Sarah first, and express to Sarah that theft isn't okay even if the roommate is annoying her and leaving her stuff lying around. If this is done in a loving way, hopefully Sarah will realize her mistake. She should apologize to Alex and return the money. Just because Alex has been irritating doesn't mean that she doesnt deserve to know her roommate is stealing from her so if Sarah refuses to say anything, jackie should tell tell Alex. It may cause tension, but it is the correct action to be taken. The messiness and time spent with her boyfriend are different issues that should be addressed but kept separate from the theft at hand. After the theft issues is resolved, and hopefully Sarah realizes she must return the money and apologize, Jackie should talk to Alex about her messiness. I had an extremely messy roommate last year, and I would kindly ask her to clean up her things especially if there were people coming by. She always was kind and apologized and sometimes I would help her pick up her things. This made it so I could have the room as I desired without bossing her around to do it. If she doesn't respond this way I would include Sarah so that the three of you could talk. Talking the three of you first may make her feel ganged up on. - Like - 2 people like this.
David said on Aug 8, 2012
Whether or not Alex has been a clean or considerate roommate is of no consequence in this situation. When we base our decisions on whether or not someone would do the same thing for us, we end up sacrificing any sense of integrity. Ethical decisions based on comparison between people leads us to say, "Well, because they have acted a certain way, I am not obligated to treat them any differently or with any consideration." We can find ourselves saying that, since we're at least not as bad as someone else, our own immoral or unethical actions are therefore justified. Our decisions to do the right thing cannot and should not be based on whether or not the recipient "deserves" that treatment or on reasoning that would suggest that since our actions aren't as bad as some other action that our actions are therefore okay. For something to be truly ethical, it should apply universally and is not contingent upon the actions of others. Stealing, for example, is wrong regardless of the situation. My roommate may be messy, but that messiness or lack of consideration does not free me from the need to respect that person in the way that I would hope they would respect me and my belongings. If we base all of our decisions on our environment, we end up becoming enslaved to circumstances rather than guided by right principles. Being a roommate carries with it a certain level of obligation to the other person because of the connected nature of living with someone. To betray that by allowing others to steal from your roommate is entirely inappropriate, regardless of how their actions make you feel. What we feel doesn't change the reality that certain things are wrong. I think that Jackie should approach Sarah first and ask her what motivated the theft. Of course there won't be a good reason for it. There would be the same excuses mentioned above--"She isn't considerate and is always messy, etc." Jackie should explain to her that she isn't comfortable with what happened, and that Sarah needs to return the money to Alex. This may be unpopular, but it is clearly the right decision. If Sarah refuses, I think that Jackie should tell Sarah that she (Jackie) would have to talk to Alex about it because it isn't right for Alex to be in the situation she is in. Jackie could also offer for Sarah to talk to Alex with Jackie present to help keep the situation more comfortable. If Sara continues to refuse, Jackie should talk to Alex about it in private, rather than cause a huge scene with everyone involved. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Jeremy said on Aug 14, 2012
The fact that Sarah straight-up stole from Jackie's roommate (seemingly guilt-free) does not mean good things for Sarah's living situation, whether or not she brings up the theft. Sarah should tell Jackie that she saw her take the money and give her a chance to return it before she goes to Alex?it was a relatively petty theft, as mentioned, and it's worth a chance to change. If left unchecked, Alex may end up stealing from Sarah when they room together. - Like - 2 people like this.
Dalé said on Aug 16, 2012
Let me begin by saying that taking advantage of stealing one?s belongings because they are in plain sight and easy to pilfer is completely unjustifiable. It is true that Sarah spends less time with her roommates and haphazardly strews her clothes throughout the apartment. This behavior does not give Sarah?s roommates a right to disrespect her or take advantage of her carelessness. Theft is an invasion of one?s privacy and personal belongings. In order to navigate this muddled midfield of potentially precarious relationships, I would suggest that Jackie should tell Alex that she knows who stole her money but not provide Alex with the culprit?s name. Jackie would propose that if the perpetrator did not confess directly to Alex, she would tell Alex the truth. In addition, Jackie should tell Sarah privately that she knows that Sarah stole Alex?s $10 bill and should disclose her misconduct .This gives Sarah the opportunity to come forward and take responsibility for her wrongdoing. Immanuel Kant once stated that we are to live by a universal maximum such that our own conduct would be judged in the same manner as everyone else?s. While this theory has controversial implications, we can visualize Jackie being in the same predicament as Alex. If Jackie follows this golden rule principle, surely she would want to know who stole her money. While Jackie does not have a Samaritan obligation to indict Sarah of theft, she can shift the burden of responsibility on Sarah to admit her grievances of stealing and lying about whereabouts of Alex?s money. If Alex does not admit her wrongdoings, I would argue that Jackie has a right to tell Sarah the entire truth and not care so much about her relationship with a person (Sarah) who could possibly commit the same offense against her (Jackie). - Like - 1 person likes this.
William said on Aug 19, 2012
Jackie should tell Alex that she isn't sure where her money went, and that she will keep her eye out for it. Not only would this buy Jackie some time and risk an unnecessarily uncomfortable confrontation, but Jackie would actually be telling the truth: Jackie certainly has a hunch as to where Alex's money went, but before she starts accusing (however tactfully) her best friend of thievery, she should be certain that Sarah did in fact steal from Alex. Therefore, before taking any definitive course of action, I think that Jackie should talk to Sarah and make sure that she understands the situation fully. Although what Jackie has seen strongly suggests that Sarah has stolen from Alex (and is lying about it), Jackie may have misinterpreted what she saw or may be missing key information. Perhaps Jackie had mistaken Sarah's wallet for Alex's, and Sarah was simply taking money out of her own wallet. Maybe Sarah was trying to play a practical joke on Alex that Jackie wasn't aware of. Perhaps Sarah simply forgot that she had taken the money when Alex later inquired. While none of these scenarios seem too likely, it is in Jackie's best interest to make sure she has all relevant information before she has a serious discussion with Sarah about the theft. Assuming Jackie was correct in thinking that Sarah stole the money, she should suggest to Sarah that she return the money to Alex. If she is willing to do this, and because the amount stolen was so little, I think it would be okay for Sarah to return the money as inconspicuously as she took it. That way, Alex gets her money back, Sarah rectifies her behavior, and Jackie can at once help Sarah to do the right thing (which might actually strengthen their friendship in the long run) and avoid seriously jeopardizing her living situation for the year. - Like - 18 people like this.
Marco said on Aug 19, 2012
The first thing that should be done is to approach Sarah first in order to grasp the situation at hand: ask her friend about what really happened (e.g. confirm that she stole the money) and figure out why. If it turns out or seems that Sarah indeed did the act and shows remorse about it, then the ball falls on Alex, so to speak. Jakie should confide this to Alex and, if necessary, beyond It makes no difference how messy and distant Alex seems... she doesn't deserve to be wronged like this, just as women doesn't deserve to be sexually assaulted based on what they wear. Regardless of whether or not Alex isn't your best friend, regardless of whether or not Sarah is... it's no excuse. - Like - 2 people like this.
Ben Chinoy said on Aug 19, 2012
Jackie should pull Sarah aside and talk to her one on one. If they have been getting really close then Jackie and Sarah should be able to speak with each other about sensitive subjects. Jackie should simply tell Sarah she saw her take the money and understands why Sarah might do that?because she is frustrated at Alex?but she needs to let her know two wrongs don?t make a right. And, just because Alex is not acting in a mature responsible way, Sarah doesn?t need to take out her anger on Alex by stealing her money. If Jackie really is Sarah?s best friend, she should be able to tell Sarah that her actions were wrong. A true friend is not only someone who is there when everything is going well, but someone who steps up and isn?t afraid to back down from doing something they think is right. The fact that Sarah is stealing ten dollars highlights an underlying issue with her relationship with Alex. Jackie should recognize this, and bring all three of them together to talk about it. Alex could have something going on in her life that causes her to act the way she is acting. While nothing should justify her actions, if she explained how she was feeling to Sarah and Jackie, the relationship between all of them could improve. Maybe her boyfriend and her were fighting and she has been depressed lately. Not everyone acts perfectly 100 percent of the time. If Jackie and Sarah talk to Alex, they will see her point of view and better understand why she is acting the way she is. This sympathy will prevent petty acts of revenge?like stealing?which Sarah has just done?and help promote a happier home for all of them. Ultimately, communication is the solution to the problem. - Like - 19 people like this.
Sara said on Sep 3, 2012
For Jackie, the right thing to do is to confront Sarah about what she saw. She should approach her when Alex isn't around. If I was Jackie I would be very honest and straight forward. I would say something like, "Sarah, this is uncomfortable for me to talk about but I saw you take the money out of Alex's wallet. I know that Alex has been getting on everyone's nerves and has been a difficult roommate but it isn't doing to make you feel good to take from others. When you have a chance you should put 10 dollars back in Alex's wallet or slip it under her door when she's in class. And from here on our let's communicate our frustrations to Alex face to face" I believe this is the lost mature way to handle this situation. It is important to demand respect of others in your home. I would also follow up on this and ask Alex about the 10 dollars a week later. If Sarah still hadn't done the right thing I would approach her again and reiterate my thoughts. A week later I would follow up and if Sarah still hadn't done the right thing I would let the RA and Alex know the situation. Or else it may happen again and next time it may not be just 10$. Easy solution to a difficult but unfortunately common issue! :) - Like
Big Q said on Sep 6, 2012
Congratulations to David, the winner of our contest for "Petty Theft!" Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses, and please continue to check out our bi-weekly posts for another chance to win! - Like
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Tags: friendship, roommate, stealing