“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” – Adlai Stevenson

Last weekend, Jeanine and I were hanging out at the house in Palm Springs with our friend, Debbie. After dinner at the Viceroy, we stopped into Starbucks to sample one of their new cupcakes. With Jeanine prompting this detour, I’m now convinced she is pregnant. I never thought her sweet tooth would finally catch up to mine. No confirmation on the baby yet. But I’ll keep you posted.

Walking out the door, I noticed that the Sunday edition of The New York Times had already arrived. This purchase would normally cost $5 but when I turned back to pay, the barrista only charged me a buck… probably thinking it was Saturday’s paper. Instead of correcting her, I quietly paid the dollar and walked out the door thrilled with my four-dollar savings.

I quickly quizzed my peers about what they would have done in the same situation. Jeanine, the attorney, never really answered the question. I thought that was kind of funny in itself. But Debbie immediately chimed in and said that she would have offered up the needed price adjustment.

I would have reacted differently if we were at local newsstand where the owner was independent and $4 means a lot. I would consider the business owner to be one of the “little guys” and probably would have spoken up. But this was Starbucks and my reasoning went something like this… if Starbucks can’t train their employees to notice that I’m standing there holding the bulky version of the Gray Lady vs. the daily then my savings should automatically be a “gift with purchase” due to their ignorance.

Then I started to feel bad, because Debbie wasn’t buying into my thought process. We were two blocks towards home, so my newfound guilt wasn’t enough to make me walk back and pay. I thought about it some more and decided if I were having this conversation in front of my someday-young child, well, there wouldn’t be any other way but to call this stealing. Life is then black and white even when it comes to buying a gray newspaper. Perhaps there is something to be said about traditional values.

Children wouldn’t understand the concept of “sticking it to the big guy”. Besides, overtime, my actions will just make Starbucks raise the cost of a latte by another nickel. Who knew there would be such an ethical dilemma just by trying to save a few bucks at Starbucks?

All I wanted was to wake up, be poolside with my Sunday paper and of course, drink my still overpriced home-brewed Starbucks coffee. Go Deb. The world needs more people like you.