An "Is This Stealing?" Question

I was watching an episode of All In The Family.

In this episode Archie “borrows” tools from work, and of course Mike gets on his high horse and tells Archie that is stealing. Then Gloria sides with Mike, with perdictable hilarious results :slight_smile:

However, Archie is quick to point out, “everyone steals.”

When Mike and Gloria say “no,” Archie proves them wrong.

Mike gets a collect call (which Archie is none to happy about) and refuses to take it. At first Archie is glad he didn’t have to pay for Mike’s call, till Mike says that he’s looking for an apartment for his friend in another city, and his refusal is a signal that he hasn’t found one yet.

Archie then points out Mike is stealing he got his message through via the phone company and didn’t pay for it.

OK I can see that point and agree with that.

But then when Mike says “Oh poor phone company…” Gloria interrupts him and sides with Archie and says “Now look who’s rationalizing.” Then Mike says “Well what about you. Taking home those free lipstick samples from the cosmetic counter where you work.” Gloria responds that they give those away free to the customer, to which Mike replies “But you’re not a customer.” Gloria then agrees she’s stealing.

OK so that is the question of this thread, was Gloria really stealing by taking those samples?

I guess one could say the samples are meant to be given out with the hope that the customer will buy one later on and Gloria has no intention of ever buying lipstick if she could get it for free, but still I have a hard time coming around to the fact that Gloria was stealing.

So was Gloria stealing by taking the lipstick samples home for her personal use, from work?

If Gloria took home an excessive amount, then yes. If she took home a couple which she used for personal use - or maybe to give to a friend, neighbor, child - then no she did not steal.

Yes. They aren’t intended for employees, but, as she says, for customers.

I mean, it’s a teeny tiny sin, and as a manager, I would probably look the other way as long as she always left enough for the actual customers. In fact, I always encouraged my employees to try the free samples so they could give an actual personal opinion about the product to the customer, as those always sell better than canned spiels. So it’s not a form of stealing I’d worry to much about. But they’re still customer samples: presumably, if the cosmetics company wanted employees to try the product, or to wear the product and increase customer inquiries and therefore sales, they should provide employee samples. (As some do, as a matter of fact, clearly labeled as such.) If the store owner told her to take them, it wasn’t stealing (although one could argue that the store owner was stealing from the cosmetics company, if the samples were provided to the store for free for the customers.) But if she just pocketed them from the countertop display during her shift, it was stealing.

Since the gotcha! of the episode was “everyone steals”, it’s a legitimate gotcha.

What’s more, if she takes it home, uses it, and then when people ask her, she says “It’s ________ brand,” she could even be said to be *advertising *it and thus helping the company.

Why can’t she be both a customer and an employee?

Actually, this question probably has no answer, since it would depend on the exact wording of the sign, or whatever documentation there was that said they were free samples. Which documentation almost certainly never actually existed, since this is fiction.

If she takes home a sample to try then she’s a customer. If she takes more than one home then she is using multiple samples in place of the full size product.

So Spezza, if someone went to your wallet and took $10 you wouldn’t consider it stealing, but if they took $100 it you would?:dubious:

I suspect if you asked the cosmetic company that supplied the samples, they would not consider it stealing (so long as samples remained for the customers) - they would want the employees to have the same chance to experience the product.

Well, what does the employee manual say?

Actually, many workplaces limit employee use of company resources to ‘reasonable’, so Spezza’s opinion is valid.

Since the company paid for the samples, it is up to them to decide if they want to give them out to employees. If they don’t want employees taking them, then it’s stealing.

Unless she had permission or took one as a sample while shopping herself, the yes it is stealing.

Surely Gloria could go to some store where she doesn’t work and get free samples. In that context she’d be a customer so it certainly isn’t stealing. And if Gloria, who works at Macy’s, has a friend Joan who works at Gimbel’s, Gloria could get them at Gimbel’s (being a customer there) while Joan could get them at Macy’s, where she (Joan) would be a customer. Then Gloria and Joan could agree to save each other the trouble of walking from one store to the other - Gloria could take some on behalf of Joan, and vice versa, and the company providing the samples is no worse off than if the gals had visited each other’s stores. Or one of Gloria’s other friends could get them where Gloria works and give them to her, and again the result is the same as if Gloria just took them herself.

I just don’t see how a case can be made that it’s stealing. It’s pretty damn hard to steal something that’s being given away free.

I’m in a similar situation. I work in a doctor’s office and we get samples of stuff all the time. We are encouraged to take anything we want that doesn’t require a prescription with no questions asked, and given as many samples that do require a prescription by one of the doctors if we consult with them. The pharmaceutical reps that leave the samples encourage the employees to take what they want- they shove it on us, not just in samples but full-size products, too. It’s swag, Stuff We All Get, and it’s not unethical, it’s just lucky. In my office, there’s more than enough to go around for everybody, including customers.

Giving to friends is not stealing-if anything, it’s “advertising”. At the Science Center, we’re actually allowed to bring family and friends for free-if I’m not working or even coming along, I just call ahead and say, "Hey-a friend of mine is coming in, can you set aside some wristbands for them?
If the company lets her, it’s not stealing. As for Archie’s work tools, if he returns them, how is that stealing? Again, it all depends on company policy.

There’s a little bit of a difference between taking something that’s meant to be given out and taking something that belongs to someone else. Free samples are meant to be given away, as long as one person doesn’t take them all.

I don’t see the problem with employees taking free samples, as long as they haven’t been told not to and they don’t take a whole bunch. Store employees are allowed to shop there, so they’re customers, too. And they might be more likely to buy a full-size version if they like the sample.

My rule of thumb - if she takes them obviously and blatantly in front of everyone’s sight including her manager - not stealing. The manager can always tell her to knock it off if she think’s she’s taking too many.

If she feels the need to hide it or make it not so obvious - stealing. Quantities aren’t important here.

I don’t think it is stealing. I mean, they are free samples for customers, what’s to say she isn’t a customer. I’ve taken (and been encouraged by managment to do so) damaged goods from work that have been written off. I don’t think of that as stealing, but I know a lot of people do. It comes down to each person’s “moral compass”, and what they feel is stealing, and what they feel is right.

If she never buys lipstick because she can always get free samples, then she’s stealing because she’s never a customer and is using the free samples for the exact opposite of what they’re intended for.

If she does buy lipsticks sometimes then she’s not stealing - she’s sampling, and presumably the samples will influence her when she does make a purchase, which is their intended use.

Not exactly the same thing but a real life example I’ve encountered a few times.

In the restaurant industry suppliers often give you samples or free stock. In my restaurants the managers are not allowed to take this stuff home because it is free. As the owner it is my choice to either take it home, give it away or resell it as the free stuff was given due to the restaurant buying from the supplier and not the manager’s personal charm (mostly). If it was a gift (as in a Christmas present) then that would be fine to take away.

The point being it very much depends on the store policy and intended use.

What about if she was just an ordinary shopper who occasionally ducked into that store and grabbed a couple of samples - and used so little makeup that she didn’t need to buy any apart from that. Would that be stealing?

(My answer would be - not stealing. Taking advantage, certainly, but not stealing)