I had an experience about an hour ago that has made a deep impression on me. I was at Albertson's, a grocery store chain picking up some things. At the checkout stand, I paid the $80 bill with a debit card and asked for cash back. I had to punch in the $40 amount. The cashier turned to her register, counted out the money, pulled the receipt and counted $100 into my hand.
I looked at it puzzled for just a second, then immediately spoke up. "This is too much," I said, "I only asked for $40 back. Here is all of it." I handed it back to her and she looked dismayed, startled, astonished and very much relieved.
"Thank you," she said with several sighs of relief and gratitude, "thank you so much." She handed me the $40. The bagger, a young man, and I then proceeded out to my car. Upon passing the doors, he said, "I would have taken the money and run." I glanced at him and told him that I wouldn't. We got to my car and while he was putting the groceries in the trunk I explained that taking the extra money wasn't even a consideration. It was a matter of honoring my late father and of acting in the right way because ethics are not a slip on/slip off garment but something live or you don't. He and my mother were always the two most ethical people I have ever known. They attended church but were never preachy about their beliefs; they kept them to themselves. They never told anyone else what to do. They role modeled the highest forms of ethical behavior throughout their lives.
But the reactions of the cashier, the bagger and the people in line behind me--all of whom were floored by my actions--is interesting. I have posted a topic on our local community website asking fellow members what they would do. But I wanted to post here and see what you would have done or hoped you would do.
As a point of interest, I really, really could have used that $60. So I will admit the thought of keeping it crossed my mind--but thankfully the thought was out of my mind, rejected, before it even finished entering it.