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Theft In Business

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

There is one point in business life where lack of integrity has most important results, and that is the thieving that is practiced by employees in a store or some other business. This has grown to alarming proportions in recent years and has been set down by more than one writer as one of the powerful causes which operate in mercantile failures. There are many establishments in our great cities that seem to be doing a thriving business, but which are rotten to the very core from the petty thieving that is carried on by the clerks engaged in them. A peculiar case of this kind was brought to light in New York a year or two ago. A certain secret society was discovered in which a large number of grocery clerks had pledged themselves to steal from their employers one hundred and twenty-five dollars apiece each month. The amounts were paid over to the treasurer of the society and disbursed to the members on certain rules and conditions, the chief idea being to place the members of the society, one after another, in business for themselves with a handsome capital stock. When the society had been organized a year, it had led to the failure of three large grocery stores whose employees were represented in this society of thieves. The confession of some of the members of this organization led to its discovery and the recovery of a portion of the stolen funds. But the very fact that such a society could be organized and successfully carried on for a year and a half, until the funds of the society were counted among the thousands of dollars, shows a depth of depravity somewhat alarming.

Another case of similar character was brought to light but a few months ago in a neighboring city. A young man was engaged as salesman in a retail book store. He succeeded in removing goods from the store, in small quantities, to his lodgings. After accumulating these in sufficient quantities, he sent out circulars to some of the old patrons of the firm, offering, under an assumed name, staple goods at lower rates than they had been accustomed to buy them. After the young man's operations had been carried on for a few months, a letter of inquiry was addressed to the firm from a distant town, relative to the new dealer and his reliability. This letter led to the discovery of the thief. We know that similar instances could be gathered by the score, and there seems to be a woeful lack of integrity on the part of those who are employed as clerks. The excuse that is always given for this kind of peculation is that the salaries are so low that they are tempted to steal for the sake of obtaining a decent livelihood. This is, of course, no excuse for theft, and yet it is a point that cannot be safely ignored by those who employ help in business concerns. If a man is employed upon the lowest pittance for which his services can be obtained, it may generally be taken for granted that he will make up for his low scale of wages by petty thefts from the money drawer. We know that many clerks in large stores are employed at low wages, perhaps too low to support the style of life that they are expected to support in view of their position. But possibly none of the thousands of these thieves ever steal to buy them-selves bread. It is extravagance and expensive vices that lead young men into this habit. A lack of integrity and a low state of general morality are all that is necessary to account for this growing tendency. No doubt this is one of the ways in which dishonest practices toward customers react upon the business, and in this sense we must confess there is a sort of grim justice in it. If the head of the house plunders his customers, it is not strange if the clerk shall plunder the employer :

" It is laughable to see one hunting high and low for his spectacles, when they have only been shoved up over his forehead. But it is not laughable to see Christians hunting for what they call opportunities to honor God, while overlooking such opportunities as they carry with them wherever they go. A slovenly carpenter was once heard at a weekly prayer-meeting to pray with great fervency for the spread of Christ's cause—a cause which he disgraced and hindered in his sphere every time he stood at his work bench. When he ended his prayer, a hearty Amen' came from a servant who put her mistress out of temper a hundred times a day by her carelessness. A clerk, also, was there, who, although he taught a class in the mission-school on Sundays, was always late at his employer's store on week days. He whispered ' Amen,' too—and meant it, so far as he knew him-self. A lady hearer, as she listened, resolved to join the church missionary society, and then went home and found unreasonable fault with her cook. And others, also, felt inspired to do some-thing for Christ, who never seemed to have thought that religion, like charity, begins at home. The mechanic who is powerful in class-meeting and weak at his trade, is no credit to the cause he professes. The servant who drops tears feelingly at religious services and drops dishes unfeelingly in the kitchen, has her tenderness altogether too much, on one side. And it is a poor kind of religion which seeks opportunities to set others straight, but overlooks its own crookedness."—Sunday School Times.

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