When I worked at Starbucks, I loved opening the store at five in the morning. It meant I would get to set up the pastry display.
I would save the cheese danishes for last. I’d teared the film covering the four danishes my manager ordered; I decoratively set three of them on their assigned white tray and placed the last one in a brown pastry bag under my register for me to enjoy with a cup of dark roast at my first ten-minute break.
When I tell this story to my wife, she responds that because I worked at Starbucks, it wasn’t “technically” stealing.
My victimless habit (which I learned from one of my supervisors who had a similar addiction to croissants), despite my wife’s attempts to make me feel better, was stealing.
Grabbing something that is not yours, never giving it back, nor giving anything in return IS the technical definition of stealing.
I wasn’t disgruntled. I loved my boss, I loved my job, and I loved my coworkers. I was just entitled. I was entitled before it was hip to be so.
Starbucks was my first job when I moved to the US. Back then, I lived on a couch for four months in a small townhouse with my sister’s boyfriend.
On the days I closed the store, I checked out the expiration date on all sandwiches, pastries, and parfaits. Then, throwing them in the trash when expired.
But instead of throwing them out, I would take them back to the apartment where my other three roommates treated me like a hero before racing to finish the food before it went bad.
The Starbucks goodies supplemented our regular Food-for-Less groceries.
If we weren’t eating day-or-two-old sandwiches, our go-to meal was opening a can of corn, dumping it in a bowl, topping it with a big dollop of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Heartache” margarine, and microwaving it.
When my brother-in-law’s sister had the time, she cooked rice, fries, and patties, which was always a great day.
Food-for-Less wasn’t a dollar store, but it did help our hard-earned dollars go a long.
I used to steal there, too. Although, I didn’t think of it as stealing, either.
I used to say, “Every client gets to wine and dine on these grapes, string cheese sticks, granola bar, rotisserie chicken. It is a small price for this corporation to earn my business.”
My business, of course, was a pitiable amount of dented cans of corn, Maruchan chicken soup, rice, french fries, beef patties, and not a lot more, so not really deserving of the red carpet I was rolling out for myself.
My penchant for stealing food from corporations started here, and I would’ve never done it in Colombia.
I tried it once.
I was six when my neighbor and I went to the corner local grocery store 2×3 (Dos por Tres); the name comes from the Spanish expression “en un dos por tres,” which is used to say something happens fast.
We hid under grocery carts, and when we thought nobody was watching (as if no one could see two six-year-olds stuck under grocery carts), we ran out of our hideout and grabbed whatever we could get our hands on at the end cap closest to us.
Then we ran out.
I went for Sparkies.
Sparkies are the Colombian version of Skittles. There were some differences, for one, the name (pronounced esss-parrrr-keeeeess!!!), the candy colors were more on the pastel side, the shape was less flat and more rounded, and finally, the bag they came in wasn’t red but purple.
I should say we tried to run out. A clerk caught us and walked us home because he knew our parents.
My dad pulled his belt off and threatened to spank me, so I ran away and hid under their bed. That night, I slept there.
Okay, truth booth.
I also stole from Colombian groceries in my teenage years. But it was different. I had money in my pockets. If I got caught, I would use the money to pay for what I attempted to steal and claim I had a rare form of purchasing amnesia.
Stealing without a safeguard was a no-no because we grew up hearing stories of kids who tried to steal from grocery stores.
If the young thieves were captured in fraganti, someone would shave off their hair and stamp the store logo repeatedly all over their bald heads; they would take off their shoes and have them walk around the entire store for people to shame them.
So I did steal, but it wasn’t as brazen and forthright as it was when I moved to the States.
I stopped stealing some time after I started dating my wife. One time, we went grocery shopping, and before making it into the rest of the store, I stopped by the bulk item area.
I picked up the scoop, put a few dark chocolate-covered cashews in it, and put them in my hand without touching the scoop because I might’ve been a petty thief, but I was not going to spread germs.
She looked horrified.
I retorted to her look with, “They budget for these things. They know their customers are also petty thieves. It is almost like I need to steal to help them out. What will they do with all that money if they don’t lose some of it?”
More than petty crimes, these were stupid, thoughtless actions. Sure, they do budget for them; it’s not killing or holding someone at gunpoint to steal their possessions or a career in politics, but it is less about the size of the crime and more about how it impacts how I saw myself.
Eventually, that little interaction would change my thoughts from “they expect me to steal” to “right is right no matter who is watching.” Like everything good in my life, it is all because of my wife.
Slowly, I am making my reparations to Starbucks by continually buying their insanely addictive and expensive Bacon Egg Bites and Grande Americanos (which is an actual drink and not how locals in South America refer to gringo missionaries).
I think that because of my financial contributions, Starbucks might be able to pull through.