Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Corporate Thief

In ancient times, stealing was a serious offence. And by ancient times I mean less than five years ago. Today’s young generation, especially the young professionals consider anything more than five years old to be ancient. It is even surprising to them that most cultures around the world, had certain principles around morality and that they held the belief, “Thy shall not take what is not yours” which in simpler words means, “You shall not steal.”
Almost all religions preach that stealing was against all moral principles. In some countries stealing bore a death penalty. Even today stealing bears implications of arrest and if you move down the Middle East, your hands could be cut off and hung in the public square should you be caught stealing.

But moralities are principles of the passé. The new corporate professional hasn’t been initiated to the them, and their philosophy is “We can’t follow that which we do not know”. And this ignorance has given rise to the new and improved, socially accepted, Corporate Thief.

The corporate thief is a very slick employee. He has very sharp observation coupled by even sharper hand movements. After all, to be an ace thief you need to have both these attributes.

The corporate thief is the person who steals under the pretext of:
1. If I don’t know who it belongs to, then it must be mine.
2. If it belongs to the company, then it must be mine,
3. If the company paid for a service, then the extras could be mine.
4. If it’s there, then it must be mine.

He is the person, who has no conscience issues in:
1. Packing away the toiletries from the hotel bathroom. The pretext is that these small bottles make good travel kits.
2. He sometimes would not mind even packing up the towels and napkins and bath robes. You will see these people in the gym showering in the Trident Towels and Radisson bath room wear. There is no brand as popular as Hotel Brands when it comes to bath wear.
3. Taking away stationary from office stores and storing that at home doesn’t need a moral check. Pens, notepads, eraser, sharpeners, post its, no one buys them these days, when you can just pick them up at the office. Every one does it. Even the keepers of morality do it.
4. On company conferences, all the extra T-shirts, chocolates and goodies are not worth returning back to the company. The best place to dump them is in your suitcase. After all company t-shirts make good night wear, since your size is always over when you do get to it.
5. And the mint and sugar candies kept on the tables at conferences find their way in ladies bags and men’s laptop bags to maintain their sugar levels even if they don’t suffer from diabetes.
6. They also don’t mind taking away the blankets, cushions, earphones magazines, air sickness bags and anything that they can get their hands on while traveling by air. Even if the things brought back home are utterly useless, the idea of having brought them home is satisfying enough.

A subtle breed of the corporate thief is the one who “asks for the freebies”. This is a very bold genre who won’t steal, but he will outright ask and expect to be given:
1. Before checking out from his hotel room he will ask housekeeping, “Can I have some more soap to take back”. He will ask for “some more” of the soap, and so he is openly admitting that he has taken what was already there. So it isn’t stealing.
2. He will ask for “one more” fortune cookie at the Chinese restaurant, for his son at home. And munch away his son’s fortune on the traffic light on the way home.
3. He is the guy who will ask for discounts and freebies without any inhibitions, on the pretext, “Since I am giving you my company’s business, you give me the freebies. My salary isn’t sufficient for me to buy these useless decorative trinkets anyways.”

Companies today have accepted the presence of the corporate thief and they allow budgets for it. Missing pens and stationary is no longer brought up in board meetings; they are added in “employee expense” budgets. Hotels have now started adding toiletries, cupboard accessories, ashtrays and even cutlery charges to their room charges. They now expect the guests to walk away with them. The corporate thief is now a socially accepted convict.

I guess the idea is that somehow we feel that getting more and for free, is satisfying. Often I see young professionals whacking away the little things from work, hotel rooms, restaurants, which they consider too petty to spend their hard earned money on. They had rather save their money for the things they actually want to buy. The philosophy is “Why spend and waste, when you can whack and taste.”