The Price of Integrity

I was at Wal-Mart the other day returning a package of paper towels. I didn’t know it when I married Jeff, but I have recently learned that he is a paper towel snob. He had told me we were out of paper towels so while I don’t really like paper towels myself, I dutifully write them on the grocery list and buy a package for him. And because I’m so thrifty, I found the best deal there was… a package of three Wal-Mart generic paper towels for only $1.86. What a price! I was pretty proud of myself until Jeff informed me that he will only use Bounty brand, all white paper towels. Sheesh, does it really matter? I ask. Apparently it does. So Saturday found me at the Wal-Mart returning my ultra-cheap and unacceptable paper towels.

I’m not sure how your Wal-Mart works, but the one by my house requires you to show your returns to the person standing at the entrance door.  They have a little contraption that scans your item and then prints out a price tag.  This tag is then stuck to your item and you can proceed to the Customer Service Counter.  They won’t accept any returns without the little price tag attached.  The great thing about this Wal-Mart procedure is they will take back ANYTHING… even if you don’t have a receipt, as long as you have that little price tag attached.  I, however, almost always have a receipt.  Which was the case on Saturday.

So I have arrived at Wal-Mart with my rejected package of paper towels.  The lady scans my item and out pops the price tag… $1.94.  Hey, wait a minute, my receipt shows I only paid $1.86.  And in a spit second several thoughts run through my mind:  1.) An opportunity to get ahead! 2.) They will take back my paper towels for the new price… I don’t have to show my receipt.  Who knows maybe I lost it? 3.) Wait a minute, what’s the right thing to do?

It’s at this point I realize what is happening inside me.  I have the opportunity to get a little extra out of Wal-Mart.  Will it really matter if I paid less?  I mean really, Wal-Mart makes billions of dollars in profit every year, is $.08 really going to break them?  And it was that little bit of math that did it for me.  Was I willing to sell my integrity for $.08?  A whole $.08…  The astounding part is, that for a second, I was.  But I won’t.  And I feel an overwhelming sense of relief.  I proceed to the Customer Service counter with my paper towels and present my receipt for $1.86 and get back exactly what I originally paid.  However, the small chain of events that has just taken place has shaken me.  The fact that I was so tempted to make $.08 off Wal-Mart is a bit disturbing.  What if it had been something different with a much bigger price difference?  Would I have made the same choice if the payout would have been an extra $20?

An incident that happened a couple years ago has returned to my mind.  Jeff and I were at the post office after business hours getting stamps out of the vending machine for our wedding invitations.  We were purchasing hundreds of stamps and had a pretty good rhythem going… he would insert the money, press the button and I would remove the dispensed stamps.  At one point, a whole extra roll of stamps is dispensed.  Not just a little book of stamps, I’m talking the big role of 100.  That’s like over a $50 value!  The first thing out of my mouth is “Hey look!  A free gift!”  Jeff is skeptical.  “Does it say free gift?”  “Well, no, but I just concider it good luck.”  A debate ensues which ends with me reluctantly returning the stamps to the post office later in the week.  While I did the right thing in that case, it was only because Jeff insisted we return them and I guess deep down inside, I knew that was the right thing to do, but I didn’t want to… and I wouldn’t have thought twice about keeping them if he hadn’t been there.

So perhaps my character has grown a bit since the stamp incident.  I know that even when nobody would ever see my inside choices, they really do matter.  Nobody would have ever known I got an extra $.08 back from Wal-Mart, but I would have known and God would have known.  My integrity, I’ve realized, is worth more to me than $.08.  Perhaps I got a do-over from the stamp incident, a second chance to make the right choice, this time for myself, and God knew He had to start small with me.  So I try to continue walking a straight path.  Not always easy, but I guess this time I made it over a little speed bump.  Perhaps next time, it will be bigger, but I’ll be better prepared.