My Noodle

Dos Balloons! – an ethical dilemma

Birthday Balloon

I was standing at the self-checkout at Fred Meyers, ringing up my items, when I got to purchasing the balloons. I had ordered two mylar birthday balloons for our apartment building get together for two birthdays. They were filling up the balloons for me and I was to pick them up after I paid.

They gave me a slip of paper. On it were two bar codes and then a ‘2’ written in for the number of $4.95 balloons. I had no idea how to ring them up. I didn’t have the packages for the balloons. So, I scanned the bar codes. The system asked me how many I was buying, and I told it ‘2’.

Whoa! $1.99 each! They must be on sale or something! I got a deal!

After I finished up, I went over to pick up my balloons. I asked them if they wanted to see my receipt and they said ‘no’. So, I left with my balloons.

I was walking home and had the sinking feeling that I’d just stolen those balloons.


I’ve been trying very hard to be aware of my own actions and motivations. I’m tired of deluding myself and talking myself into doing things that I know are wrong. Justifying my actions. I want to have a firm moral code that I adhere to. Walking home, I realized that I’d failed.

The justifications piled up.

  • There were no instructions on the sheet of paper, but there were two bar codes, surely those two bar codes represented the balloons.
  • The system didn’t catch the mistake, surely if I was to pay more, the system would have asked me what type of balloons I was buying.
  • This is what they get for not testing their software properly!
  • The floral workers didn’t give me the packages for the balloons, surely, I didn’t need them.
  • I did try to get them to check my receipt!
  • It’s just ten dollars!
  • Even if it was a mistake, they have probably overcharged me on occasion and so it’ll even itself out.

Most of these justifications came as I was at the checkout.

On the way home I had to face myself and admit that I’d stolen those balloons. There wasn’t a sale. I’d allowed my ignorance about how balloon sales are done to convince myself that it was okay. It was like I had that devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Both yapping in my ear all the way home.

A Sociopath World

About 20 years ago, I had this roommate who was talking about her night out at a club. She was laughing about an incident where someone in her party had taken his hand and felt up someone who was passing by. The girl didn’t even notice, said my roommate.

I was horrified by the story, but my roommate didn’t understand why. In her view, if you can get away with something, why not?

That was twenty years ago, and it’s gotten worse since then. I’ve seen some terrible things. I’ve been the victim of some terrible things.

Point is, the world is this way. People are using the fact that the world is this way to justify all sorts of the bad actions.

Deep down inside, I think that most of these robo calls are actually done by the companies that are selling the apps that will remove them for you. You know, cause a problem, then solve it! You can’t tell me that the car warranty bullshit is that lucrative! Everyone knows it’s a scam! We make jokes about it!

But there is an argument that can be made here. If the world is going this way, is it actually wrong to also behave this way?

Many would say it’s not.

Back to Balloons

I made it home with my balloons, still agonizing over the idea that I may have stolen them.

I put them someplace safe and then looked around my place. There was this box of Voice Straws sitting there. (a tool for voice actors and singers). They were sitting there because they were a duplicate order.

I’d gotten a message from USPS that my Voice Straws had been delivered, but they weren’t there! So, I contacted the company about it to get some replacement straws.

The next day, my straws were delivered.

Hey, I tried. I tried to contact the distribution company to cancel the duplicate order. I emailed customer service to try and stop it. Yet here comes another set of Voice Straws. They’d been sitting there for a month while I’ve been paralyzed about what to do about it.

And the justifications came:

  • The app for the distribution site didn’t have a way to cancel the duplicates or tell them that the other one had come!
  • The customer service rep didn’t seem to care about the duplicates and told me that “she’d get a hold of me if the distribution company said anything”.
  • The straws probably didn’t cost much to manufacture.
  • If I sent them back, they’d probably just throw them away.
  • My friend Mark is getting into voice over, he could use them!
  • Why the hell is USPS sending me a “delivered” message the day before delivery?
  • Clearly no one is testing their software! This is not my fault!

Now I have balloons and Voice Straws looking sideways at me.

Well, fuck this.

You know, I don’t care what the world is doing. I have to live with myself. With what I do. How I choose to be.

I shipped back the straws. What they do with them at their end is not my concern. If they’re silly enough to send yet another set, I’ll give them to Mark. I did enclose a message telling them what happened.

Then I went down to Fred Meyer and paid for the balloons. Apparently, the balloons and the helium are sold separately. Who knew? The customer service rep was like “you know, no one would ever have known”. I was like “I’d know.”

Besides the lesson of not believing delivery messages and waiting a day to see if they’ll show up, I think I did okay. I noticed it, I fixed it. That’s something to celebrate! Hello gelato!

Someday, maybe I’ll quit deluding myself about things and just follow my moral code. Maybe…