Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Here's Why the Ketchup Stays Behind the Counter

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Here's Why the Ketchup Stays Behind the Counter

Article excerpt

Stopping at a fast-food place the other day, I overheard this conversation between a perplexed customer and a breezy assistant manager:

Customer (holding a burger on a tray and turning about as if lost, then approaching the manager): Hey, what happened to the condiments and the forks and stuff?

Employee (sadly): We had to put 'em behind the counter.

Customer: Why? It was nice having the stuff right out here.

Employee: Yeah, it was easier for us, too. But we had too much shrinkage.

Customer: Stuff stolen, ya mean?

Employee (glancing around, then leaning in conspiratorially): Right. It's the old folks from the retirement community. They'd load up their pockets or purses and just waltz out.

My first reaction was to dismiss the assistant manager's suspicions. Then I recalled once visiting an aged aunt and discovering a drawer filled with fast-food supplies. When I inquired about them, she blithely explained: "Oh, that stuff costs the companies next to nothing. They put it out for people to take."

Oh, the feet may be slow, but the rationalizations are nimble.

My point is not to report a seniors crime wave. My point is that even among our most mature and most gentle population, the folks with the old-fashioned values, you find a curious suspension of morality when it comes to dealing with businesses.

Another painful example. . . . Early in my career I helped a friend market a book for churches, sold via direct mail to ministers. I was surprised to find that many of the books were never paid for, despite assurances over the phone that "the check is in the mail."

Also, the books were sold with a money-back guarantee and more than one came back with paper clips on large sections of the text and with a note inside from the minister to the secretary, "Copy, then return for refund."

Curious how my kindhearted aunt thinks nothing of tucking a handful of ketchup packets into her purse. …

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