Stealing is not just a violation of a moral code but is also considered criminal in most cases. But somehow, morality has not been emphasised in the corporate world and the new corporate professional has not been initiated into it. 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 with 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:

If I don’t know who it belongs to, then it must be mine. If it belongs to the company, then it must be mine. If the company paid for a service, then the extras could be mine. If it’s there, then it must be mine.

He is the person, who has no conscience issues in doing some of these things:

Packing away the toiletries from the hotel bathroom. The pretext is that these small bottles make good travel kits. He sometimes would not mind even packing up the towels, napkins and bath robes. You will see these people in the gym, showering in the Trident towels and Radisson bathroom wear. Taking away stationery 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 they can just pick them up at the office. Every one does it. Even the keepers of morality do it. During company conferences, all the extra T-shirts , chocolates and goodies are not worth returning 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. And the mint and sugar candies kept on the tables at conferences find their way into ladies’ bags and men’s laptop bags to maintain the owners’ sugar levels even if they don’t suffer from diabetes.

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 they will outright ask and expect to be given. Check these out:

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. 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.

He is the guy who will ask for discounts and freebies without any inhibitions, on the pretext of, “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 anyway.”

Companies today have accepted the presence of the corporate thief and they allow budgets for it. Missing pens and stationery are 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 and restaurants, which they consider too petty to spend their hard earned money on. They would 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.”

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September 2021