I was talking to my coworker, Mick, who’s having a bit of a dilemma. He has a long, troubled history with his brother, Keith. Thanks to unpaid loans, theft and property damage, Keith is indebted to Mick to the tune of almost $20,000. On a personal level, they’ve reconciled, but Mick doesn’t consider the debts repaid. Keith, for his part, has no intention of ever trying to repay them, regardless of Mick’s current financial struggles. Mick reminds Keith of his debts regularly but Keith always has an excuse to not pay, and when cornered on the subject will just refuse. Several months ago, on a “boys night out” type of thing, they went out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Mick had a reloadable gift card on him but not his wallet. There wasn’t enough money on the gift card to pay for their order so Keith uncharacteristically offered to give Mick his bank card number so he could reload the card. Mick thanked him for it and Keith said, “Any time,” which is Keith’s typical response in lieu of an actual “You’re welcome.” The next time Mick went there to eat, the automatic reload option took the funds from the last card used, which was Keith’s. Mick didn’t realize it until later. He never mentioned it to Keith and has reloaded the card using Keith’s funds a few times since, figuring he’ll never get the $20,000 or so that he’s owed, but the $15-25 every other month or so he is able to get is at least a little compensation. As far as Keith goes, while he struggled for a spell, he’s back on his feet financially despite being extremely negligent and irresponsible when it comes to his money. He also eats at the same restaurant all the time, has his own reloadable gift card and, according to Mick, would never notice the occasional additional charge.
Mick is one of my few Catholic coworkers and, this being Lent, he mentioned this to me last week. I don’t know if it’s a real-world example or if he offered it up rhetorically, as he’s been known to do on occasion. I told him that, based solely on the circumstances, how infrequently Mick has reloaded his own card, Keith’s debt and his telling Mick, “Any time,” I’d be hard pressed to refer to it as theft, although I did recommend that he inform Keith of what’s going on. I figured I’d ask for opinions, though.