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A debate about "stealing"

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jrc1963 posted 5/21/2014 18:56 PM

We at work got into an unofficial debate about what constitutes stealing...

It's my contention that if a student takes an item off my desk or a peers desk and uses that item (pencil, pen, paper) without the owners permission then that is stealing... Whether it leaves the room or not.

Others call that "borrowing". Since the item hasn't left the premises (classroom) the person who took the item without the owners permission is simply borrowing it.

I say that if you take my pen/pencil/marker and use it or use it up or use it inappropriately, whether you return it or not, you're not returning it in it's original condition and you've denied me the opportunity to use that item.

What do you all think?

MovingUpward posted 5/21/2014 19:54 PM

A formal dictionary definition of borrow is

take and use (something that belongs to someone else) with the intention of returning it.

Your official state's definition is

812.014 Theft.
(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:

So technically you are both right.

I am sure that Emily Post's Etiquette book or Dear Abby would say that to borrow something without the owners permission is not good etiquette.

Sad in AZ posted 5/21/2014 20:13 PM

It's probably a matter of perspective.

The perpetrator 'borrowed'

The victim was 'robbed'

metamorphisis posted 5/21/2014 20:16 PM

I think it's rude and an opportunity for a lesson on asking and being polite, but I don't consider it stealing.

ThoughtIKnewYa posted 5/21/2014 20:18 PM

Well, I know that if you're in a retail store and you pocket something, security will wait for you to actually leave the store before confronting you. (I know this from my former experience as a retail manager.)

sisoon posted 5/21/2014 20:19 PM

I think borrowing needs permission. Without giving permission, how can you know the person intends to return it?

jrc1963 posted 5/21/2014 20:25 PM


What if the "borrow" the item... say a marker... without permission... use up all the ink and then return it. They have returned the case (shell) of the item, but it's no longer usable to the owner.

If you go into a store and eat a bunch of food and leave w/o paying, are you just borrowing? I know, it's just semantics at this point. But you get my drift.

ThoughtIKnewYa posted 5/21/2014 20:46 PM

I think I saw a post somewhere about a teacher who got sick of kids not returning "borrowed" pencils or markers, so she got pencil with "I Love Justin Bieber" printed on them. (Or did I see that in SPF?? Not sure.)

jrc1963 posted 5/21/2014 20:50 PM

Believe it or not... it's not a pencil thing... I buy pencils for students...

Dreamboat posted 5/21/2014 20:50 PM

They have returned the case (shell) of the item, but it's no longer usable to the owner.

I would call them a smuck and a jerk. And I would avoid them at all costs and never leave any unattended items ever again.

But it is like returning an empty carton of milk to the fridge. Infuriating, but not much you can do about it. The person did what they did and you cannot do anything about what they did. A court of law does not care, so whatever name you call them or whatever you call the act is just semantics. So why debate it?

StillGoing posted 5/22/2014 09:01 AM

There are several sacred things in this world that you don't ever mess with. One of them happens to be another man's fries. Now, you just remember that and you'll live a long and healthy life.

You don't mess with shit that obviously belongs to someone else without asking unless you apologize or replace it later and had a good reason for doing so. It's a philosophical debate over a pencil today. In the future, it's a potential asskicking from Keith David over fries.

norabird posted 5/22/2014 09:55 AM

I am a borrower by nature. (Have lax morals by nature?) I tend to not feel especially protective of my stuff and by extension will 'borrow' someone else's pen, etc. without asking. So I wouldn't consider this stealing. It's more of a boundary issue--people have different ones, some more strict than others. I have run into tension before out of not really understanding that not everyone else has boundaries about stuff as loose as mine! So in the classroom it's probably best to explain that others may not WANT their stuff borrowed and that therefore one must ask. However I think some people just are not wired to ask or to care if they aren't asked in turn.

But obviously it should be returned in good condition! that should go without saying and is quite rude. If I were to borrow something and it got messed up I would offer a replacement!

[This message edited by norabird at 9:56 AM, May 22nd (Thursday)]

Charity411 posted 5/22/2014 11:43 AM

I'm of the opinion that something isn't borrowed until you ask for permission to use something and permission is given. How long it gets used for doesn't matter.

A perfect example is, if someone decided to borrow someone else's car without permission it would be auto theft. It doesn't matter if they returned it in an hour, a week, a month or ten years. If it was in that person's possession without the permission of the owner, they are considered in possesion of a stolen vehicle. If that wasn't the case people wouldn't bother to buy cars. They'd just borrow them.

I feel that way about little things as well because who decides if something is just a little thing and it's not stealing or if it's big enough to be stealing. If you keep pushing the boundaries you will eventually piss someone off.

Crescita posted 5/22/2014 12:07 PM

I wouldn't split hairs over definitions, I'd just have a frank discussion about what is and isn't okay in your classroom. Using other people's possessions without asking permission is not okay whether they call it borrowing or not.

DeadMumWalking posted 5/22/2014 13:32 PM

If you want to borrow something, ask permission FIRST. Taking something without prior permission is STEALING.

GabyBaby posted 5/22/2014 14:22 PM

Borrowing means asking permission BEFORE taking something that doesn't belong to you.
In my opinion, if you fail to do that, you are stealing.

9years posted 5/22/2014 14:30 PM

Such a thing I usually use the word 'take' if they didn't ask it isn't borrowing, if they put it back it doesn't evolve into stealing. Just my opinion though.

tushnurse posted 5/23/2014 08:03 AM

I say press charges, throw the book at em!!!!

Sorry I'm not the best person to ask this question right now.

My kid took a pair of shoes and stretched them out, so now I will never be able to wear them again, without asking.

My other kid took my "to go" tea container. dented the shit out of it, and broke the top. So I can't or won't use it again.

My H took my vehicle last night for a bee job, and broke the passenger mirror backing out of the garage, and left all his tools, ladders and crap in it for me to find this morning on my way out the door.

So Yah I'm pretty much of the thought "KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY SHIT".

So yah file charges, seek the death penalty if needed.

gonnabe2016 posted 5/23/2014 09:36 AM

The saying in my house has always been: "if it's not yours, then don't touch it."

Imo, borrowing/taking without permission technically equals 'stealing.'

osxgirl posted 5/23/2014 12:59 PM

Whether or not it is really "stealing" (and I know everyone has completely different opinions), it is extremely inconsiderate.

Back in college, I was doing a co-op (alternating semesters between school and a real job, arranged through the university). We were put in 2 bedroom apartments with 3 roommates. The first semester doing that, I absolutely HATED it.

Why? Not the job - I loved that. And being from Indiana originally, I was enjoying being in California, going to the beach, etc. Made some pretty good friends.

It was my roommates. All summer long they had friends and family just showing up, never even giving a heads-up. Trying to walk through the living room to leave the house in the morning was like running an obstacle course with people as the obstacles. And it was party central all the time - even during the week. I took my job seriously, and was having trouble getting enough sleep during the week - forget trying to sit in the living room and relax at night.

But the worst part was.... food. I couldn't keep food (or diet coke) in the apartment. Every time I went grocery shopping, everything I bought disappeared. I had planned out meals.... I'd come home, and have to go right back out again, because the food I'd bought for those meals was gone. My roommates would tell me later - oh, sorry, we "borrowed" your hamburger because we were out. We'll replace it next time we go to the store. (Which they never did - replace it that is, and most times it seemed they never went to the store either!)

That didn't help me. I went to use something I had purchased, and it wasn't there. It sucked that they never replaced it, but even if they had - it still completely inconvenienced me at the time.

I couldn't keep a cold diet coke in the fridge so I'd have one when I got home. They were always gone (and again, seldom replaced, though I was always told they had been "borrowed"). Even the few times they did replace them - it meant I didn't have the cold ones there when I wanted them (and they never bothered to put any in the fridge for me!)

I finally had to resort to this: when I bought my cokes, I hid them. In the morning before I went to work, I would open one and drink a little, then put it in the fridge. That way, it would still be there, cold (if slightly flat) when I got home.

And I quit buying food ahead of time. I ate out or from the food trucks near the building for lunch at work. I stopped at the grocery store every day on my way home to buy that night's dinner.

It really, really sucked. I told my roommates to stop - I got "the look" that said I was being uptight..... after all, they just "borrowed" it.

Yeah, they didn't see it as stealing at all. But it wasn't there to use when I wanted, even though I purchased it. How is that not stealing?

[This message edited by osxgirl at 1:01 PM, May 23rd (Friday)]

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