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Poll: Do you think it is immoral to steal chemicals and equipment?
Yes --- 31 (68.89%)
No --- 14 (31.11%)

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JJay
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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 18:02
Do you think it is immoral to steal chemicals and equipment?


Occasionally, when reading some guide or other, or when discussing sundry chemistry topics with the denizens of these interwebs, someone suggests obtaining chemicals or equipment by theft. Do you think it is immoral to steal in order to advance the frontiers of human knowledge?



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NEMO-Chemistry
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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 18:48


are we being totally specific on theft? For example.

Nice Tech at school gave me things that were not going to be used anymore, is that defined as theft? Large bottle of DCM I am given 150ml to take away, is that theft?

If your working in black and white then no theft is isnt right, if your into grey areas then its down to conscience. If something is on its way to the skip then yes I think its a duty to recycle rather than dump. If you need a crow bar to get it then no you probably not take it.
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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 19:04


Yeah, definition of theft is the hold up here.

"I've been given lots of equipment from my school's lab by the teachers." That's pretty clearly honest.

"I've also taken a couple of things out of the trash." Grey area?

"I once took a pipette bulb cuz i needed it." That's almost certainly theft, but it feels OK - it's only one pipette bulb and I do a lot of work in the lab.

BTW all of those statements are true.

But: "I took the school's 1 liter anhydrous ethanol" would count as theft to me." (And I haven't done that)

Also important to keep in mind a certain bias by me being a teenager.




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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 19:17


I guess he means the "its been sitting here for ages, the sticker is begining to fall off and i'd have an use for it, they even have more" kind of theft.
I voted no, but i'll elaborate my answer. I admit having taken things I was not suposed to take. Never anything expensive, never anything dangerous, and never anything that was gonna be missed.

I'll give three examples, two of wich I admit are things I have done:

Case one: I once took a bunch of solder, because I needed for a project at home, I had ordered solder online, but It hadnt arrived, and I took some, more than I needed.
- How much was that worth? 50 cent? 30?
- If I had asked, they'd have said yes for sure, but since im a shy person, I didnt go through the process of finding someone with autority to allow me to take it.
- Technically, yes that would be theft, moral? I'd say yes, as I wasnt harming anyone, I was just not going through the hasle of having to ask someone.

Case two: aluminium powder. Once, from a reagent bottle we took some aluminium powder to make thermite, I was a a bit of a kewl back then, wanted to make some thermite, we took it, and we made the worst thermite I have seen in my whole life. This is the biggest thing I have ever "stolen"
- How much was what we took worth? 1€? probably less, 50cent? dont know, not much.
- Would they have given it to us if we asked? probably not, as we wanted it to make it thermite, the reason they wouldnt have given it was to protect us and to protect themselves, as they could get into trouble if we got harmed.
- Did we harm anyone, anything? No, and as I said, it was the lamest thermite ever.
- Again, yes, that would be theft, but moral? I wouldnt say it was immoral, we had no way of getting aluminium powder back then, it wasnt worth much, the sticker was falling off, maybe the purpose we wanted it for was something some people wouldnt really respect, but this is a whole different topic.

Case three this one is not something that I have ever done, but I wanted to give an example of what I wouldnt consider moral. A 64% nitric acid bottle on school.
-Price? Not cheap
-Would they have given it if I asked? Not at all.
-Could it harm something/dangerous? Well, I dont have to say it, but I put this here to show my point.
-Something they could miss, something they could get in trouble for loosing.
-I'd consider this one immoral. From the first and second to the third one, there is a big step, and there are lighter things that I would consider immoral, but I cant find of an example right now.

TL;DR i'd say it depends on several factors. Value, expendability, dangerousness, etc

Edit: I like the example Vosoryx gave as something ligher than my 3rd case, but still immoral, the alcohol one.

[Edited on 12-2-2018 by ficolas]
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JJay
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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 20:52


I think it is immoral, but my aim here is to find out what other people think, not to judge anyone for their opinions or tell anyone what is right and wrong.



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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 23:35


I would say straight-up theft is immoral, but there are grey areas. One time a worker from a broadband internet provider came to my residence to make some changes to the equipment for my internet connection. I offered to help him, and I handed him tools, etc. He moved an antenna, cut a bunch of cable and replaced it with a new, better protected (thicker plastic) one (he said the old one was junk). At one point, he asked me to set a big kinked up piece of excess data cable to the side. Assuming all the chopped cable was going to be thrown away, I coiled it up neatly so I could salvage it for myself. It was maybe 10-15 m, probably worth at very least a few € if new. Anyhow, he finished the job, and picked up all the stuff and took it back to the truck, overlooking that one piece of data cable. I kept it, of course. Was that immoral? Well, loosely based on what ficolas said...
I thought it would be thrown away, it might have been anyway. If that's the case, I'm glad I saved it.
What if the internet company was going to reuse it? Then setting it aside might be called theft, albeit a theft based on a misunderstanding.
There are plenty of dangerous or downright evil things you could do with 15 meters of data cable, but I wasn't doing any of them, and this object isn't inherently dangerous.
If I had asked, he probably would have given me it and all the other scraps of cable, if he was going to throw it out, but if he was saving it (the company does save routers and dishes, I know that), then he wouldn't give it. If you went into a company building and pinched a length of new cable, of course they'd stop you or call the police:D
I tend to think they didn't save cable, since they were upgrading to a new type, and it was in a random length. Just an example, not a chemistry one per say, but it illustrates how sometimes you don't know if they'd miss it. To be moral, I should've asked the workers permission, but I was soo sure he'd just toss it in my trash and I'd have to fish it out.

Edit:
For a more clear-cut and serious case of "It's just laying around, why not grab it" theft, a friend once told me about a guy who would take tools from his work. He'd only take one thing at a time, but he eventually amassed about 25000€ of tools over many years. The Perp. felt it was okay because he was keeping it all for his own personal use (ie, he didn't sell them) but this still is grossly immoral and damaging theft, without ever having to take something he was denied access to.


[Edited on 12-2-2018 by Vomaturge]
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[*] posted on 11-2-2018 at 23:47


I knew someone who used to take odd bits of small and old equipment in my chemistry class. Tubes, spatulas, thermometers, a flask here and there, sometimes would go through the (never accessed) drawers when the teacher left the room. Even saw them lift a very old (no ground joints!) Davies condenser, when the go-to is a Liebig. None of my peers seemed to care, and if the school had cottoned on then there was never an investigation or even any questions asked.

To be perfectly honest, I myself used to take a test/boiling tube occasionally for chemistry at home, just because there were at least 50 in the box when the sets were brought out, it just doesn’t seem worth buying them especially with no major income at the time. They were essentially disposable and commonly broken, I would hazard a guess and say there were at least a few hundred in the prep/tech room - the lower years did the real damage in dropping and cracking them all the time. Never any reagents or QuickFit stuff though which can be expensive, I bought all of the ones I own.

Whether it’s immoral or not, in the absence of authority opinion, I’d put that down to price and usage. Taking essentially worthless and plentiful items would be like stealing a few pieces of paper or pencils, whereas a bottle of something would much more likely be noticed and disrupt operations. There’s a scale to it that depends on its characteristics, like Ficolas said.




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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 04:01


Yes, because other person will always feel bad if they find out.
Once I entered biggest chemical selling company in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It was my first time there. The whole place was full of chemicals, even uranium and concentrated hydrogen peroxide and sulfuric acid. Even all glassware was at reach of my hand.
I knocked in one room's door and 2 people who were inside said they are busy and i should wait.
They were on phone call. I waited 10 minutes or more. During that time i observed all chemicals and noticed there are no cameras or any security. I had a bag ready to put things in. But I didn't need those chemicals at that time. So I didn't steal anything.

Police station was 2 metres accross exit of this building. The company is called Semikem, and now they moved to another larger building. Next time I got there and wanted to buy one test tube, they gave me two for free.

I felt so cool, and became even more interested in chemistry. I am mentioning place and location because i didn't steal. And it's now no longer location.
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 05:15


People take office supplies all the time and justify this by feeling they are underpaid. My mother was an RN, head of surgery. I have several hemostats and a fine pair of ss scissors thanks to her. She was an ordinary person and would tell you that stealing is wrong. My wife worked in grade schools. I gave her a bad time for taking paper by the ream. I've taken small stuff and still feel it was wrong 20 years later. We are human and this is what most humans do. But, yes, it is immoral.



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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 05:20


For me, the answer to this question is very simple: Yes

I see stealing something which isn't yours as a wrong thing. Doesn't matter how badly you want it, if it isn't yours, then it simply isn't yours and you have to accept that.

Sometimes, asking things can be very rewarding and when people give things you may gladly accept them. Also, if something really is thrown away or lost (and cannot be returned to its owner) then you can take it as well and then you can call yourself a lucky boy (or girl).




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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 05:41


The simple edict :-

"treat others like you want to be treated "

means no setting fire to people, no eating their pets, no stealing their stuff etc.

Theft is basically theft no matter how you look at it.

Any god-ist in the room should be shouting about the 8th commandmant.




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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 06:11


I have a very famous story that concludes with the theft of energetic materials not being immoral:

It's the story about one named Prometheus :)

That said, I havent stolen chems for... decades maybe ? (in my defense, leaving a mercury barometer in a hallway at school no one ever went to was criminal!)
Last time I asked for "100ml" of something I was given 1 liter! And a micro distillation kit in a suit case, and then some hardware that was going to the bin...
This is actually how I got back in the hobby.
I was never asked to... show gratitude in the expected way we had settled for at that time (involves tongues and toes if you must know). But since my friend and I talked a lot I also knew what small gifts might please her and her class. Last time I gave her something it was luminol. Fair trade !
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 06:38


As others have said, there is a gray area. I wouldn't say I have ever blatantly stolen anything from school or work, but whenever I have the opportunity to snag something that's going to be thrown out, I will always take it if it would be useful to me, even if I haven't gotten explicit permission. In high school, I got a nice glassware drying rack that was going to be thrown out when they were remodeling the chemistry classrooms. I also (with my teacher's permission) took many jars of expired chemicals that were going to be picked up by the Hazmat people. Honestly I was probably saving the school some money on that one. In the research lab I work in now, test tubes, vials, and pasteur pipettes are considered disposable, so when I'm finished with a vial I stick it in my backpack rather than in the broken glassware bin. I've amassed enough test tubes and pipettes at the present to where I no longer need to take any. I also take empty bottles and jars (now I can pretend my DCM came from Sigma and not KleanStrip). When they were remodeling all the labs in the building, I got the old lab sink faucet, a small cabinet, and a stool. I don't think any of this is immoral, in fact, in a sense it is moral/ethical to take things in this way, since I'm putting things to use that would otherwise end up in a landfill.



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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 06:45


Quote: Originally posted by ficolas  

Case one:
...
If I had asked, they'd have said yes for sure, but since im a shy person, I didnt go through the process of finding someone with autority to allow me to take it.

But since I'm a shy person, I decided to be a criminal instead of just asking.

Quote: Originally posted by ficolas  

- Technically, yes that would be theft, moral? I'd say yes, as I wasnt harming anyone, I was just not going through the hasle of having to ask someone.

The hassle of having a two sentence conversation with another person? The horror! Just go ahead and steal it.
You sure harmed the person that has to order the supplies. I order things for my work all the time and it's an absolute nightmare to go through all the approvals. I'd be pissed if someone took stuff I spent a lot of time buying. Did you at least replace what you took when the solder you ordered came in?


Quote: Originally posted by ficolas  

Case two: aluminium powder.
...
- How much was what we took worth? 1€? probably less, 50cent? dont know, not much.
- Would they have given it to us if we asked? probably not, as we wanted it to make it thermite, the reason they wouldnt have given it was to protect us and to protect themselves, as they could get into trouble if we got harmed.
- Did we harm anyone, anything? No, and as I said, it was the lamest thermite ever.
- Again, yes, that would be theft, but moral? I wouldnt say it was immoral, we had no way of getting aluminium powder back then, it wasnt worth much, the sticker was falling off, maybe the purpose we wanted it for was something some people wouldnt really respect, but this is a whole different topic.

It doesn't matter how much it's worth; stealing is stealing. Especially if you're sure they wouldn't let you take it if you asked. How could you possibly think that was OK?
You may not have gotten hurt using it but you sure could have, and then what would have happened? You'd have gotten in trouble for stealing, the school would get in trouble for having their chemicals too accessible, and every student after you would have to suffer the increased security around chemicals that would have resulted. That sort of thing happens all the time; it's how chemophobia grows out of control.
And how the hell is "we had no way of getting [it] back then" justification AT ALL for taking things that aren't yours? I have no way of getting weapons-grade plutonium, so I guess it's fine for me to go steal some. The cops will understand!


Quote: Originally posted by ficolas  

TL;DR i'd say it depends on several factors. Value, expendability, dangerousness, etc

TL;DR none of those factors makes any difference. Your judgment of "expendability" is a lot different than the owner's judgment, I'd wager.
You stole things. Stealing is bad. End of story.
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 08:12


Quote:
Quote: Originally posted by MrHomeScientist  

But since I'm a shy person, I decided to be a criminal instead of just asking.

Yes, thats what I said, no need to make it look worse by changing the words.

Quote: Originally posted by MrHomeScientist  

The hassle of having a two sentence conversation with another person? The horror! Just go ahead and steal it.
You sure harmed the person that has to order the supplies. I order things for my work all the time and it's an absolute nightmare to go through all the approvals. I'd be pissed if someone took stuff I spent a lot of time buying. Did you at least replace what you took when the solder you ordered came in?

No, the hasle of finding someone with power to give it to me. It was at university, a proffesor doesnt really have power to give it to me either, since its a public instotution. He could say I can take it, but because he understands how little it matters if I take it. I had permision to use it, there, not to take it home, but no one would mind.
I took like 50cm of solder from a 20m solder coil, I did not sneak into a place I wasnt suposed to be in and stole all the solder remaining.

Quote: Originally posted by MrHomeScientist  

It doesn't matter how much it's worth; stealing is stealing. Especially if you're sure they wouldn't let you take it if you asked. How could you possibly think that was OK?
You may not have gotten hurt using it but you sure could have, and then what would have happened? You'd have gotten in trouble for stealing, the school would get in trouble for having their chemicals too accessible, and every student after you would have to suffer the increased security around chemicals that would have resulted. That sort of thing happens all the time; it's how chemophobia grows out of control.
And how the hell is "we had no way of getting [it] back then" justification AT ALL for taking things that aren't yours? I have no way of getting weapons-grade plutonium, so I guess it's fine for me to go steal some. The cops will understand!

Yes, you have a good point there, but no one would notice there were 100g missing from a half full 1kg bottle, so no way this would have impacted students or the school. And we werent stupid enough to be caught, we were a bit stupid, but not that much

Quote: Originally posted by MrHomeScientist  

TL;DR none of those factors makes any difference. Your judgment of "expendability" is a lot different than the owner's judgment, I'd wager.
You stole things. Stealing is bad. End of story.


Sure, none of those factors make a difference, I should have stolen a car, im as much of a criminal as for taking 50cm of solder anyways.
The "owner" isnt a person, its an entity. I would never take anything that would have a big negative effect on anyone. The solder would have been used up 3 days later if I didnt take it, and the aluminium, as I said, wasnt used because the school only did the same 3 experiments every year, and I just took a part of it.

[Edited on 12-2-2018 by ficolas]

[Edited on 12-2-2018 by ficolas]
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 09:08


Quote: Originally posted by MrHomeScientist  

TL;DR none of those factors makes any difference. Your judgment of "expendability" is a lot different than the owner's judgment, I'd wager.
You stole things. Stealing is bad. End of story.


Whoa Nelly! Can you point to the place on this doll where the bad thief touched you?

JJay started this thread for opinions, not judgement. Lets see if we can discourage other members from contributing...

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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 09:40


Quote: Originally posted by Magpie  
People take office supplies all the time and justify this by feeling they are underpaid. My mother was an RN, head of surgery. I have several hemostats and a fine pair of ss scissors thanks to her. She was an ordinary person and would tell you that stealing is wrong. My wife worked in grade schools. I gave her a bad time for taking paper by the ream. I've taken small stuff and still feel it was wrong 20 years later. We are human and this is what most humans do. But, yes, it is immoral.


There was research done on this.
Most murders are committed in the name of morality. The person doing the murder does it because he feels he was mistreated in some way and he wants justice.

The same happens sometimes when people steel. They reason that society is cheating them or they are underpaid.

In my case, I stole a few test tubes from school. I stole maybe 1 or 2 g of K2Cr2O7. 1 Mercury thermometer.
This was back when the internet did not exist, in 1996. I called 1 place and they said, sorry, we don't sell to individuals. I think it is after 2000 that eBay and such became popular and glassware and chemical sellers popped up like mushrooms.


[Edited on 12-2-2018 by vmelkon]




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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 09:47


Quote: Originally posted by OldNubbins  

JJay started this thread for opinions, not judgement. Lets see if we can discourage other members from contributing...


Exactly, let's refrain from absolutism and conclusions. Nobody can say absolutely that stealing is bad, no matter how hard they try. If I knew that governement would use something against me I would steal it from them.

Sometimes government or organization may do something harmful for environment, and in such cases stealing may be the only way to prevent it.

I was in city called Pale (nothing to do with word "pale") and there was unbearable smell from one production plant coming off at night. It was so unbearable that I would do anything to immediately steal that plant's devices which allow them to make such smell. It was like a mix of burning cheese, alcohol, acetone and vinegar. Luckily I don't live there and was just passing by. They were doing something with wood, probably dry distillation, but all gases were condensing on us - people. No regulations, protection, law, anything.

There was a debate in Bosnia and Herzegovina about neighboor country radioactive waste disposal on border between these two countries.

When law fails to solve things, survival and force measures have to be used. Closest to stealing would be outcry which happened in this country in 2014 due to similar reasons. Many governement buildings and people were damaged and gave huge loss to country. Another debate is about building power plant on river which can have environmental impact (damage).

Is stealing better than outcry? Yes, I would go for it. Damage can be prevented, reduced, replaced with something better (less worse) such as stealing. Similar to stealing a weapon from enemy so he can't do any damage or so bad damage with it.

So, opinions are welcome, conclusions aren't.
Reccommendations are neither maybe. Take this as my opinion. ;)

[Edited on 12-2-2018 by RawWork]
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 10:00


Stealing is stealing. It stains you if you take something you didn't earn, even if you think it hurts nobody else. You make the call how you reconcile that stain. Unfortunately the way society has put these sciences on the shelf away from the pupil's hands causes this question to be debated. When I can't buy NaCl from Sigma-Aldrich, something is broken. This litigious concern has caused many to either steal, or do without. Yes I stole as a teenager from the unlocked high school storage lab. I knew it was stealing, but the instructors tell us about these reactions without letting us learn them in a practical way. And yes, when my parents found my supply of chemicals there was hell to pay. I wish they would have found an honest way to let me pursue it, but it wasn't to be. I ended up attending university as a mechanical engineer instead of chemical likely because of that... the high school chemistry lessons were tame and the other sciences seemed more interesting by comparison. And it wasn't until 20 years later that I re-entered that intriguing world.

Whether you think burying your talents is worse than stealing from others, that's between you and your creator. A thieving youth will be given far more leeway to his objective than an adult. I find my supplies easier to buy the legal way, but I'm older than 18, am legally liable for my actions, and possess licenses which make things easier to procure. Do schools know that students steal? yes definitely. Will school purchasers buy enough to offset theft? Yes. Does it impact their budget? Definitely, remember it's small to begin with. Will they give it to you if you ask. Not likely, because we're litigious, but they might leave the light on.

As far as comparing things to the paper clip and stationary, consider that the purchasers of these common items have intentions for the purchases. Waste and misuse of this budget is bad, however some companies have tacit acceptance of acceptable personal use at minimal cost to the company. Most thieves don't know what the policy is, or don't care. Personally, I was forced to abandon expensive graphing paper that I owned because my company thought it resembled their own purchase. They are sticklers for white collar crime of stealing such supplies. I couldn't prove my claim so I let it go and learned not to mingle mine with theirs.
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 11:40


I apologize if I offended anyone with my post; apparently this is something I feel strongly about. roXefeller echoes much of my same thoughts but with a more level head.
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 12:48


Quote: Originally posted by roXefeller  
Stealing is stealing. It stains you if you take something you didn't earn, even if you think it hurts nobody else. You make the call how you reconcile that stain. Unfortunately the way society has put these sciences on the shelf away from the pupil's hands causes this question to be debated. When I can't buy NaCl from Sigma-Aldrich, something is broken. This litigious concern has caused many to either steal, or do without. Yes I stole as a teenager from the unlocked high school storage lab. I knew it was stealing, but the instructors tell us about these reactions without letting us learn them in a practical way. And yes, when my parents found my supply of chemicals there was hell to pay. I wish they would have found an honest way to let me pursue it, but it wasn't to be. I ended up attending university as a mechanical engineer instead of chemical likely because of that... the high school chemistry lessons were tame and the other sciences seemed more interesting by comparison. And it wasn't until 20 years later that I re-entered that intriguing world.

Whether you think burying your talents is worse than stealing from others, that's between you and your creator. A thieving youth will be given far more leeway to his objective than an adult. I find my supplies easier to buy the legal way, but I'm older than 18, am legally liable for my actions, and possess licenses which make things easier to procure. Do schools know that students steal? yes definitely. Will school purchasers buy enough to offset theft? Yes. Does it impact their budget? Definitely, remember it's small to begin with. Will they give it to you if you ask. Not likely, because we're litigious, but they might leave the light on.

As far as comparing things to the paper clip and stationary, consider that the purchasers of these common items have intentions for the purchases. Waste and misuse of this budget is bad, however some companies have tacit acceptance of acceptable personal use at minimal cost to the company. Most thieves don't know what the policy is, or don't care. Personally, I was forced to abandon expensive graphing paper that I owned because my company thought it resembled their own purchase. They are sticklers for white collar crime of stealing such supplies. I couldn't prove my claim so I let it go and learned not to mingle mine with theirs.


Fuck that, I would tell them to do an audit and see for themselves its mine, but who takes paper into work??

Actually I have taken paper out the photocopier at school loads of times, mainly to scrawl notes to leave on teachers desks. By rights they charge 10p a photocopy, no idea how much of that is for the paper, but I am not paying to leave a note for teacher who isnt where they should be.

Infact in that case they are stealing from me, i now pay tax. My tax pays there wage, if they not where they are supposed to be, at the time they are supposed to be there, are they not getting paid for something they are not doing?

I am with ZTS on this, common sense tells you if its stealing, recycling is just sense. In the Uk say I lived next door to you (god help you), my tree grows over your side the fence, you can cut it but your stealing if you dont give me the wood.

in the real world however, you go see the guy next door, you say your tree needs cutting my side. I would go round and expect you to help if needed, but sure keep the wood or go halves.

I think if you do something wrong or immoral you fell bad, the moral compass thing. So as long as my compass is roughly point to the M, then I am ok with it.

As for the doll, why? If you really want to know where it was just ask and I will tell you, if your shy I will write it down for you :D.
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JJay
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 14:10


Quote: Originally posted by MrHomeScientist  
I apologize if I offended anyone with my post; apparently this is something I feel strongly about. roXefeller echoes much of my same thoughts but with a more level head.


I too feel strongly about it, but who can dictate morality? I was a bit surprised at the diversity of views on this question.




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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 15:22


Quote: Originally posted by vmelkon  

There was research done on this.

Please state where we can all see that research.

Edit:

Things like "i forgot" do not work, at all, ever.

[Edited on 12-2-2018 by aga]




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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 15:51


Questions about morality are open questions. They have no definitive answer and frequently stir up emotions with resulting bad behaviour.
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[*] posted on 12-2-2018 at 16:59


Quote: Originally posted by wg48  
Questions about morality are open questions. They have no definitive answer and frequently stir up emotions with resulting bad behaviour.


This is a subject I have strong feelings on but will not express them. I just dig myself a hole and then get pushed into it and covered with dirt. Political correctness is very hard on me. I like to call them as I see them.




The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
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