The Strange Disgrace






              There’s a book I intend to get, one with a title of real truth — The Tragedy of Stealing. The author, D. K. Olukoya — a man quite distant and yet to be known — made a brief comment in the inside cover. It was a comment that truly applies to the theft that shocked recent and countless customers of the Liquor Board of Ontario — LCBO. Dr. Olukoya probably knows nothing of it, but in his book’s introduction he indirectly addresses the opportunistic theft of many employees: “A person who believes in God with all his heart will never steal.” That’s obviously true – at least for those who know their faith, no matter the theology. Mind you there are lots and lots of workers who are far from faith but close to theft, seeing it simply as an opportunity. I would not be surprised if this practice, if not disciplined, is just another opportunity; their outlook on life is not sacred, just secular. Many of such LCBO staff people are sure they won’t get caught hence are guided by an old and ugly saying: “If you don’t get caught you get all you steal…”

                 It’s only fair to say that most employees refrain from theft, but over the years, I would not be terribly shocked if say, clerks in clothing stores exploit those customers who buy readily and lose the same way.  I mentioned this to an acquaintance and he agreed and as he walked away he looked back with a wide smile and repeated what he’d heard from a colleague who laughed as he spoke: “It’s not stealing, it’s just retrieving…” But, easy as it goes, we must take a far more serious approach on what has happened and just may happen over and over again. Years ago, Dale Carnegie was discussing marketing and he said this to his friends: “The successful person will profit from his mistakes and try again in an honorable way…”  That, if I may say, is the ethical way of all theological, moral and ethical principals. Given what has happened in Ontario’s LCBO, it is only appropriate to tell those who stole the goods that theft is theft.

          Mind you, we must not blame the theft upon just the men and women who are at the counter. Two highly placed businessmen — Stephen O’ Keefe along with Warren Thomas — have calmly written on this sensitive matter in The Toronto Star on January 15th, focused on the fact of utter dishonest self interest by those who lifted the gin, wine or whatever, while no one saw it happen. (Both essays can be reached on line.) Two aspects of their perspective impressed me and incited others who read them. One example: Mr. Thomas, President of Ontario’s Public Service, has courteously reminded us of the exploitation and that it’s a serious matter: “The LCBO brings huge revenues into government coffers, money used for health care, education and infrastructure. But selling controlled substances can be dangerous business.” He also took the opportunity to address another development: “Sadly this government’s cavalier attitude toward alcohol and cannabis has only served to desensitize the public to the downsides.” Absolutely! So be it in the dissertation of Mr. Stephen O’ Keefe, a business consultant, whose point of view was absolutely right: “The challenge is how to find a balance to remain safe, profitable and successful. Unfortunately, the sheer nature of the business means that they are also a consultant target of the criminal element.” His approach was caring: “One thing is clear, every retailer is concerned about employee safety and, while some may frown upon the decisions made regarding shoplifting, they cannot dispute the fact that it is not a decision made frivolously, and safety first is the guiding principle.” Thank you Mr. Thomas and Mr. O’Keefe for both being constructive.

      I can’t close without raising the question of ethical values. In my view, those who oversee the LCBO have a fair and worthy responsibility to see that all aspects of alcohol produced by highly, reputable agencies from the tiny village to the huge city, are handled ethically. All of this requires a staff that takes serious, productive, and attentive overseeing. Given that, the basic industry should be examined occasionally, not just for quality but safety. A recent publication entitled Workplace Ethics, should never be shunted aside. An old friend, now deceased, would have such discipline that all who purchase and sell alcohol, should have sound ethics. In reading a departmental document of another industry, I came upon the issue of credentials and, in fact, character. In my own view, I would be very pleased to have in the places of work, men and women, whose manner and character are both ideal in both the creation of the product and the character of its people. In a recent publication on workplace issues, I noticed that in its conclusion in both view and tone, both are mild and well mannered. Surely in the industry we are considering, its management will see to it that the men and women at the counters, show courtesy and competence. Yes, if you, reading this, work behind an LCBO counter, never forget that your customers have feelings that may, or indeed will be sensitive. Thereby respect yourself and I’m sure others will respect you.


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