Way, way back in 1968, I started a courier/messenger company in London, Ontario. To cover the costs of running the dispatch office, I thought it logical to contract with an oil company to operate a service station on their behalf. The profits on gasoline sales would, I hoped, cover the costs of the office. The profits I had expected turned out to be meagre at best, so to make a few more pennies, I filled the office shelves with various confectioneries like potato chips and candy. More on that later.
I was an ambitious guy. Before really knowing anything at all about what I was doing, I decided that if one service station was good, two would obviously be better. I had asked my younger brother to join me as partner in my enterprises, and before long he ran one service station and I the other. Our contract with Arrow Petroleum stated that the service stations had to be open to the public from 7:00am to 11:00pm Monday through Saturday, and from 9:00am to 9:00pm on Sundays. That amounts to, if I remember correctly, 108 hours per week. That was our work week. My brother, at age 18, worked 108 hours at one service station and I, at age 23, 108 hours at the other. I was already married and, as you might imagine, neglected my home life. My brother was still single. He didn't have a life. No time. No energy. No money.
Eventually, even in our piss and vinegar years, we just couldn't keep up the pace. Although we really couldn't afford it, we hired some help to run the service stations during the evenings, when our courier company wasn't in operation.
I was naive in the extreme. Although I had already had two small businesses before the adventures described here, I had no real business training and, true to my optimistic nature, trusted everyone. I trusted suppliers to honour their commitments, customers to pay their bills and employees not to steal from me. Why not? Everyone was honest and honourable, right? Even the fact that in an earlier business, my very first business partner had stolen from the teen-age night club we operated together, didn't dampen my faith in humankind. People are basically decent, I thought.
I still think that people are basically decent. I am, even now, probably way too trusting. Still, I have been defrauded, stolen from, lied to, so many times that I should know better.
One of the earliest examples of employee theft still makes me shake my head, so many years later. Once my brother and I had hired some people to operate our two service stations in the evenings and on weekends, I got quite an education. I won't bore you with all the details here. There are far too many stories to tell and you won't sit still that long. Well, maybe just one story... that's not too much, is it?
At the service station under my command, I started getting complaints from customers that the packages of Smarties we sold from our confectionery shelves seemed not to have as many of the little coloured candies in them as usual. I thought first of complaining to the wholesaler from whom we purchased our confections. It didn't make sense though, that someone there would deliberately remove a few individual Smarties from each package, so I decided to investigate further. I opened a couple of fresh Smarties packages and counted the number of candies inside. Then I counted the contents of some packages that had been on the shelves for a while. Yep. About 1/4 of the candies that should have been inside were gone. Stealing entire Smarties packages would have been too obvious, so our thief got creative. Stealing a few candies from each package wouldn't attract any attention, he thought. Had he only taken two or three candies from each package, we would never have noticed. He got greedy. He took too many. We eventually tracked the theft to a young fellow who worked for us in the evenings, and he was fired.
Life is like that.
Our governments are stealing Smarties from us. Our liberties are disappearing one by one. We don't notice the loss as quickly that way. We're still mostly free, after all, right? By the time we notice that our Smarties box is nearly empty, it will be too late to do anything about it. It may, in fact, be too late already.
When I fired the young Smarties thief, there was a pretty good chance that the next employee might not be a thief. When we elect new governments, what are the real chances that they, unlike their predecessors, are going to keep their hands off our Smarties, our bank accounts, our investments, our homes and businesses?
None. Governments don't recognize that the Smarties or anything else you 'own' are yours in the first place. Property rights aren't completely enshrined in our constitutions (American or Canadian) and whatever we think we own can be taken away, either through taxation or outright seizures on various pretexts.
Think about that the next time you munch on a Smartie. If Smarties aren't available where you live, substitute M&Ms.