Saturday, December 29, 2012

Temptation or Torture

You want it. But you can’t have it. It’s not yours. In fact, it never was.
But it’s there. In your life. In your way. With entirely too easy access.

You could try to take it. You might even get away with it. It’s possible you won’t get caught. But if you are found out, there WILL be consequences. Maybe serious ones.

Is it worth it?

How do you decide?

Over three week ago, I ended up with an extra $1,000 in my checking account.

The day I was paid at work, I deposited six small checks into my bank account through an ATM. One of the checks was read incorrectly by the machine. As soon as I saw the balance I knew something was wrong. It miss-read a $175.00 check for $1,175.00. The machine showed me the total for the deposit but didn’t give me the chance to verify the check amounts. Unless it deems that is has trouble reading a check, the automatic process passes over the verification part and goes straight to asking you if you have any other transactions you want to do.

This wouldn’t have happen if I’d used the ATM I typically frequent, which requires you to deposit and verify one check at a time. But I happen to be on the other side of town that day and used one of the newer ATMS that accepts multiple checks.

As a small business owner, I rely on cultivating and maintaining a good working relationship with my clients. I certainly wouldn’t want to make a client think that I was trying to cheat them of an extra grand.

I printed a receipt and immediately called the 800 number to get this fixed before anyone was the wiser. The associate I spoke to was very kind and seemed very efficient. They thanked me for catching the mistake and told me they would adjust the balance. I thought that would be the end of it.

Fast forward two weeks later, and the $1,000 was STILL in my account. I received a letter the following week saying that while the discrepancy was being investigated they had temporarily put $1,000 in my account. But a week after that it’s still there!

With the economy being rough, the holidays upon us and business being slow, the temptation has been there to dip into that extra thousand. Just treat it like an interest free loan. Maybe hope that they’ll forget about it in all the holiday fuss and fanfare.

But what if I do that and they suddenly decide the investigation is over and they yank it back out? Then my account will be overdrawn and I’ll be hit with overdraft charges. Or worse, penalized for fraudulent spending.

I’m sure the “investigation” is just part of the bank’s policies. But it almost feels like the money is being left in my account for an absurdly long length of time to tempt or torture me. Kind of a thumb to the nose at me over what is just a teeny sparkle on a drop of water in the bucket that catches just the condensation from the overflow that banks experience daily.

Several times a week I do my online banking, gauge my spending and determine the allocation of funding. Lately, I find myself sitting there hungrily thinking about how I would spend an extra $1,000 dollars.

It’s going on a month now. How long can this “investigation” take??

This isn’t the first time I’ve been tempting by something that I wanted by couldn’t have. Through the years there have many temptations that far exceed a small stack of cash. Unlocked cars in empty parking-lots, dropped personal possessions, poorly monitored merchandise in stores and less attentive women’s husbands and boyfriends.

We’ve all had opportunities that maybe we didn’t go looking for, but fell into our laps anyway.

So how do you decide how to react? Weigh the pros and cons? Try to justify your need vs. your want? State that others have more of what you want and since no one else is claiming it, you might as well?

Maybe you turn to religion for moral guidance. Assuming that your own personal moral compass that you were born with isn’t working, maybe asking for divine advice is the answer. Maybe a close friend or family member serves as a confidante.

But more often than not, I believe we already know in our hearts, our guts, our higher brain, what is right, what is moral and what is correct.

We can fight it, negotiate and struggle with truth, but at the end of the day, if you’re going to look yourself in the mirror and like who you see, you have to make the right choice.

After all, you state the true nature of your character by how you act when you think no one is watching. We ARE the sum of all our actions and choices. And that means living with integrity.

So it goes with the money taunting me in my account. It will sit there untouched for however long it takes my bank to get their act together and remove it.

Because while I want it, I can’t have it. It’s not mine. In fact, it never was.

End of story.