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Friday, 9 September 2016

Stealing when you can't afford it

There was a lady in Penang who was sentenced to jail today.

Her name was Rozita. She was only 29 years old. The headline blared, "Mum jailed for stealing toys". A photograph showed a lady in a headscarf, looking at the ground, with a grim expression on her face. She was flanked left and right by two policewomen, also wearing headscarves.

Rozita was sentenced to 10 days jail and fined RM2,000.

The poor lady. She was walking in a hypermarket called Tesco with her child when the boy started crying that he wanted the toys. Her pockets were empty, but her son's cries made her feel bad.

So she stole the toys from Tesco's shelves. Poor Rozita. She resorted to theft because her pockets were empty.

Maybe they weren't empty, but on that night, she just couldn't afford it. Plenty of people can't afford things, even though they earn a decent salary.

What she took

The Star newspaper reported that she was charged with stealing "RM560 worth of goods including a packet of batteries, a toy car, a wireless charger, a remote-controlled helicopter and a toy car battery."

The journalists had to include the toy car battery in there. And there was a packet of batteries too. Couldn't they have just combined the two batteries into one description? Really, they should learn the D-R-Y principle: Don't Repeat Yourself.

It was only RM560 worth of goods. RM560 which she could have saved up, and paid after half a month. RM560 from honest work. 

Instead, she is now forced to cough up RM2,000 and all the toys have probably been returned to Tesco.

How she could have gotten toys for her child

1. Ask for them

She could have asked her friends and colleagues for second hand toys. Toys which their kids had outgrown and could not be sold, because the paint had chipped off or there was a dent or two in the side. Toys which are well-beloved but are not played with anymore. Toys which once entertained their children for hours and hours on end, until they bought a new toy and the old toy became a piece of plastic in the corner. She could borrow the toys, or, if she's lucky enough, she could get the toys for free. That might happen if the toys are located in very cramped houses. The owners need more space.

2. Create a pool of children's toys

She could have pooled some of her children's toys with her friends' children's toys. They would have a pool of toys which their children could take turns to play. Because children get bored too, after playing with the same toy for some time. And children want to play the same toys that their friends play. They might not say it out loud, but they want to touch their friends' toys. And maybe play with them.

3. Approach NGO's who do fundraising and charity work.

There are people who make it their life's work to do good deeds. I like to think that I am one of them, but I realise that I cannot be endlessly altruistic. Not so for some people. There are people who are dedicated to helping charities. She should have approached these charities about her son's wish for toys, and how she cannot afford to buy toys. A light bulb moment might occur, and an NGO might consider raising funds for not only her, but people in her neighbourhood, who have children similar to hers.

She might want to consider skimping on other things so that she can afford more toys.

4. Saving up.

Remember when you were a kid? You had a measly sum of RM1 per day to spend at school. It was small then, but it was a lot to you. But then you went to bookstores and you saw that certain books were RM10. So you skipped food and you saved up the money for 10 days. That was ten days without food during recess. Ten days of sitting quietly in the library while your stomach made the loudest noise in the library. Ten days. If you could do it then, she can do it now. She can save up, too.

5. Work at a children's toy store

This might elicit a "Huh?" response from you. But it's true, if you work in a certain place, sooner or later you will get to bring home certain stuff from work. Think about the people who work in McDonald's. They get to eat McDonald's for free every day. Sometimes the food doesn't get sold in a cafe or restaurant and the workers get to bring them home. I think it works the same way. She could work in a children's toy store. They have display units there, just like IKEA. But those display units usually aren't sold. Instead, they are kept as demo pieces. She could ask for them, if she was working in such a place.

6. What else?

I'm not sure what else she could have done. But thieving surely wasn't the best thing to do. And I'm sure that it will impact her in the future. These kinds of things are sparked by very trivial things, but they will haunt a person for years and years. 

I know the feeling that you get when your child keeps pointing at a toy and saying, "I want this one....!" I know the feeling when you know that you've bought another toy a few days before, but your wife wants to get it anyway. Oh, your wife and your kid. Or maybe just your kid. I know that feeling. It's not a nice feeling, but at least, you've got feelings. 

Most people forget that the "thing" they want -- a mobile phone, a toy, a new piece of clothing -- all these are just there to make you feel good. You want the enjoyment you get from using the phone, from playing with the toy, from wearing the clothing. You don't have to own it. You can just enjoy it.

But toys tend to have a short shelf life. You buy them, and then your kid plays with them. After one month, your kid is bored and he wants a new toy. It's better to spend your money on other things that will impact your child positively.

Thanks for reading.

Here are some other pieces from me.