The White Shirt: Is Moral Fiber and Character Defined By a Specific Article of Clothing?
We welcome Dolores Singletary, Director of the Work Ready program to Poverty’s Edge. Dolores has been serving as the Director of the Work Ready program since 2008 and has worked for Community Action since 2005. Thank you for contributing!
Some years ago I worked in a very busy environment that involved multiple retail establishments and property management. This particular business had a very high volume of public traffic and the environment in general was hectic and chaotic. One of the part-time employees of the business was a young man who happened to be a welfare recipient while attending a trade school for mechanical repairs. One day this young man was asked to pick up a payment from one of the vendors and deliver it to the management office, which he did.
A few hours later it was discovered that a portion of the money was missing. The fiscal person informed me of what happened and he immediately believed the young man was at fault for the theft of $10 from an alleged $600 payment. I urged the fiscal person to simply look into the situation before an accusation was made. After all, it was a very busy day and the establishment had many customers. I recommended that he speak with the vendor and I would find the young man. While I confronted him, the young man insisted that he did not take anything from the package and he described the manner in which the vendor counted out the money, put it in an envelope and sealed it.
I asked the fiscal person if the envelope was still sealed when he received it and did it appear to have been tampered with. His response was that it had still been sealed nor did it look as though it had been tampered. But, in his mind, that didn’t mean the young man did not steal the money. I proposed that it may have been possible that the vendor made an error when counting the money. My colleague didn’t think this was even a possibility.
I went to the retail area where the vendor worked and spoke with other store owners near the vendor in question. I found out that the vendor and his wife had an argument that was noticeable to everyone around them. I also inquired about the volume of traffic and all vendors in the immediate area stated that it had been extremely busy.
I met with the fiscal person and told him what I learned from talking with the other neighboring vendors and his response is one that I will never forget. He stated that it could not have been the vendor’s mistake because he is a man who wears a white shirt and a tie everyday. The young, part-time employee was fired that evening.
One week later the vendor came to the management office and admitted that his wife had discovered their till was short $10 on the day in question and he miscounted the money. The vendor apologized profusely. I found it interesting that moral fiber and character was defined by a specific article of clothing. I also found it interesting that, to this man, the welfare recipient could not possibly have been an honest person. It is, indeed, ironic that white collar crime refers to the exact opposite of what my former colleague associated with the “white shirt”.