Negotiating with a Thief


So it’s late in the evening, and a homeowner is snuggled on his couch, about to wrap up watching his favorite TV show and head off to bed. Without knocking, someone opens the front door and comes right in, looks at the homeowner, and sits on his couch.

Shocked, he asks who the person is.

“I’m a thief, I’m here to take your things,” he says with a smile.

“Well, I don’t want to give you anything I’ve worked so hard to get,” he responds angrily; “now get out of my house!”

“No, no, I won’t be leaving until we’ve come to some sort of consensus,” the thief replies. “You know, government has changed, and according to the rules, I get to take some of your stuff because I’m poor. You’re not going to be one of those ‘right wing’ nuts and refuse to even speak with me are you?”

“I’m not a right wing nut, but I earned my money and bought these things on my own. Why don’t you get a job and buy your own things?”

“You cold-hearted, uncaring person,” responds the thief. “I have children I have to take care of, and you have more things than you need. We should at least negotiate. How dare you try to use your wealth and privilege against me, since I’ve had a hard life and people have discriminated against me.”

“How have people discriminated against you?” the homeowner asks incredulously. The young man seemed healthy, but maybe it was true that he had been taken advantage of during his life, maybe left out somehow, marginalized. The homeowner was willing to at least listen at this point.

“Do you need some food? I have food in the cabinet I could give you,” offered the homeowner.

“That is insulting,” yelled the thief! “How dare you offer me charity like that?”

Completely confused, the homeowner asks again, “how were you discriminated . . .”

“By this system we have,” said the thief, cutting off the homeowner. This system of capitalism, that makes people so rich. They steal money from me, so I’m gonna steal it back. Now give me one of your flat screens!”

“Wait a minute,” said the homeowner, ” how does one person getting rich take anything at all from another? Besides, I only have one. I had to save up for a while to get it.”

“But I bet you have other TV’s, don’t you?” asked the thief.

“Well, yes, but they are older and not as good; I really like my flat screen.”

“I like it too, but since I have none and you have more than one kind of TV, I should be able to pick which one I get. Oh, and I need you to pay my cell phone bill too.”

“Wait a second, I can barely afford my own phone, and how could I possibly pay for yours?”

“There you go with your elitist excuses; I need a phone to be able to talk to my wife, while I’m trying to get a job,” the thief explained.

“Okay, okay,” relented the homeowner. “That I can understand; I’ll pay for a simple phone for you to help you find a job.”

The thief smiled and sat back on the couch, “that’s good, now you are starting to see the light. The poor need your help to get better and you have it better so you should share.”

“Well, okay, but only for a few months. Things are really tight for us right now.”

“Tight for you? Tight for you!” demanded the thief. “What about for me? What about for my family? You got this nice house, nice car outside . . . you got it good.”

“Yes, but I’ve worked for years to get these things; I’ve sacrificed, paid a lot of money in taxes, and the government keeps taking more and more, and as prices go up it’s harder and harder to make ends meet. What have you done with your life?”

“You racist bastard! Asking me how I have lived my life; that is none of your business!” The thief started to get up and looking angrily at the homeowner. “All you Republicans are the same. You hate on us poor people! Why don’t you walk in my shoes for a while?”

“I, I have . . . I did . . . I stared out as a dishwasher and later flipping burgers at a hamburger joint. I worked my way up, went to school . . .”

“Oh, you went to school. I’m sure your daddy paid for that and now you are one of those people who thinks you’re better than me . . . I’m really gonna have to take that TV now.”

“I worked my way through college, and I’m still paying off those loans. I don’t think I am better . . .”

“Yes, you do. You look down on people like me because we are poor and you have no compassion!” The thief looked around for something else to take.

“I’m not even a Republican . . .”

“Oh, and next you are going to tell me you have a lot of poor friends right — that your best friend is poor?” The thief looked out the window at the front of the house, “and I’m gonna need to borrow your car to get all this stuff.”

“My, my car? Are you kidding me? You just said you wanted a phone; I haven’t agreed to give you the TV.”

“The TV is a special compensation for you being a racist! And while we are on the topic, I think I need your help with the couch.”

“No, I will not stand for that,” said the homeowner.

“Well, okay, this week, just the TV and the phone, and let me borrow the car. I’ll have it back next week . . .”

“This week . . . next week?” The homeowner didn’t know what else to say.

“Look, I’m a thief; I can take it all now, or little by little. You really want to leave your family with nothing all on one night?”

“Well, no, but . . .”

“Well, then I’ll be back next week. And we can negotiate some more. We keep this up, and we can end my poverty in a month or two . . .”


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