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My wife and I know this couple who really dote on their son. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of parents do that. The thing is, they never really discipline him much for anything. A few weekends ago, we all went to the science museum and then to a restaurant. It was a small but crowded place. At one point the boy—he’s seven years old—had to go to the bathroom. It was located around a corner at the other end of the room. He’s a quiet kid and acts pretty mature. So, off he went.

When he returned, he had $12 and some change. The wife said: “Look at you, my little man!” The husband winked at us and told us how he liked to pick up tip money from the tables. “He’s going to be a stockbroker,” the wife added, beaming.

We were shocked. Not only did they neglect to use this as a “teachable moment,” but they were proud of his thievery. To top it off, the wife put the $12 in her purse. My wife, who used to work as a waitress, was about to explode. I squeezed her knee under the table, because I didn’t want this embarrassing situation to escalate in front of our children. After we paid and left, I ran back and left an extra $12 on our table as a tip. There was only one waitress working, so I figured she still got her money.

My wife thinks I shouldn’t have done that. My feeling is, now that we know this about these people, we’ll just avoid them as much as we can. I mean, who ever heard of such a thing? Was there a better way to handle this?

The Silent Witness

The Omniscient One says: You certainly missed an opportunity. The scene should have gone thusly: “Wow, I’m impressed. That was pretty good, kid, and that your parents encourage you is really cool. Did you ever see the movie Oliver? I love the character Fagan. He has a whole crew of kids who roam London picking pockets for him. Very talented kids. However, you should know there’s a much less dangerous way to get cash than from restaurant tables. Try raiding your mom’s purse. Trust me, you can always get a good haul there. Or when your dad falls asleep, go through his wallet and take a few bills. That’s usually where the big money is, the $20, $50, and sometimes $100 bills. And since you’re stealing from them, you don’t have to share it with them. You could also sell mom’s jewelry, but get it appraised first so you don’t undersell. It’s also pretty safe to steal from where your dad works because they probably won’t call the police. Ask your dad to take you into work with him sometime. You’d take him to your job to steal from your coworkers or boss, wouldn’t you? Waiter, could we have some more wine? This round’s on the boy.”

The Practical Cogitator says: Whoa! I’m shocked that you didn’t look at it as a “teachable moment.” It was thoughtful that you left a replacement tip for the server, but the better way to handle that situation would have been to take the seven-year-old by the hand and have him return the money. If his parents weren’t going to do it, then clearly the whole family had a lesson to learn. Which, in your company, they did not. You know you are going to avoid them from here on out, so you may as well have helped the rest of the working servers on the way out. And, with parents like that, their “little man” is going to end up in a little cell.

Strictly Classified says: Well, if only you could hop in the “WABAC Machine.” Anyway, sounds like your friends are lousy, and are grooming a louse of a kid. I would avoid them like the plague. Should they happen to ask why you and your wife haven’t been around, tell them you found their behavior appalling.

Smart Money says: I’m with your wife. You should have said something then and there. Those people are thieves and scum. I hate people who steal. When they ask why you’re avoiding them, tell them.

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