My Coke Incident

Friday, 31 May, 2013 - 9:43 am

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I had a very uncomfortable experience, which ended well. The lesson I learned from it is once again, not to judge a person before knowing the whole picture. And it was all because of a small bottle of Coca Cola.

I had an early morning meeting in Bern. After finishing the meeting, I went back to the train station, and bought myself a small bottle of Coca Cola on the way. I said the blessing „shehakol nihya bid’varo“ and took a couple of sips all along my trip back to Luzern.

When I arrived in Luzern I get a SMS from Rivky, asking me to buy garbage bags at one of the shops in the train station.

I went in to the Coop supermarket, Coke bottle in hand – now only half full, and again drank a bit from it. At the cashier I asked the lady working there for 3 rolls of garbage bags. Then she asks me „what about the bottle?“ I answered that I had bought this bottle an hour ago in Bern.

However she continues, I saw you drinking from it here in the store.

Immediately I realized what I got myself into. I look different, speak German with a heavy accent, I have hair on my face and on my head there is a piece of cloth. From her point of view I am right now a thief, unless I prove different!

A very unpleasant feeling. I tell her: Listen, I was in Bern one and half hour ago, and that is where  I bought this. I probably shouldn’t have come into your store with it, but this is the truth.

She ignores what I just said with a look that says „You’re not the first to tell me these stories…“ and takes the phone next to her to call security. There is a thief and a liar here, she says.

She asks me, do you have a receipt for this bottle?

Now, I never keep receipts for drinks or other small things which I buy myself on the way.

It was a  very uncomfortable. How do I prove to her that I’m not a thief? The security guard was already standing over me and in my mind I was looking for a lawyer…

I prayed to G-d that he take me out of this mess. And He helped me. I quickly rummage through my pockets and found all kinds of papers  and among them… the receipt for the bottle from the store in Bern.

At that moment everything turned around. She excused herself 100 times and tried to be extra friendly. She even expressed interest with a smile, why I sign my credit card from right to left?

I paid for the garbage bags and said goodbye.

At first I was very upset at her for judging me so quickly. Then I thought, she was actually just doing her job.

It was very uncomfortable, but what I gained from this incident was an important reminder for life. Sometimes you have all the reasons in the world to accuse someone for something or to think badly about him. It is for this reason that the Torah commands us: “ You shall explore, you shall question, you shall inquire”, check very well before you come to a negative conclusion about another person.

Shabbat Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Chaim


Comments on: My Coke Incident

Gerald wrote...

What a great story with an amazing lesson!
Rabbi you always have such a positive spin on things, we have so much to learn from you.
Happy Shabbat!

Hillel wrote...

Enjoyed ur coke story.Working as I do in an extremely sensitive activity and prone to be suspicious ,I reread your last sentence,
Thx .good shabbos

Adrian Steinberg wrote...

Hi Chaim
It was good you had the receipt!

You could have also asked her to make an inventory control of that article and compare the in and out movements. If they have their inventory under control they should realize there is no missing coke. The food articles have a date and lot number. This coke most probably has another code Group being from a different place and they could also verify it is not from their shop.
Summarizing, they are entitled and obliged to check all this before raising an accusation and embarassing a customer.

Under swiss law (and other democratic countries) you are innocent untill they prove you are guilty with evidence. In a Train station it is not a strange thing that somebody walks around with a drink and something to eat.

I think the least they could do is to excuse themselves and get you a pack of kosher garbage bags free of charge:)

mike wrote...

next time carry a coke with חיים written on it

sol wrote...

Reb chaim i love the coke story it teaches me!!!

David wrote...

Dear Rabbi,

I had the almost same exact story myself:
1. I was around 11-13 years old
2. My younger brother insisted on taking a box of candies from our home to go shopping with me.
3. When he pestered my mother allowed him to take it along over protestations.
4. (Of course) at the end of the shopping with all the items in the " well" after the scanner as I'm about to pack them up
5. A manager was leaning over the items asking why I didn't pay for the box of candies.
6. I obviously didn't have the receipt from that purchase, made who knows when.
7. They did not believe me that was from my house
8. I ended up paying for them
9. I am upset to this day, not at my mother chas v shalom just at being in this hopeless helpless situation ashamed and feeling forced to pay when clearly THEY were stealing, ironic I know.
10. This happened in a Migros in Zurich , Enge some 30 years ago.
Your thoughts?