May 11 2011 | 11:53am ET by Deirdre Brennan
The SALT Conference in Las Vegas officially opens today, but it really began yesterday, as men in suits rushed to catch flights to the biggest hedge fund confab of the year. I expected to bump into a few friendly faces on the flight, which I did, but it was the pre-boarding drama at the Borders book store in JFK’s terminal 5 that really got my attention. As I was browsing the bestsellers, a tall gentleman in a suit glanced quickly at the lighthearted summer reads and then headed over to the serious section—the table with The Big Short and the other Wall Street must-reads. I paid no further attention to my likely fellow SALT-goer—until I saw him steal a book.
In fairness, I don’t think he entered the store with the intention of pilfering a hardback, but he did. While waiting on line in front of me, the man's phone rang. He spoke loudly, as self-important people are wont to do in public. Still yapping away on his Blackberry, he wandered out of the store, merchandise in hand. For a moment the store clerk and I watched, certain he would return once he realized his mistake. Moments turned into minutes as I paid the $13.99 for Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto and chatted with the cashier and the store assistant, who decided they were not going to run after him. He was well-dressed; they were sure he would be back.
Curiosity got the best of me and I sat down outside the store and watched, certainly the man would return to pay. After all, this was likely some well-to-do, highly-educated financial professional. Five, 10, 15 minutes passed. He wasn’t coming back. He stole the book.
At last night's welcome reception, sure enough, there he was. Holding my glass of chardonnay, I looked at him and he at me. There was a glimmer of recognition, but I don't think he remembered me as an eye witness to his misdemeanor.
So, tall man in suit who speaks too loudly on the phone and nicked that book yesterday in JFK’s terminal 5—when you get return, go back to that Borders and plunk down the $29.95 you owe and say you are sorry, you realized your mistake when you were already on the plane. Just because you work in finance, wear a nice suit and think that the world will stop if you don’t answer every call on your Blackberry, stealing—unintentional or not—is not ok.
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