Food & Drink

Why It's Actually Awful to Sneak Soda In Your Free Water Cup, Jerks

soda machine
charnsitr/Shutterstock

Don't get me wrong. I like cheating the system as much as anyone else. In college I'd hit up the pizza place after the bar, and ride home with my own pizza delivery guy. One time, I wore a belt to a wedding, and returned it the next day (it was fine). Hell, when I'm standing in front of a soda fountain, I'll fill it up, take a few "gratuity sips," then fill it up again before returning to my booth and/or Honda CRV.

But there's one thing I'll never do: ask for a pro-bono water cup, then proceed to clandestinely fill said free water cup with anything besides water.

Well, scratch that. It's something I won't do anymore.

Sure, when I was a kid -- lacking in funds and morals -- I might have parlayed a water cup procured in generosity into a glass of Mountain Dew: Code Red at times. Hey, I was only (a young) human, and Code Red is like the ambrosia of a 12-year-old God with an Xbox Live account. But recently, when news of soda larceny gone awry made the rounds (an incident that ultimately ended in arrest) it made me rethink my past, and reconcile with the carbonated error of my past mistakes. 

When you steal soda, you aren't cheating the system.You're screwing over fast food employees.

For this piece, I talked to my friend, who wished to stay anonymous but is currently a manager at a major, nationwide fast food chain (hint: it rhymes with nacho smell). Here were his thoughts:

"Do I care, personally, if someone takes a water cup and fills it up with soda? No. It's not going to affect me, my team, or my store. I mean one mini cup of soda is not going to mess with any margins, more soda probably spills into the grates under the machine than is actually 'stolen.' But, to be quite honest, it's something that we're supposed to be vigilant about. I've worked at other fast food places in the past and it's the same deal. I don't care. But my boss cares. If he saw me letting people get away with it, he'd be mad. So your average fast food worker doesn't care, but I definitely do. I don't want to get burned, so if I see it, I'm going to say something."

The actual theft of a cup of soda -- especially from a massive food conglomerate -- is negligible. And, let's be real, excusable. But the act of doing so -- and, essentially, brazenly taking advantage of hospitality right in front of the people that work there -- is petty at best, and straight-up arrogant at worst. 

"Again, if my boss sees this happening, it's going to fall on me. It's easier to just try and make sure it never happens, it's not worth it. I'm sorry if you have to pay a couple bucks for a cup, but this is my job."

He makes some valid points. Believe me: I'm anything but a tight-ass when it comes to bending the rules. But how you treat service workers as a customers is a true measure of a person's character. And if you're engaging in duplicitous soda thievery, let's be honest, you're treating them incredibly poorly.

If there's even a slight chance that what you are doing might mess with the livelihood of the person who just served you, why would you risk it?

Pony up. Pay the two bucks. And enjoy your Baja Blast like a morally responsible human being. 

It's not called being an adult. It's called not being a selfish monster. 

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Wil Fulton is a staff writer at Thrillist and a passionate doer of other stuff. For more info, you'll have to do a free background check.