Steve Steals From A Cashpoint
The tale of how Stephen Merchant tried to bring balance to the Universe by stealing from a cashpoint is a famous anecdote from The Ricky Gervais Show on Xfm. Steve has been mocked many times by Ricky and Karl for being tight with money, and this is a good example of his being "industrious". Steve told the anecdote on the 14 June 2003 Xfm show as well as on The Steve Show.
This story begins when Steve was between 10 and 12 years old. Whilst walking past a post office he noticed a purse on the ground. He opened it, looked inside, saw a pension book next to the money and concluded that it was an old lady's purse. He found an address in the purse and sent it back to the lady. Steve's mum reassured her son that he would probably receive a reward for his good deed, which, to his chagrin, he did not (apart from a thank you note). He was livid as he felt he had been a good Samaritan.
Many years later when Steve was at university, he went to a cashpoint (ATM) and noticed he couldn't get his card in. He discovered that someone had put in their card, entered their PIN number and disappeared. The screen presented the usual options, as well as an intriguing moral dilemma for a young Merchant, which, in Ricky's words, was "steal or go to heaven". Steve checked the balance of the account, which was a substantial amount - far more than the average student debt. Steve, feeling he had been wronged all those years ago by a selfish old woman, decided to return balance to the Universe by withdrawing 30 pounds from the machine before turning the card in to the bank.
Ricky was shocked at Steve's story; not only what Steve did, but the fact he saw nothing wrong with it. Karl also appeared shocked but when asked what he would do in the same situation, he said that he would take 20 pounds and let the person know "the service charge was included". This shocked Ricky even further.
Steve claims how he handled the situation was excellent behaviour. He further justified his actions by saying it was a way of teaching the card's owner a lesson, and that a less scrupulous person would have cleaned the account out. He also used the money to buy his mates a drink. Karl's response to this point was that Steve was probably bought a drink after returning the card to it's owner and so still ended up better off.