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#598710 05/05/10 05:24 PM
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I've hit an interesting situation in week 4. One of my classes had a discussion on ethics as one of their featured discussions. A few of my classmates are apparently doing what I feel are unethical things and are quite proud of what they are doing. I take ethics fairly seriously so it bothers me that they are proud of their activities.

I almost wish the discussion was held later in the class, because I imagine this knowledge might affect future discussions. Maybe they will see me as too "prissy" now for my ethic stance, and I will see them as "iffy" for the same reason.

Have you ever had a class discussion like that?


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Can you share what the issues are? I wonder if the ethical issue could have cultural bias.


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Maybe, but college was so long ago for me that I don't remember! LOL--sad, but true.

Not knowing the particulars, I'm not sure, but I'm willing to bet I'm on the side of "prissy" versus "iffy". And, it would probably be perceived as "old-lady" of me, but I was even more stringent when I was younger. I've loosened up a bit in my old age. LOL

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I hesitated on sharing the actual issues because I was already sort of wound about it and didn't want to have two different forums where I was defending my prissiness smile But I suppose it would be good for me to learn to not take ethics so personally smile

And really, we're not talking about life-or-death ethics. We're just talking about ... well ...

It started with going to a restaurant and not leaving a tip. I felt if you're going to go to a restaurant where a tip is expected as part of the waitress' salary, and you know that, and the waitress is great, and you do NOT leave a tip, that you have not held up your part of the bargain. Yes, you saved yourself money. But saving money should never be an excuse for not holding up a bargain you deliberately chose to enter into. If you couldn't afford the restaurant's "full costs", you should have chosen a different restaurant.

A restaurant isn't a required part of life. It's a luxury, and if you walk into a restaurant, you are agreeing to abide by that restaurant's rules.

So then we tangented to even more "fully stated" rules in locations. So say you go to a location which very clearly states "no outside food". A sports event or a movie. Again, a luxury trip you are choosing to splurge on. You are agreeing to abide by their rules when you choose to buy the ticket.

A few people felt it was absolutely justified to load their pockets up with food and drink because "the tickets were too high priced anyway" so they were offsetting the unfair cost by breaking the rules. They didn't feel they were doing anything wrong. Even though it was clearly being stated that they were not allowed to do this. Even though they chose to go to that specific location, knowing its rules and total costs.

I think if they said "I know it's wrong and I choose to do it anyway" I might have felt less riled, but when someone looks right at a sign that says "do not do X" - on a luxury situation - and they go and do X anyway and say it is not wrong - it doesn't feel ethical to me.

The reason I mention the luxury item aspect is that I *might* feel swayed if it was a critical item. If you were out of medicine and your child was dying then I can see rule breaking being on the table. But not for a luxury that you could just as easily have passed by. Going to a movie is not a necessity.


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I'm with you Lisa - I don't believe any of that makes these folks particularly outstanding citizens - I would be happy with the "prissy" label if it means doing the right thing. I firmly believe that it is these small missteps that lead to less civility - and courtesy and civility have been on the way out for awhile now.

Breaking the rules when it hurts others, no matter how small that hurt might be, just isn't nice or ethical.


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Hmmm. Interesting. It's interesting because, to me, these issues fall outside the realm of ethics. Ethics is rightness or wrongness of human conduct but while in some areas, we do need to discuss what is right and wrong as a community (euthanasia, criminal consequences, cloning, etc.) some of the smaller decisions really are up to the individual as part of his or her free will. We have to ask ourselves, "What is the potential outcome and what effect does it have on us and others?"

It is nice that you hold your particular viewpoint on tipping servers. I once was a server and I appreciated guests like you. I always leave a generous tip, too. But when people did not tip me (which rarely happened), I chalked it up to forgetfulness, stinginess or frankly, being broke. All of which I could easily forgive. If someone came in with the opinion that tipping is unnecessary because serving the food is part of the restaurant experience and reflected in the menu prices--okay. *shrug* Too bad they do not understand that there is a universal law that givers gain.

But I also believe that tipping should be unnecessary because good service should be required of all employees and they shouldn't need an incentive to provide it. Their companies should compensate them well enough. Tipping began as a clandestine way of getting extra service above and beyond what the other patrons got. And then, it became a show of gratitude. Now, it is a requirement regardless of the service you receive. (And yes, I still tip big when I receive lousy service!)

As for bringing in outside food, they are not breaking any laws. They are breaking rules set by the establishment, however. Is it wrong to break rules set by an organization? Well, you have to ask our forefathers about that. Americans broke laws and rules and established this free country. Why? Because some rules and laws are wrong themselves.

These organization do not want people to bring in outside food in order to 1. make money on concessions; 2. do not want people to bring in their own full picnic meals; and 3. possibly prevent accidents from glass bottles, etc. that are smuggled in. Let's be sure to keep the spirit of the law and not necessarily the letter of the law.

When we go into an event, we are sure to purchase concessions (usually a fair amount!) and thereby help increase the profits of the organization. However, I DO bring in a few items, namely WATER because they do scalp you on the cost of water ($4 a bottle) and that is unfair when everyone needs a basic necessity like clean water; and 2. a few items that my kids might want that they cannot get there at the concession stands.

Am I breaking the rules? Yes. I question them. I am a very obedient person and will not break laws, but I might challenge rules of private organizations if I believe them to be wrong. I believe that the organization will want the money from my tickets, parking, souvenir and concession purchases rather than deny my entrance because I bring in my own water (which by law they have to allow) and even a few small items for kids that can't be purchased there (my little boy loved rice balls.)

Should I say, "Well, I see that sign and I don't like that rule so I should boycott this event!"? That would mean I would have to boycott every movie or luxury event because every organization wants to make concession money. That means that unless I am rich enough to afford the whole experience, I should not be allowed to go. Or I have to go and not drink anything, except from the water fountains, which at luxury venues are non-existent, by the way!

I don't know. Maybe I am wrong to break the rules here but I do bring in some items (not meals or anything!) I respect and support businesses because I see things from a business owner's point of view. Not trying to cheat them. I even HELP them by buying lots of food there! But I do feel it is wrong to charge $4 for a small bottle of water. The markup is cruel, and water is a necessity! And I don't think that a baseball game or movie should be a luxury that is out of reach for the average or even lower income American.

Do you know that here movies, popcorn and sodas for a family of four costs $80? We'll pop that, but we have Netflix and a good dollar theatre nearby, too, thankfully.

You are not prissy to be a rule follower, Lisa. Maybe I need to rethink my own ethics of this type of situation. I am not proud to break the rules. I just get dismayed to see how some rules are unethical themsevles. Sorry this is so long!

BTW, you should read Vance's Crime post about ridiculous CA laws!

Last edited by Chi-Japanese Food; 05/05/10 07:27 PM.
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Um. I am a low tipper. I bring healthy snacks and decaf flavored coffee into movies.

I know I am not a bad person. In fact I am a very good and giving person. I don't consider that these are ethical misdemeanors.

I guess different people have different senses of integrity. The things I think are important in life, I abide by.

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LOL. Jilly, I take forever to say what you say in a few words. You are clear and concise. Now that is good writing!

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I don't think of not tipping as unethical, but I do think it's stingy. Most servers still make $2.13 per hour which is what I made when I last waited tables almost 20 years ago. It's a generally accepted social norm that diners tip for good service. I think if you feel otherwise, you should order your food to go.

Waiting tables is hard work, the vast majority of servers are not covered under insurance and have few benefits, I think taking advantage of someone because you want to save a few bucks might not be unethical, but I think it's greedy.

To me, the deal is you are essentially hiring the server to wait on you and should pay for those services. I was also a restaurant manager and we would have not survived two months trying to pay servers adequately at the prices we charged on the food. If we raised prices 20% to pay the servers, we would have been priced out of the marketplace.

I don't take outside food or drinks into movie theaters either. I respect that a business has a right to set its own rules and a movie is only 2 hours for the most part, so not having snacks is not exactly a hardship. I usually buy a soda there even though it's outrageously priced. I knew people who snuck in snacks when my kids were little and I really thought it was a horrible lesson for kids (these people were parents, taking their kids to the movies & sneaking in snacks). I would never permit or condone that -- not because it was "breaking the rules", but because I thought it was teaching them something I really did not believe in--the "sneaking" part is dishonest.

So, tell the server up front--I'm not going to tip you. That way, the server can give better attention to her other tables. If you're not tipping, surely you don't mind slow service.

And, walk right in to the movies with your outside snacks in the open, especially if you bring kids. Better to get tossed out for breaking the rules than hiding something or behaving dishonestly, in my humble opinion. But, that's my opinion.

And, my two cents. Time to wrestle the soapbox back into its cage. laugh


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I didn't "sneak" anything. I bought theatre popcorn, sodas and candy for two of my kids. I brought in a snack for my special needs child who had special needs. Never did a theatre manager or employee complain. In my opinion, I did not teach my children to be dishonest.

Once, I tried to talk an employee into letting me bring in my sugar-free lemonade (they did not sell it) and she said no. I tossed it out with absolutely no hard feelings. I understand, especially because I always wanted to run my own restaurant or theater.

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Oh, I totally didn't mean that personally, Chi--I was talking in general about what Lisa's class was discussing, and based on things I've seen people do. The typical behavior is sneaking things in because they're cheaper at Walmart than the theater. And, most people do think of it as sneaking stuff in --that's what they call it.

I don't think most managers or business owners have any issue with someone bringing in something for a special diet -- people do that often and as long as it's not crazy, most won't mind. I did have someone bring Taco Bell into my restaurant one night & I asked them to take the food out of there. It wasn't for dietary restrictions and Taco Bell food smells pretty strongly, plus it wasn't the atmosphere for paper bags & to-go cups.

If someone is for instance diabetic & has to eat at certain times, there's not much for them at a movie theatre that's healthy, so I think movie managers should be okay with them bringing in something. Again, reasonable -- hot wings would be stretching it! smile

I think the overpricing at many venues actually encourages the sneaking in, so I'm not all gung-ho on their policies, either. I think they should sell things at the going market price or at least reasonably close to it. So, I think they bear some of the burden for the situation they've helped create.

These are just my opinions on these situations based on my own experience and values. I think overall, these are fairly minor things but that we have set up an environment that encourages people to be dishonest and the behavior snowballs until we have stuff like the mortgage crisis on our hands that does real harm and the same justifications are used. Mortgage brokers who "knew" better weren't all technically breaking the law but they were certainly behaving unethically. That's a huge leap from taking your own Snickers to the movies, I know, but I think it's the same sort of thinking taken to another level.

Again, nothing at all was personally directed to you or anyone else. I was talking about the situations in general that Lisa mentioned.

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I do tip (and on the mid to high side) in sit down restaurants if I get good service. If the server provides bad service (or one of my big pet peeves - returns the credit card with MY clearly female name on it to the man I'm with), I tip less or not at all. Once or twice I've specifically tipped the buss boy or other employee and not my server when I've gotten good service from them but not my server. I do think that if you go to a restaurant, you should expect to pay a tip just like you would expect to pay tax (except in Oregon where we don't have sales tax.)

On the other hand, I think tipping is getting out of control. I don't think there should be a tip jar at the deli where I pick my pre-made food out of a case and pour my own coffee - no one expects you to tip at the grocery store or the clothing store (and in Oregon restaurant workers make state minimum wage just like retail employees.) I don't like feeling like I need to tip at Starbucks or other places where I walk up, order and they hand me my food. I often lunch at food carts and I tip occasionally if I get excellent service, but again, I don't feel like it's a given.

One thing about movie theaters - I'm not certain it's still the same way, but when I worked in the business, the door went to the company distributing the movie and concessions payed to run the theater. However, if you have special dietary needs, I believe it is completely acceptable to bring whatever you need with you to a theater or restaurant or wherever. But do so openly. Generally, if you have to sneak, you are probably doing the wrong thing!

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Here was my post, in my class, on the topic:

It is an interesting question in general, if sneaking in alcohol or food to somewhere that specifically makes this forbidden qualifies as "stealing". Let me try to think of a similar example.

You go to a school fundraiser at a restaurant where they feature food and a band. The rules of this fundraiser's attendance involves a $10 entry fee plus you pay per-plate at a buffet of items. The signs say "no external food or drink".

You attend with your group but all of you sneak in your own food and eat that instead. You enjoy the band and the social networking.

That $10 fee didn't cover the school's rental costs of the location, on a per-person basis. The budgeting for the event assumed that every person would eat X items and it was the overall "total price" that would cause the event to make money for the school. By violating their rules, you are causing a money loss for them with your presence. After all, your being there adds to the trash collection, and toilet cleaning, and other duties.

To me that is stealing in the same way that deliberately holding back the truth is lying by omission.

(tangent: When you lie by omission, some people say it's not lying because you are not actively saying that is untrue. But you are choosing to be silent and therefore deliberately create the impression of a lie. Your choice is still resulting in a lie being conveyed.)

So to me, normally it is stealing when you actively remove something of value from someone else's inventory. It would also be stealing if you were in a contract with someone to acquire all goods / services through them and you DO acquire a good or service but not through them. You knew the rules up front, when you made the original contract. You agreed to the terms of the contract. Then you deliberately broke those terms. The company loses money as a result - money they had planned into all their budgets and salary choices and so on. They assumed X number of people means Y number of sales and therefore they can pay their staff $Z an hour. Now they do not have that income, because one of their ticket buyers broke their rules.

For all we know, a local movie theater's basic ticket price barely covers the high cost of leasing the movie from the film makers, electricity to run the systems, heat, and so on. A movie theater could go out of business if zero people bought any concessions, i.e. that is a required part of their income flow for each person to "pay their share" of what it costs to stay afloat. The company has made an ethical bargain with each ticket holder to provide X services under Y rules. The company has held to their end very fairly. The food-bringing consumer has not.

Movies, cruise ships, and sports events are all luxury items. None of these situations involve stealing bread to feed a starving child. They all involve very optional activities. So where I could understand a contract-breaking choice in order to save a life, I see less reason for it when the activity itself falls completely into the luxury column. As someone here mentioned, there are many other cheaper options for family entertainment as alternatives that would involve no rule breaking at all.

So to summarize my feelings - when we make a contract with an organization to use their services, if we want to negotiate the terms of the contract, we should do so before we seal the deal. It does seem unethical to me to sign off on a contract that has known terms and then to deliberately violate those terms because we felt all along that the contract was unfair.

I understand that other people feel differently, and that is quite fine! This is solely my opinion.


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Julie - thank you for that information. I never got the sense from the little theaters around me that they were "rolling in dough" even given their high drink prices. They always seemed like they were barely getting by. I wanted to do my part to keep them in business, it would never occur to me to sneak food in past their "no food allowed" signs.


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This is an interesting topic and I think i will bow out now. I consider these extremely minor issues in a great big world of woe.

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Oh, no prob, BellaDeb! I guess I get insecure about everything.

Thanks all for a great discussion. It really made me reflect. smile

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Julie, I don't think it's necessary to tip for counter service, either. Unless you order your coffee like Niles Crain, in which case you should tip about 200% as a Pain in the Butt fee.

And, there are several delis around here where you order from the counter but someone brings your food to the table. You get your own drink from a drink station, etc. So, there's not much service going on there. It's not customary to tip there, they don't have a tip jar, either. Their prices are however higher than "fast food" places and their workers do make more than minimum wage.

At anyplace if someone goes above & beyond or if you have out-of-the-ordinary requests, then I think tipping is okay. But, at sit-down restaurants, I think it should be considered part of the deal.

And, I think most servers don't sweat the occasional non-tipper--it's part of the job, after all, and good servers will make way above the standard 15%.

But the thing I think people don't realize is that servers have to report & pay taxes on a percentage of their food sales. I think it has to be around 10%, but I'm not sure about the exact number. If you report 5%, the IRS will not only probably audit you, they will also make your employer deduct more taxes from your check because they figure you are underreporting. Or, they will make your employer increase your wages--you have to report making enough tips to raise your pay to minimum wage or they make them pay you more.

Anyway, my point is that when people don't tip, it can actually cost the server money to wait on you. He or she will have to pay income tax on what you didn't tip, and if you tip nothing, you have just used someone's services and made them pay for the privelege! That is just wrong!

If service really sucks and it's the server's fault, then I think it's okay to undertip or even not tip. Having said that, I have undertipped before for that reason, but as a former server, I just can't not tip.

Plus, if you don't tip, servers assume you probably forgot or thought someone else was getting the tip & they forgot or whatever. Or that you're ____ (fill in the blank). A reduced tip says essentially, you did not do a good job.

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Lisa - I think that's a really good post for your class. I really liked the comparison to the fundraiser and contracts.

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Deb I definitely agree that there are different situations that call for different tipping rules and it can get confusing! I think it should never be this confusing about "what is a proper payment for services I want to acquire". They should have it stated at the door. I realize that might be a bit silly, but as we become a global economy and different cultures have different rules, they should make it straightforward. If the waitress needs a 15% tip or her coworkers are going to penalize her, we should all know that and be able to plan appropriately!


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Regarding tipping: I like the restaurants that include the tip on the bill. It solves the problem of stinginess, forgetfulness, and the waiter/waitress will easily be able to include the tips on her/his income tax returns. As well it is easy to leave an extra tip on those occasions that you receive exceptionally good service from your server.

Regarding taking food into establishments where it is prohibited: I also happen to believe that one should not be taking in their own food. However, I do make an exception to the rule for water. I don't think anyone has the right ever, to tell me or anyone else that they cannot bring water to drink wherever they are. I was happy to see Chi mention that by law they cannot prohibit someone from bringing in water. I happen to feel that most corporations are unethical organizations and will rip people off as much as they can to make more money so rather than sneaking things into their establishments, I would rather just boycott them. In most of those cases I believe I'll be better off in more ways than one by finding something more beneficial to do with my time. If it is a smaller business just trying to do the best they can and I can't afford it, then I choose other options or save for those special occasions. Too many people today cannot differentiate between needs and wants which is why there is so much "sneaking in" of food to see movies or other activities. Integrity is sadly lacking too often in society today which is especially sad because as some already mentioned, parents are teaching those poor ethics to their children too.


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Elizabeth - that is a great idea about restaurants having it right on the bill. I do think in addition that it should be stated right when you enter too, though. I think if they are expecting 15% but they only "spring it on you" after you've eaten the food that that is a little rough smile It's not like you can give it back ...


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