This post was sparked by the recent drama around a pop star who recently stole a lighter. I'm not giving her problems anymore space, but that pop star's chutzpah and theft prompted me to think of the scenarios, questions and doubts I face. As I try to live frugally, I also want to avoid stepping over ethical lines.
1. Free copies of the Wall Street Journal. I live near a long string of beach-front hotels and many of them cater to business travelers. My parents often stay at these resorts and of course, during those times, I help myself to the newspapers. I think of us as extended-stay family. But when my parents have checked out, is it still okay (ethical) to stop by the lobby, hang out and enjoy the newspapers? There is always a stack of unread newspapers and it's so tempting.
2. Free DIY coffee and tea cart: Same lobby scenario.
3. Free chocolates: The Ghirardelli shop near my home passes out free chocolates. Is it fair to be a habitual sampler? I use restraint: One chocolate per weekend visit. But is it fair to accept the free handouts if I rarely make a purchase?
4. Networking at the Apple store. The Apple store near me has several lanes of display computers. A lot of consumers have fun with the graphics and other functions on the display models, which are also online. Is it fair to use the Internet connection to check email or Google something?
5. Children's drinks at Starbucks. My son, age 12, loves to buy the children's version of Starbucks drinks. The size and price (cheaper than the regular version) are perfect for me. Is it ethical to order the children's drink for myself?
6. Children's menu at restaurants: When we go out to restaurants, I look at the price and portions on the children's menu with envy. Is it fair to order a kiddie meal for an adult? Is it fair if one of my kids wants something from the adult's menu and I order from the children's menu? Is that swap fair?
7. Gym membership: A number of gyms offer free passes for a day, a week or a month and there are lots of gyms in my area. Is it fair to shop around and hop from gym to gym until I make up my mind? What if I never make up my mind and just keep gym hopping?
8. Permanent gym guest: Several friends have memberships at area gyms. They can always bring a free guest. They've offered. Is it fair to be a permanent (free) tag along?
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