Sunday, February 18, 2018

Am I wrong to aid a fare evader?



I ride the subway to work. Early each morning, I walk the two blocks to the station on the Red Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway, board a train heading toward the Alewife station, and take the T the 10 stops it takes to get to work. Each evening, I reverse the route and ride the Red Line train home, heading toward the Ashmont station.

In the winter, the train schedule tends to be a bit less predictable. Frequent delays make getting to and from work more of an adventure. On occasion, I've tweeted out plaintive haikus to the MBTA Twitter handle. Occasionally, I receive a response, sometimes even in poetic form. The MBTA and I now follow one another on Twitter, and we've occasionally exchanged direct messages to one another.

On two occasions over the past month -- once going to work and one arriving home from work -- passengers have engaged my assistance in trying to enter the subway platform without paying their train fare.

On the first occasion, at about 6 a.m., a young woman asked me if she could follow me in through the turnstiles since she had left her pre-paid T pass at home. No one was in the small glassed-in office where T personnel typically sit to assist passengers. It was cold outside. I said nothing, but didn't prevent her from following me in.

On the second occasion, I arrived home to my neighborhood T station around 7:45 p.m. Again no one was in the T office nor were any T personnel around. But an older gentleman turned toward me from the machine where you can put more money on your T card and shouted out, "Walk slowly so I can get in before the turnstile door closes. The machine's not working." Again, I said nothing, but didn't prevent him from rushing by me to catch the train.

In each instance, it was wrong for the passenger to enter the platform without paying. If caught, the first offense for fare evasion is $50. The second offense is $100, and all subsequent offenses are $300. (The fare each way is $2.25 if you put money on a CharlieCard and $2.75 if you buy a paper ticket.)

Wondering if I could be fined as well, I sent the MBTA a direct message on Twitter. There is no fine for letting another customer into the station, I was told. Fines are only applied to the evader. But I was encouraged to report the person to the MBTA Transit Police via Twitter, a phone number, or a "See Say" app.

I will be doing none of those things.

The right thing is for commuters to remember their passes or to try to purchase tickets. But the right thing is also for the MBTA to have the personnel in the office at the station to provide assistance when fare machines don't work or when a forgetful commuter wants to ask for help. (I've forgotten my pass on occasion and the MBTA attendant has let me through.)

If the MBTA wants commuters to do the right thing, then being on hand to help them do so seems fair to ask. Not just on blustery cold days, but every day. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2018 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Am I obligated to try to save former colleague from embarrassment?



Alan, a former colleague of Tim, was searching for a job. As part of his search effort, Alan was contacting many former colleagues, including Tim, to let them know he was looking Sometimes Alan was emailing and sometimes he was connecting through social media websites such as LinkedIn, where he knew many former colleagues had set up their own pages.

Tim didn't know Alan well, but they had worked together briefly several years earlier. When he received an alert on LinkedIn that Alan had sent him a note, he read it and, because he really didn't know of any leads for the type of positing for which Alan was looking, he figured no response was necessary.

But curious to know what Alan had been up to since they had worked together, he decided to take a look at Alan's profile page. Tim was pleased to see that Alan had had some good success advancing in his career at several companies.

Tim also noticed, however, that Alan had several glaring typos on the part of his LinkedIn page that replicated his professional resume. They were the kind of typos that a spellchecker would not likely flag since the mistyped word was actually a real word, just not the one Alan intended. In some cases, the typos were innocuous. In a few others, the mistyped word resulted in featuring a word that might cause embarrassment if Alan knew what he'd typed. In all cases, Tim thought, the typos might suggest to a prospective employer that Alan was sloppy with detail.

"Since I don't have any real leads to offer," Tim asks, "should I contact Alan to let him know of the typos?" Tim writes that he'd had to think that Alan has similar typos in the resume he's been sending off to prospective employers. "I don't want to embarrass Alan or to sound like I'm judging him."

Tim has no obligation to let Alan know about the typos on his LinkedIn page. Nevertheless, letting Alan know about them would be the right thing to do. If the roles were reversed, Tim, or most anyone else, would want someone to alert them to such potentially embarrassing errors, particularly in the midst of a job search.

There's no reason Tim should feel bad that he responds to Alan not with the information on possible jobs he asked, but with a note wishing him well and calmly alerting him to the fact that he noticed a few potentially embarrassing typos on his LinkedIn profile. If Alan doesn't respond, that's on him. But Alan should acknowledge such a response and thank Tim or whoever else might point out the errors to him. It's not only in Alan's best interest to show courtesy when he is in the process of reaching out to others for help, it's the right thing to do anytime a friend or colleague tries to help.

Trying to be helpful to a former colleague by pointing out errors that might derail his job search is not judgmental. It's something I'd hope anyone, regardless of whether they could land me a plum new position, would point out to me or anyone of you should we find ourselves in Alan's position. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2018 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Am I wrong to aid a fare evader?

I ride the subway to work. Early each morning, I walk the two blocks to the station on the Red Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transport...