Sunday, October 04, 2015

If a gift is new to you, does its source matter?

Just how many details do you need to offer to keep someone from assuming something that might not be accurate?

A reader in the Midwest, A.C., belongs to an organization that raises funds for educational causes. For the past two years A.C. and a friend have been in charge of putting 20 to 25 gift baskets together for the organization's annual fundraiser.

"Once we see what donations have come in," writes A.C. "we decide on a theme and make the arrangement."

To enhance the visual appeal of the baskets, A.C. writes that she and her friend "add embellishments."

"For example, if we have a gift card to a really nice restaurant, we add a bottle of wine, a couple of wine glasses, and perhaps a wine stopper. For a few of the baskets we might use a beautiful platter or a large crystal bowl for the base instead of an actual basket."

An issue that concerns A.C., however, is that many of the embellishments they use for the baskets are those they find at thrift stores or garage sales.

"Naturally we wash everything first," she writes. "And we never include our embellishments in the gift basket's value."

But, she acknowledges that it's safe to say that "everyone assumes the items are new."

A.C.'s friend and she have an "unspoken agreement" that they never really inform anyone where the embellishments are found. "Everyone is so busy with their own tasks that no one ever asks about the specifics of the baskets." A.C. and her friend are complimented on their handiwork and thanked for their efforts.

"Is using items that have been previously owned (maybe, maybe not, used) in these baskets unethical?" A.C. asks.

If the baskets were presented as being full of new purchased items when they in fact included second-hand finds that would be a problem. Even if they are donated goods put together by unpaid volunteers, misrepresenting what's in the baskets would cross an ethical line.

It would also be wrong to include any second-hand items in the basket that might present a risk to any recipient. Second-hand food might not sit well on the stomach.

But A.C. and her friend are not telling anyone that the items in the gift baskets are brand new. They aren't telling them that some of the items might be second-hand goods either. That omission does not strike me as crossing an ethical line any more than including items that a retail store gave them to use that it otherwise would have discarded.

A.C. and her friend are contributing their time and efforts to their community by creatively supporting an effort that gives to educational causes. Good on them for doing so.

If someone asks them directly if all of the items are new, the right thing is for them to be honest and reveal that some of the items in the gift basket mix may have had a previous home.

They should be able to rest easy knowing that they are doing good while not lying about what they are doing. If one of the recipients happens upon a garage sale find in his or her gift basket that turns out to be quite valuable, then the question becomes whether they think it's right to donate the proceeds from that find to the educational efforts as well. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leave your route cleaner than it was when you began your journey

Several months ago, I wrote about a reader who wondered what her responsibility was when she and her partner were out for a walk when they came upon a woman walking her dog. The dog owner asked the couple if they happened to have any plastic bags on them, presumably to help her clean up after her dog. The reader told the woman they didn't have any bags, but that there were some city-provided waste bags about 100 yards away.

When the couple made a loop around their neighborhood and came upon the same spot where they encountered the dog owner, they noted she was gone but the waste was not. I had argued that it was not the couple's responsibility to clean up after the dog and the right thing was for the dog owner to have carried her own plastic bags or made the effort to get one the couple pointed out to her.

R.N. of Chillicothe, Ohio, believes the couple should have done more. When they "circled back and saw the owner's dog deposit," he writes, "they should have gotten a plastic bag and picked up the mess."

The incident reminded R.N. of a bicycle ride he made with a cycling group in a nearby state park. At the top of a hill, at a dead end in the road, R.N. writes that there were remnants of a fire with associated trash, empty beer cans, cigarette pack, cigarette butts, and an empty deodorant stick.

"Several people lamented the trash," he writes "but no one picked it up or mentioned picking it up even though several riders had large saddle bags."

R.N. did not think he had room in his jersey pocket and he said nothing to the other riders. "I should have picked up something and said something," he writes, citing a saying from his backpacking days that you should always come out of the woods with more than you brought in. "It is the right thing to do."

R.N.'s point is well taken. I'm sure I'm not the only person to spend time picking up litter (empty bottles, paper bags, assorted items tossed from car windows) from the street in my neighborhood and tossing it into a waste can on my walk to work. Indeed, on other bicycle rides, R.N. has taken the time to slow down his ride and remove trash from the road.

It is the right thing to want to take pride in your environment, but on a more practical note, when you live in the city like I do, to remove anything that might attract unwanted vermin.

When it comes to a pet dog's waste, however, the responsibility for tidying up is still the dog's owner responsibility. There should be no expectation that neighbors will be or should be willing to pick it up.

The right thing is for dog owners to be responsible and clean up after their own pets. If they forget to bring a plastic bag with them on their walks, then they should take the time to return to the scene to clean up. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Do concerns about a child's online profile require action?

Seventy-one percent of U.S. teenagers 13- to 17-years-old use Facebook according to a 2015 study on "Teens, Social Media &Technology," conducted by the Pew Research Center. Twenty-four percent of teenagers say they are online "almost constantly."

But the fastest growing segment of Facebook users, according to Pew, is older adults. It's not unusual then for older adults to come across something on Facebook that might look a bit hinky as it relates to a young person they know.

A reader in the Midwest, E.K., writes that she used to work in a cubicle across from a guy with whom she would "occasionally banter a bit." While they were working together, the fellow's wife had a baby girl. Eventually, he became a stay-at-home dad and his wife became the "breadwinner" for the family.

That was 15 or so years ago. E.K. and her former colleague keep in touch as friends on Facebook.

Several months ago, the former colleague posted a photo of his daughter and wrote that she now wanted to be known by a new name. The new name was a shortened version of the name given her at birth, but wasn't gender specific.

"My friend has posted many photos of his daughter and family photos since," E.K. writes.

Recently, when E.K. was looking at her Facebook timeline, the "people you may know" section caught her attention. In the group was one of the photos of E.K.'s friend's daughter with the correct last name but with a different first name from her given name or the shortened name.

Because she recognized the photo, E.K. looked at the profile. Other than that the person is "male," there was nothing. No "friends" or any interests or location information.

E.K. is concerned that this may be a fake profile and that her friend's daughter may be being set up by other people to be "catfished" or otherwise embarrassed. (Catfishing someone is enticing them into a relationship after creating a fake online identity).

"She goes to an all-girls school and I know how kids can be at that age," writes E.K.

Now, she wonders whether she should contact her friend through a private message and tell him what she's seen and her concerns or just stay out of it.

What is the right thing to do?" she asks.

The daughter could very well have a Facebook page and set her settings to private so no one else could see her interests or list of friends. It could be that nothing terrible is going on here.

But if E.K. is concerned, then the right thing to do is to private message her friend and tell him exactly how she came across the profile. She can express her concern or simply tell him she was surprised to come across it and leave it at that.

Because the friend's child is a minor, E.K.'s concerns about her safety outweigh any hesitation she might have in alerting the friend. She wouldn't be outing the daughter since the father already seems aware of his daughter's preferences.

It may be that there is nothing nefarious about the page. But if E.K.'s alert can thwart off embarrassment or worse for the friend's daughter, then letting him know about it is the right thing to do. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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