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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Repairing car now will make gift run more smoothly



Lil, a reader in Boston, is about to give her 12-year-old car to her daughter and son-in-law, once she buys a new car for herself. With a teenage son now driving and two parents driving in opposite directions to work each morning, Lil knew they needed another car, if for nothing else than to give them transportation to the nearest public transit station.

The car was purchased new and has more than 100,000 miles on it, but Lil has taken good care of the car. She's had the car serviced by the same mechanic for years.

About a week ago, the service light lit up on Lil's car's dashboard. She brought the car in to have her mechanic take a look. The car had a leak in the exhaust hose and needed a new thermostat. Her mechanic estimated that to fix the issues, it would cost about $500. The mechanic told Lil that the car would not pass its next inspection without the work being done.

"Am I obligated to fix the car before I give it away?" Lil asked.

When she offered her car to her daughter and son-in-law, she told them that the car might need some immediate work. "They're grateful for the car and know that down the line, it probably will need more work," she writes. "The car has been well maintained, but it doesn't feel right to me to give the car away when I know that it needs work right now."

Lil adds that an additional consideration is that she needs to drive her car for another week or so and she doesn't want to end up stranded anywhere.

If Lil is worrying about being stranded while continuing to drive her car, she should ask her mechanic if there is any danger in continuing to drive it when it needs a new thermostat and an exhaust hose repaired. (Full disclosure: I am not an auto mechanic and have no idea.)

But the bigger question with which Lil is grappling is whether to have the work done or to give the car as is to her daughter and son-in-law and let them take care of any immediate work that needs doing.

As long as she is not putting herself in peril on the road, it's perfectly fine for Lil to hold off doing any repair work before giving the car away. The right thing to do if she chooses this route is to tell her daughter and son-in-law exactly what the mechanic indicated needs doing and the estimate he gave her about the cost, so they know what they are getting into when the accept the gift of Lil's old car.

But Lil offered her car because she had taken good care of it and she figured it would be reliable transportation. Since she indicates that it's still her intention to pass on a car in good order and because she plans to drive the car for a few more weeks, the right thing to do would be to pay for the repairs to be done before she gives the car away. She'll rest easier at night having done so and her kids will be all the more thankful for her gift. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a 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) 2015 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Supporting efforts to provide affordable, healthy food



Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote about some efforts to get affordable food to people who might be in need.

One was The Daily Table, a nonprofit grocery store founded by Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe's. The Daily Table buys excess groceries from other suppliers and passes on the savings to its customers who have a wide variety of groceries and prepared foods from which they can choose to buy.

Fresh fruit, prepared foods, packaged goods, and other items can be purchased at well below the typical price a full-scale, for-profit grocery store (or a Trader Joe's) might charge. The goal is to provide nutritious food that is affordable regardless of the customers' budget.

At the time, I wrote about these efforts that if the desire is to help those who are considered poor, but does so in a way that doesn't stigmatize them, but instead emboldens dignity with businesses that attract all segments of the economy, then they're doing the right thing.

The first Daily Table opened in Dorchester, Mass., in June 2015, with plans to expand to other locations in the Boston area and other cities around the country.

Now that The Daily Table is in full swing, a reader, C.C., asks if it's wrong for her, a well-paid professional to shop there. She and her family can afford to buy groceries at full-price stores, so she wonders if she should allow others more in need to take advantage of the great buys at the store. In other words, is it wrong for her to take advantage of an initiative that seems to have been started to help those less well-off economically than she is.

C.C. should shop at The Daily Table with a clear conscious. If the store has any hope of survival and competing against full-priced grocery stories, it is going to need the support of the entire community. As long as C.C. pays the asking price and is pleased with the groceries she buys -- which she says she is -- she is doing the right thing.

In fact, if The Daily Table begins to be viewed as a place that is only for "poor people," then the risk of it becoming stigmatized as somehow inferior to full-price groceries is greater. That C.C. and other customers sing the praises not only of The Daily Table's prices, but also the quality of its food and its services bodes well for the venture.

I live in Dorchester, two miles away from the first Daily Table location. Three years ago, I closed my column by writing that when the first Daily Table opened that I hoped to be among the first to shop there and that I hoped others of all levels of income followed. My wife, Nancy, who, as part of her therapy practice counsels families on how to eat healthy, beat me to it and came home a few months ago with several bags of wonderful produce and groceries, as well as reports of a great and helpful staff. She's returned several times since. I hope C.C. and others do the right thing and continue to shop there as well. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a 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) 2015 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.