Sunday, June 11, 2017
A tale of two hoods
On his drive to help his grandparents do yardwork, 18-year-old Walt noticed that it had begun raining. He didn't know if his grandparents would have any raingear that fit him, so he stopped at a discount store to pick up an inexpensive raincoat. When he got to the shelf with the rain gear, he noticed that it had been picked over pretty thoroughly with much of the gear strewn about rather than in the original packaging.
But Walt persisted and found a bag that contained raincoat and rain pants, but seemed to be missing the snap-on hood that was shown on the package diagram. Walt fished through the pile of raingear, found a hood, and brought it and the package that he thought contained the coat and pants up to the cashier.
After explaining that he had pulled a hood from the pile in the area because it seemed to be missing from the package, the cashier rang him up, and collected his $4 for the inexpensive gear.
When Walt arrived at his grandparents' home, they were already in the yard working in the rain. They took a break when he arrived and went inside. When Walt pulled out the raingear to show his grandparents that he had come prepared, the hood that he thought was missing from the package fell to the floor when he unfolded the raincoat.
"Did it come with two hoods?" his grandfather asked him.
Walt explained what had happened and that he had taken an extra hood mistakenly thinking the original was missing. "The stuff was a mess in the store," Walt explained. "But it only cost me four bucks."
Walt put on his gear and then joined his grandparents in their yard where they worked for the next three hours edging garden beds and spreading mulch.
After a hearty, home-cooked meal, Walt took a warm shower, changed his clothes, and then got into his car to return home.
"I'm pretty sure what the right thing to do is," writes Walt, who decided to stop at the store on his way home and return the extra hood. "But given how much of a mess the stuff was in the store and the fact that the cashier didn't check out the goods when I was paying, was I really obligated to return the hood? The whole thing only cost four bucks."
Walt wonders if it would have been all the same if he simply had kept the extra hood in case he needed a backup in the future.
The price of the rain gear isn't any issue here. Whether it cost $4 or $45 dollars shouldn't make a difference and is mere just quibbling over price.
While Walt is right and the cashier should have checked the goods before checking out his customer, Walt still got something he didn't pay for. It might have been a nuisance to return to the store to return the extra hood, but it was the right thing to do. I suspect Walt's grandparents knew what he would do without having to advise him to do so.
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.
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