Sunday, December 09, 2018

How should reader correct an appraiser's error?


Every decade or so, A.L., has some of her jewelry appraised so she can file the appraisal reports with her home insurance company in case anything is ever lost or stolen. While she's never had to file a report, A.L. takes comfort in knowing that she will be covered in case she ever has to.

Early last month, A.L. brought the existing appraisals into the jeweler she's worked with for years to have them updated. The appraiser told her how much the appraisals would cost and gave her a rough idea of how long it might take for her to receive the appraisals in the mail.

True to his word, the appraiser mailed off the appraisals to A.L.

A.L. was eager to get the new appraisals copied and sent off to her insurance company. As she looked through the appraisals, she noted how each of the values had changed, though none surprisingly so. When she got to the last appraisal in the stack, however, she was taken aback.

"It was for a pair of diamond stud earrings set in 14K gold," writes A.L. "The thing is, I don't own a pair of gold diamond stud earrings."

When she looked more closely at the appraisal, she noted that it was intended for a couple who lived in a town about 30 miles away from her.

"Clearly, the jeweler had messed up and sent me someone else's appraisal," she writes.

Now, A.L. is torn about what if any responsibility she has to correct the situation.

"Should I just send the appraisal to the right owner?" she asks? "Or should I call the jeweler and let him know about the mistake? Or should I do nothing and let them figure it out?"

While none of these options would be ethically wrong, A.L. is trying to determine the best right answer.

If she does nothing that leaves the rightful owner in the dark wondering where her appraisal is while the jeweler believes he sent her an appraisal she likely never received. If she just tells the owner, then the jeweler won't know he had made a mistake. Plus, if A.L. has a longstanding relationship with the jeweler, it would be thoughtful to give him a heads up that she had sent the appraisal on to the rightful owner.

It would be enough to just alert the jeweler to let him know about the error. But if she wants to go a step further and send the appraisal on to the owner of the earrings that would be thoughtful and likely appreciated.

After she decides how thoughtful she wants to be, the right thing is for A.L. to take action in keeping with that decision. Were it me, I'd send the appraisal onto the rightful owner and then alert the jeweler she had done so. If I were the owner of the earrings, that's what I'd prefer, and if I were the jeweler, I would want to know about my mistake so I could correct it and figure out how not to repeat it in the future. 

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, December 02, 2018

Can I game a "free promotion" to get something for nothing?


The season of pre-holiday sales is upon us. Having survived another early morning jaunt to our local shopping mall with the youngest grandson so he could explore Black Friday day-after-Thanksgiving sales and mostly, I believe, cavort with other teenagers eager to experience the frenzy, I can feel the season of sales in my bones.

It's never clear to me how good the Black Friday mall or online sales actually are, but the frenzy seems to be real. With the season comes all sorts of online offers meant to entice shoppers to buy more.

A reader, S.L., who is fond of shoes received an email alert about a limited three-day offer of a free overnight bag from the online site of a shoe retailer she frequents. "While supplies last," the offer read, anyone who made a purchase of $39 or more would receive a free bag by typing the code "FREEBIE" into their online order form.

The only restrictions seemed to be that the bag itself could not "be returned for cash, credit, or exchange, and is not available for in-store pick-up." Beyond that, if the purchase of $39 was made and bags were still available, the overnighter would be hers.

S.L. informed me that $39 is not hard to spend when you are purchasing shoes, so it seemed a good deal, if she needed shoes. As it turns out, she didn't need anything at the moment. But she had seen a similar bag recently and really liked it.

The online site also has a liberal return policy for its shoes. The purchases can be returned for a full refund through the mail or brought to the nearest retail outlet. It's a service S.L. had used over the years when a pair of shoes didn't fit quite right or turned out to be something other than what she wanted. The returns were always without hassle.

"Would it be wrong to buy $39 worth of stuff knowing I plan to return it so I could get the bag?" S.L. asks.

Clearly, the intent of the promotion is to get people to buy more stuff or to buy stuff they might not have intended to buy so they could receive a valuable prize in return.

But there's nothing unethical about S.L. buying shoes and returning them and keeping the bag she got for her initial effort. Regardless of its intentions, the retailer placed no conditions requiring shoppers to keep the purchases made.

The right thing is for S.L. to make the purchase, see if the free bags are still available, and then follow the procedures laid out to return items if she indeed decides to return them.

The retailer might count on many shoppers intending to do the same thing, only to find that they liked the stuff they ordered to get the bag so much that they decide to keep it. That's a gamble both S.L. and the retailer take - that some purchasers might buy stuff they don't really want or need and end up keeping it and that some buy stuff and return it and keep the free promotion. 

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.

How should reader correct an appraiser's error?

Every decade or so, A.L., has some of her jewelry appraised so she can file the appraisal reports with her home insurance company in cas...