Sunday, August 07, 2022

Is it OK to piggyback on my spouse's work Zoom account?

One business that was particularly helped in its growth by the pandemic has been Zoom, the online video meeting platform used by individuals and businesses to connect with one another. For its fiscal 2021 year, Zoom’s total revenue was up more than 300% from the prior year clocking in at $2.7 billion. If you haven’t used Zoom yourself, it’s more than likely you know someone who has, and that someone might even be living in your household.

It is this increased reliance on Zoom that led a reader we’re calling Medea to email with a question. Medea is self-employed and has been using a free account on Zoom to meet with clients. The free accounts allow users to meet for up to 40 minutes before they are disconnected. For a couple of years, using the free account has worked fine for Medea since her meetings typically didn’t go longer than 40 minutes. But recently she has had several meetings run longer than the free account allows.

“I have sometimes disconnected and then reconnected on a new 40-minute Zoom call,” wrote Medea, but she observed that doing this could come off as amateurish to her clients.

Medea’s husband also uses Zoom frequently for business, but he uses the account paid for by his employer that has no time limit on meetings.

“Would it be wrong for me to occasionally use my husband’s work account when I anticipate a meeting going longer than 40 minutes?” Medea asked. “Nobody at his company would notice and I know my husband sometimes uses his Zoom account for a personal meeting anyway.”

Medea may be correct in assuming that no one at her husband’s company would notice if she used the Zoom account paid for by his business for her own business meetings. But just because no one might take notice doesn’t make piggybacking onto another business’s account without permission from that business the right thing to do.

If Medea’s husband or anyone uses their business Zoom account for an occasional personal call, they should make sure they are not violating company policy by doing so. Just as I’ve long believed that companies should consider letting employees use their office computer to book personal flights or make personal purchases while on a break from work, letting them use a Zoom account occasionally for a personal call seems wise as long as those calls don’t rack up long-distance charges for the business. Regardless of what I believe, however, an employee should always make sure they are not violating company policy in such usage.

As I see it, Medea has two choices. If she wants to continue to enjoy the free service offered by Zoom, she can make sure none of her meetings go longer than 40 minutes. If that proves to be impractical or impossible, then Medea should pony up and purchase her own Zoom subscription which would be a legitimate cost for her business. Medea is no less responsible for the costs she incurs to run her business than her husband’s business is.

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 to have answered? Send them to jeffreyseglin@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

(c) 2022 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Should cable or satellite companies reimburse for outages?

I have this vague recollection from when I was a kid in the late 1960s of watching a football game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets. During the last minute of the game when the Jets were ahead in the score, the network broke away from the game to begin the scheduled broadcast of the movie version of "Heidi." This was in the days before the internet or social media, so it took a while for those of us who had been watching to learn that Oakland scored two touchdowns in that last minute to win the game 43-32. Apparently the final score was announced during the movie, but I didn’t watch the movie.

Fans who were watching missed out on an exciting conclusion, but aside from collectively grousing, there was no real way to compensate for the lost viewing time.

I was reminded of the incident after receiving an email from a reader I’m calling Fiona, who had been watching some live proceedings of something or other on television recently and then had her cable service go out before the proceedings ended. The "Heidi" game was broadcast in pre-cable-television days when advertising rather than monthly fees paid for the broadcast. Now that cable and satellite-dish users pay for their service, Fiona wants to know if she’s right to believe her cable provider owes her a rebate for the time her service was down.

“I pay a lot for monthly service,” wrote Fiona. “Shouldn’t they reimburse me when they can’t provide that service?”

Fiona is not the first reader to raise such a question. Do I believe cable or satellite companies should prorate monthly fees if they can’t provide service? Yes.

Many service providers, however, include language on the agreements we sign off on that ask us to agree that they are not liable for such periodic service interruptions. That likely covers them legally from being expected to reimburse customers even if it doesn’t feel right to have to pay for something we don’t receive.

Some service providers do provide for reimbursement for outages but place specific parameters around what’s covered, when it can be reported and how old the outage can be before it’s no longer considered for reimbursement. Few if any make it as clear as it could be to users about what they should do in the event of an outage when it comes to seeking reimbursement.

The right thing for cable and satellite-dish companies is to make their policies clear and as simple as possible for users to use. But while users are waiting around for their providers to do this, the right thing for them to do after experiencing such outages is to contact the service provider to report the outage as soon as possible and to ask for reimbursement. Even if a company representative points to where its contract indicates no outage reimbursements are made, there are times when a service representative might have some leeway to keep a loyal customer relatively satisfied.

If access to television is limited by a power outage, that’s not the cable or satellite company’s fault, and they shouldn’t be expected to reimburse in such instances. But when it comes to its own services, if the company can’t provide the service, the right thing is not to charge for that time it can’t.

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 to have answered? Send them to jeffreyseglin@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

(c) 2022 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.