Saturday, March 04, 2006


Glomming on: We know it when we see it, and most of us from time to time have taken advantage of the opportunity to piggyback onto someone else's good fortune.

But are there instances when taking advantage of such an opportunity crosses the ethical line?

L.M. from Ohio has a daughter who works for a large national company. L.M. runs a small consulting practice. Both women have clients in the same distant city. L.M.'s daughter's company has negotiated a discount rate at an upscale hotel, based on the promise that it will use a minimum number of room nights each year.

Having no such buying clout, L.M. usually stays at a budget motel chain.

"My daughter has offered to make reservations for me at the upscale hotel," L.M. writes, adding that her daughter's employer knows about the offer and doesn't object, because it will help the company reach its required minimum.

"The thought of a bit of luxury is appealing," L.M. admits, "and I'd never be able to stay at the hotel otherwise."

All the same, she hears a nagging voice in the back of her head questioning whether it's appropriate to glom onto the bigger company's discount rate.

"Should I listen to it," she asks, "or just get a good night's sleep for a change?"

If you ask me -- and she did -- there's nothing wrong with getting a good night's sleep, as long as her daughter's employer and the hotel chain don't object.

It's wrong, of course, to pose as a member of an organization to which you don't belong in order to get a discount. If, for example, I were to use my ID card from Emerson College to try to pass myself off as a student to get a lower admission fee to a museum, that would cross a line.

But if I were invited to give a lecture at a conference that happened to be at a resort in, say, Maui, and if I wanted to bring along my wife so that she could take advantage of the resort's amenities, I'd be on safe ethical ground -- as long as my wife and I footed the bill for her expenses. My wife might be glomming onto my business trip, but she wouldn't be trying to pass herself off as someone she's not.

As long as L.M. is not trying to pass herself off as an employee of an organization she does not actually work for, she's on safe ground. It's also reasonable to believe that the hotel would rather have a room filled at a discount rate than have the same room sit idle, generating no income at all.

The ground gets shakier if the hotel chain insists that anyone taking advantage of the discount be an employee of L.M.'s daughter's company. If that were the case, then the right thing would be to go back to less cushy nights at the budget motel. Her bed might not be as soft, but at least she'd be able to rest with a clear conscience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i agree