Sunday, June 28, 2009


In an informal poll on my column's blog, 70 percent of participating readers believed that, when a restaurant offers free refills on drinks, a one-drink-per-person rule is implied, making it wrong to share a drink with someone else and then collect a free refill.

William Jacobson of Cypress, Calif., shares the majority view, which runs counter to the verdict previously expressed in my column.

"When you purchase a free-refills drink," Jacobson writes, "what you actually purchase is a cup and a license (privilege) from the restaurant to fill your cup with their drink. This privilege can be revoked for abuse. Sharing your drink with someone else abuses the common understanding of your agreement, so the restaurant is within its rights to stop you from further refills."

Louise Macaulay of Yorba Linda, Calif., disagrees. She has "never seen a Soda Nazi stationed by the beverage dispenser," she writes, so her guess is that management doesn't have a problem with sharing refills.

"Go ahead and have one free refill," advises Maggie Lawrence of Culpepper, Va. "Just don't be a pig."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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