A well-traveled reader claims that his spouse is one of the world's great hoarders when they're on the road.
"If we're eating breakfast at a hotel and they serve us three rolls," he explains, his spouse will eat one roll and slip the other two into the backpack for later. If there's an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, his spouse will take a few extra packaged cheeses for lunch.
"It's saved us many a meal," the reader writes.
But the spouse doesn't stop at the dining table. In hotel rooms, the spouse will walk out with the Kleenex box or toiletries.
"We don't take towels or such, but food or toiletries?" His spouse, he writes, is a master.
"So here's my ethical question: Where should a traveler draw the line? If you paid for the room, can you take the Kleenex? If you've paid for breakfast, but don't eat that much, can you save food for lunch? What are the limits?"
In the past, readers have asked similar questions. One admitted deliberately going to a local all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant while they were still serving breakfast -- but just as they began setting out lunch -- so he could partake of each. He wanted to know if this was a kosher practice (straddling meals, not the meal itself). As long as the restaurant hadn't posted any notice that patrons were only paying for breakfast or lunch, I said he'd done nothing wrong.
Several other readers have asked about taking home the toiletries set out for their use in hotel/motel rooms. As long as these items were intended for their personal consumption, there's no harm in keeping them. In fact, I pointed out, some hotels have formed relationships with not-for-profit organizations such as Clean the World and the Global Soap Project to send unused shampoos and soaps to developing nations. Travelers can contribute themselves if they wish.
But what of the world-class hoarding spouse? If the couple is served three rolls and eats only one, there's nothing wrong with saving the other two for later. It seems akin to asking for a doggie bag. Taking a handful of Kleenex to use while out traveling and away from the hotel seems a fair practice, as well.
But taking packaged food from a buffet table with no intention of eating it during that meal, and removing a full-size box of Kleenex from a hotel room goes beyond the intention of the provider. Granted, my reader's spouse is certainly not the only person to do such things; the hotel where the couple stayed probably anticipates the cost of such activities.
If so, the right thing would be for the hotel to make clear to patrons that they're welcome to take a piece of cheese or fruit with them for the day, or pack the Kleenex. Or guests can simply ask at the front desk or in the dining area if it's OK to take extra. They shouldn't have to wonder if it's OK or not -- even if they believe everyone else is doing it.
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 a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2014 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
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