Ethics Hero, Thanksgiving Division: Scott Stuckey, Manager of Atlanta’s Omni Hotel

Scott Stuckey gets hugged by a grateful non-criminal Joel Hartman was homeless and surviving in Atlanta by dumpster diving, but when he found a lost wallet with the owner’s identification and credit card inside, he was determined to do the right thing. The wallet obviously belonged to a tourist, so the 36-year-old man checked the hotels in downtown Atlanta until he found out that the tourist (from France, for a conference) was staying at the Omni Hotel.

After Alanta’s Omni manager Scott Stuckey saw the surveillance video of Hartman—who looked as destitute as he was— turning in the wallet to the hotel’s  security guards, he decided that a reward was in order.  Hartman had given them a fake name, so it took some effort to track the shy good Samaritan down. Stuckey and his staff searched for a week, leaving messages with other homeless people that the Omni wanted to thank the man who recovered its guest’s stolen wallet. Eventually Hartman heard about their quest, and showed up at the hotel. He was shocked at what Stuckey had planned for him. Hartman was told that he would be the Omni’s guest in a luxury room through the Thanksgiving holiday with complimentary room service. The hotel also  gave him $500.

I think the gesture by Stuckey and the Omni was kind, appropriate, and in keeping with the spirit of the holiday….but:

  • It was also great public relations. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t sincere. It doesn’t mean it was, either.
  • I have heard nothing from the French tourist, who really should have been doing the rewarding. Apparently she left the generosity up to the hotel. Nice. Viva la France!
  • I am disturbed by the widespread assumption that a normal homeless man would have fraudulently used a credit card that wasn’t his. The wallet contained no cash; when a financially desperate person finds cash, the decision to keep what can be rationalized as a windfall would be wrong, but understandable. Using a lost credit card is a criminal act; there’s nothing heroic about not committing a crime. Yes, searching for the owner is responsible and generous, but honestly: what else did Hartman have to do?
  • The growing societal consensus that poor people have an implied right, or at least a justification, to take the money of others for their own use is insidious and wrong. It is no surprise, however, given the tenor of the public policy rhetoric these days.

Since Hartman’s story has hit the news, he is, like past homeless men who have returned lost valuables, getting donations and offers of help from all over the country. Generosity,charity and empathy and compassion are grand, but it makes little sense to lavish rewards on one homeless person who has already been richly rewarded for not breaking the law, when so many other equally desperate people, many, if not most of which may have done exactly what Hartman did given the opportunity, languish in shelters, over grates or worse over the holidays, ignored and neglected. As usual, it is easier to focus on a single incident than the larger problem it represents.

________________________

Sources: Fox, WSOT

 

21 thoughts on “Ethics Hero, Thanksgiving Division: Scott Stuckey, Manager of Atlanta’s Omni Hotel

  1. Maybe the Frenchman gave him the cash in the wallet. I would be so grateful that the wallet with all its contents were returned to me I wouldn’t have cared if the homeless man had taken the money. I live in Atlanta and it has been a happy Thanksgiving story here. And why do you care if the hotel did it for publicity reasons? He is also being united with his family by what you would probably call “do gooders”. You sound like Ayn Rand. You can’t get past the “makers” and the “takers”. It seems to really bother you when people help poor people just as it did her. Happy Thanksgiving! Sorry, but lots of people have been giving today.

    • Huh?

      1.The wallet had no cash in it. It had been stolen and the cards had been left. Thieves don’t leave cash in wallets.

      2. What? So you think the guy would be entitled to the accolades if he stole the money and returned that card?

      What’s the matter with you?

      3. Why do I care? It changes the nature of the act from charity to cynical exploitation. The Santa in the movie sent Macy’s shoppers to Gimbel’s because it helped the shoppers. Gimbel’s sent their shoppers to Macy’s as a PR gimmick. Quiz: which is the more ethical act? Take your time, now, I know this is hard for you…

      4. Here’s another quiz: reconcile what I wrote— “Generosity,charity and empathy and compassion are grand, but it makes little sense to lavish rewards on one homeless person who has already been richly rewarded for not breaking the law, when so many other equally desperate people, many, if not most of which may have done exactly what Hartman did given the opportunity, languish in shelters, over grates or worse over the holidays, ignored and neglected”—with the emotional, non-responsive accusatory nonsense you wrote. That’s an unfair quiz, actually, because you can’t—nobody could.

      This blog is about using rational analysis to decide what is right and wrong. The proliferation of gut-navigated hysterics like you is the reason it is necessary. And Ayn Rand is pissed, because she would hate this blog You don’t understand her, either. Or English. Or much, as far as I can see.

      • And there’s this, which obviously hasn’t penetrated that “feel good” vapor: if I returned a wallet like that, nobody would take note at all.So the Atlanta ethical culture is that there is an income division regarding whether one is obligated to obey laws or not? Underlying the celebration of the homeless man’s unremarkable ethical act is a basic admission of low expectations, which is a classist insult to the character of everyone in his position. I think the hotel’s generosity is just that, and as such is admirable. Obeying the law, however, doesn’t make someone a hero regardless of how poor he is are.

        • I think his act becomes “extra” ethical when he went beyond reasonable expectations to find the previous owner. At a bare minimum his civic duty was to drop off the wallet at the nearest police station or the City’s version of ‘lost and found’. But he didn’t, he went to as many hotels as he could until, through is own research, determined which hotel was the correct one.

          I think you are right on the assessment that they shouldn’t laud a poor person who didn’t give in to what they assumed were low expectations of the poor person. But if they were praising the extra *personal* effort put in by the man, I think that is fair.

          We can cynically claim that the hotel was acting out of a motive for good PR, but those same cynics, for consistency had better then assume the homeless man was acting out of a motive to receive sympathy. Just quit being cynical and give both the benefit of the doubt… there are still good acts and good actors out there.

    • “Maybe the Frenchman gave him the cash in the wallet. I would be so grateful that the wallet with all its contents were returned to me I wouldn’t have cared if the homeless man had taken the money.”

      Maybe someone found your car in a parking garage and drove it all over town, but you’d be fine with it as long as he left everything in it when he was done.

      WRONG! Someone taking stuff you value less as long as you get back what you value more makes no sense. They would still be stealing.

      “You sound like Ayn Rand. You can’t get past the “makers” and the “takers”.”

      Where the hell did that come from? Non sequitur.

      “Happy Thanksgiving! Sorry, but lots of people have been giving today.”

      Another non-sequitur. If it was meant to somehow undermine Jack’s discussion, then here we have an actual example of an ad hominem (and a poorly put together one at that).

  2. I can’t solve the world’s problems. I can’t help everyone who needs help, nor reward everyone who deserves it.

    But I can help some, and reward some. So I do, as many as I can (not many). By doing so, I might encourage others to do the same, I’m at least acting according to my Kantian beliefs, but even if my example isn’t followed by anyone else in the world – I’ve done something concrete, not just talked about it.

  3. Looking back at it, I think Ayn Rand read too much Nietzsche when she got to America. I wonder what she got her admirers for Christmas? (whoops, I guess she didn’t celebrate it) An autographed copy of *Atlas Shrugged*? Anyway, i think Omni Hotels did the right thing.

  4. If you read the articles on the story the homeless man in question found the wallet in a trash can because it was snatched from the woman in front of the hotel. Do you think someone threw it in the trash w/o taking the money? Most travelers do not carry a lot of cash when they travel for that reason. So he is due a reward. And the French woman should have done that also..I mentioned Ayn Rand because she is a “hater” of the poor and suffering. And a damn poor writer too. And yes I would be happy to get my personal belongings back even if the money were missing. Bad crimes are committed everyday this is not one of them.

    • Yes, Faye, you confirm my earlier suspicions, and those of the commenter who suggested that you can’t read. The post is clear: he did the right thing. Of course a reward is appropriate. My wallet has been returned in the past, and yes, I provided a reward (once mu offer was rejected, by the way, for exactly the reasons I cite.) There is absolutely zip in the post that suggest hatred of the poor. I’m happy for the guy that everyone is going nuts because he did what I would expect anyone to do. Good luck to him. But the virtue of the act is not changed by his economic status. And THIS —And yes I would be happy to get my personal belongings back even if the money were missing. Bad crimes are committed everyday this is not one of them_–is a masterpiece!

      1) I did not ask whether you would be happy to get the cards back if the money were missing. Of course you would—who wouldn’t? I asked, AS A HYPOTHETICAL, why you would excuse the theft of the money (as you suggested) by the man returning the wallet and still celebrate his “honesty.” Which is nuts.
      2) Assuming that by “crime” you means the hypothetical theft, you are excusing theft of someone’s cash as not a ‘bad crime.” Of course it’s a bad crime. All theft is bad.

      But at least now I understand what’s the matter with you.

  5. And I feel that the homeless man definitely went above the call for both legal and moral duties. He should be given kudos for that and I wonder how many of you ethical people would got to three hotels in search of the right person. The current frenzy by many over the “writings” of Ayn Rand make the comment above quite in keeping with the story. And, it seems to me old Jack has problems with rewarding a homeless person while, again, the point is that he did something that others would be unlikely to do.

    • Who said he didn’t go “beyond the call?” What he did was nice, and right—it’s still not that big a deal, that’s all. Do you deny it? This is just not all that unusual, except that the good Samaritan was homeless. My nephew dropped a wallet full of cash, IDs, credit cards and show tickets in the middle of Times Square—a bystander gave it to the nearest cop, and mu nephew got his wallet back in 30 minutes. Should Bloomberg have held a parade for the guy who returned the wallet with all its contents secure? Or only if he had been homeless?

      As it happens, the homeless man was lucky that he found the owner—in most cases, the simple act of handing it over to the police is also the one most likely to work. What he was returning wasn’t even that valuable any more, was it? Underlying the hosannas is the presumption that most homeless men would have tried to use the credit card and break the law—which is just stereotyping, and again, not breaking the law doesn’t make anyone a hero.

      I expressed NO problems with rewarding the homeless man—can you read? To the contrary! What did making the manager of the Omni an “Ethics Hero” signify, then, if not enthusiastic approval? My criticism was of the misallocation of charity by those piling more bounty on this one man, when many others also need assistance.

      And the point IS that Hartman did something that others who are not homeless do with some regularity.

      I’ll require an apology for your blatantly misrepresenting the content of my post before your next comment gets posted here. Disagreement is great, debate is encouraged—but intentionally distorting what I write isn’t tolerated. Nor is calling me “old Jack” when you haven’t earned the privilege.

      • Update: “old Bill” couldn’t bring himself to apologize for arguing against a position I didn’t take, and being snotty about it in the process. Clarification: I don’t regard “You’re an asshole” as a sincere apology. Bye Bill—hope you and Faye hook up.

    • Faye, let me be really clear about this:

      You-Can’t-Read. I have never said nor suggested that there was cash in the wallet when it was found by Hartman. YOU first raised that when you wrote—and I am presuming you can read quotes of your own, which may be rash—“Maybe the Frenchman gave him the cash in the wallet”—which suggests there had been cash in the wallet but the original thieves didn’t take it, which is ridiculous. You also said “I would be so grateful that the wallet with all its contents were returned to me I wouldn’t have cared if the homeless man had taken the money,” which means that Hartman would still be a hero to you if he stole the tourists’ money but returned the wallet without taking the card. Also ridiculous.

      Yes, I tend to be condescending to commenters who misrepresent and misread posts and accuse me without any justification of being like Ayn Rand and hating poor people. I’m funny that way. Also of commenters like you, who write without thinking, which is disrespectful and wastes everyone’s time.

      You,like 90% of the visitors here, could have taken issue with the post respectfully and with the proper manners of someone visiting a web home for the first time. Instead, you chose to adopt a contemptuous and insulting tone, to wit: “You sound like Ayn Rand. You can’t get past the “makers” and the “takers”. It seems to really bother you when people help poor people just as it did her.” Even that might be acceptable if you made any sense.

  6. I googled your name and found out more than I need to know. You are just another conservative hack like Rush Limbaugh. And enough bad things have been said about you that I don’t need to say anymore.

    • Your googling skills, not surprisingly, are as deficient as your reading ability. Rush is no hack, and I’m no conservative. But if I could be judged by the fairness and character of my most vociferous critics, I’d consider it a great compliment. Adding you just enhances the compliment.

  7. By the way, before I leave the ridiculous and insulting Faye, let me call for a round of applause for her through gritted teeth. She never wavered from a logic-free, feel-good,, emotion driven, surface view of this story, completely misread the post, took my (typical) refusal to accept the facile view pushed by the mass media as antipathy against the poor, (when I actually pointed out that the attitude of those applauding him for not breaking the law evinced prejudice against the poor), immediately launched into a political attack (disagree with Faye, you must be a mean right-winger), contradicted herself, never responded to the points being debated, and then, unable to make any coherent retort, looked up whatever nasty posts about me she could find by Nando,and others so she could exit with an ad hominem attack, comparing me to a figure she must believe is the Devil, Rush Limbaugh, of all people. She is as good an example as you could find of the kind of person who is virtually incapable of rational ethical analysis,and there are millions of them.. How do you get through to people like this, who just refuse to think and view the world through the wisdom of bumper stickers and chants? I’ll take a dead-eyed ideologue any day. At least he’ll address the issues. The Fayes of the world just drift along, following the herd, seeing the world in black and white, and lashing out when her assumptions are challenged.

  8. It is a shame that this event has devolved into a quagmire of mean spirited attacks.

    Jack (If I may call you Jack) you make a great observation that we often elevate basic behavior in civil society to lofty heights when performed by those in lower socio-economic conditions. You are spot-on in identifying an inherent bias against the poor insofar as we do not expect them to behave honestly. This bias is unfair to many. A person’s character cannot be measured by his/her wealth; only by their deeds.

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