I always review the “Social Qs” advice column on Sundays, and frequently have a disagreement with the advice offered by columnist Philip Gallanes. (He’s pretty good, though.) This time, however, his column bothered me from a different perspective, namely, “What the hell is the matter with these people?” I found Gallanes’ advice reasonable and ethical throughout, but in three of the four letters, the conduct described was so obviously wrong that I found myself once again feeling that my insignificant efforts to try to promote good ethics decision-making skills (a task that takes up about three hours a day, seven days a week, 365 , 366 this year, days a year—Do NOT tell my business partner!—are an irresponsible waste of time that I will want back when I am dying of COVID-19.
First, a college freshman wrote that her boyfriend had given her a 50 dollar gift certificate for Panera on Valentine’s Day. When she told the guy, whom she said was “great,” that his gift was terrible, he replied, “Well, at least I got you a gift.”
What? The woman had the nerve to complain about his Valentine’s Day gift to her when she had just blown off giving him any gift at all? A gift worth fifty dollars is still a gift, even if the kid is a little confused about the whole “romantic” thing. He’ll learn. Where, however, in these days of Whine and Roses did the inquirer get the idea that she didn’t have to keep up her end?
The next letter raised the old bugaboo, the dinner guest who brings food or drink to the party and then takes home what wasn’t used. In this case, it was a bottle of cheap wine. This was the kind of thing my Depression era mother would do, which is one reason my folks didn’t get out much. But really, how could anyone think this wasn’t rude, cheap, and wrong? These are gifts. They aren’t loans.
Finally, there was this:
I treated my colleague to a ticket to an expensive fund-raiser as my guest. While there, she bought a raffle ticket and won a $5,000 gift certificate to a local department store. Do you think she should have offered to share it with me? (I do.)
Of course I don’t. In tort law, this is called an intervening cause. If the colleague broke her back at the event, would the host have been expected to pay half the medical bills? If something said to the colleague at the event sparked an idea for new form of cheap and clean energy, would the one who paid for the ticket have a right to half the invention’s profits?
No one who graduates from high school should be capable of getting these typical daily life ethics challenges so wrong.