Category Archives: Daily Life

Ethics Jump-Ball At The 7-11

Boy, you better be quick if you want to be “pay it forward” in Alexandria, Virginia.

Today I dropped by the local 7-11 for a quick purchase and was third in a line of four. Being served was a very tall—basketball player tall—, very striking young African American man, late 20s, early 30s,  in a three- piece suit and tie. He had his items on the counter for checkout, and excused himself briefly to go out to his car where he said he had left his wallet. A few seconds later he stepped back into the store and said, “Never mind. I’m sorry, I left my wallet at home,” and started to leave. I hesitated maybe two seconds and started to speak, as did the man ahead of me. I was about to say that I would pay for his items, but the guy behind me, short, stocky, white, about 50, and noticeably missing a few teeth in front, stepped out and said, “Hey, man, I’ve got it.”

The young man looked surprised and said, “Are you sure?” “Of course. Is that it?” replied the older man, pointing to the counter.

“Just pay it forward, friend,” said the man in front of me.

“Thank you,” said the Kareem Abdul Jabbar look-alike.  I really did think he looked like Kareem, early 70’s vintage, but handsomer. He also appeared a lot more affluent than his shorter benefactor. “Here’s my contact information…” and he reached into his pocket.

“No, no, come on, that’s not necessary,” said his new friend,, flashing his missing teeth in a big smile. “I’ve got it. We’re all in this together.” And he paid the clerk.

The tall black man shook his hand, and they both held the clasp for a few second. “Thanks so much,” he said.

After he left, both I and the man in front of me congratulated the winner of this ethics jump ball, saying that we both were about to do the same thing, but he had been quicker.

“Oh no!” he said suddenly, eyes twinkling. “I just spent my last dollar! Now I can’t pay for MY stuff!”

“See? I’d really have you both then, wouldn’t I?”

And we all laughed.

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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, As Trump Derangement Allegedly Eats Chuck Schumer’s Brain”

Aggressive Ethics Alarms commenter Elizabeth II was on fire yesterday, authoring two and maybe three Comment of the Day-worthy screeds. This was the first of them, and on a topic that never can have enough discussion here: civility, in reaction to Senator Schumer’s public berating of a Trump voter in a New York restaurant.

Incidental Update: when that post was written, no leftward mainstream media sources reported the incident, though it was unquestionable newsworthy. If Senator McCain or Mitch McConnell, and certainly Sarah Palin, had behaved this way, it would be on every front page and CNN would be leading with it every hour.  I noted that this was a perfect example of how the polarization of news sources works today; I also wondered if the story would ultimately be debunks or credibly denied. The story  hasn’t been debunked, and the Left’s media pals have ignored it. From now on, I think I’ll ask any desperate denier of news media bias try to explain this.

Here is Elizabeth II’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, As Trump Derangement Allegedly Eats Chuck Schumer’s Brain”:

I think this is more than Trump Derangement — though of course Trump as POTUS is making it worse. It is the awful, seemingly uncontrolled downturn in civility generally in this country. We dress like slobs, we act like slobs, and we talk like slobs. We seem to have no control over our behavior: in perhaps two generations, all bets are off in terms of civil behavior.

When my son was very young I did want him to learn to be a “gentleman.” This had nothing to do with money, class, or beliefs: it was attitudinal and behavioral only.

My explanation was this: what you do or say in the privacy of your own home — absent breaking the law — is absolutely one’s own business.

Outside the home, however, is where being a ‘gentleman’ comes into play. The key to being a gentleman is to match your public behavior to where you are and who you are with — doing so with grace and civility without , compromising your own personal ethic. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

A New Way To Be Unethical On An Airplane, Courtesy of “The Hamilton Effect”

I’m in O’Hare, with about 20 minutes to post something, and amazingly, I just witnessed something of ethics significance.

As my United flight from Sacramento was at the O’Hare  gate, with passengers waiting for the jetway to be set up, a young man stood up in the middle of the plane and launched into a loud sales pitch for his depression counseling services!

Let’s call this ‘The Hamilton Effect,” in which people assume that a captive audience is there to be inflicted with their particular rants, business promotions and other intrusions.

The flight attendants had no idea what to do.  He was behind me, and I didn’t feel like fighting my way to him, intervening, and telling him, “You’re depressing ME. Shut up. We’re not your infomercial audience, and we didn’t consent to being bombarded by propaganda or marketing blather.”

Now I’m ticked off that I didn’t. Next time, I’ll be ready. This has to be nipped in the bud.

Oh, this probably wasn’t really sparked by “Hamilton’s” ambush of Mike Pence, but I’m going to blame the production and cast anyway. And all the ethics-challenged theater professionals who applauded this breach of trust.

On another topic, David Cay Johnston,the journalist who revealed the President’s 2005 tax returns, offers a rebuttal to my recent post, here. What fun!

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising

A Tale Of Two Hotels: Same Problem, Different Responses

A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at Atlanta’s sumptuous Lowe’s hotel downtown. I like the hotel a great deal, but room service at breakfast is ridiculous: essentially you might as well order the deluxe pig-out, which could feed a family of three. The way the menu is set up, you pay the over $25 for any other choice and get half as much food. This is primarily because a pot of coffee costs more than ten dollars, and only the deluxe breakfast has coffee included.

Even though all expenses were being paid by the client, I hate this, so I decided to order a couple of muffins (still about $15 without coffee, not counting tax and the automatic service charge) and tolerate the free instant coffee that is  offered by the little single cup machines in the room. I was a good plan, but the damn thing wouldn’t work. The water didn’t heat. Annoyed (no coffee, 6 AM, brilliant money-saving scheme foiled), I called the front desk to complain. They sent up a young man—he arrived in about 15 minutes, after the continental breakfast—who fiddled with the coffee machine. It was obvious that he had never seen one before.  Eventually he gave up, apologized, and left to get another one. By the time he returned, I had finished most of the muffins, but I made a cup of (lousy) coffee anyway.

Last night, I had to stay in a hotel to make sure that D.C.’s $%^&$#@! Rock and Roll Marathon didn’t stop me from getting to my early morning presentation to new D.C. bar members. The streets around the venue were blocked off, and weird traffic was expected; hard experience dictated the expense was the better part of valor. There was breakfast provided at the bar event, so all I needed was some coffee in my room to wake me up sufficiently so that I didn’t wander onto 14th street and die.

This time, the hotel was the J.W Marriott, and again the little one cup coffee machine didn’t work. Just like in Atlanta, I called the front desk, sounding even more annoyed about the inconvenience than the before. (This was unfair, of course; there is no reason the Marriott should inherit my upset with Lowe’s.) The response from the desk was identical after I described my plight: she would send someone up to my room to check on the machine. Great.

When the knock came and I opened the door, I was greeted by the head of guest services, in a uniform. He had a new coffee machine with him, and also handed me a bag containing two large cups of Starbuck’s coffee, ten creamers, napkins, utensils, and two hot pastries. He replaced the machine after confirming that it was broken, apologized profusely, and took his leave.

Wow.

Now that’s service.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day : “Incident At Big Bowl”

John Billingsley has been participating here for less than two months, and this is his first Comment of the Day. He explores some of the broader labor, management and cultural  issues behind the curtain in my rueful account of  inept service at an airport fast food restaurant.

Here is John’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Incident at Big Bowl.”

I believe this is an issue that goes much deeper than it appears on the surface and Son of M and Tom M in their analyses have identified some of the issues at the root of the problem. Son of M said, “I don’t know that people at this level of employment have EVER cared or are ever going to.” There are some who care, and they can be identified when you are served by them, but I agree that most them appear not to. I think this is because our culture overall is not respectful of the people who do those jobs and so they have no reason to respect themselves as a person who performs that work.

I had the opportunity to live in Japan for about two years. That was over 40 years ago, and I still remember the complete professionalism of just about every service worker I encountered. Of course, it is a cultural thing. I wish people who provide services here could develop the attitude that it is not demeaning to be a service worker.

Tom asks, “Why is all of the blame on the employees?” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, U.S. Society, Workplace

I Can’t Resist: Another Restaurant Ethics Tale

I’m sitting here in my office waiting for an important call from a potential client, so I don’t want to start a major post (as in “Trump’s Wiretapping Accusation”), so I’ll just note this strange episode from last night.

It was along day for ProEthics, so Grace and I decided to order out from a terrific Mediterranean place that delivers. We love their fattoosh, which is a salad that includes little pieces of dried pita bread. That was an item in the order.

When everything arrived, the fattoosh was missing the little pita bits. Now, this had happened once before, but I didn’t bother to make a big deal out of it. Still, fattoosh without the pita isn’t fattoosh. Now it had happened  again, making it 40% of the times we had ordered the dish that it was incomplete. I decided to call up and complain.

The owner said that I was right, but that the selection in the menu doesn’t specifically list the pita as an ingredient. Sometimes, he said, people don’t know what fattoosh is, and complain that is does have the pita bits.

Yes, I said, but fattoosh without the pita is just a salad.  To wit:

Fattoush (Arabic: فتوش‎‎, also fattush, fatush, fattoosh, and fattouche) is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz ‘arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables, such as radishes and tomatoes.

“Right! Right!” he said, “But people who don’t know that complain. So sometimes we leave the pita out. Sometimes we put it in.”

“You do know that if the menu says fattoosh, and fattoosh means “salad with pieces of pita bread in it,” you don’t have to specify that the pita is included?” I queried.  ” The name says that it’s included. Are you telling me that if I want fattoosh, I have to make a point of saying that I really want fattoosh?”

That’s right, he said.

I could not make the man see that there was anything wrong with this.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Daily Life

Incident At Big Bowl

Am I the only one who has weird  encounters  every single time I travel? That can’t be. (Can it?)

This week, I had a quick trip to Boston (where my heart resides, so I have to visit it) to present a legal ethics program to recently minted lawyers. On the way, I tried to grab a meal at Reagan airport. The flight was at 6:30, and I wanted to eat before I had to get on the plane. I chose an allegedly fast food outpost near my gate, Big Bowl. It was not busy: maybe two people ahead of me, one behind. The order was simple: a “big bowl” of kung pao chicken with white rice, no drink. I paid, and got my slip with the number 555.

When they called 555, it wasn’t my order. They called 549 before that, and it wasn’t right either. All the numbers on all the orders were wrong, and the confusion added about 10 minutes to everyone’s wait, notably mine. Finally, they skipped the numbers entirely, and shouted out the contents of each order. My big bowl had been mislabeled 550, and for a while I had to argue with the customer who had the 550 ticket, until she realized she had ordered fried rice, not white rice.

Meanwhile the employees were just shrugging, giggling and smiling away. “You had the wrong number,” one said to me. “No, you had the wrong number on my order. Why?” She shrugged and smiled.

“That’s no answer, ” I said. “Do you have a system, or not?  Can’t you tell me what happened? I was inconvenienced. Part of what I’m paying for is service. Why did this happen?”

Another shrug. No acceptance of responsibility. No apology or anything remotely sounding like one.  At this point, a superannuated hippy who looked like she was ready to do a Joan Baez set intervened with a condescending, “They made a mistake. Mistakes happen.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, U.S. Society, Workplace