Tag Archives: beggars

Ethics Quiz: From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag…

burningmoneyimageReader and sometime commenter Elizabeth 2 e-mails…

Here’s a question for which I’d appreciate some input.

I am generally a sucker for street people who ask for money. I frequent the 7-11 for quick trips for needed household items, and over the past couple of months I’ve often seen a young woman outside, just sitting there.  She once asked me if I had any spare change:  I gave her $10.  A couple of weeks later, same question, same response.

Then a month or so after I had last given her money, I was in the same 7-11 and saw her buying lottery tickets.

Last week she saw me as I entered the 7-11, recognized me, and asked me again for “spare change.” I said “I don’t have any cash at all.  Sorry!”  I was not of a mind to help this young woman use my charity for the biggest scam of all time:  the Virginia Lottery.

My question is this:  if I am willing to part with money for a person who seems to need it, and to do so without the vetting that a charity usually gets from me, am I in any position at all to care or change my behavior because of the way the money is spent?  Admittedly I have no ability to realistically judge the true need of anyone who asks me for money, but if I have some evidence that makes me wary, should I act on it?

Or, since charity (monetary or otherwise) is an important pillar of character for me, should I simply give what I can when I can and make no judgement whatsoever?  After all, these people don’t have Form 990s for me to examine.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical to withhold charity from a needy individual because you regard her likely use of your gift as irresponsible?

Continue reading

47 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Quotes

Ethics Dunce or Hero? The Paradox of “The Amex Angel”

You probably heard the story. About three weeks ago in Manhattan,  ad executive Merrie Harris was approached by a homeless man who asked her for some spare change. Harris told the man, Jay Valentine, that she had no change, but offered to lend him her American Express Platinum Card if he would promise to return it. Valentine assured her he was trustworthy, and, incredibly, Harris gave him the card. He returned the card a short time later after a modest shipping spree that added twenty-five dollars to her bill. The New York media sang the praises of both Harris and Valentine, dubbing Harris “the Amex Angel” and calling the episode “a shining act of generosity, trust and honesty.”

I almost designated Wilson an Ethics Hero at the time, but something stopped me. I have been considering the implications of the strange story ever since. It may have been that shining act, but I’m not convinced it was even ethical. Is that possible? How can an act of generosity, trust, and kindness not be ethical?  Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society