Ethics Quiz: Let The Seller Beware?

My son, an auto mechanic and an BMW enthusiast. just purchased a used BMW for 300 dollars from a customer who was frustrated with the car and not willing to pay any more to repair it. He regarded the purchase as great deal, but it was even a better deal than he thought. While he was checking out the car last night, be discovered that a spark plug had been misinstalled by the owner. When it was replaced, the engine sang like Beverley Sills.

My son said that he had suggested to the owner that he change the spark plugs, but had been told that this had recently been done. “He was nasty about it, too,” he said. “Would he have sold you the car for such a low price if the car was running the way it is now?” I asked.

“Never,” my son replied.

Your Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is there an ethical duty to offer the car back to the original owner when it is discovered after the purchase that the vehicle was better and more valuable than the owner thought?

Secondary question: My son says that he might feel badly about the deal if the owner hadn’t been such a jackass throughout the transaction, and not only rejected his advice that would have revealed the car’s problem, but did so abusively.

Is that a valid and relevant ethical consideration?

 

Comment of the Day: “Of COURSE There’s An Unwed and Pregnant Catholic School Teacher Principle….Don’t Be Silly.”

No irish

I encourage the long form comment here, and Ethics Alarms has many commenters who are masters of the form. I feel badly about the many longer, well thought out essays-as-comments that I do not highlight as Comments of the Day, because they represent—well, most of the time—the kind of serious thought and original expression that most blogs, even many of the best, seldom see. Length is not virtue, of course, but ethics, as this post by texagg04, reminds us, is a vital topic that often does not yield answers that are easy, simple, or permanent. The post is in response to a statement from Fred, another trenchant commenter, on the thread’s discussion of whether a school is ethically obligated to allow single and pregnant teachers, if in its view this undermines its efforts to teach certain values and life choices to the young. Fred wrote:

““Doesn’t have to take the job” is not an ethical or legal excuse if there’s a discriminatory requirement not related to doing the job. Being pregnant while teaching does have some relation to the job. Mopping while Methodist doesn’t….There’s an ethics question in whether the school lived up to their religious principles and a legal issue of arguable sex discrimination.”

Here is texagg04’s reply and the Comment of the Day, to the post, Of COURSE There’s An Unwed and Pregnant Catholic School Teacher Principle….Don’t Be Silly.:

 

Let’s start from the market aspect and contractual aspect, and disregard existing law initially…

An employer creates jobs when he senses the market demands a value the potential job can provide. I think the answer lies between two poles: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Murder House Ethics and the Validity of Feelings”

"Oh THAT! You would have cared about THAT?"

Tgt, the ghosts of whose earlier argument in series of comments haunted me prompted a revisit to the issue of murder houses and a seller’s obligation to reveal their history to potential buyers, came back with this Comment of the Day, thought-provoking, as usual:

“…I still want to know the line that determines what ethically does and does not need to be disclosed. It was never settled. This post generally boils down to another emotional appeal that something should be done in some cases. I want to know which cases and why those. Otherwise, my argument holds fast. I don’t see multiple murders (the latest clearly having nothing to do with the earlier ones) as being any more relevant than one murder.

“I also believe Jack misrepresented my position on emotion in general. Us rational humanists still mourn our dead, though we try to celebrate their lives more than anything else. While humans are not special in the concept of the Universe, we understand that we are special to ourselves and in our relations with other people. Humanism is about celebrating human life and relationships.

“As for death specifically, I see no need of a grave or burial rites. A dead body is just decomposing flesh. It does not need to be prayed for and cleansed. The person though, the lasting effects they have had on others, the memories of them – these are all important. I cried when a somewhat distant high school friend died in a freak accident at 17. I sent his family flowers on the anniversary of his death for the next 2 years. Why? Because it let his family know that he wasn’t forgotten, that he made an impact on other lives. It let them knew that people cared… people they only knew by name. I cherish the cards they sent in response. Continue reading

Murder House Ethics and the Validity of Feelings

We last visited the issue of the ethical selling of murder houses in February, when  the Jon Benet Ramsey house went on sale. I opined that even though Colorado doesn’t have a legal requirement that a seller must reveal the history of the house as long as it has no structural implications, there is an ethical obligation to let prospective buyers know about house-related events that might cause them to reconsider their decision to buy it:

“The truth is still this: there is something about the $2,300,000 house that makes it undesirable to a lot of prospects, and that means that even if the law doesn’t require the seller to tell interested house-hunters the story of the little dead girl in the basement, fairness and the Golden Rule do.”

The debate over this issue was unexpectedly intense. Ethics Alarms’ resident rational humanist “tgt” objected strenuously, writing,

“I don’t see how you can avoid the slippery slope question. Your basis is 50% of the population having a desire. Is that the cutoff? I think over 50% of people would prefer to live in a house where there hasn’t been child abuse. Go back a few years, and I bet a significant portion of the population would prefer to live in a house that had never had black occupants. Back in today’s world, more than 50% of the population doesn’t want to live in a haunted house. If a previous tenant thought the house was haunted, does the complete nonexistence of ghosts make not mentioning this a material representation? If an event is uncommon, does a realtor need to take a poll before deciding what is material and what isn’t?”

Karl Penny, however, bolstered my position:

“…the question is, does the realtor have an ethical obligation to fully reveal the history of this house. Well, the funny thing about behaving ethically is, it often requires us to act in ways that are not in our own immediate best interest… this may give a potential buyer a leverage point to negotiate a lower price for the house, to the detriment of the realtor, who could end up taking a lower commission as a result. No surprise, then, that the realtor would love to find a reason not to opt for full disclosure. But, if that realtor successfully conceals the house’s history from an actual buyer, one who would not have bought had they known otherwise? The realtor had a simple, human duty to disclose, even if it cost him money (and, yes, even if it cost me money, were I the realtor)….Jack’s right: this is Golden Rule time. If I am willing to treat with someone else in a way that I would not want anyone to treat with me, is that logically consistent (much less ethically consistent)? And would any of us want to live in the resulting society should everyone behave in that fashion?”

Now another house with a Hitchcock-worthy past is on the market: 9337 Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring, Maryland, a state that also doesn’t require its realtors to disclose when a house has been the scene of a murder…or, in this case, three murders in the last decade. Continue reading

What the Realtor Didn’t Tell You About Your New Home

"Conveys with property"

From the Boulder, Colorado real estate listings:

FOR SALE: $2,300,000

“Stunning, updated, classic Uni-Hill home. Elegance of past generations combined with modern updates make this home unique. Huge rooms, great light and an over-sized, gated lot on a fine street just a short walk from CU and Chautauqua. Beautiful high-end kitchen, a large terrace with a view and a master suite which encompasses the entire upper level and has stunning views. Nicely finished basement with high end finishes, wet bar & wine cellar. Too many features to mention in this beautiful home.”

One of those “features”: JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in that nicely finished basement, and was almost certainly murdered in the house.

Oh, that. Continue reading