Wednesday, May 21, 2014

a dubiously ethical day

This blog is nothing if not a very public confessional. You, Dear Reader, are my priest—listening, forgiving, and absolving. So hear the tale of my Tuesday peccadilloes:

1. I found two W1000 bills just lying there in front of Aquinas Hall. They looked, for all the world, like bluish slips of paper, random and worthless. I looked closer, perhaps attracted by the specific shade of blue, and saw that the images on the paper corresponded to money. I picked up the bills, unfolded them, smoothed them out, then stuck them inside my wallet.

2. While I was walking home around 11:30PM tonight, I detoured into the new 7-Eleven and spoke with the gentlemanly ajeossi who runs the place during the night shift. In the mood for a midnight snack, I went over to the sandwich shelves and selected two puny sandwiches—ham and egg, and chicken pesto. The ajeossi said that the pesto sandwich was a few hours beyond its expiry date, which was why he had placed it at the bottom of the shelving. I jauntily told him I had a tough stomach and didn't mind buying old food. He shrugged and, hesitating, rang the sandwich up, but didn't actually charge me for it. So I got a free sandwich. What I want to know is why the guy put the sandwich on the shelf in the first place: in theory, if its "sell by" date had expired, it should have been tossed, yes?* The cost of the sandwich was W2,000, so by the end of the day I had saved W4,000.

Two lucky circumstances, both ethically dubious in nature, both having a monetary value of W2,000. I almost feel something of a "Monkey's Paw" vibe about my possibly tainted good fortune: it wouldn't surprise me if, sometime tomorrow, I get hit by a truck in bombastic, splattery, "Final Destination"-style as the cosmos struggles to restore its karmic balance.

*Stores in the States have different ways of handling this particular food issue. Many stores, like Food Lion and Wal-Mart, have "Day-old Bread" (or cake, etc.) racks on which they place expired items for sale at extremely reduced prices. This works well for bread and other bakery items, but not so well for more perishable products like fruits and vegetables.

LINK: What Happens to Expired Supermarket Foods?



John said...

I'm not seeing dubious ethics in either event. Found money is a blessing and I'd argue it is simply a Karmic adjustment to make up for money you have lost (or will one day lose). The clerk not charging you for the sandwich is on him, so I think you are safe for any cosmic retribution. By the powers vested in me through a keyboard and the internet, I absolve you of any residual guilt you may still carry.

Way back in time I worked for a company that made and distributed sandwiches to convenience stores. The stores held onto the out of date sandwiches for a credit on their next shipment.

Charles said...

I get the ethical dubiousness in the second instance, but I don't understand the problem in the first. It is true that someone lost that money, but you have no way of knowing who that person is, and thus no way of returning it. You may feel sorry for the person who dropped it, but I don't think there is an ethical issue.

It reminds me of something that happened to me when I was in Thailand. HJ and I went to a park in Bangkok and set down at a picnic table. There, sitting on the table, was a 20-baht note (the smallest paper denomination, not even worth a thousand won). I looked around to see if anyone else was in the vicinity and might have left it there, but I didn't see anyone so I pocketed it.

Not long after this, a gaggle of schoolgirls came scurrying over to the table. One of them looked around anxiously, but couldn't open her mouth--whether she did not speak English or she was just suffering from what we see all the time here, I don't know. Anyway, I figured they were looking for the bill. Knowing that Thai numerals are also based on Chinese characters, I decided to give communication a shot. "Yi ship baht?" I said. The girl's face lit up and she nodded vigorously. I took the note back out of my wallet and handed it to her, and the whole group did that lovely palms-joined bow that Thai people do when they say thank you (probably imperialist or whatever of me to throw "lovely" in there, but I do find it charming).

It's not often that you get to give cash back to someone who's lost it. But it's nice when you can.

Kevin Kim said...


I felt I could have done the honorable thing and dropped the money off at an office in a spirit of "lost and found."

Charles said...


I suspected that might be where you were going, but does anyone ever actually turn cash in? Better yet, has anyone ever lost cash and then gone back and tried to claim it somewhere? If the cash was in the office itself, maybe, but otherwise I think you might be going a little too hard on yourself. There was no dishonor on your part, as far as I'm concerned.

(Whenever I find a small amount of money, I just pretend that the universe is giving me a high five.)

As for the second instance, the dude was technically in the wrong, but as you know (since you posted that link at the end), food a few hours past its expiry date is still perfectly fine to eat--or, at least, simply being a few hours past the expiry date does not make it unfit to eat. That case is a bit more murky, but still probably no big deal.