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White Lies
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Q. When an important customer calls, it’s awkward for me to say I’m busy. So I tell my secretary to tell the caller I’m out or in a meeting. Is this an acceptable “white lie”? A. Our tradition has a seemingly conflicted view of so-called “white lies,” which are meant to smooth over social situations. […]
Keeping Down with the Joneses
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Q. My neighbors have an annoying way of trying to match or outdo us materially. I’m thinking of borrowing something or pretending to have it, just to goad him into wasting his money on this annoying habit. A. The urge to keep up with the Joneses (or to surpass them) is hardly new. The phenomenon […]
Discounts
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Q. I have a standard price list, but I’m pretty liberal about giving discounts when I need to make a sale. Is this a problem? A. Adam Smith noted that economic progress is dependent “a certain propensity in human nature,” namely “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another”. After all, Smith […]
Business with Friends
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Q. A friend suggested I join him in a business deal. When I suggested a contract, he explained that we’re good friends and a hand-shake is enough. Should I be suspicious? A. You don’t have to be suspicious of your friend, but you should certainly be prudent. It’s true that our sages tell us, “Always […]
Sincere Apologies
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Q. A friend is bearing a silly grudge from a supposed wrong. What recourse do I have? A. It’s too bad your friend is bearing a grudge. The Torah warns us (Leviticus 19:18), “Don’t take vengeance and don’t bear a grudge against the children of your nation; love your neighbor as yourself, I am the […]
Costly Advice
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Q. Recently I went to a public lecture by a known lawyer. At the end of the lecture he gave out his e-mail and offered to answer questions. When I sent him a draft contract I want to sign, he sent me back his comments plus a hefty bill. Do I have to pay? A. […]
Whose Tenant?
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Q. I rent out an apartment. A prospective tenant gave me a deposit, but then cancelled. He gets the deposit back if I find a new tenant. Do I have to look for a new tenant, or can I just pocket the deposit? A. Your question deals with a concept known in secular law as […]
Day Trader
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Q. Many people in my neighborhood are interested in “day trading”. I am thinking of opening an office to serve them, setting up terminals for trading and market info. But I’m concerned about the large number of traders who lose money? A. The reason the vast majority of day traders lose money is very simple. […]
Thou Shalt Pay
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Q. I gave a check to a local merchant, but it hasn’t been cashed in months. Probably they lost it. Do I have to tell them? A. It should be obvious that there is an ethical obligation to pay for merchandise. One way this obligation is reflected in Jewish law is in the Talmudic dictum, […]
Wrong Store
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Q. Often customers looking for our competitor accidentally enter our store. Can we just serve them without comment? A. You don’t owe any duty of loyalty to your competitor, but you do owe your customers complete honesty. According to Jewish law, a merchant is not allowed to take unfair advantage of a customer’s misunderstanding, even […]