Ethics

For the week ending 2 April 2005 / 22 Adar II 5765

Bug in the Bottle

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: A fellow shopping in a supermarket noticed a bug crawling in a bottle of drink on one of the shelves. He took down the bottle, paid for it at the counter, and wrote a letter to the company which produced the drink expecting that he would be compensated with two cartons of the beverage. Before sending the letter he had second thoughts about profiting in this manner. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: On the one hand he would be doing a public service by reporting this to the company and thus causing it to be more careful in its production. But this should be his only motivation, not the desire to win some free drinks for himself.

The advice given by a rabbi to the fellow who found the bug was to indeed send that letter to the company in order to benefit the public, but to donate the bottles he receives to some charitable organization. This will prove that his motive is truly an altruistic one and not exploitation for personal gain.

It should be noted that this advice was given in regard to someone who purchased the bottle only for the purpose of reporting the companys oversight. In the case of someones unsuspectingly purchasing a product only to find it defective, it may very well be that whatever gesture is made by the company is coming to him as compensation for his anxiety.

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