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The 2,000 Dollar Question

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Bargain, Agent or Buyer Gets Discount?

Chaim Bernfeld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

This is a thing that happened. A friend of mine asked me to post this question on the Internet. He is in the construction business. A third person (a neighbor) found out he was on his way to a certain warehouse to pick up something so he asked him to pick up something he purchased there and bring it home to him ( I think some tiles). He gave my friend $8000 which was the agreed price for the tiles. When my friend got there (I don't exactly know why) he started bargaining and the seller agreed to give him the tiles for $6000. Question: According to halachah who gets the $2000 difference? Thank you


Dear Chaim Bernfeld,

I asked Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, shlita, who ruled that the two thousand dollars goes back to your friend's neighbor. The neighbor never relinquished ownership of this money; he merely entrusted it with your friend. Your friend didn't spend it on the tiles, so it goes back to his neighbor.

Now, if things had been slightly different, your friend would have profited: If, instead of a lower price, your friend had received more tiles, the extra tiles would have been split between your friend and his neighbor.

The difference between these cases is as follows: In the first case, the point in question is the extra money. Since the neighbor is the original owner of the extra money, and he never lost his ownership, he gets it. In the second case the point in question is the extra tiles. Neither the neighbor nor your friend is the original owner.

So who gets the extra tiles in the second case? Although the intention of the tile-seller was probably to give them to your friend the Sages decreed that the bonus be split with his neighbor whose business transaction 'caused' the extra tiles.

Sources:

  • Shailot and Teshuvot Shevet HaLevi 5:214
  • Ketubot 88b
  • Choshen Mishpat 183

 
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