Minor Ethical Dilemma Resolution November 16, 2008

Minor Ethical Dilemma Resolution

I wrote about my recent dilemma over whether pay the full $42 price I owed for parking at the airport lot for three days… or claim to have “lost” my ticket and pay the $14 lost ticket fine instead.

What did I end up doing?

I paid the $42.

But part of me is still mad about it.

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  • Lying about losing the ticket is unethical. So, I wouldn’t feel mad (I paid the whole amount, like a sucker!), you paid what you both believed you owed.

    However, I still believe that witholding the ticket is ethical. If they tried to charge you for more than three days, present the ticket.

    Even if my friend went to the same lot for the same amount of time and paid less (by negotiating a lower price) I still wouldn’t feel mad about paying full price. However, I might be disappointed that I don’t have the negotiation skills of my friend. Maybe that’s what you’re ‘mad’ about?

  • It just occurred to me: consider all posted prices as the maximum price you will pay. Witholding the ticket is an ethical method of negotiation.

  • Spork

    How is that even remotely a dilemma? You’re either honest, or you’re not.

  • Renacier

    I don’t think anyone for a minute thought you wouldn’t pay the full amount, Hemant.

    But it did generate some very interesting debate.

  • “Don’t believe in a god? Be good for goodness sake!”


  • penn

    Since he did have the ticket it would have been lying to say he lost it. Next time if he immediately threw the ticket away, he could honestly claim to have lost the ticket. The attendant may then ask how long you were there and you would have to actually lie to get the discount. On the other hand, the attendant may not care and just charge you for the 1 day. That scenario may ease you conscience a little bit, but I doubt it.

  • MH

    One thing to consider is how you will feel afterwards. The cost of saving the money will likely be remorse over being unethical.

    So a few dollars is worth being able to live with one self. I think you made the right choice.

  • Jodie

    Whatevs — we all know you teacher types just roll around in money all day. When you are THAT money how can $42 constitute an ethical dilemma? Hmmmm….Silly Hemant.

  • i can understand why you’d be mad. while it might have been the “right” thing to do according to some peoples’ ethics because you agreed to pay that price when you parked (not as if you’re given too many other feasible options)… in reality, you pretty much just got ripped off (they build those parking areas SPECIFICALLY to charge people to park so they get extra money… it isn’t as if they provide ample security to watch your car and make sure nothing happens to it – and the land they bought to build that parking area has been paid for ten times over by the amount of money they get charging people to park there).

    nothing’s really going to make you feel better about that. ^_~ and i don’t think there’s anything wrong with being mad. it’s unrealistic to think you’d walk away from that situation, after paying an extra $28, with a shining, beaming, happy ray of light around you because you did the “right thing”.

    that’s just my opinion.

  • I suspect it would have been cheaper to take an airport shuttle or a taxi to and from the airport. Or public transportation. That’s what I do! 😀

  • Harknights

    Ethical Dilemma part II:What if you did lose the ticket. Are you obligated to state that you were there longer than one day if they don’t ask?

  • Richard Wade

    Ethical Dilemma part II:What if you did lose the ticket. Are you obligated to state that you were there longer than one day if they don’t ask?

    If you are a thoroughly honest person, yes.
    If you are a thoroughly honest person, lying means failing to tell the truth, even when not asked, and stealing means taking what is not given. Are you good for goodness sake, or only for your own sake?

  • John B

    You should try and track down the owner of the lot and point out the stupidity of the rule to them. Who knows, maybe lots of other people are staying 3, 5, 30 days and then “losing” their tickets? You could potentially save the lot owner a ton of cash! Might not get you a reward in heaven, but maybe some free parking next time.

  • And now we can all praise you for how morally you act when no one is watching. 😉

  • stephanie

    Eh, the parking attendant would have just asked you how long you were there and then charged you for three days. Don’t play ‘what if’ games on past actions. They just raise your blood pressure.

    There’s an old (probably Buddhist) anecdote about two monks traveling. They come to a river where a woman is trying to cross and the old monk carries her across the water to the horror of the younger monk. They walk on several miles until the young monk finally exclaims upon it. The old monk replies; “I left the woman by the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

    I don’t believe in any religion but I’ve always thought that was a good lesson, minus the ingrained sexism, of course. You did the right thing and you know it. So leave it back in the parking garage where it belongs.

  • llewelly

    But part of me is still mad about it.

    That’s because you’ve been conned into the belief that cheating is a necessary part of winning. It’s another version of the same idea that convinced fund managers and loan officers to knowingly feed bad data into their statistical risk models, and then pretend the output justified their actions ‘because you can trust the models’. You could call it the security-backed mortgage fallacy.

  • TXatheist

    llewelly, wow, that’s good 🙂

  • MikeTeeVee

    I think you misunderstood the sign. Airport parking lots run daily inventory of the cars in the lot, by license plate. That’s why there’s a camera pointed at your license plate when you’re at the payment booth, so they can compare your car to the inventory. They know what day you arrived, but not what time.

    Lack of a ticket means you pay for a FULL day for the day you arrived, while having a ticket might let you pay for a partial first day, depending on the time on the ticket. And having a ticket probably speeds up the process since they don’t have to search the inventory.

    They know your car was there three days. You were out 42 bucks either way.

  • MikeTeeVee

    “having a ticket probably speeds up the process since they don’t have to search the inventory.”

    Correction, I believe they check every ticket against the license plate inventory, to make sure the ticket duration matches the parking duration for your car.

  • Desert Son

    Hemant posted:

    But part of me is still mad about it.

    First, kudos for acting ethically.

    Second, you have recourse in the future, that does not involve abandoning ethics!

    Yes, you, too, can Work Within The System to Change The System(tm)!

    The great advantage of this procedure is the diversity of options you can employ, none of which is mutually exclusive! Here’s just a few of the things you can do:

    1) Take public transportation. Congratulations, Hemant Mehta, you live in the fabulously cosmopolitan greater Chicago metropolitan area (which I still miss, incidentally, having moved in 2007 for grad school)! You can take the Orange “L” line to the spectacular Midway International Airport (which still has that new airport smell). The cost of transit will be around $2 for a one-way journey (certain cost adjustments may apply), for a grand total overall cost of around $4, significantly less than the $42 which you are currently lamenting.

    2) You can find alternate transportation with a friend, for example, who can drop you off and pick you up absolutely Free Of Charge! (Some social contract obligations, such as You-Scratch-My-Back-I’ll-Scratch-Yours, may apply. Check your local friendship statutes. Not available in all areas).

    3) You can risk a taxi ride which will almost certainly, in the overall calculation, cost more than the $42 you paid to park.

    4) You can lobby area parking agencies to lower their rates.

    5) You can lobby local government to try and establish parking rate policies that limit, or otherwise change current costs. The libertarians will hate you for this, for trying to get the government to regulate the market, but the fact of the matter is that the government does this already, every day, in numerous capacities. Our current Model of U.S. Capitalism(tm) depends on it!

    6) You can organize a boycott of the parking areas. With enough supporters, the parking area will begin to suffer economically, and may, in response, alter their rates (results may vary).

    These are just a few of the things you can do to help address the feeling of being a little bit mad about the circumstances.

    But they all require effort.

    Which is what the $42 was. You paid for a convenience – the convenience of parking close to the airport and having your car waiting for you when you arrived home, so you could go straight home as quickly as possible, without having to wait in a line for a cab, or on the chilly “L” platform, and at every stop along the line, plus transfers to other forms of transportation, and so on. Otherwise, you might save money, but sacrifice something else, like time, or effort.

    Someday . . . someday, the people in this country may remember that many of the travel conveniences we enjoy are, in fact, conveniences. Good on you for paying.

    No kings,


  • Hemant

    I should mention I no longer live in the city and public transportation is no longer a viable option!

  • Desert Son

    Hemant posted:

    I should mention I no longer live in the city and public transportation is no longer a viable option!

    Fair enough. Eliminate option 1 from my list. I will, in turn, replace it with option 7.

    7) Work to establish light commuter rail from you location to the airport or vicinity of other public transportation that eventually connects with the airport.

    My larger point still stands: it’s effort, either way, or it’s a cost paid for convenience.

    We all rail against costs of things in our lives, and that’s actually a good thing. As citizens, it’s important for us all to think about what we pay for, and why. Many times, in that analysis, we see the cost as good, or beneficial somehow, or perhaps just trivial. Other times, we find something is lacking, or wrong (monopolies on goods and/or services, for example), and there are steps we can take to try and rectify those things. In the case of the parking issue, I can’t afford $42 parking, either, but I’d still pay if I had taken advantage of the service provided by the lot, because that’s the service contract I entered into, and it’s the right thing to do.

    There’s even an option 8:

    8) Start your own parking lot.

    The short version in all of this is: you did the right thing, AND there are still steps you can take to change things to make things more like how you might want them to be.

    The long version that follows THAT choice, though, is that in so doing, you may be changing things so that other people don’t like how things are once your changes are in place.

    And then it’s up to someone else to try and change the circumstances, through legal means.

    And so the cycle continues.

    You did the right thing. I’m sorry you feel bad about the money, but I hope you’ll feel good, at least, that you did the right thing.

    No kings,


  • Desert Son


    I should mention I no longer live in the city and public transportation is no longer a viable option!

    As a completely non-sequitur follow-up, I hope that wherever you are now you are happy and healthy and that it’s not Niles . . . .


    No kings,


  • Discovery

    I am a learning Christian that wandered over to this site to read what serious dialog might exist about the existence of God – and am a little appalled to find petty rationalizations of how to feel good about stealing money from a stand-up business. What moral code do you use? There shouldn’t be a dilemma at all.

    And after you thieves steal as many free days from this company as possible – a person who really looses their ticket will get stuck with the new fee of $150 per lost ticket. Good job.

    I was seriously thinking about listening to the Athiest convention you have listed in Phoenix; that is how I got to this blog. I wanted to attend because as I learn about faith – I believe it as important to understand the counter points as proof or conflict. This would help me understand my own. And I figured the best arguments to social ethics without God would be on an Atheist blog. Now knowing it is being directed by a group that is confused about rationalization stealing – I can’t trust your actions or your words. Thanks for making my choices easier.

    You won’t hear from me again – but I have to tell you – this is not the kind of ethics I ever expected to find on a top atheist blog.

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