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Blog: Moral Compass / Ethical GPS

September 1, 2013

My GPS crashed. I had a warranty that promised a new or better one within 24 hours, if mine broke. So I took it back. The woman at the service desk said, “We don’t carry that model any more. Show the warranty to a salesman and he’ll choose a replacement.”

Three young salesmen confirmed they didn’t carry my old model. One guy was eager to show me the next model up. He said I could pay the difference and get it. He’d even sell me another replacement warranty.

“How long would I have to wait to get a replacement that wouldn’t cost me anything?”

“Well,” he said. “I’d have to go and see when the next shipment comes in.”

I didn’t want to wait, so he gave me the fancier model with a pile of papers to take back to the service desk. “Be sure to tell her that you want to pay for an upgrade.”

It was a big store. As I walked back to the service desk I felt more and more upset. The fancier model would be fun toy, but I couldn’t afford it. Everyone except for the last sales guy said they didn’t carry my previous model. Yet he implied they did but it was out of stock. Either way, he couldn’t replace my old one in 24 hours. I suspected he was more interested in a commission than in honoring the warranty. Was that why he had explicitly told me to say to the service desk that I wanted to buy an upgrade?

I told the service woman, “You were right. You don’t have that model. This is the next one up.” I gave her the pile of papers without saying anything more. My heart fluttered like a little boy trying to get away with a lie.

She handed back the fancier GPS with a green receipt. I walked away without paying a cent.

Every morning I take several precepts including one “to refrain from taking what is not freely given.” The GPS was not freely given by the sales guy. The service woman was fine with it, but had I misled her? Had I just broken a precept? Was I so willing to do that just because I didn’t trust the sales guy or wanted a new toy?

These thoughts were muddled as I made my way across the parking lot picturing a security guard running after me with a pair of handcuffs. I got into my car casually and drove away quickly.

Several weeks later, I feel more confident that I was on safe moral ground. Still, the whole incident gives me pause on several counts: