A few days ago, Bubelah and I went out to lunch sans kids, thanks to their Grandmother and Grandfather. We went to a downtown Irish pub, nothing out of the ordinary – semi-fancy food on a set price lunch menu – $15 for an appetizer and an entree. We had the food, a few teas and seltzers, and then we decided to split a dessert. The check came, and we were charged properly for everything – except the dessert. I hesitated for a few seconds before deciding not to bring it to the attention of the server. I tipped 20% – a normal tip – and then we left.
So an ethical question – should I have said something? We paid a solid tip (the service was substandard, to be honest) and I’m sure that the markup on my seltzer was substantial. I feel somewhat guilty – but not that much. Should I?
Any transgression from the straight and narrow path feels like a betrayal of an honest life, but many of us do it, and often. I cross against the light, or fail to report a missed charge, and so on. Is it a moral failing? Is it a reason to be ashamed? I don’t think so. Most of us fall short of moral perfection – and by most, I mean “all”. Yet the measure of a good life can be said to be “I did as much good as I could most of the time” – couldn’t it? It sounds false as I say it, but I hope it’s true.
So I’m sorry I skipped out without paying for my dessert, even though I enjoyed splitting it with Bubelah and would have paid for it if I had been charged. When you’re presented with split-second financial decisions it is amazing how quickly most of us will turn to our own self-interest and ditch ethics – or at least I will.