The Ethics of Being Frugal

When Frugal Tactics Cross the Line

Just because something is good for your wallet doesn’t mean it’s good for your conscience. In the effort to try and stretch their dollars or get as much as possible for free, consumers occasionally run the risk of violating society’s unwritten code of ethics, but because these rules are often fuzzy, it can be difficult to gauge whether their actions are in the right. Sure, we all know that it’s miserly not to leave a good tip at a restaurant, but does that make it unethical? And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable for one to take a free sample from a grocery store, but what about taking two, or five? At what point does it cross that invisible line? “We will constantly be faced with these kinds of choices in our everyday lives, but there is no exact rubric here,” said Joshua Halberstam, author of Everyday Ethics and a professor of philosophy at Columbia University. “it’s not so much about right or wrong, as it is about the kind of person you are.” Or, to put it more bluntly, Halberstam notes “there are things that are not unethical, but you’re a jerk if you do it.” With that in mind, MainStreet presented two leading ethicists with several questionable cost cutting tactics and asked them to evaluate whether these choices would make the consumer in question a savvy shopper or just a bad person. Photo Credit: Kaiban