Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ethical considerations

Lately, it's been as if I am undergoing a test of ethical conduct. Here is how it began:

A couple months ago, I deposited a $50 check in an ATM machine at my bank. After swallowing the check, I received the message that the ATM machine was temporarily unable to process deposits. Gee. Thanks. The deposit didn't show up online. I called them to see what could be done. They said they'd look into it. A few days later, I happened to pass by the very branch with the faulty ATM machine, and figured I could just stop in, to check up on things, since they'd likely have opened up the machine to discover the physical copy of the deposited check, even if the machine was unable to register it. I explained that I had already called about it. No, they didn't have any record of the transaction, since the ATM machines are emptied into a bag, and taken by courier somewhere else for processing. A couple weeks later, I received two credits of $50 to my account, in conclusion of their investigation. You know the old Monopoly card Bank error in your favor. Collect $200.

Then, for our 9th wedding anniversary, we decided to order ourselves a new stereo. Being frugal folks with a bent for high quality audio, we went shopping for a top end refurbished item. Sure enough, we ordered ourselves a really nice receiver for just over $300. It was running a little long in coming, so I called to check on status. The online system showed it as "in preparation" with "unknown" delivery date for more than a week. They took my contact info and promised to call me back within 48 hours. It arrived the next day. I received a call back anyhow, and they assured me the unit was on its way and would be expected in the next couple days. It arrived yesterday. Thanks.

About a week and a half later, while we were on our house hunting trip, a second receiver (exactly like the first) was left on our porch for us to discover on our return. We contemplated it for a few days, then I called them up to explain the mishap, and offered to return the extra unit. Thank you very much. I'm taking notes on this. Please use the return label. Most people wouldn't do this. The next day, I set up a pick up with FedEx, to return it.

Today, I received an email:
We have received and processed your refund request. The charge for
the following item has been credited to your account: ...

Sheesh. How hard do you have to work to give something back that doesn't belong to you?

Now, finally, I'm faced with this: when my wife was negotiating with Rocket Central, as regular readers may recall, we inquired as to the possibilities for spousal assistance, to help me land affiliation with their administering institution, or to grant me some start up funding for my research. Nothing doing, they said. We don't offer any sort of spousal assistance.

Nothing for the spouse, but they are okay with providing the entire family up to 45 days of temporary housing, (at a rate of nearly $250 a night!). For those of you following along at home, that comes out to a grand total somewhere north of $10k. WOW! That'd been a nice start up pot. We're in the temporary lodging now, which they've reserved for us for 45 days, even though my wife indicated we'd likely be moving out in less than a week, once everything was delivered, and unpacked, and we'd gotten our appliances set up (believe it or not, we have to buy our own refrigerator, and washer and dryer, since they don't come with the place). Just check out when you're done.

Okay, we've signed our lease and gotten the keys; the movers deliver tomorrow. But... I could sure use an office for a month to get going, now, couldn't I? Of course, $10k could get me a rather posh space for a year or two, I'd imagine. But hey, we don't write the rules. Is it unethical of me to suggest to my wife that, hey, if they'll cover the temp lodging, what's to stop us from keeping it for a month instead of a week, for me to use as an office outside the house, as I get set up in town, and look around for an office of my own? Internets, what do you think?


BrightStar said...

Yeah, I would guess they're willing to do the temporary housing because it's just that, temporary, while helping a spouse out professionally is more long term. Sure, I'd say keep it for the maximum time! A room of your own and all that. But what if the university learns that you have a new place to live? Are you concerned about that?

ArticulateDad said...

Obviously, there's the "what if they find out" factor, which of course is the cause for ethical concerns. If I'm worried about getting caught wouldn't you suppose I'm doing something wrong?

What might be the best course is for the Rocket Scientist to casually discuss the temp housing issue with the HR person who is handling it, explaining in a somewhat vague way the transition, and inquiring as to how flexible they are in interpreting it. If the response is, yeah, sure, use the lodgings until you're fully set up in the new place well, we might be justified in interpreting that broadly.

The thing is, my wife is not employed by the university, but the facility she'll be working at is administered by them (hence their argument that they had no real connection to the university, and thus couldn't look into anything for me. We'll see, we'll see. Is this just a slippery slope?

apparently said...

I think if the Rocket Scientist uses it for temp office space and such while the house is being finalized, then you are ok. Sure maybe you use it 98% of the time, but that is not the point. She only needs to officially use it during the transition and all rules are being met.