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Conning for Coffee?

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A recent piece in the New York Times’ The Ethicist column by Chuck Klosterman has caught our eye again. This past week he found an interesting lesson in moral behavior hiding in one of the season’s biggest pastimes: pumpkin flavored coffee.

The story is simple and goes something like this: A person is waiting in line at a Starbucks for their usual order of simple coffee. They overhear the customer in front of them order a pumpkin spice latte only to be told that the store is out of them at the moment. To make up for the inconvenience, the generous barista offers a coupon for a free drink on the customer’s next visit. When the original person in question comes up next in line, instead of simply ordering her usual coffee she requests a pumpkin spice latte, knowing full well the store is out, in order to receive the free coupon.

Coffee Coupon Conundrum

Mr. Klosterman feels very strongly in his column that this is wrong and unethical behavior. He would side with those who point out that the coupon is intended for those who were denied their beverage of choice, and not simply for anyone who wanted one. Others may rationalize that as a large chain, this doesn’t inconvenience Starbucks in any noticeable way, and that the store had no way of knowing what any given customer would have ordered.

We would like to ask our readers what they think, and encourage you to discuss this as a family. Is it wrong to take advantage of inside information on a deal or promotion in order to receive free goods from a store? Is it lying to alter one’s order so that they can receive a coupon or free drink? How would you have acted in this situation and how would you act now with the time to consider your actions?

If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out our other takes on columns from The Ethicist including “Coffee Become Controversy” and “Stay True to Your Online Review?

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