Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Online Accounts -- Ethics of our Internets

Nothing I read really inspired me to comment this week, so I haven't. Instead, I want to talk about commerce.

So, I am currently dealing with two equal and opposite screw-ups:

1. An entity to which I subscribed on-line six months ago for "$14.95 per year" is now claiming that my membership is expired and wants an additional $14.95 for the next subscription period.

2. My "Borders Rewards" card is crediting me with many purchases made in Hyde Park, Illinois, and giving me lots of free money to use to buy books in December.

My e-mail correspondence regarding the subscription has not been returned, and there is no obvious number or e-mail to call to give back my "Illinois credit."

Do the two snafus cancel out? Is it worth my time to try to fix them? Is there a communal assumption that we'll be screwed out of money half the time and screw them out of money the other half, so that the scales remain balanced? The bill at the restaurant last night seemed kind of high, but I didn't go back and add and itemize, because I had the kids and was in a rush. They only scanned the top placemat at Target, even though they were being sold individually and I had picked up a stack of six. It was in the shopping cart and other stuff was piled on top before I could figure out what to do about it.

I'm sure there are a dozen things in the past week that I either over- or under-paid for that I didn't even know about.

Is commerce just the world of everyone-for-themselves? If the cashier rings up to much, it's up to you to catch it, but if they miss something, it's up to them to find it? It's always harder to get them to fix mistakes in their favor than in yours, so trying to fix all of them seems to be less than zero-sum for me.

On the other hand, I still feel guilty about the undercharges and indignant about the overcharges. Is that the correct moral response, or should I just let it all mix together?


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