Best ac­tion thought­ful­ness

The London Free Press - - COMMENT - jef­frey seglin THE RIGHT THING

Ev­ery decade or so, A.L., has some of her jew­elry ap­praised so she can file the ap­praisal re­ports with her home in­sur­ance com­pany.

Early last month, A.L. brought the ex­ist­ing ap­praisals into a jew­eler with whom she’s worked for years to have them up­dated. The ap­praiser told her how much the ap­praisals would cost and gave her a rough idea of how long it might take for her to re­ceive the ap­praisals in the mail.

True to his word, the jew­eler mailed off the ap­praisals to A.L.

A.L. was ea­ger to get the new ap­praisals copied and sent off to her in­sur­ance com­pany. As she looked through the ap­praisals, she noted how the val­ues had changed, though none sur­pris­ingly so. When she got to the last ap­praisal in the stack, how­ever, she was taken aback.

“It was for a pair of di­a­mond stud ear­rings set in 14K gold,” writes A.L. “The thing is, I don’t own a pair of gold di­a­mond stud ear­rings.”

When she looked more closely at the ap­praisal, she real­ized it was in­tended for a cou­ple that lived in a town about 50 kilo­me­tres away from her.

“Clearly, the jew­eler had sent me some­one else’s ap­praisal,” she writes.

Now, A.L. is torn about what if any re­spon­si­bil­ity she has to cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion.

“Should I just send the ap­praisal to the right owner?” she asks. “Or should I call the jew­eler and let him know about the mis­take? Or should I do noth­ing and let them fig­ure it out?”

While none of these op­tions would be eth­i­cally wrong, A.L. is try­ing to de­ter­mine the best right an­swer.

If she does noth­ing, that leaves the right­ful owners won­der­ing where their ap­praisal is while the jew­eler be­lieves he sent them an ap­praisal they never re­ceived. If she just tells the cou­ple, the jew­eler won’t know he made a mis­take. Plus, if A.L. has a long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with the jew­eler, it would be thought­ful to give him a heads up that she sent the ap­praisal on to the right­ful owners.

It would be enough to alert the jew­eler to about the er­ror. But send­ing the ap­praisal on to the owner of the ear­rings would be thought­ful and likely ap­pre­ci­ated.

Af­ter she de­cides how thought­ful she wants to be, the right thing is for A.L. to take ac­tion in keep­ing with that de­ci­sion. Were it me, I’d send the ap­praisal onto the right­ful owners and tell the jew­eler I had done so. If I were the owner of the ear­rings, that’s what I’d prefer, and if I were the jew­eler, I would want to know about my mis­take so I could cor­rect it and fig­ure out how not to re­peat it in the fu­ture. Jef­frey L. Seglin is a lec­turer in pub­lic pol­icy and di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­gram at Har­vard’s Kennedy School. Send your ques­tion to right­[email protected]­

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