Moral hazard thought experiment, furniture edition.
February 28, 2013 8:25 AM Subscribe
Can a hypothetical furniture buyer ethically keep this hypothetical dining table?
Say someone you know ordered a dining room table and chairs from a major furniture retailer (think Pottery Barn). The table was delivered by a third-party furniture delivery company and the chairs were sent, a week later, via UPS. Once it's all together, the buyer decides that it's not what he wants and calls the retailer to arrange a return.
"No problem," the customer service agent says. "Repackage the chairs and send them back via UPS. The third-party delivery company will contact you to arrange pickup of the table within five days."
Chairs go back the next day. Seven days elapse and no call from the delivery company. The buyer calls the retailer and explains the situation, and the customer service agent refunds the entire order price to the buyer's credit card and says that the third-party delivery company should call one of these days to arrange to pick up the table.
"What if they don't?" asks the buyer. "Well, you've received a full refund for the order," says the agent, "so you're not really responsible for the table anymore."
posted by ndg to Grab Bag (15 answers total)
There are (at least) four likely scenarios. I probably demostrates the most ethical behavior on the part of the buyer, but are II-IV inherently and/or equally unethical?
I. The delivery company calls, the buyer answers. They agree on a timeslot for the table to be picked up, the buyer stays home from work to wait for them, the company comes and picks up the table.
II. The delivery company never calls, and the buyer never follows up with the furniture company and keeps the table.
III. The delivery company calls once and the buyer misses (or "misses") the call. No one calls again, and the buyer keeps the table.
IV. The delivery company calls and the buyer answers. Several pickup timeslots are offered, but since they're all during normal business hours, none are convenient for the buyer, who, having received the refund, no longer has much incentive to stay home from work to wait for the delivery company. The delivery company cannot compel the buyer to accept a timeslot and the buyer keeps the table.