I like to think of myself as an ethical person. I don't believe in trying to save money while taking advantage. Different people will draw these lines in different places. However, I believe that sometimes people can also be TOO ethical when it comes to saving money and end up shortchanging themselves!
- If you have an opportunity to take advantage of a company deal that offers you so much percent off or three free months with no obligation, I don't feel it is unethical to take them at their word when they say "no obligation". This means you can take advantage of one deal and then hop to the next one. Some people feel they are being unethical when they hop to the next deal from the next company, especially if this means they are getting more stuff/months for free. I look at it this way: companies are taking risks and assessing those risks along the way. This means, they are going to account for a few smart people who are going to take them at their word (no obligation) and get the deal and move on. They know and assess that there will be a group that will take the deal and stay and this is why they offer the deal. You are not wrong for taking the deal and leaving after three months (or however long the free time is for).
- Time share deals. I have a couple of these coming up. I have agreed to sit through a time-share presentation for a great vacation deal. I have no qualms about this. I just plan to say no to the time-share. The companies know that they will have to give out so many vacation deals to get one time share sale and this is a risk they sign up for and take. I have a deal with the company that I get the deal from to I sit through the presentation and I have no obligation to buy. I get some great vacations this way and I fulfill my obligation by doing what I said I would do....sitting through the presentation.
- Once I got a free hotel night because the room a hotel gave us was not cleaned. By this I mean there was hair on the sheets, urine on the toilet seat and used soap bars in the tub. I felt if I was the management of this hotel, I would want to know and have the opportunity to make it right. However, there are people who try to scam companies by complaining about things. I feel this is unethical. I try to put myself in the shoes of the management in these situations and ask myself how I would feel. Is it a legitimate complaint? If it is legitimate, I will complain. However, I don't want to complain about smaller things and get employees in trouble. I will only complain if it is a reasonable complaint.
- I worked at a social services agency for a while and I knew some clients that would go around to restaurants, order food and complain about anything for free coupons. In a word: unethical.
- Dumpster Diving: I have no problem with dumpster diving. I tried it once and came back empty. I was going to try it in a far away city on vacation once but looked up the ordinances and saw it was illegal in that city. I want to try it sometime in a far away city where it is legal for the experience. I can't say I would do this on a regular basis but I have a bit of admiration for those who do. We throw away way too much in this society. So, I think dumpster diving is entirely ethical.
- Free coupons. There are people who sell free coupons and it is a huge business. However, I think much of it is tantamount to counterfeiting. Companies now are usually putting strips on free coupons that can't be counterfeited to try and keep this from happening. I love free coupons, but I won't use them if I think they are counterfeit. All this does is cause companies to raise prices for all of us.
So, to sum up, I think people should save money where they can. Sometimes saving money can go against societal convention, but I have no problem with going against societal convention if I believe societal convention is wrong. When you look at the huge debts people have in their lives and the stranglehold it has on them, I believe society is headed the wrong way with material goods. There is a difference between societal convention and ethics. Societal convention tells us what we "should" or "shouldn't" do based on what the majority do or don't do. This has nothing to do with ethics. Ethics is about being a good human being and not hurting others while you try and do the best you can for yourself. So, I want to do the best I can for myself and I view that as a good and healthy way to live. But I also want the best for my fellow human beings. Companies take risks, that is part of life. We can play this"game" and we can win. And we should win. But we should be ethical while we play.