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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 4, 2009 / 10 Iyar 5769

Free advice comes with moral price tag

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. Can I get advice from a full-service store and then use my new knowledge to buy at a discount retailer?


A. Many years ago specialty items (this once included high quality cameras and stereos, though these are rapidly becoming commodities) were only sold in high-end stores, which provided both advice and merchandise. Already in the 1970's these items began to be readily available in large discount stores with little sales support, and today virtually everything is available via the internet. This puts a squeeze on the specialty stores; they can compete with the internet if their disadvantage in price is offset by their advantage in expertise.


But sometimes customers want the best of both worlds; in such an environment, knowledgeable sales support cannot thrive.


One approach that has often been taken to this problem is ona'as devarim — oppressive or exploitative speech. The Mishna states, "Just as there is fraud in commerce, so there is fraud in speech. You shouldn't say to [a merchant], 'How much is that item?' if you don't intend to buy." (1) At the most basic level this prohibits taunting or tormenting the seller, but it would also include pestering him with questions for your own benefit if you have no intention of buying from him.


However, there is an additional problem here. You are not merely wasting the seller's time, you are actual taking advantage of a service he provides but violating the conditions under which he provides it. An upscale store doesn't sell merely merchandise; they sell a combination of expertise and merchandise, which is naturally more expensive. But what you are doing is taking the expertise but not paying for it.


This is not unlike trying a free sample of an item when you are unable to buy it. (If you are just convinced you won't like it you can still try it. After all, that's why they offer free samples, to convince people who are sure they're not interested.) An interesting Talmudic passage discusses this exact problem:


All subterfuges are forbidden except for the following which is permitted: Someone who has [let blood] and has no other way [of getting wine] … can go to a [series of] wine shops [and taste a samples], until he has drunk a full cup. (2)


This is a subterfuge because the wine shops allow you to taste so that you can make sure you like the wine before you pay for it — not to give you a free mouthful. It's permissible in this unusual case because drinking something substantial after bloodletting is critical for health; not doing so could be dangerous. We have a combination of three elements: the need is compelling, the cost is minimal (he takes only a sip of wine from each store), and there is no actual deceit. When you taste a sip of wine you are not obligated to buy a glass even if you like it. The problem here is bad faith — you have no intention or even ability to buy the wine.


Your case is a similar subterfuge (the seller's time is probably worth much more than a sip of wine), but it lacks the key condition that makes it permissible. There is no compelling need to get a discount on electronics or sporting goods.


If you want to buy merchandise from an online or discount seller, you should solicit advice from friends, books, internet sites and so on, but not from full-service merchants. If you go to a full-service store in good faith and decide you can't afford the merchandise, you don't have to buy there — there is no contract and even the store itself wouldn't want to make you feel obligated because it would deter customers. But you must have a good faith intention to compare the value you obtain there with the value you can obtain from some other merchant.

SOURCES: (1) Mishna, Bava Metzia 4:10. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Shabbas 129a

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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