In this issue

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 Feb. 18, 2008 / 12 Adar I 5768

Devious discount

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Our mail-order firm sells discount merchandise. When there is a standard price (e.g. a catalogue or suggested retail price) we tell the customer the discount from that price. When there is no standard price, can we estimate the discount from a fair store price?

A: In all of our dealings we are forbidden from deceiving others, leading them to believe they obtain a benefit from someone beyond the person's actual effort. Such deception is called geneivas daas, literally "stealing judgment". When people are improperly informed, their judgment is not exercised freely. Leading others to believe they obtained a discount when in fact they pay a normal price would definitely be an example of geneivas daas.

When the customer actually relies on a false representation, then the situation is worse. In many cases the agreement would be void. The Jerusalem Talmud discusses a situation virtually identical to misleading customers about the market price. It talks about an employer who tells prospective employees, "Work for me for five just as your friends did", and the workers agree on the basis of this understanding. Afterwards it turns out that other workers were receiving more than five, and the employer misled them. (1) Most prominent authorities rule that in this case the work agreement is void. There is a presumption that the workers only agreed to such a low wage because they presumed that this was the going rate; if they had known that the going rate was higher they would have refused. (2)

We would have a parallel situation if a customer agreed to buy an item only on the basis that the discount is as advertised. Perhaps this customer much prefers to buy from a store, and only the great discount convinces him to order by mail. If there is evidence that the customer bought solely on the basis that the price is what others are paying, he would have a strong claim to being able to return the object and reverse the sale.

The above analysis is not precisely applicable to your case. According to your question, you are not trying to mislead the customer but on the contrary to help him, by giving your best estimate of a fair store price. However, I am taking pains to emphasize this point because I think that misrepresenting the fair or market price is a common form of fraud and customers and merchants alike should be made aware of its seriousness.

Even your situation presents a number of problems. Even if you are doing your best to present a fair evaluation, you are an interested party and this is certain to color your judgment. (3) The Torah likens weights and measures to judgment: "Don't do any injustice in judgment; in dimension, weights or volume. Right scales, right weights, right dry measure and right wet measure shall you have; I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt." (Leviticus 19:35-36.) And a person is hardly able of judging himself impartially.

In addition, the customer deserves to know that the "store price" cited is only an estimate, and this would be true even if the estimate were made impartially.

The ethical solution to the problem is to declare explicitly that the price is "Estimated store price" or "Equivalent store price" - some expression which will be transparently understood by the average customer. The ideal solution is to explain exactly how you arrive at this figure. After all, if you decide that the store price is 25% higher than your price because you decide that your price is 20% lower than the store price then your "discount" conveys no information at all. It reflects no more than your opinion. If you want to provide "constructive" prices, you should explain somewhere on your site: "Equivalent store price is calculated by comparing prices for similar items" or "by comparing markups for similar items at high-end urban department stores."

SOURCES: (1) Jerusalem Talmud, Bava Metzia 6:1. (2) See Nimukei Yosef, Bava Metzia 45b, Beis Yosef, Choshen Mishpat 332. (3) See Aaron Levine's book "Economics and Jewish Law", pg. 24, for an analysis of the problem of self-assessment


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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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