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Coworker peer pressure: what would you do

Free money?
Free money?
Jena Ardell

Picture this scenario: you go out to lunch with four of your co-workers. At the end of the meal, the check arrives. It gets passed around the table for about 10 minutes before it even reaches you. When you look at the bill, you notice the tab next to your meal says "0.00". This is clearly a misprint, a mistake made by your waitress. Everyone at the table says "Nice, free meal!" "Their error!" and suggests you simply accept the mishap as good luck, and leave a generous tip. Given the scenario: what would you do?

A. Follow your co-workers' advice and leave a generous tip.
B. Alert the waitress and ask her to correct the mistake so you can pay your share.
C. Think "Sweet, free meal!" and don't leave any money. (After all, you can't calculate a tip for something that cost $0.00).

Be sure to select an answer before reading on...

What made you select your plan of action? Generally, people are predictable creatures. Based on your answer, I bet I can determine your rationale. Does your selection (A, B or C) match up with the following feelings:

A. The mistake was clearly the incompetence of the waitress. She is responsible for the mistake, not me. I'm just benefiting from a glitch in the system. If she did her job correctly, this wouldn't have happened.
B. I follow the basic principles of Karma. It was the right thing to do. I would feel badly about accepting a free meal that wasn't intended for me.
C. The restaurant made a lot of money that night; one free meal isn't going to bankrupt them. I bet no one would even notice. Plus, I could use the extra cash. If my co-workers think it's a good idea, I do too.

Was I right? And why am I asking you all of this? Good question.

This scenario I described happened to me. I weighed all of the options I listed but, almost immediately, I chose B and was proud of myself for doing what I felt was the right thing. I strive to be a good person, but ultimately my rationale was based on guilt and Karma. If you chose A or C, it doesn't necessarily mean you are a bad person, but if I were you, I'd examine the rationale behind your choice. You either wanted to fit in with your co-workers or felt the free meal was entitled to you because you deserve it; but what makes a person deserving?

After I did 'the right thing' by notifying the waitress of her mistake, the majority of the table changed their answer. "Yeah, that's probably what I would have done too", my friend said. "You would felt bad if you didn't tell her", another friend said after the waitress left to modify the check. Then why did he suggest I do the very opposite? Only one of the four said "Your loss! What does doing the right thing get you? Now you're leaving with less money". The whole situation was pretty enlightening, considering I was the only person at the table who originally wanted to tell the waitress.

I was reminded of the importance of leading by example and practicing what you believe. If you do the right thing, others will follow. Remember: big realizations often occur during small moments in life. Are you keeping your mind open during these small moments?

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