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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 32 - The Red Wedding Gown - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Reprinted from Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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1/22/10

Fellow Weekly – Issue 32

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!


Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.

This issue is dedicated by the students of Chaim Kalman Shamai ben Dinah. Please daven for his speedy and full recovery.

CASE 133: The Red Wedding Gown

The most popular staff member on the university campus in the Upper Galilee was none other than Linda – the baker. She left to the United States for two-weeks to visit her mother, Mrs. Bloom, in Evanston, Illinois. Linda scheduled her trip so that she could return to Israel on Monday, two days before the wedding of her sister-in-law, Sheila.

Sheila had ordered a custom-made wedding gown from the United States and asked Linda if she would mind bringing the gown back with her. Linda was only overjoyed to provide Sheila with this service. In addition, the school was in need of baking equipment, including some heavy rolling pins, which Linda purchased with university funds.

Linda laid out her clothes, the gown in its plastic suit bag, the baking equipment, and a jar of Heinz™ barbeque sauce that she had purchased for herself. Mrs. Bloom had a knack for packing, so she gladly packed up Linda's two suitcases. Linda relied on her mother's expertise and took the baggage without checking her mother's work.

Linda checked in at O'Hare International Airport and boarded the plane. Already on the tarmac, the plane was called back due to security concerns. The flight was postponed and Linda spent the night at an airport hotel. The rest of the trip was uneventful. Linda's flight departed the next day and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday evening, a day and a half before the wedding.

However, when she came home and opened her suitcase, she was horrified by what she saw. The front of Sheila's gown was white no more! The rolling pins had punctured the barbeque sauce. Red barbeque sauce had seeped through the zipper of the suit bag and heavily stained the front of Sheila's gown.

The local dry cleaners had already closed for the day, so Linda brought the gown in first thing in the morning. “Please have the gown ready this afternoon,” she begged. “The wedding is tomorrow morning.”

“If you would have brought it in yesterday we could have done it for you at the regular price,” responded the manager. “We can do a ‘rush job' today, but it will cost you double.”

- Who pays for the cleaning job?

- Who pays for the additional cost of the “rush job”?

What is the law?

[Based on a true story - Submitted by Mrs. A.K. dorm mother, Jerusalem]

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org.
Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

Joey and Jacky were great friends. They boarded together in a small high school nestled between the towering snowcapped Colorado Rockies. On Friday afternoons, the boys would often order special Shabbat treats from the nearby town. One week, Joey ordered a twenty-dollar tray of potato kugel from Dave's Delicatessen.

When Jacky heard that Joey had ordered an entire tray of kugel – twenty slices in all – he offered to give Joey ten dollars for half of the tray. Joey agreed.

Joey's friend Harvey was going into town that Friday to visit with an elderly gentleman in the nursing home and offered to pick up the kugel for the two boys. However, when he returned, Joey was surprised at the size of the package. It had his name on it, but upon opening it, he discovered that it contained forty pieces – double what they had paid for.

Joey, being honest, immediately called the delicatessen and informed them of the error.

“It was our mistake,” the manager told him over the phone. “Keep it. The loss is on us!”

With that, Joey brought the tray to Jacky's room, and gave him his ten pieces.

Jacky glanced back at the remaining thirty pieces in Joey's tray. “Hey Joey, why do you get thirty pieces, while I only got ten? I paid ten dollars for half a kugel!”

Joey responded, “Jacky, you paid ten dollars for ten pieces. I got lucky and received an extra twenty pieces. That has nothing to do with you.”

- How many pieces do Jacky and Joey deserve, respectively?

- Is Harvey owed a share of the bonus?

What is the law?

[Submitted by Rabbi M. Marcus and the students of the Belle Harbor Yeshiva, NY]

The Answer

We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the “detailed explanation” below.

The allotment of the kugel would depend upon the arrangement between Joey and Jacky. If Joey and Jacky jointly purchased the kugel from Dave's Delicatessen, they would then receive twenty pieces each. If Joey purchased the kugel himself and merely sold a portion of it to Jacky, Joey would retain the extra pieces.

Harvey does not receive a share in the additional pieces of kugel.

Detailed Explanation

Joey and Jacky

Joey and Jacky purchased a twenty-piece kugel. Upon receiving the extra pieces, they did not automatically own them. They belonged to Dave's Delicatessen. Joey and Jacky had a mitzvah of Hashavat Aveidah, an obligation to contact the owner of the “lost item” and notify him of its whereabouts.

If Joey or Jacky would keep the pieces of kugel without informing the delicatessen of their error, they would be guilty of transgressing three mitzvot: the positive commandment to return a lost object (Deuteronomy 22:1); and two negative prohibitions, 1) ignoring one's lost object (ibid. 22:3) and 2) theft (Leviticus 19:13). [Choshen Mishpat 259:1]

Indeed, Joey fulfilled his duty by merely calling Dave's delicatessen and informing them of their error. [Shulchan Aruch Harav: Hilchos Aveidah 13]

The change of ownership occurred when the store manager told them “keep it, the loss is on us”.

We can assume that the manager awarded the additional pieces to his customer. The question remains as to who is the actual customer:


There are two possibilities, which are dependant upon their understanding at the time they began the venture. If Joey and Jacky had purchased the kugel as a business partnership; they would then equally divide the additional twenty pieces. If, however, Joey himself purchased the kugel and then like a retailer sold a portion to Jacky, Joey would then retain the original pieces, as he was the original customer.

Another application would be if a mishap occurred prior to the delivery of Jacky's share. In the case of a joint purchase, Jacky and Joey would share the loss; if Joey alone had purchased the kugel, he would be required to fully absorb any damages.

Harvey

Although a service provider generally splits a received bonus with a client

[Choshen Mishpat 183:6] (see Issue 29), Harvey would not receive any share of the kugel. Joey and Jacky (or possibly just Joey, depending on the nature of the purchase) received the bonus from the delicatessen over the phone. The extra pieces had nothing to do with Harvey's efforts and Dave intended to award it to his customers, not to the fellow who picked it up. As a result, Harvey would not receive anything.

[Answered by the Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]

Comments or questions? Have a case to submit? Please send us an email at weekly@projectfellow.org

The Fellow-Yesharim Research Center, located in the heart of Jerusalem is presently studying its eighth phase of employer / employee breach of contract (Bava Metzia 75b-77b).

Note:

Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

To join this mailing list, send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.



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