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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 62 "A Free Ride" - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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1/14/11

Fellow Weekly - Issue 62

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table. 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.

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

CASE 162: A Free Ride?

Rail Corporation New South Wales (RailCorp) is a statutory authority of the New South Wales government. RailCorp owns, operates and maintains the Sydney suburban and interurban rail network, marketed under the CityRail brand; in addition to operating rural passenger services under the CountryLink brand.

Trains operate for 20 hours a day, and over 900,000 weekday passenger journeys are made on 2365 daily services over 2080km of track and through 306 stations (including interurban lines).

"This past week in Sydney, the RailCorp workers who run the light rail inside the city went on strike due to contract disputes between the Union and RailCorp management.

The Union decided to strike in a way that would not inconvenience the city of Sydney, however would still get the message across to management. They ran the trains, yet they refused to check passenger tickets or sell new tickets.

As I entered the station, a very polite worker confronted me, smiled and happily advised me that today I should not bother going to the unoccupied ticket counter, as I need not buy a ticket today.

Uneasy about pilfering a free ride, I decided to try to purchase a ticket through the machine. I approached the machine only to find that a technician had beaten me to it. He had already began opening it up in order to disable the machine."

1. If I cannot convince the technician to allow me to purchase a ticket before he disables the machine, may I ride the train to work today?

2. Am I stealing if I take advantage of the strike and take multiple rides today?

3. If I may ride the train to work without paying for a ticket, must I pay for the ride when full service resumes?"

What is the law?

[Submitted by Y.C. Sydney, Australia]

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org.

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 161: Social Media or the Lincoln Road Mall!

1. Miami Florida: home of the flamingos, hurricanes and orthotics!

Kate Erwin recently earned her certification as a certified orthotist. She began servicing her Coconut Grove neighborhood with quality workmanship from her basement laboratory. Kate though wanted to appeal to Miami Beach residents as well.

Oren's Orthotics ran a successful business in Lincoln Road Mall. Kate hired some neighborhood friends to advertise her smaller business. They staged themselves in Oren's store, engaged potential customers in conversation and attempted to convince them to buy from Kate.

2. Harvey Ross opened an online photography business. The cheapest and most effective way for him to gain name recognition was to make use of the numerous social media networks.

The issue of targeted marketing vexed Ross. Facebook would advertise his wares specifically on walls of fans of his competitors. On the one hand, objectively the concept seemed unethical. Fans of his competitors would instantly see adverts from his company. On the other hand, this was the name of the game.

1. May Kate lure away Oren's customers?

2. May Ross advertise on Facebook?

What is the law?

[Submitted by E. H. Jerusalem]

The Answer

Kate may not lure away Oren's customers. Ross may advertise on Facebook.(see detailed explanation)

Detailed Explanation

Social Media or the Lincoln Road Mall! Implicates the following three laws.

1. If fisherman A set up nets in the water to catch fish, B may not set up a second net to intercept the fish that otherwise would inevitably have swam into A's nets [Bava Basra 21b].

Similarly, customers in a store ready to purchase are like fish that will most probably end up in the net. Thus, B may not lure away customers who are about to purchase merchandise by A.

2. Otherwise, it is generally permissible to open even fierce competition to a pre-existing establishment. [Choshen Mishpat 156 Pischei Teshuva 3.]

[Note: as there are instances when one definitely may not open a competition to a local establishment, as well as instances when such practice is simply to be discouraged, it is strongly advisable to consult a competent Business Halacha authority before considering doing so.]

3. Alliances are subject to stipulations mutually agreed upon at the onset of the relationship [Choshen Mishpat 176: 3 Rema].

Application:

Customers in Oren's store who are ready to purchase merchandise from him are like the fish ready to be entrapped by Fisherman A's net. Luring them away is like setting up a net to intercept the fish that were en route into A's net.

Merely opening a competition and informing the public thereof, especially when selling slightly different items is generally permissible.

Whether targeted advertising to fans and clients of Ross' competitors is similar to setting out a competitive fishing net, or else is rather similar to simply advertising the opening of a competition, is irrelevant to this particular issue.

Advertising on Facebook is permissible, simply because when A opened a wall, he/she agreed to Facebook's terms and conditions, of which include the calculated risk of competitors' ads appearing on fan's walls. Thus, Ross may advertise on Facebook and need not worry about entering his competitors' turf as his competitors agreed to the terms and conditions of Facebook upon opening their own wall.

[Answered by the Fellow -Yesharim Research Center]

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.

Fellow Weekly.

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send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.



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