Can frugality become unethical? Can we take things too far? Where is the line we cross when pinching your pennies is no longer morally acceptable? Are some cases of being frugal borderline illegal too?
Potentially Unethical Frugality
- Using your employer’s internet for personal use
- Personal phone calls on company time
- Personal use of the copy machine
- Taking home ink pens, paper, and other office supplies from the office
- Eat the free samples more than once at the grocery store instead of a real meal
- Taking toilet paper from a restroom
- Taking home extras like condiments from a restaurant
- Bringing home the extra shampoo and toiletries you don’t use from a hotel
But, where do you draw the line? Is it unethical to use your employer’s internet connection after business hours because you choose to save money by not having internet at home?
Who Loses From Unethical Frugality At Work?
The customers lose when an employee is overly frugal at work. Let’s look at the example of using the internet after hours (but it can be anything really). The internet costs money for the business to connect to. It also costs money to run the electricity, and there can be other overhead costs of employees staying late at the office too. Those costs can translate into higher costs for goods if companies are not carefully monitoring their employees.
Every extra penny that is spent by a business is potentially an extra cost that is typically passed on to the end consumer. Because of higher costs thanks to employee frugality, customers pay higher prices to cover an employer’s high cost to provide their goods or services. According to CNN Money, employee theft accounts for over $42 billion in losses for American businesses every year. That equals a cost of $435 for each American family in the way of higher cost of goods that we buy.
Should You Report Unethical Frugality?
Should you report your coworker for essentially stealing the property of your employer? Is it worth your time and effort? What if you were mistaken in what you saw and they were not actually using corporate property for their personal use?
Where do you draw the line? Is using the copier for your own project or completing your income tax return unethical? Is it illegal? Does it matter if your employer does not have a specific policy against doing so? Maybe one or two copies occasionally are okay, but that could quickly change if the number is a few hundred copies for a manuscript you are sending to potential book publishers on the side after your day job is over.
What about you? Where would you draw the line on unethical frugality? Would you turn in your coworker for making excessive copies at work?