Is Honesty The Best Policy?

While out for dinner with friends the other evening, the subject of “honesty” came up in conversation, and quite an interesting debate ensued.

Let me put forward three examples of things that have happened to us in the last few months:

1.         At the end of our holiday in Greece back in July, on checking through the hotel bill, we realised that we hadn’t been charged for a (very expensive) meal that we’d had one evening in one of the resort’s restaurants.  Ashley & I discussed this and decided to point it out.  When we went to pay the bill, we did this, and the hotel manager said that as they had failed to charge us for the meal, we should consider that the meal was on them, and refused payment for it. 

2.         When we were on holiday in Spain with my parents last month we were charged one evening for two bottles of wine rather than the three we had actually consumed.  My father pointed this out to the waitress, who thanked him and altered the bill accordingly.

3.         Last weekend when we were away at a hotel in Dorset, I had a manicure which was quite nice but extremely overpriced (in my humble opinion) at £35.  When we went to pay the hotel bill, they had omitted to charge for the manicure.  I didn’t bother pointing this out to them and hence we didn’t pay for it.

So, what’s the difference?  Well, for me, I think it’s all about perceived value for money. 

And I thought the manicure was a rip off (as are the prices in general at that particular hotel – but we do love going there so in the main we put up with it).  The management there are also notoriously mean – on one occasion, the hotel was offering an incentive of a free bottle of champagne for every booking made.  Despite the fact that we had booked three rooms (and go twice a year, every year – over the years we must have spent tens of thousands of pounds there), the manager would only give us one bottle of champagne between the three rooms, rather than one for each room booked.  How tight is that?!

The expensive meal in scenario 1, however, was exactly the opposite.  Although it was a good couple of hundred euros, it didn’t feel like a rip off, the service was brilliant, the ambience was great and the food and wine were superb.  And our custom at that particular hotel is always appreciated, we are often given a complimentary drink or canapés, and generally made to feel quite special.

The restaurant in scenario 2 is a simple, rustic place, which is really good value for money, with friendly staff, and is run by a nice chap who always remembers my parents and is pleased to see them.

So, fess up, would you come clean if you were undercharged?  Or not?  I’m dying to know!


6 thoughts on “Is Honesty The Best Policy?

  1. Like you say, depends on the situation.Most times I think I would, but if you feel like you’ve been diddled then I would keep quiet too!
    Should I go to the naughty step now?!
    Lisa x

  2. I’m with you. We had a favourite hangout in Tamil Nadu last January and on the last night we were undercharged, we pointed this out to the fabulous waiting staff as we hated for anyone to get in trouble after their unfailing friendliness and they were overwhelmed by our honesty. If it had been a place with poor service and crap food I reckon our haloes may have slipped. xxx

  3. I have to agree with your comments on value for money. I also always point out an error when it’s going to make an innocent person suffer the consequences – not that I would ever keep extra money handed to me erroneously by a supermarket cashier but I point it out to make them aware that they should be a bit more careful. I think #1 handled it brilliantly – it’s often the case here in the States that if you don’t get a receipt, you don’t get charged for a particular coffee, pastry or fast-food meal – more along the lines of convenience foods, but I think the concept is to make sure you were charged correctly. #1 establishment admitted that they were at fault for not charging you, and by not making the correction, no doubt earned your return custom by being so gracious. #2 was an honest mistake, but by a small business owner who probably couldn’t afford to be quite so gracious. And #3, good grief, where do these people come up with these prices? Ok, maybe a few minutes on the naughty step for not being totally honest, but I think the lesson learned here is that you won’t go to that place for a manicure again!

  4. Tricky one, like you said it depends on the “value for money” aspect, small local businesses I like I would tend to say, large chains with indifferent service I would not (large health farm undercharged me and I didn’t say!!!!) x

  5. I think this is the best post I’ve read this week and you’re so right about the perceived value of money. I can’t recall the last time I wasn’t honest somewhere but if you haven’t received the product or service that you expect then it’s understandable that you might not point out errors in your favour.

    There’s a valuable lesson for businesses there too. If you give great service your customers will respond greatly. Give crap service, don’t be surprised when they don’t give a shit about you.

  6. Oh dear, here’s where I reveal what a lying cheating scumbag I sometimes can be…

    So sometimes I’ll own up – if the service in question is really good and it’s a little independent business that clearly needs every penny it’s making to stay afloat, then I would definitely, definitely pay my dues.

    BUT, if it’s a) been crap service or b) it’s a multi-million-dollar international conglomerate that’s clearly making money hand over fist AND is driving all of those favourite little places we all love so much out of business then I won’t bother. Tesco is a prime example of this – I hate that shop, and try to avoid it where possible, but if I do happen to be in one and there’s a chance for me to take one back for the individual and often hard-up consumer over the big bastard corporation then I usually consider it my civic duty to do so. Some might call that dishonesty, or even theft – I call it karma. Great post!

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