Dear Etiquetteer: I had an ethical quandary today. I was hawking programs at Fenway Park. A man was begging for money next to me. He was in a wheelchair. He was conversant and friendly with people. He offered to buy a program from me for $2. I obliged.
When I finished my shift, I gave him a dollar. It was actually a dollar I had received as a tip.
Was this right? Was this ethical?
PS. I'm submitting this to the NY Times Magazine as a question, too.
Etiquetteer considers that you were acting in two capacities, professional and personal. Had you not waited until the end of your shift to assist this man, it would have given the appearance that your largesse was, in fact, that of your employer.
The purchase of a $2 baseball program by a panhandler might be considered extravagant on his part, but he may have considered it expedient to ensure your goodwill during your time together outside the ballpark. (Etiquetteer can only imagine the difficulties he and others face.) Was it right/ethical of you to sell him that program? Absolutely! That's the job your employer has hired you to do, and it isn't Perfectly Proper to inquire into the circumstances of your customers - even when they're paraded in front of you. In other words, they aren't your programs to give away.
But your tips are your own to dispose of as you wish, on yourself, or to share with others.
Etiquetteer will be interested to read what the Times has to say, too!