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Is Flirting for Freebies Unethical?

Let me start this one right out the gate by saying that in no way am I a supermodel. I’m not model material. In fact, I’d say that I was quite average looking – you’d never notice me in a crowd. But there’s someone for everyone, right? Here’s the scenario: I’m incredibly cheap when it comes to my food costs. I often skip breakfast and if I haven’t brought in my lunch that day, I’ve already totally scoped out the cheapest spots in my work neighborhood for lunch.

As with most big cities, street carts and food trucks are pretty economical ways to get fed in New York. There’s a particular street car near my office with a really nice vendor. I’ve come to realize that despite his wife and kids, he likes me. It’s nothing serious, it’s just an innocent crush. But I think that if I offered to be his second wife he’d jump all over it…and me. Anyway, I usually go out to lunch with one or two work buddies and one in particular noticed that this vendor likes me.

That like tends to make him put extra food in my container. Sometimes it adds up to enough to split into two meals. It’s like an instant 50% off! We’ve figured out that he likes, ah, women that have, ah, a full bust-line. My friend, not so blessed in that department, often stands ramrod straight and hold her breath to make it appear that she has, ah, filled out in that department. Sometimes she caves and just makes me order her food for her. I do nothing but be my usual jovial self and chat with him a little while he is preparing my food.

Here’s another example. My former manager goes to the same place for lunch every day. At some point he figured out that a cashier liked him because little extras would end up in his bag like a brownie, or he would get a discount on his sandwich. He never encouraged the guy, and even started going to a different location. But eventually he went back to his normal location. On Valentines day, the cashier guy popped a Valentine into my ex-manager’s bag. I’m sure that he might have winked at him too. My ex-manager’s wife found it funny, and honestly, so did I. I’ve never received a Valentine.

I can cite lots more examples to give you since we have some sexy beasts working in my office that seem to command attention and free food all over the place. So, I ask you, is it unethical for us to specifically go to vendors that we know will “hook us up” because they like us?  Weigh in in the comments.

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59 thoughts on “Is Flirting for Freebies Unethical?

  • Interesting question. It is hard to say that it is unethical on the one receiving the food since it wasn’t really asked for. I would think it more of a gift. Should you be expected to go elsewhere? That doesn’t really seem right either. I would say it is more unethical to provide different amounts of food for the same price.

  • Interesting question. It is hard to say that it is unethical on the one receiving the food since it wasn’t really asked for. I would think it more of a gift. Should you be expected to go elsewhere? That doesn’t really seem right either. I would say it is more unethical to provide different amounts of food for the same price.

  • Does the gift or extra item influence you? If it leads to a different outcome or decision, then it is unethical. In my former roles in business, vendors took me to lunch often or gave gifts at the holidays. It maintained a relationship, but did not influence my decision.

    • In a business relationship it’s kind of the same effect as greasing someone’s palm. How do you feel if you don’t have a business relationship?

  • Does the gift or extra item influence you? If it leads to a different outcome or decision, then it is unethical. In my former roles in business, vendors took me to lunch often or gave gifts at the holidays. It maintained a relationship, but did not influence my decision.

  • My answer to questions like this is to turn the question around … why do YOU think it might be unethical? What about the idea of smiling pretty at someone and them giving you an extra brownie ( makes you uncomfortable?

    I personally do not think it’s unethical. You have not asked for the food (or additional item). You are not taking advantage of someone and promising them favors that you’re not going to deliver on in return for the additional items. The person is providing you with the extra items of their complete free will.

    If there’s no compulsion and no one is lying or cheating, then where’s the unethical part?

    In New Orleans this happens all the time – it’s called lagnappe. 🙂 It’s a little bit extra given as a gift. A bakers dozen rather than 12, or an extra scoop, or whatever. And yes, a little flirt can sometimes get you more lagnappe. It’s what it is. 🙂

    • I think that it’s a fair exchange! I might flirt a little which makes him feel good about himself. It’s the, “hey, I’ve still got it” factor. I walk away with extra food and he walks away with a better sense of self.

      I’m a cheap date.

    • What about this one? There are two Dunkin Donuts in my building…equidistant. One of them has a guy that flirts like there is no tomorrow with me. I might pay for two munchkins and walk away with half a dozen or he upgrades my small drink to a large for free. Is it wrong for me to purposely go there when he’s working because I know that he will give me the extras?

      P.S. In case anyone is single and looking for a husband, lots of men LOVE a zaftig woman.

  • If a shopkeeper gave a homeless person a cup of coffee would it be any different? Folks have the right to.give.away whatever they’d like to whomever they’d like, no strings attached.

  • Love this! You’ve inspired me to write a blog post on the same subject (coming out tomorrow). I’ve always been pretty jealous about people who’ve mastered the freebie flirt. I’m useless at it.

    It’s not unethical, especially when it comes to food (if you think about the mark up any way!) To my mind it’s like plumbers or electricians charging ‘mates rates’ for their friends.

  • What if the item that is being given “extra” is closely accounted for – and the person’s superior caught an employee giving out extra to someone he thought was cute and fired the employee…? What if that person was you, and that was the cause of him losing his job?

    It’s definitely that person’s choice to give you the extras, and if the consequences were that severe, well, the employee should have been smarter.

    • Well there’s another angle. If the person is working for someone else, they’re giving away something that technically isn’t theirs to give away. Do we consider it stealing?

  • I’d say flirt away if it means more food. 😉 I don’t think it’s unethical. It’s not like you’re doing something immoral or anything like that. It’s his decision in the end.

  • I look at it as a way of doing business. If you treat a customer well, provide excellent service and make that customer feel good (by means of flirting with them) then that customer is going to keep coming back to you for your service. If you are the customer and the vendor comes to you for a service then you’ll probably be more apt to provide then with excellent service as well.

  • I look at it as a way of doing business. If you treat a customer well, provide excellent service and make that customer feel good (by means of flirting with them) then that customer is going to keep coming back to you for your service. If you are the customer and the vendor comes to you for a service then you’ll probably be more apt to provide then with excellent service as well.

  • I would be all over this!!! I would not lead the poor guy on or do anything to jeopardize his job…but free stuff is free stuff. Good to know a full bust line is good for something except back pain 😉

  • Go for it! I feel a lot of people get free things in life for whatever reason when others have to pay, so you might as well enjoy it. Getting a free dessert from a local restaurant simply on my first visit is just as good as getting free earrings from a market vendor in Jerusalem simply because they matched my eyes. It doesn’t happen every day, so it’s a special treat when it does.

    Happy Flirting!

  • What you’re writing about is an example of what has been called “erotic capital”. Here’s the mandatory Wikipedia article with links to the more common academic references:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotic_capital

    A new-ish book that might interest you is Catherine Hakim’s Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital. Here’s an overview and review:

    http://suzannahlust.com/2010/03/28/erotic-capital/

    If you can pardon me for being British, here are two more popular (and short) journalistic treatments:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1259757/How-David-Beckham-Angelina-Jolie-elusive-erotic-capital-helps-life.html

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/164361/How-the-sex-factor-will-help-you-get-on-in-life

    And when I’m not posting URLs, yes, I enjoy being traditionally built.

  • Seedy? Well, yeah, I guess so. But I suspect the very idea of “seedy” in this context is often little more than a social control mechanism to limit the exercise of erotic capital by denigrating its effective use. Most of us have just internalized the control.

    You have a point, though. Erotic capital can — and often does — cross the line, going well past seedy to outright sleezy. Remember the Craigslist story about the “beauty” looking to marry a wealthy guy? The “banker’s” response was unkind but showed how the entire situation was really being framed.

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/article2653452.ece

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/relationships/article2652946.ece

    If you prefer, Anna North uses “soft power” rather than “erotic capital”. This conceptualization emphasizes that while flirting (etc.) ccan get you real goodies, it is based on influencing someone else’s desires rather than something you accomplish by yourself. (Please pardon the slightly NSFW title:)

    http://jezebel.com/5502084/3-reasons-why-erotic-capital-is-bullshit

    Interesting stuff. I’ll try to not bore you with any more links, though.

    • “Soft power” sounds a lot more palatable. But the fact is that it does work. How many studies have we all seen saying that more attractive people get better chances of landing a job, bigger raises and better treatment? It occurs in our ever day lives and we don’t even realize it. The example that I’ve given is a bit more blatant, but sometimes this is happening and we don’t even know it.

  • Seedy? Well, yeah, I guess so. But I suspect the very idea of “seedy” in this context is often little more than a social control mechanism to limit the exercise of erotic capital by denigrating its effective use. Most of us have just internalized the control.

    You have a point, though. Erotic capital can — and often does — cross the line, going well past seedy to outright sleezy. Remember the Craigslist story about the “beauty” looking to marry a wealthy guy? The “banker’s” response was unkind but showed how the entire situation was really being framed.

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/article2653452.ece

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/relationships/article2652946.ece

    If you prefer, Anna North uses “soft power” rather than “erotic capital”. This conceptualization emphasizes that while flirting (etc.) ccan get you real goodies, it is based on influencing someone else’s desires rather than something you accomplish by yourself. (Please pardon the slightly NSFW title:)

    http://jezebel.com/5502084/3-reasons-why-erotic-capital-is-bullshit

    Interesting stuff. I’ll try to not bore you with any more links, though.

  • That’s awesome!! I say, go for it! There’s nothing wrong with being friendly, chatting, and going to a vendor whose own day is brightened by seeing you.

    If you were stuffing your bra to flirt with this vendor, then sure, there would be an ethical/honestly question. But there’s NOTHING wrong with going to a vendor who likes you! Everyone likes to be liked. It’s a great confidence-boost. And if the confidence-boost also includes a free brownie, all the better!

  • That’s awesome!! I say, go for it! There’s nothing wrong with being friendly, chatting, and going to a vendor whose own day is brightened by seeing you.

    If you were stuffing your bra to flirt with this vendor, then sure, there would be an ethical/honestly question. But there’s NOTHING wrong with going to a vendor who likes you! Everyone likes to be liked. It’s a great confidence-boost. And if the confidence-boost also includes a free brownie, all the better!

  • That’s a good one, you’re helping his self esteem! If the only reason you are visiting this vendor is to get free food I would say you are using the guy. What if this guy gets fired for giving away free food, even if it is his decision?

    • Bu tit’s so tasty and delicious! No, there are lots of vendors around but he’s genuinely a nice guy and I like his food. In fact, three of us just visited him today. All girls of course. 😉

  • I’m going to disagree with the herd here and say that it’s GROSSLY unethical. You’re flagrantly capitalizing on someone’s clouded mind and weakness of judgment. He’s stupid for giving you extra portions, and you’re shameless for accepting and returning for seconds.

  • I’m going to disagree with the herd here and say that it’s GROSSLY unethical. You’re flagrantly capitalizing on someone’s clouded mind and weakness of judgment. He’s stupid for giving you extra portions, and you’re shameless for accepting and returning for seconds.

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