23 May 2015

A question about : Where would this sit morally?

Hi all,

My question is one of morality only, and the point of this post is to get a cross-section of opinions. This doesn't really fit into any forum, and I ask here as hopefully the responses will be from people in positions where they, like me, are not so great on the balance-sheet front.

Yesterday I was invited to an exclusive event by a close friend where there will be opportunity to purchase certain luxury items at 50% + discount. This is an event held each year for senior management of the company that produces these items, as well as valued business partners. My friend falls into the latter category, his parents being owners of several prominent businesses in connected industries, and him being a director of one. The friend invited me knowing I am fond of these particular items and would relish the opportunity to purchase one of the higher-end ones that I would not usually be able to afford.

I work with many wealthy people who would kill to get their hands on some of these for so cheap, as would many of their clients. There is no limit to how many you can buy, but it is supposed to be a privilege to be invited, and the people in attendance are generally affluent enough that profiteering wouldn't enter their minds; therefore I am expecting the limit to be imposed by long-standing etiquette. Just in case you haven’t read any of my other posts, I am only just debt free and certainly not affluent.

Now initially I was thinking I could ask one or two senior guys at my firm whom I'm keen to have owe me a favour if they would like me to pick something up for them, however I can’t get the thought out of my mind that I could use this opportunity to make some money to throw towards my house-buying fund. These items cost anywhere between Ј2-Ј15k, and with the discount it would be quite doable for me to make a sizeable profit on each. I understand from my friend that his parents buy around 5 each time (yearly event), and that he thinks that would be acceptable for me to do as their nephew...

The moral aspect I am concerned with is purely in relation to my friend and his parents. I'm concerned with sullying the honour of being invited (on invitation of my friend’s parents no less) to an event people like me would never get the chance to go to without a ‘leg-up’ by turning it into a profit-making exercise. I cannot ask the parent’s permission as they have spent years encouraging my friend to keep me in his entourage of key advisers and have said, once I have more experience, that they would like me join them as in-house legal counsel with a view to staying by my friend’s side for his business career. They know I'm from a bit of a ‘rough and ready’ background, but assume my position has remunerated me sufficiently that I have cash to burn, and this sort of question would make them question my competency.

My own view has been answered by reading what I just wrote, clearly I find it morally objectionable. It’s just that I know from my job that most people with money either inherited it or got it by operating in the ‘grey area’ of the law and moral codes, and I feel that maybe I’d be a mug for not turning such an opportunity into profit. I would literally be saying ‘no thanks’ to free, legally obtained money I could very much use.


Best answers:

  • I was going to comment, then saw FireWyrms response which pretty much sums it all up.
  • I think everything has been covered
    However, my concern would be about where you would intend to find the funds to purchase any of these items, either for yourself or to sell on. If you are only just debt-free, I would try to stay that way.
  • Thanks for the responses, however please do not refrain from providing your opinion in light of Firewyrm's robust response. My question is limited to morality, and morality is subjective, hence why I asked for a cross-section of opinions.
    Firewyrm - The answer to your two questions should be answered in my original post, as stated they are luxury items. I am primarily concerned with the morality in abusing a 'leg-up', not the morality of profiteering out of the company itself.
    I infer that you think my friend's parents really aren't doing me any favours, and it's in fact completely self-serving in inviting me. Lawyers are a dime a dozen, and I'm hardly on track to be a leader in my field. It would not be difficult for them to find a willing, suitable candidate. They want me as I am very close with my friend, and he trusts me. Their businesses are all run with family members in key positions, backed by networks of people whom they can rely on. Being Greek they emphasise family values, and take care of their own. It would be doing me a huge favour to bring me into their business. How many children brought up in a council house have the opportunity to assist in the steering of a business empire they had no part in creating?
    I don't mean to sound aggressive, but I don't subscribe to the narrow view of the rich many people seem to have. His parents are generous, kind people, and I will always defend them.
    I will take on board that in your last paragraph, thank you.
    Mooglet - I would obtain the orders and necessary funds prior to the event, don't worry!
  • There is nothing morally wrong in what you have described there. It sounds like good old business to me.
    There is no written rule that determines when you should make a profit on something or by how much. If a mug wants to pay over the odds for something then that's his problem.
    Keep up the good work and remember to inform the taxman if your doing stuff like this
  • Nothing wrong with it in my view, that said it could make you look a bit suspect to your friend's parents and so be a negative in the long run.
  • I don't see anything morally wrong, it's how businesses make money. Just make sure you've got the tax side of things covered. I'm not up on all that side of things so could be wrong but I did read somewhere on here that if you are buying something purely to sell on & profit from then you have to declare the profit. Just double check on it so you don't find yourself in debt to hmrc!
    And good luck
  • I think you should be careful you fully understand the 'rules' here. I agree that the event is common in business, but in my experience, it certainly isn't to encourage the invitees to profit from it. Are you sure they would be ok with it?
    Any such events I have heard of are to allow business partners to purchase said luxury items for themselves, as a PR stunt, and as free advertising. And as a way of thanking them for their support.
    i am lucky enough to have a friend who works away from home as a buyer for a massive retail company. I've been to a couple of these types of events with her and have bought myself three things that I could never, ever have afforded on the high street.
    I think she would be upset if I sold them on. I just don't think it's 'the done thing'.
    Of course, I only have a limited experience in one sector, and it sounds as though some of the posters above have much more than I do, but I would advise caution if you think your friend and his family may get upset. I would at least ask your friend's advice first.
  • Morality? I see no problems here... BUT
    What happens if there is a problem, are these goods which would be under a warranty of some description?
    If you purchase something on behalf of someone who has "promised to pay" would you be able to afford to be left in the lurch?
    Are you aware of other attendees doing the same thing? I'd be worried that if it wasn't the norm then perhaps it could damage potentially valuable relationships for the sake of a quick buck?
    I'd be very careful and perhaps run it past your friend to understand the true meaning behind these soirees.
  • It would seem that the general consensus is that it's okay!
    Firewyrm - I understand that they may not be doing it solely out of the goodness of their hearts. As calculated business people I imagine they've justified the invitation to themselves before extending it to me.
    I really have no idea why they are interested in me outside of my closeness to their son, and my relevant professional experience. They treat me as if I am family, and have done for over a decade...I doubt they were sizing me up as a potential business asset in my early teens.
    The 'narrow view' I refer to should have perhaps been worded as 'prejudicial attitude' as it is beyond my knowledge to fully define the views of people with attitudes that conflict with mine. Many normal people clearly have considerable disdain to those they deem rich, and are quick to assume that their actions are influenced by negative motivations. In media they are constantly vilified and held responsible for problems clearly caused by incompetent government and, dare I say it, an unskilled, self-entitled population.
    Poppops - I agree, hence why I've sought public opinion to see just how strongly people feel about it!
    Monkeyballs - These items come with a two-year international warranty as standard, and I presume this will still be the case for the items sold at the event. I will not be 'fronting' the money for anybody, if people want something I can text them the price and have the money in my account instantly via transfer. I have no idea whether other attendees will be doing this (although some posters seem confident they will be) but this is indeed one of my concerns.