For two months, a reader writes that she and her partner worked with a Contractor to gut and renovate a bathroom in their house.
"The work took about three weeks longer than we anticipated," writes H.F. "But we were glad when we finally had the house back to ourselves."
For the most part, H.F. writes that she and her spouse were pleased with the work the contractor and his crew had done. They got a spiffy new bathroom, which they had been hoping for for many years.
There were some small things -- doors left open during a cold day, cigarette butts in the driveway tossed by some of the contractor's crew, minor miscues about where something should be placed -- but overall the contractor was very responsive and delivered on what he had promised. What pleased them most was that the project came in slightly less than 5% over the projected budget.
"We never expected to spend less than the original bid," writes H.F. Besides, "some of that extra cost resulted from us choosing some fixtures we liked that were slightly more than the original allowances in the contractor's bid."
A few weeks later, H.F.'s partner noticed that the contractor had posted a Photo of the bathroom on his company's Facebook page with a comment to the effect of: "Another finished bathroom, another happy customer!"
That wasn't exactly untrue, writes, H.F. "But he never told us he was going to post a photo. And he never asked us if we were happy with the job."
It's not exactly an invasion of privacy, H.F. figures. "He didn't post our names nor the location of our house. No one would know it was our bathroom unless they were guests in the house." Even then, H.F. figures it's unlikely any of their guests would be scanning their contractor's Facebook page nor connect the photo to their bathroom even if they did.
"Still," she asks, "shouldn't he have asked our permission to post the photo?" If he had wanted to post a sign advertising business on our lawn while he was working on the house, she would have expected him to ask permission.
H.F. is right. There is no way to identify the bathroom as hers from the photo posted. She's also correct that he should have asked if he had wanted to post a sign on their property.
But the photo itself, because it is unidentifiable, doesn't seem to breach any ethical code nor violate H.F. and her partner's privacy in any way.
Where the contractor seems to have overstepped is when he posted the "another happy customer" comment without confirming that the customer was, indeed, happy. Before he used an alleged response in his post, the contractor should have actually solicited a response from his customer.
It may appear to be a small detail, but it would have been the honest and right thing to do.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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