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What To Do With a Pallet of Champagne?

February 05, 2021 2 min read

A few years ago I was working at a manufacturing plant where we had an unexpected delivery. 

My colleague, who managed the Receiving area of the plant, received a call and was told to come to the Dock as soon as possible- there was a pallet of champagne being delivered!

After a few phone calls he determined that the delivery was sent by one of our equipment suppliers.  We had placed a big order with them that year, and so the account manager decided that they should give a holiday gift to everyone at the plant that had worked with them on the project. 

Not just a bottle of champagne, but an entire case. 

Per person. 

Because they didn't have our home addresses, they decided to send all of those cases of champagne together on a pallet to the plant. 

This was a bad idea for a number of reasons. 

First, no alcoholic beverages were allowed on the premises. So technically it wasn't allowable for anyone to even touch one of those bottles. 

Second, it's company policy to not accept gifts over a significant value.  One bottle of (reasonably priced) champagne probably would have been ok, but certainly not an entire case.

Fortunately my colleague did the right thing: he quarantined the pallet in the corner of Receiving and then called the supplier.  He explained the situation, and arranged to have the pallet shipped back to them.

Why is it unethical to receive valuable gifts from a supplier? 

Furthermore, why would it be unethical for an engineering firm to give customers significant gifts?

I answer these questions, and many more, in my new course titled Engineering Ethics On Trial: Real World Case Studies and Lessons Learned

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