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When the Waiter Forgets to Charge You

Knight Kiplinger explains why it's ethical to speak up. Plus, what to do when your child is goofing off in college -- on your dime.

My friend and I disagree about whether one should mention an undercharge on a restaurant check to the server and offer to pay the higher amount. He says no, it's just the restaurant's tough luck that they made a mistake. I say yes because I received value and should pay for it. What do you think?

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I'm with you. It's the ethical thing to do. What's more, some restaurants dock the server's pay for adding up a bill incorrectly or failing to charge for something ordered. Your honesty could prevent the server from being penalized for a small mistake that we all could make.

Our son is goofing off in college and getting poor grades while we pay tuition, room and board. Are we morally obligated to support him?

No. Indeed, I would argue that you have a moral obligation not to. He's an adult (at least in age), and your parental duties are finished.

Tell him to take a break from college, get a job and save some money. He can let you know when he's ready to take his studies more seriously. Then share the college expenses with him while he demonstrates his new maturity.

With so many young people unable to afford college at all, it should be viewed as a precious opportunity, not a birthright.

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Have a money-and-ethics question you'd like answered in this column? Write editor in chief Knight Kiplinger at ethics@kiplinger.com.

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