One of my favorite things about living in a shrinking city is exploring abandoned industrial properties, and collecting souvenirs from those places. My garden beds are built up with cool sandstone blocks from the old St. Mary’s on the Hill, for example, and pieces from old metal presses and shop signs decorate my living room. Salvaging and exploring kind of go hand in hand for me. Currently I’m building a small patio with flagstone I found last summer in the weeds beside a long dormant factory in South Buffalo.
And that’s where my dilemma begins. I recently learned that a friend of mine is trying to buy that long dormant factory. He’s got some pretty cool plans for the property, which he told me about the other day with great excitement. “Plus,” he said, “there’s all this cool old flagstone stacked up next to the loading dock.”
As if I didn’t know. He’s got cool plans for that flagstone, too, it turns out. He says it’s part of what sold him on the property, as much as anything else.
So what do I do? Do I tell him about the stone I’m laying down for the patio, which he will see soon enough for himself? Do I offer to return the stone?
The Practical Cogitator says: ’Fess up. You’ll feel better if you do.
There are several outcomes that might happen. Your friend might say that he looked the property over and there is more than enough flagstone to complete the project he has in mind. He might need the flagstone back, and he is entitled to it, after all. Or he might just think it’s cool that part of his huge project helped your small yard.
You already stated that he is your friend, and it sounds like he’s about to make a huge investment. It would be best for your conscience to tell him exactly where you got the stone. Will you really be able to enjoy your yard knowing that you were sneaky about about obtaining the materials? And knowing that you pulled one over on your friend? Tell him, and then respond according to his wishes.
The Omniscient One says: It sounds like he saw the inventory of flagstone that remained when he decided to try and buy the place, so I don’t see how the flagstone you have is part of the equation. That might not be the case if you took the flagstone after he made his plan, in which case, yes, you should tell him about it and offer to give it back should he close on the property. If it’s a “long dormant factory” there’s a good chance he’ll back out once he discovers the cost of rehabbing and possible environmental issues that come with properties of that sort. So you may not ever have to bring it up until he’s sitting on your patio some sunny afternoon with a cool beverage.
The Gay Perspective says: You’re just thinking too small! I think you need to get a metal detector and head out for some really historical sites. Or maybe you could sneak into some abandoned churches to see what kind of art or hardware you could haul out of there. We could be talking stained glass windows here! I don’t think the Central Terminal or the Richardson Towers are especially well monitored. And think of all that cemetery sculpture just ripe for the picking. Or, if it’s just building materials you’re after, why not rent yourself a U-Haul and visit construction sites on the weekend! There are riches aplenty out there!
While we’re at it, let’s go international. I hear that Iraqi antiquities are up for grabs, and that there are whole areas of Central America that haven’t picked over yet!
Of course you looted the property, you ninny. Yeah, sure, there are companies that specialize in this sort of theft, but that doesn’t make it right. The ethical issue is obvious. The stone should never have been removed and should be returned.
Strictly Classified says: I think this old cliche sums it up: “Let your conscience be your guide.”
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