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Ask Anyone


My house was burglarized while my wife and I were on vacation. The thieves made off with some pretty valuable stuff, much of it obvious: a laptop computer and other electronics, a rare guitar, a drawer full of silver.

But some losses are trickier to catalog—namely, jewelry. It’s clear that the burglars pillaged our dresser drawers, where we stored watches and jewelry in a state of chaos, all jumbled together. My wife says she won’t really know all that’s missing until she is looking for a specific item and discovers it’s not there. That could take months, a year, maybe more.

So here’s my question: I had a valuable watch that I hadn’t seen or worn in months before the burglary. Odds are about 50-50 that it was in one of the ransacked drawers. Maybe it’s somewhere else in the house, maybe I left it in a bus station. I honestly don’t know. Can I ethically include such an item on my insurance claim? And if I do, and I discover the item a year later in a sportcoat pocket, must I return the insurance money?

—Watch Me Now

Dining Out says: I’d claim the watch. Chances are it was stolen. Your burglars were obviously looking for top ticket items and had good taste. They knew what to bag and what to leave behind. And be thankful that your home wasn’t destroyed by a natural disaster and no one got hurt.

The Backroom says: Claim it all! You pay for your insurance every month just in case this type of thing happens, so now stick your hand out and demand they pay up. No need to be delicate about it. Aren’t you forgetting about that Blu-Ray player and go-kart they stole, too?

Etsy says: Speaking from experience, claim everything. If you end up finding an item that you claimed, don’t worry about it. If you’re morally bothered by it, donate the item or its cost to a charity of your choice. Don’t bother giving the money back to the insurance company.

The Gay Perspective: Am I the only person who has a good relationship with his insurance company? I’d be glad to share their name.

These are actually fairly simple ethical questions. It seems that you are tempted to be reimbursed for an item you have not seen for a good long time. If you are not really sure that the watch was stolen, but accept compensation for it anyway, that is fraud. Don’t do that. If you sincerely thought something was stolen, and submitted a claim, but later found you had simply misplaced the item, yes you need to return the money. You will be glad to know that your insurer will keep a record of your honesty, and at some future date when flooding destroys your gorgeous parquet floors, the insurance adjuster will see your record of honesty be more inclined to honor your claim. This is a case in which honesty is truly the best policy.

water torture

I’m a nurse pratitioner, and I’m also a kayaker, and while I’m out on the water I often see kids diving into the Black Rock Canal or swinging on ropes in to the Buffalo River. I know these waterways are bad places to swim for a dozen or more reasons, all related to pollutants. I know they won’t listen to me, but am I professionally obligated to tell these kids they should stop what they’re doing?


The Gay Perspective: As you observe, the kids will not listen to you and so you are simply hassling them, not protecting them. Your professional obligations as a nurse do not require you to patrol public lands or to inspect restaurant kitchens. If you are honestly concerned for the safety of these children, notify the appropriate authorities, the local police or their parents.

Ask Anyone is local advice for locals with problems. Please send your questions for our panel of experts to

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