Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Lie, Morality, Ethics, Omission, Situation, Hotels, Goldfish, Actions

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/18

Moral dilemmas come in many different shapes and sizes. Whether or not something is morally wrong can be determined in a number of different ways—this is something that philosophers have devoted entire lifetimes to discussing in large volumes of work. Some moral dilemmas are much smaller, however. These smaller moral dilemmas may not weigh as heavily on the mind, but they are just as important as the larger moral dilemmas when it comes to determining moral rules and codes—sometimes even more so, because they allow the individual to break down the philosophical concept behind a moral code without a weighty emotional reaction.
One such moral dilemma is as follows: when I checked into my hotel room last month, I was starving, so I ate the $6 box of Oreos from the minibar. Later that day, I walked down the street to a convenience store, bought an identical box for $2.50 and replenished the minibar before the hotel had a chance to restock it. (In fact, my box was fresher: the Oreos I ate were going to expire three months before the box with which I replaced them.) The question that is raised, then, is the question of whether it was morally wrong to eat the Oreos and then replace them without paying the asking price that the hotel and the hotel mini bar were asking for insofar as the Oreos were concerned.
Some may contend that it was morally wrong to eat the Oreos and then replace them without paying the price that the hotel set forth for the Oreos. Indeed, in most situations, it would be completely morally and ethically wrong to consume something without paying the appropriate price for the Oreos. Because of the societal agreement and construct—arguably, this human construct—some may feel that it is wrong to consume the Oreos and not pay for them.
The question, upon analyzing the situation, is whether the consumption of the Oreos amounted to a lie, and, of course, whether that lie was ethically unsound by extension. Some contend that lies of any kind are immoral and unethical; these individuals would clearly contend that if the situation with the Oreos constitutes a lie, the action of eating the Oreos and then replacing them was one that was immoral and unethical. However, can a lie by omission still be a lie? The Oreos were eaten and then replaced, and the hotel owners were none the wiser to the action. No one was injured by the lie (physically or financially—the hotel did not lose money on the lie by omission).
Even conceding the lie by omission as an outright lie, there are problems with declaring all lies immoral and unethical. If a lie by omission is still a lie, then for some, the issue is concluded; however, if all lies are immoral and unethical, every time we respond “fine” to the question “how are you?” we could be lying by omission and thus, acting immorally. Every time we speak a white lie to save a friend’s feelings, or to protect someone or something that we care about, we have acted immorally. Instead of seeing the issue of lying in black and white, then, it is better to see the issue in terms of the situation. If someone is harmed by the lie, then the lie should be considered immoral and unethical; if no one is harmed, then the lie can be considered neutral insofar as morality is concerned.
This is not a rule that can be applied easily in a philosophical sense. The idea of “harm” is vague and can be interpreted a number of different ways. In the current situation, however, it is difficult to see how one can read “harm” into the situation for any of the participants. The hotel is not out any money as a result of the actions in the hypothetical, and the individual has made sure to restore things to their proper place.
An analogous situation to this one that raises a different set of moral and ethical questions might be the case of the dead goldfish—in a similar set of circumstances, an individual is asked to watch a goldfish for a child. The goldfish dies, and the individual replaces the goldfish with an identical one, failing to tell the child what occurred. In this case, the lie by omission is much more harmful to the other parties involved in the hypothetical; the child is most likely attached to the goldfish, and the replacement of the goldfish has removed the opportunity for a parent or other guardian to talk to the child about the death of pets and how to grieve properly.
The difference between the Oreos and the goldfish, then, is the outcome of the situation. Both have presented the main actor in the hypothetical with a chance to lie by omission, except one of these situations has resulted in harm being done, whereas the other situation has not. The hotel, by hiking up the price of Oreos, has not lost profit in this case; it merely has to wait for the next person to purchase the Oreos to make the profit on the cookies. The child with the goldfish has lost something else, something much more intangible and meaningful than profit on a package of cookies.
As far a ethical dilemmas go, the weight of a pack of Oreos is nearly nothing. Most people could perform the actions of the initial hypothetical without batting an eye, because no one is harmed by the action; culture and society encourages us to avoid actions which harm other people, not actions that are inherently lies by omission. Some things that are lies by omission are lies merely because we do not think to tell other people every detail of our lives. The lack of harm makes it nearly impossible to argue that there would be an ethical or moral problem with eating and then replacing the cookies from the minibar.
Understanding that there are a plethora of facets to the problem and ethical question of the cookies is the first step to determining how the ethical problems should be handled. The idea of lying could be seen in black and white, with lying always being seen as wrong and truth-telling always right; however, this is generally not how we understand right and wrong in our society. There are shades of right and wrong, and the lie by omission is certainly not always considered a lie. Developing a more nuanced understanding of the situation and the different pieces of the situation helps develop a better understanding overall.

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2021, February, 18) Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from
"Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example." WePapers, 18 Feb. 2021, Accessed 26 November 2022.
WePapers. 2021. Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example., viewed November 26 2022, <>
WePapers. Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example. [Internet]. February 2021. [Accessed November 26, 2022]. Available from:
"Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example." WePapers, Feb 18, 2021. Accessed November 26, 2022.
WePapers. 2021. "Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved November 26, 2022. (
"Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example," Free Essay Examples -, 18-Feb-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 26-Nov-2022].
Good Moral Dilemma: Oreos And The Minibar Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 18, 2021. Accessed November 26, 2022.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now