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Your Take: Have You Ever Bribed Someone?

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According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, which I read about on the Freakonomics blog, 1 in 4 people surveyed had paid a bribe. Bribes are a lot more prevalent outside of the United States, where a few extra dollars or a few choice gifts, can really grease the wheels of whatever system needs greasing.

Bribery is such a fascinating subject for me for two reasons. First, I see it as the market making up for existing inefficiencies. When you bribe someone to get a nicer room, you’re paying the person with the power to make upgrades without that person declaring the higher value of the room. If you were to pay $100 for a room, bribe the person at the counter with $20 to get a $200 room, then you’ve just paid $120 for the room. However, the desk clerk had the authority to give that upgrade so the hotel owner is happy to give a $200 room to someone for $100. The only difference is that the $20 went to the clerk, rather than the hotel. Buyer would pay $120 for the room, hotel owner would take $100, desk clerk wins as long as the buyer is willing to pay an unstated bribe.

Secondly, it’s clear evidence of competing interests. The desk clerk is, ultimately, responsible for himself. He risks his job, perhaps, if he takes a bribe and gives the customer a free upgrade. He doesn’t really care how full the hotel is or how happy the customer is because his salary is based on the hours he works and not on other metrics (metrics he can’t change anyhow, he can’t improve the occupancy rate).

That said, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never bribed anyone. There are some cases where I may have overpaid a little on one thing to get a better deal on the other, like tipping well at a bar in order to get faster service next time. While I’ve never paid a bribe, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with it if it got me to where I needed to go a little faster. :)

Have you ever bribed someone? If so, for what reason and what did you get out of it?

{ 42 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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42 Responses to “Your Take: Have You Ever Bribed Someone?”

  1. Courtney says:

    I am bribing three friends tomorrow, with dinner at Red Hot and Blue, to help me move 50 miles away :-) Does that count?

  2. PJ says:

    Yes, I paid a bribe once. It was about 1992 in Cancun Mexico. The hotel where I booked a room stated there were no water front rooms available when I arrived. After my travel companion passed the clerk $20, we were given keys to three rooms, told to go check them out, then pick one. Beautiful water front view, we really liked it. Surely worth the $20 extra. Was this unethical? I’m not sure. Perhaps this is just the way business is done in different parts of the world??

  3. lostAnnfound says:

    how about bribing the kids when they were younger (if eat your broccoli, I’ll give you some dessert).

  4. freeby50 says:

    I have not bribed anyone, ever.

    I haven’t even done anything like tipping a hostess to get seated faster at a restaurant.

  5. cubiclegeoff says:

    I don’t think I have the guts to try it, although I don’t think that in some situations (getting a better room for example) that it’s a bad thing.

  6. DebraJoy says:

    “… probably wouldn’t have a problem with it if it got me to where I needed to go a little faster.”

    Ha ~ they have legal bribes at the ski resort (Copper Mt.) – while they don’t call them “bribes” ~ they ARE “Payments for Privileges” and they are pocketed by the corporation. (?) as opposed to an ‘individual’. One can pay extra to skip the lines that everyone else stands in and the wealthy get their own “special privilege Line” ~ tho they call it some other name, so as not to sound as offensive…

    ~ not too much different in some respects than paying for a better hotel room ~ just More visible and ostentatious (IMO)

    That being said ~ no I have never paid one.

    • Strebkr says:

      Cedar Point has a system like that. I havn’t been there in awhile, but its the same concept. I think Disney World has one too.

      • mikestreb says:

        Break one of your friends leg before you go to a theme park. They let people in wheelchairs go to the front of the line along with the rest of the people in their party… Might be cheaper to bribe someone though.

  7. Rusty Kean says:

    I think everybody bribes everybody. Not with cash,, but with kindness, you let your friend borrow your power saw, & hope if you need his drill you can ask & get it. I snow-blow my neighbors sidewalks & drives, I hope they watch my house a bit more & would call the police if needed, as opposed to that mean guy across the street that only does his drive & never helps others, cash tips are used to get better service, I have heard of others paying someone to “look” the other way. Sometimes the kindness, sometimes the cash, dont work. Where should we draw the line?? I have never paid, or been paid for a “bribe”.

    • echidnina says:

      Favors, tit for tat, expectations, it’s true there is a fine line between any number of social agreements and a ‘bribe’, which certainly carries a bad connotation.

    • zapeta says:

      I think you’re on to something with the kindness bribes. But like you, I’ve never paid a cash bribe.

    • Mary says:

      Kindness is not bribery – it is courtesy – in my opinion.
      Also, I would contact the police if my across the street neighbors’ house or children were in trouble even though in the 7 years we’ve lived here he doesn’t help shovel the snow away from his mailbox which sits next to ours.
      That is being a good neighbor and a good citizen, not my definition of a bribe.

  8. rbatt says:

    In Vegas, there is a little thing called the $20 Trick. When you give the front desk your credit card and ID you slip a $20 in between. You ask if there are any suites available. They will make a phone call and then you’ll have the keys to a suite on one of the top floors with private elevator access. For an extra $20 it’s well worth it.

    Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. The front desk person gets a twenty and we get a room that would have otherwise gone unused. Win Win!

    • Jason L says:

      I’ve always thought about you doing this at the front desk, but I’ve never had the guts. This really works? (I do this all of the time waiting in line for the clubs, however. Of course, it’s always much more than $20 :/ )

      • Strebkr says:

        Does this really work? I want to give it a try.

        • rbatt says:

          It really works. Was out in Vegas end of January at the Mirage and we used the trick and we were on the top floor with a strip view.

          It is Vegas and everything there has a price. I look at it this way; it’s my first gamble of the trip. I can put twenty down hoping for a nicer room. If I win great, if not, I’m down twenty bucks.

          Try this trick next time you’re in Vegas. It’s a rush.

        • mikestreb says:

          I did it at Niagara Falls for an anniversary in January… Started on the 6th floor and $20 later, we were on the 15th floor(the 16th and up were the suites, so we were on the highest floor with the standard rooms).

  9. claro says:

    Why would anyone admit (on a public website no less) that he or she offered a bribe? Think twice about telling the universe your cute little story. It may well come back and bite you sometime. (Jim, I’m not questioning your integrity about your handling of any responses submitted to your site. It’s just that these things can have a life of their own, as you know.)

    • mikestreb says:

      I think it depends on what you are ‘bribing’ for… An upgraded hotel room = okay. Preferential treatment with some sort of government agency = not okay (ex. paying a building inspector to okay something not to code)

      As far as I can tell, there is nothing illegal on the end of the payer for something like a hotel upgrade. Until there is a law in place that makes it illegal to do it, I will keep on doing it.

      I am not sure of the legality on the payee’s end in the case of the hotel upgrade. I have never received a bribe…

  10. skylog says:

    in the truest sense, no, and to be honest, i have never even thought about it. that said, as others have brought up, i am certainly guilty of the “kindness” bribe with just about everyone.

  11. elloo says:

    why would anyone admit to bribery?

  12. govenar says:

    I think there’s different connotations of the word “bribe”. If you’re talking about paying someone to do something against the law or the rules of their job, that can be different than tipping or rewarding someone.

    In the hotel desk clerk example, I don’t think it’s really against the rules if the hotel had a bunch of empty suites and doesn’t lose anything.

  13. Frugal says:

    In many developing countries, bribing is a way of life.

    In those cases, bribing is expected and is a routine. Just a way of life.

    I have done that in past and that was the reason to come and settle in this country. I could not take it.

  14. Mike says:

    I’d like to be in the financial position to actually bribe someone. Can’t do it when your broke.

  15. Len Penzo says:

    I think using the term “bribe” for acts such as giving a maitre d a little extra to get a better table in a restaurant is a bit over-the-top. To me, those are tips to illicit service that goes beyond the call of duty.

    To me, “bribes” in their purest form involve corruption of public officials for personal illicit gains.

    That being said, using your much more liberal interpretation of the word, I have bribed several people in my lifetime.

    All the best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  16. Kind of.
    I was haggling with some furniture guys selling stuff off a truck from North Carolina. They drive up once in a while, park in a lot and sell a bunch of excess inventory. So, as a negotiating tactic, I told him if he cut another hundred bucks off the sale price, I’d tip his crew 50 bucks for moving it into our house. He was claiming he needed to show his sale a certain way and it was kind of a wink-wink deal, but in the end, probably a big sham anyway and he still made out fine. So did I. I don’t think anyone got “hurt” in this transaction, but in real business? Never.

  17. sophomore says:

    Let’s go to Dictionary.com and take a look.

    Bribe: –noun
    1. money or any other valuable consideration given or promised with a view to corrupting the behavior of a person, especially in that person’s performance as an athlete, public official, etc.: The motorist offered the arresting officer a bribe to let him go.

    For those in the US looking to go down the slippery slope, please take a look at the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Bribery charges may involve public officials or private individuals. Also, “[t]he Supreme Court further clarified the law by setting standards for federal bribery statutes in United States v. Sun Diamond Growers, 526 U.S. 398, 119 S.Ct. 1402, 143 L.Ed.2d 576 (1999). ” (thefreedictionary)

    {Yes I know that you’re smarter than the idiots that got captured on a wiretap or a video shown on America’s Most Wanted.}

  18. What’s a tip if it’s not a bribe? Especially when you tip the maitre d’ upfront by way of getting a better table…

  19. Sarah says:

    Over Christmas, I took a 2-hour car ride with my 5-year old nephew and he would not. stop. talking. In the last 5 miles, I told him if he didn’t say another word the rest of the way home, I’d give him a quarter. It worked and I only wished I’d have thought of it 75 miles before.

    The next day, we were in the car again (thankfully for a shorter drive) and he says “Aunt Sarah, will you give me a quarter to be quiet again?” and my family cracked up.

    • Shirley says:

      LOL! Tha’s the kind of bribe I fully understand and gladly use at will.
      Good thinking, Aunt Sarah.

  20. Mary says:

    Nope, never offered a bribe – never taken a bribe.
    If I believe it to be a bad practice in foreign countries, then I shouldn’t engage in it here in the U.S.

  21. Echo says:

    Interesting topic. I’ve never bribed someone myself, but like you I have probably over-tipped to get better service. Bribery would be very uncomfortable for me, I have a tough time asking for a discount sometimes :)

  22. Strebkr says:

    Bribe sounds like such a dirty word. I wonder what the not so dirty version would be.


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