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Your Take: Have You Ever Bribed Someone?

Posted By Jim On 03/11/2011 @ 7:19 am In Your Take | 42 Comments

According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer [3], which I read about on the Freakonomics blog [4], 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?


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[3] Global Corruption Barometer: http://transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/gcb/2010

[4] Freakonomics blog: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/bribery-makes-the-world-go-round/

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