A Mistakenly Shipped Cargo and the Tenets of Integrity

October 12th, 2012
Jim Thomas

[This incident transpired in interstate commerce in the early 1950s. Only names are disguised.]

 Broad River Kennels in Kentucky traded in hunting dogs. It advertised nationally in Field & Stream and other outdoor publications. Wording of its ads was limited. They listed hounds for sale by type, breed, and cost. Payment F.O. B. by rail.  Buyer was granted a ten-day trial.  If the hound proved unsatisfactory, buyer could return the animal for a refund, provided he paid cost of shipment. No other words appeared in the ad save those stating “first class hunters.”

 Hank Jones, a Georgia resident, was a serious hunter and hounds man. Relying on a Broad River ad, he ordered via letter a Blue tick Coon Hound, listed for $50, plus shipping costs.  In due course, the animal arrived by rail in the customary wooden crate. Shipping documents stated the dog’s name was “Rattler.” The hound was not a Blue tick.  However he was a good looking dog, lanky, red-ticked, with a tongue like church bells.

  Jones liked the looks of the animal and his deep-throated tongue. He neither objected nor gave notice of the kennel’s failure to ship a Blue tick. Instead, he paid price and costs and assumed ownership. Payment was received and accepted.

  In field trials, Rattler promptly proved a dynamite coon hound.  Jones recalled that years earlier he had seen one similar hound. With help of a librarian, he identified the animal as an American English Coon Hound.

  Two weeks after expiration of the ten-day trial period, Jones received a certified letter from Bill Boswell, owner of Broad River Kennels. The letter stated Rattler was one of Boswell’s personal hunting dogs. He had paid $1500 for him three years earlier and had the “papers” to prove it. An inexperienced worker mistakenly shipped the wrong hound. He asked Jones to return the dog, with an offer to refund the purchase price and pay shipping and handling costs.

 Jones refused. He asserted that purchase and sale of the dog, in every respect,     was an above-board, arms-length transaction. Rattler was his, fair and square. He intended to keep it, and did. 

 The Cardinal Virtue of Integrity turns on doing the thing one should do because it is right, notwithstanding no rule, law, or regulation require it. Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote “There is a difference between what you have a right to do, and what is the right thing to do.


 In light of the foregoing:  How do you come down? Did Jones act with Integrity? Was he justified in keeping Rattler? Or, should he have complied with the original owner’s request and returned the animal?




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