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My Opinion: Don’t Use Your Uber-Cheap El Al Tickets

Cross-posted to DovBear

Unless you live under a rock, you know that El Al made a big mistake and allowed people to buy round trip tickets to Tel Aviv from New York for under $400. This was not a promotion or a sale. It was a mistake.

When the mistake was corrected the fares disappeared.

El Al is honoring the tickets.

If you scored some of these tickets what is the proper thing to do?

In Moment Magazine, the Ethicist Emeritus, Randy Cohen, weighs in and says:

El Al should offer to honor all those tickets, and the customers should decline the offer.

El Al, like other companies, has a duty to honor the advertised price. If it is a third party mistake, then El Al should seek compensation from that third party that actually made the error…

However, even if El Al offers to make good on the tickets, we are not supposed to exploit someone.

I agree.

It may be a very bitter pill to swallow if you “lucked out” but your luck actually is causing someone else’s loss. While it is true that the loss is self inflicted by their mistake, that does not give one the right to take advantage of someone else. (Corporations are people too?)

I am fond of repeating what my rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Tendler said about decided whether a business deal was ethical or not. He said the deciding factor should be the answer to the question “would I do this deal to my brother?” If the answer is no, you shouldn’t do the deal with someone else.

If my brother accidentally advertised a product worth $1000 for $400 I would alert him to his error. I wouldn’t exploit his error.

Now this may be a lofty, unrealistic ideal. I admit as much. But I am only writing what I believe is the “right thing to do” not the “easy or acceptable thing to do”. Also, we are talking about a trip to the Holy Land here. Wouldn’t you want to visit Israel with a clear and clean conscience? I would.

I don’t believe in “finders keepers”. I believe in doing the right thing. I think the right thing to do here is for El Al to honor the tickets. It was their mistake. But people who got the tickets should ask El Al for their money back. If El Al is feeling generous, it might the nice if they would offer some incentive for not using the tickets, like elite status or free upgrades, or something like that.

Think about the Kiddush Hashem that would be created if we all agreed not to use the tickets. That has to be worth at least as much as a trip to Israel.

Link: Moment


114 Comments
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  • http://twitter.com/daniopp Daniopp

    the amount of good will and press they have gotten over the last week and will continue to get the coming week will offset the costs/loss

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I read that it was a $10 million mistake. That’s a lot of good will…

      • http://twitter.com/daniopp Daniopp

        i read it was a 5MM mistake but as i said on my FB feed ”
        how much would a good ad campaign that touts how El Al puts customers first, and gets a write up in the NYT, Jewish Week, UPI, etc., has mentions all over social media, TV news, etc. and coordinated media blitz that makes them look caring a
        nd unselfish and repairs the image we all have of El Al, and it runs an entire week into the weekend and will probably be the topic of conversation at countless shabbos tables, all the while El Al looks like the good guys.

        how much would that cost? im guessing more that 5MM”

  • Be Seven

    I think you meant conscience, not conscious.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Of course I did. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=899600435 Michael Szpilzinger

    Very important that you point out that it “actually is causing someone else’s loss.”. I’ve sen and heard so many people commenting that seem to think that this was a victimless mistake.

    It’s ElAl – where do they get off charging me $1900 the other times I fly?
    ElAl will get the money from a 3rd party so it’s not Ona’as Yisrael
    There is insurance for these things anyway
    The possibility of the mistake is priced in anyway.

    These arguments have no bearing on what the right thing for any individual to do. I am not talking Halacha (not my area of expertise). I am talking about the attitudes that people have in justification.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Sad, but true. I’ve seen all the same things.

  • israel

    who said there losing money on this deal maybe there just no MAKENG anything on this.?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Do you know anything about how businesses and commerce works?

      • Irritated

        Just so you know it was me who disliked your comment. I find it amusing that you chose to preach a moral high ground and then insult the intelligence of another. There are few things I hate more than seeing a “do you know…” comment. Not many things can make a person feel worse than feeling stupid, and instead of taking the time to maybe explain the situation you leave it ambiguous and mean. Is this something you would do to your brother? Are we not all students of Beit Hillel? Do unto others? Maybe you could do a little Cheshbon Nefesh.

      • Irritated

        I’m glad you deleted my comment, because at least I know you read it.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          I didn’t delete your comment. I never delete comments.

      • Irritated

        The sad thing is you keep deleting my comment without the courtesy to delete your own.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Dude. What are you talking about?

          • MarkSoFla

            He probably has disqus set to display comments in an unexpected order….

  • Yoni

    The airline is owned partly by the Israeli Government, and Israel’s tourist industry is going to have a gigantic boom over the next several months due to this situation. The loss on airfare will be made up by the increase in tourism. From what I understand thousands of tickets were sold at these mistaken rates… thousands of people that were most likely saving and waiting for another year or two to go to Israel will now be able to go.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I’m sorry but that makes no sense. El Al expects to sell X amount of tickets at regular price. Those people will fly to Israel and spend money in Israel. How does it help any of them if they send the same number of people to Israel at 30% of the net gains?!

      • Yoni

        you said that El Al lost ~$10 million on this situation. Each ticket was a loss of around $800; so that makes around 12500 people who purchased tickets. 10000 people that would not have probably been going to Israel before this snafu. Now each of those 12500 people will have to put around 800 dollars into the Israeli economy to make up for the loss… a typical trip to Israel minus airfare runs well over 800 dollars… I think alone I dropped 3k my last trip. The people that were planning to go to Israel (that you refereed to El Al planing on X amount of seats at regular price) will still go, but this snafu caused many people that weren’t planning on going to Israel to make last minute decisions to go because of the airfare, that is money that would not have been put into the Israeli economy. So in other words this error in rates just caused an increase in unintended tourism, people that weren’t going to be going to Israel for another year or two are now going in the next few months. The constant is those that were already planning on going… that number didn’t change; they may choose a different airline because of overbooking but they will still be going to Israel and spending money there. You still have received a large boost to tourism NIS.

        • Ygor

          Yes. As posted on another comment. I have never had the intention to travel to Israel now or anytime in the near future. I am not Jewish, nor do I have family there. But because of these fares, we changed our plans to go to Hawaii, and are now going to Israel instead, and discovering how many cool things we can do there, even in winter.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      They are making the best of a bad situation. We would all do the same. But I don’t think that changes OUR (the consumer) responsibility.

      • yoni

        I agree; sadly human nature will prevail and many will take advantage.

  • Joshua Economist

    Airlines practice price discrimination. They are cheating every time they advertise and change the price to reflect changes in consumer demand. Just because the going rate is a certain price doesn’t mean that this price reflects anything more than the price they think they can maximize profits. When they mistakenly lower the price they are still not losing money. Customers who buy those tickets might not have bought them otherwise, and by virtue of the fact that they raised the price soon after, I am going to assume that the flights will have many fully paying customers. I say take the flight, and know that you have done nothing wrong.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

      How are they cheating? That doesn’t make any sense, nor does your specious argument that they make money on every ticket.

      While it is possible that might be true, we cannot assume it is. There are operations cost for every flight that you have to take into consideration and unless we have those costs we cannot say for certain who made or did not make money.

      Nor can we “assume” that the flights will be filled with “fully paying customers” either. It is not logical nor reasonable.

  • http://twitter.com/MordMaman Mord

    Excellent parameters set out by Rabbi Yosef Tendler.
    Would be a huge thing for someone to make the decision not to use the tickets, but this is a magnified case of everyday situations, which people very often rationalise their ways into feeling they did the right thing, or didn’t do the wrong thing. First question in heaven dude, or third, but one of them.

  • Menachem Lipkin

    Fundamentally I agree with you. However, have you seen El Al’s letter? They are now offering to upgrade the tickets to non-stop for an additional $75. That in and of itself doesn’t change anything, but they are making it PR positive for themselves. (As they should.) And it is now a form of advertising which can be expensed as such. Not only that, but because of the way social networking works, they will get a lot of “free” advertising. In the end, this episode could easily end up in the plus column for them financially.

    • Menachem Lipkin

      I see that you linked to the letter. Same point.

  • Yerachmiel Lopin

    In general I agree with not taking advantage. But let’s make the question more complicated. Let’s say you made some mistake with El-Al which cost you $1000 dolllars and you asked to cancel but they said “sorry, a purchase is a done deal.” Let’s make it even more interesting and say that your mistake grew out of an unethical deceptive website structure which was nevertheless legal. So now you have in effect gotten your money back on the last bad deal. Is the advice still, return the ticket? I personally would not feel any compunction about holding them to the deal in such a situation.

    All of this is very hypothetical. It is common enough to get taken by commercial sites but rare for companies to make mistakes on this scale which favor consumers.

    Which gets me to my final question- in general, in dealing with companies known for sharp practices is there really an ethical argument for giving to them when they are ruthless about taking from us.

    I want to be clear, this is not argument about how to deal with all businesses. For example I love dealing with Costco. Everything is above board. If I got an advantage due to their mistake I would feel ethically bound to go back and correct it or pay more or whatever. I have done that on several occasions. For that matter, I give businesses the benefit of the doubt and correct their mistakes at my expense.

    But why shouldn’t companies who exploit by legal loopholes be given some of their own medicine? They have left ethics in the dust. What is the point of showering them with ethics. Frankly, I do not believe it inclines them to goodness; it just reaffirms their conviction they can get over on shnooks.

    So I would ammend your advice so it doesn’t apply to all companies.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Are you familiar with the adage “Two wrongs don’t make a right”?

      • Yerachmiel Lopin

        Guys, we are not talking about theft. I am not advocating retributive theft. I am talking about whether I go beyond my legal/halachic obligations to do them the favor of letting out of a contract (the sacred fetish of commerce in the USA).

        Two wrongs don’t make a right. But a discount on one ticket can balance out an excess charge on another. Just simple accounting. Look carefully as my writeup, it is premised on some specific conditions,

      • Other peopls stupidity!!

        But three lefts do

    • Shuky Meyer

      How does any previous history about another person/corporation affect the way that one should act towards them. Is it OK to steal from somebody because they are known to be crooked? It is better to not do any business at all with a company that one feels is cheating them.

      • Ygor

        Buying a fare on a mistake and stealing are not ever close to being the same.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Right. But the arguments sure sound similar!

          • Ygor

            No they do not. One is a crime, one is not.

            • Shuky Meyer

              I was not g-d forbid saying that using these tickets is stealing. I was simply implying that it might hurt the company (which cannot be proven by anyone outside of the said company’s accounting dept) which is analogous to causing one harm. Causing one harm through a business transaction is a questionable practice and this is what I was referring to.

              Example:
              I made a complaint to a company one time about something to do with one of their products. They sent me a coupon to ‘make things better’ the product I was dissatisfied with was close to $40. They sent me a $30 to make up for it. But as my luck would have it, I received over $60 in the mail from them, more than they meant to send me obviously. One of the extra checks was sent to a the wrong address and was in the name of a different customer.

              Now, according to the logic in the comment I am originally replying to, They ‘screwed me’ or something not very positive to that extent. I should keep the $60 and say nothing. Maybe I should call and find out was going on though. Because it is my OPINION and the general opinion of the orthodox Jewish community to hold yourself a little higher. So I said to myself, “Would I do this type of thing to my brother, my friend, my community?”

              So after doing some phone calls to the company, they were very happy that I called and asked if I would be ok mailing it to the person on the check. Since I had the address anyway. At my expense. I asked if it would be ok if I tore it up and they invalidated the coupon and just sent the check out to the intended customer.

              The logic is, this is a corporation, one that in its Q1 reported a huge, in the billions, profit. Would they be hurt directly by the extra $30? To me it does not matter. What matters is that my moral code didn’t allow me to take $30, that was not intended for me. Regardless of my feelings towards the company. The tickets issue with ElAl might in the long run make them money due to publicity and free marketing and other issues. But, if I would have bought one of these to learn that it was a price MISTAKE, regardless of the company trying to put a positive spin on things, I would ask for a refund. Especially since they are offering to do so with no extra charge to me.

              • Shuky Meyer

                Sum of what is above: (sort of)

                @a37e94f833d3f16fb10ab884cb77fe89:disqus :How is it justified to let Costco know about an error even at your own cost, because they are a corporation that you LIKE. But somehow if they were a corporation that you DIDN’T LIKE, it would be OK to not tell them or do things differently. Moral decisions shouldn’t be based on the 2nd party. Each party has their own moral and ethical process and should follow it regardless of the moral code of the other party in a business transaction. Only when everyone does this, will both sides have ethically responsible business transactions.

                • Yerachmiel Lopin

                  Shuky, please do not alter my argument and then attack it, I did not say it is just because I like them. I agree, if a check is sent to you by mistake, there is no underlying contract to justify keeping it. Even if I despise them I don’t cash it. I distinguish between entering into a contract which was legal on both ends and they now regret. If they have taken advantage of me by deceptive but legal practices in the past I see no reason to do them the favor of allowing them to get out of a contractual mistake. Shuky I will be glad to reply to anything you have to say that speaks directly to what I have said. Please pay attention to what I have said before attacking me.

                  • Shuky Meyer

                    @a37e94f833d3f16fb10ab884cb77fe89:disqus: I apologize for misunderstanding your comment. Would you mind explaining it to me? This is the part that I found interesting that originally lead me to write the reply (something I rarely do)
                    “”But why shouldn’t companies who exploit by legal loopholes be given some of their own medicine? They have left ethics in the dust. What is the point of showering them with ethics””

                    The way that I understood that, was that you mean that one should not tap into their personal [normal] ethical practices towards a company that “left ethics in the dust.” I was trying to impress with my comment that one person/company’s ethics should not hold a place in someone’s response with their ethical practices.

                    I was not trying to attack you on a personal level, I was responding to your comment, which I now realize I may have misunderstood. Thank you in advance for explaining this to me. It is annoying with text and the internet we often cannot convey more to our words. I hope my words have not been taken by you in the wrong way. If you would like to make this debate/discussion more private let me know we can discuss it via e-mail or another source.

                    • Yerachmiel Lopin

                      Shuky, Thank you for your response. Below I try to better illustrate my argument.

                      Let me give you a concrete example. Some years ago I found a fairly good price on a ticket. Lets say for about $100. I click through all the screens and the number says $100 dollars every time. I get to the final screen and enter credit card info and make the transaction. I did not notice on the final screen that they also had a check mark to buy insurance on the flight for $15. The check mark is auto filled in. I did not check it. But once I hit the pay button I notice that I now have a charge for $115. Now I look up the insurance. It has a $75 deductible. I contact the company which tells me, yes I can cancel but contact the insurance company. The insurance company tells me to contact the airline. I even do all the paperwork on both ends. End story I get nowhere and give up. I think I can fairly say in this case that deceptive unethical practices cost me $15 (and a lot of wasted time). Perhaps they were legally within their rights. But I would be ashamed to make money that way. So now, for argument’s sake imagine they make a $15 mistake. By law I am within my rights to keep the $15 from their mistake. If I had no previous history with them I might go lifnei mishuros hadin (above and beyond the requirements of the law) and give them back their $15. But I would say it would be completely ethical for me not to bother with doing that. I hope this clarifies what I am saying. In dealing with a specific entity that ripped me off (albeit legally) I will not steal from them but I will not do them the favor of going above and beyond the law to help them.
                      (NOTE- yes, technically the insurance company was a seperate entity from the airline but the airline probably got a hefty fee for not only offering the policy but sneaking it in as a default option in a deceptive way. furthermore, the airline took no responsiblity for the practice or helping me negotiate with its affiliate. Moreover, the offering was a decidedly shabby offering (flight insurance to cover my not being able to take flight on a 100 ticket with a deductible of $75 which costs $15.)

                    • Shuky Meyer

                      @a37e94f833d3f16fb10ab884cb77fe89:disqus: I understand your statement much better now. It seems like I misunderstood it completely, I agree that when it is going ‘above the letter of the law’ then each person may and should have their discretion as to when to apply that. However, for myself, I believe that if I am going to go above the letter of the law for one person/company I should apply that decision unilaterally unless it is impossible for me to do. (ie: it would cause me harm) Thank you for clarifying your position.

          • Ygor

            No they are not. One is a crime, one is not.

  • http://twitter.com/alexphilo7 Philo

    Disagree. El Al is a corporation, not a person. If a corporation makes a mistake, it’s their mistake. This isn’t going to drive them out of business. In this day and age, when people are struggling and many cannot normally afford trips to Israel, I refuse to make anyone feel bad over using a ticket that El Al, a large company with deep pockets, has agreed to honor.

    • http://twitter.com/alexphilo7 Philo

      Or put it this way – in the case of someone is well off and could easily afford the trip anyway, maybe you have a point, though I still refuse to feel any sort of empathy for the deep pocketed giant airline.

      But my point stands for all those out there who are struggling. I say if you got the ticket, go to Israel! It’s a gift to be able to go when you normally might not be able to. Sympathy for a big company vs sympathy for a struggling family of 5 who thought they wouldn’t be able to go to Israel for many years? Sorry, I’ll side with the family. Go to Israel and feel no guilt over it.

  • milhousetrabajo

    just to be clear, i think ELAL’s offer to pay an extra $150 for direct flights was genius and reveals that they may be happy to do the deal at that price (as they are offering and soliciting for it). i plan to call and find out whether they would still prefer that i cancel just based on feeling bad, or whether they will be ok with the non-stop change.

    while they may have come out with a loss with the stopover tix (only getting an approx. 65% portion of the price on my tix which included taxes, amer airlines fees and airport fees), now they will get about $500+ out of $580 (cutting out the additional fees) per ticket. Would love to know where someone came up with the $10M number as that doesn’t seem to make sense for 5k tix sold at an average of $300 (not including tax/fees) vs. $700 (price u can get in january on elal stopover tix). if everyone had bought tix for succos would be a little more reasonable, but that appears improbable from anecdotal evidence (plus those tx were about $500). Finally, i wouldn’t be surprised if they (or their 3rd part providers) had some insurance coverage for mistakes like these and the whole point of that is to cover for handling mistakes (do you feel bad getting your car fixed with insurance when you are negligently driving?)

    I was dealing with the moral issue for a while, and if they were really losing money on my tix, even though i wouldn’t go otherwise, i would agree with you, and that is clearly true yashrus.

    but i think under the current setup they made the decision that they want to do these deals (hope to confirm what the company policy is with an agent). Combined with the good will and hopefully some repeat business (and maybe some insurance coverage), they will get something out of this, and don’t appear to want people to actually cancel.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      $700? Really? Where?

      • milhousetrabajo

        elal runs an annual $699-799 (depending on days of week) in January. usually has an ad front page in Jewish Press. family has done it b4.

    • MarkSoFla

      It doesn’t reveal anything except for the fact that it is cheaper for El Al to transport people directly from JFK to TLV on their own planes than to pay American and Swiss (and perhaps others) to carry their passengers on a codeshared flight.

      • milhousetrabajo

        you may be right, hopefully will find out.

  • http://twitter.com/shlomoabraham Shlomo Abraham

    Let’s say there’s a person named Moishe who bought a ticket at $400. He will not purchase one at $1000. Lets say Moishe asked El-Al: No BS, no hard feelings, what would be more beneficial for El-Al? Me to return the ticket and not buy a replacement? Or for me to fly? And El-Al answered for him to fly. Would your answer change?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Probably.

      • http://twitter.com/shlomoabraham Shlomo Abraham

        I think that’s an important bit of unobtainable information.

        Airline pricing is inherently murky. An extra person sitting on a plane costs next to nothing, almost certainly less than $400. Flying the plane (fuel, employees) costs a fortune. Couple that with the fact that ElAl’s goal isn’t necessarily profit, rather to provide transportation to and from Israel… and it very well could be that they would rather have an individual paying $400 than not flying at all.

        ElAl would probably never state one way or the other because it could damage their ability to change prices in the future.

        (I did not purchase tickets, nor attempt to purchase them).

        • milhousetrabajo

          @twitter-93429472:disqus R Gil Student suggested your suggestion to just ask ELAL on Hirhurim, and i had also tried that out, but to be honest, it is impractical as you can’t really get a straight answer.

          I sent an email last friday and another one on Tuesday and still have not gotten a response from ELAL. Today I spoke to a customer service rep and he said (in a little broken hebrew) the directive from above was to do their best to help those who want to turn their tix into non-stop tix, and they are happy for everyone and there was no hint that they should encourage people to cancel, just that they can until Aug 31 and then they will not be able to cancel no matter what.The problem with Rasking if ELAL is ok with the deal is it really puts people on the spot, and they don’t want to lose the good press by encouraging (or in any way admitting that they want) cancellations, so i don’t know if one can get a straight answer. ELAL is not a singular being with an opinion, but lots of people taking all sorts of non-essential factors into consideration as to whether “ELAL” is ok with going through with this, and they refuse to officially say that the nonstop change will help them at all (the rep said this is just for the convenience of the tourists).

          So i’m still stuck debating what to do. considering keeping the tix until after Aug 31 to see what they say if i ask to cancel the tix at that point, but since i’d be dealing with a know-nothing customer rep, they probably wouldn’t even get it and refuse cancellation based on the basic rules.

      • Dan_Daoust

        In the Land of No BS, El Al would never answer “fly.” They would love to get that ticket back and sell it for $1000.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Of course they would.

        • http://twitter.com/shlomoabraham Shlomo Abraham

          That assumes the flight would be otherwise sold out and someone with a $400 ticket is taking away a seat from someone willing to spend $1000. That’s rather unlikely during the months the mistaken promotion was offered for.

          • Dan_Daoust

            I guess we could parse it by the dates, but I think people fly to Israel even when it’s not Succos or Pesach. As I understand it, this sale even applied to Chanukah. They could get that ticket back and resell it in a heartbeat.

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            Look at it this way: Would El Al trade all the $400 tickets for a clean slate and its usual business? Unless they are idiots, the answer is yes. That is why they don’t normally sell thousands of tickets for $400.

            • http://twitter.com/shlomoabraham Shlomo Abraham

              A good chunk of those who bought $400 tickets would have bought $1000 tickets, so its not parallel.

              While there’s no way of knowing a hypothetical, I bet El-Al is happier selling a ticket for $400 than not selling one at all, certainly in the winter, non-holiday months.

              • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                But you can’t look at it like that. You need to look at it as a whole. Would El Al prefer the, let’s say 500 seats at $400 or would they prefer the usual number of seats they sell out of those 500 seats at their usual price.

  • Ygor

    There are a few things you are missing that are fundamental pieces to this issue.

    1. If ELAL and all other airlines stopped the practice of charging “fuel surcharges” none of this would happen. Fuel surcharges are just a way for airlines to circumvent taxation. So is the airline – or all airlines (a corporation) immoral? 2. Up until recently, this fuel surcharge practice was also a sleazy way to advertise bargain prices, until you clicked “purchase” and saw the true cost. The DOT put an end to that practice recently by requiring the final price to be displayed upfront. 3. When people purchase tickets on ElAl or any other airline, and they need to cancel tickets or change dates, regardless of wether one made a mistake, lost a job and is no longer able to travel, of for a loss in the family, ElAl would not wave on changing or cancelation fees. If someone made an honest mistake (i.e. purchased the wrong date) is it right for the airline to no allow for a change?
    4. ElAl is obliged by law to honor those tickets or risk huge fines. See DOT regulations.
    5. A $500 fuel surcharge x 5000 tickets = 2.5 million dolars. That is about 10% of ElAl’s profit last quarter, or approximately 2 – 3% or their yearly profit. The $500 was part of their profit, so the true loss is less than $500. On top of that, they will write this as a loss, further reducing their damage on this issue. My gut check? This will cost them less than $1million, since some of the people (including myself) will switch to a non-stop, and also considering that ElAls load factor is about 80%, there are hardly any flights that leave with no empty seats.

    While you may feel warm and fuzzy about not using these tickets, know that ElAl is not a person, and they will likely recoup all of the damage in publicity, and Israel will benefit from 5000 people that are now traveling there that otherwise probably would have not.

    I for instance, had plans to go to Hawaii in January, until I saw this fare. I am not Jewish, and while Israel is a place I would probably eventually have visited, it likely would have not happened for many years or even decades. Once I got and I end up having an outstanding time, I will talk it up to people on facebook and what not, and if I get just two more people to consider going to Israel because of it, then it will be worth it for the airline and the country.

    Of course some of these benefits are hypothetical and not tangible, but believe me, ElAl will not hurt too bad from this.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      What happens to El Al is irrelevant. The consumer has the choice to renege on a deal that was never intended to be offered. That is the right thing to do.

    • Steven

      I agree completely. This is a large corporation, harmed by negligence and incompetence of people who are paid to prevent this from occuring, using practices which hinge on the deception of hidden costs and snap decisions. It is further bound by the contractual element mentioned. I disagree with Rabbi Tendler’s test quoted above. To me the test should be what would the other party expect if the roles were reversed. Large corporations are held to a higher standard than private consumers in law, as they should be. Going beyond the letter of the law may be commendable, but I would not treat a corporation as I would an individual. That goes against basic capitalism and arguably would harm the individual shareholders in the long run. Too many reasons for me to buy the argument that there is a compelling ethical interest in declining a deal offered by the company.

  • Z

    How much did El Al pay yOu to write this piece? Jk, but seriously I guess you’re right as much as the business side of me is incredulous that someone would decline the offer. It doesn’t make a difference that it’s a big corporation who wouldn’t really feel the pain, huh?

  • rules are rules

    This is too funny. The more reasonable approach to ask yourself…. In a business transaction between a consumer and airline, if the consumer makes a mistake, how does the airline respond? It’s foolish to suggest that a consumer should bend over backwards to “make the airline whole” when the airline would say “rules are rules” when the consumer makes a mistake.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Another person with the “Two wrongs makes a right” argument. Did that work well with your parents when you were a kid?

      • rulesarerules

        Not a matter of one wrong or wrongs. Just a matter of business practice. Without rules and regulations (protecting both the airline and the consumer) there would be no business altogether. The rules and regulations are nothing more than a balancing of interests, so when either side relinquishes their protections, it creates an imbalance.

      • anonymity86

        It is like the relationship between Yaakov and Lavan. When someone is acting crooked towards you then it is within your rights to act only within the confines of the law.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Seriously? El Al is like Lavan now?

          • anonymity86

            No. But, the point is if they set the parameters of the relationship as a business relationship in which mistakes will not be forgiven the I may morally accept the relationship as such.

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              A) Have they? B) You may?

              • anonymity86

                A) I don’t know El Al’s policy, my point is that _if_ they do not refund for customer’s mistakes then we do not have to refund theirs
                B) That was my point from the Yaakov/Lavan comparison. Lavan was treating Yaakov unfairly, so Yaakov used means he would not otherwise have used to balance things out.

                • http://profiles.google.com/holyhyrax Holy Hyrax

                  How do airlines treat people unfairly? You know what you are paying for. You know their baggage policies.

                  • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                    Some people are just so entitled.

                  • tesyaa

                    HH, I am completely with you on this.

  • anonymity86

    True, you would alert your brother that he has made a mistake in setting his prices, but if your brother said it’s ok then you would of course be allowed to use the ticket. By writing their letter they are essentially doing that.

    They could have written the letter and said that they are legally obligated to honor the prices, but ask people to cancel their tickets. They did not.

    I do think that there is no legal or halachic obligation to return the tickets. There is no set price for a ticket so they can’t have “undercharged” you vs the going rate. The only question is if there is a moral obligation to go above the letter of the law and not take advantage of the company. It would be morally right to do so, but I don’t think we can hold everyone to that high standard when this much money is involved.

    The argument that because El Al is crooked or their pricing is crooked should not affect our decision. The fact that it is a corporation should not affect our thinking either. It employs real people and its investors are real people.

    Maybe people who are using the ticket should use their “saved” money and buy El Al stock. That will benefit El Al and themselves.

  • jake

    Forgetting about ethics for a moment, has anyone consulted a Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat? I’m no expert, but is this not an issue of the seller making a mistaken calculation, which we would then treat as a lost object? Unless stipulated otherwise beforehand or allowing for the treatment of El Al as a non-Jewish party for some reason, I don’t see how one wouldn’t be obligated to return the ticket just from straight up halacha.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      They were mochel.

  • Dorron Katzin

    Why should I care what Randy Cohen says? He is the person who said it was ethical for a woman to back out of a business deal with an Orthodox Jew who would not shake her hand.

    I shake the hands of women in a business setting, but those who do otherwise certainly have “who to rely on”.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Ad hominem attack FOR THE WIN!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604192791 Mordechai Kushner

    I don’t always agree with you (nor anybody else come to think of it), but you’re on the mark with this one. Good to see that some people still recognize that “Values” are more valuable than “values”, and that a good deed beats a good deal any day.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Thank you. I appreciate it.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      And good line!

  • interesting

    “free upgrades” cost money too, just sayin…

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Indeed.

  • Atriptoisraelwouldbelovely

    O’ please. There is no crime. It’s a ‘deal.’

    Treat your brother the way you would treat an inanimate company? Businesses make mistakes. ‘Business’ is not family.

    What would happen if it went the other way, priced too high by
    accident and people paid too much? Would El Al vocalize the overage and
    return the
    money? Show me the money !

    Where’s Steven Colbert??? Are corporations people? Does a company have feelings?

    Keep the ticket. Be thankful to El Al for being professional and
    recognizing error. Every business has damage control days. Hope no one was fired as a result. Enjoy the
    time at the King David.

  • asher

    this mistake benefited el al for notorious amounts of publicity so keep the ticket as a marketing investment on el als part and enjoy the cheap flight to Israel.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      If it works so well, why don’t they offer this deal all the time?!

  • Meir Weingarten

    Gd bless you for being a Jewish voice of reason, sanity & Torah values .

  • ezra

    I agree with your conclusion but understand that it’s much easier to say this is the right thing to do than to do it… I don’t judge anyone who chooses not to do what should be done here, but come on, at least people can admit this was not an advertised sale, everyone knew there was something fishy and yet everyone jumped on board to get a piece… no one could believe this was not due to some sort of error or glitch. So, right or wrong, people took advantage of El Al- but only god judges and what goes around comes around and so, each person must decide how they will handle this… I’m actually glad it’s not my demon to fight in all honesty!

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I agree. I am not judging, just saying what I think is the most ethical choice.

      • ezra

        I think people are missing the point of your words. If I understand correctly, you state that El-Al should honor their commitment and be responsible for their mistake, but as a measure of ethics, the customers should say thank you for doing the right thing so we are doing the right thing as well and not asking you to subsidize our travel due to an error. People keep referencing the marketing benefit- but I don’t buy that, your choices for travel into Israel already are limited and I doubt that this is really effecting the mass consumer, so within the community that it’s really effecting, there is little market benefit…

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Correct.

  • No double standards

    Would you have written this post if it was another air line?

    • ezra

      I hear the question– but I do think it being a ‘jewish’ airline, going to Israel and the main people who benefited are jewish– it’s hard for that to be a non-issue and it does make a difference.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      It probably would not have happened. No other airline flies to Israel as often as El Al. If there was a massive sale to Saudi Arabia, I doubt a run on the tickets would have taken place. The specific circumstances of this sale are unique. Most of the ticket purchasers are orthodox Jews and they are traveling to Israel. That does change things a bit.

      But to answer your question, it is never appropriate to take advantage of another’s mistake.

      • MarkSoFla

        If there was a fare error to Saudi Arabia AND the period covered the Hajj, you bet there would be a run on tickets!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=700721156 facebook-700721156

    I disagree. You can read my original post on the issue here:
    http://ideago.com/el-al-from-ny-to-israel-for-only-350/ But don’t feel bad for El Al since first they will probably be compensated from the 3rd party that made the error and second because the good will and publicity and marketing they will get from this will be worth much more in the long run than any immediate cost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-גדליה-חיים-Reback/8829667 Joshua גדליה חיים Reback

    People bought the tickets who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford them. They seized an opportunity. Now how much money did El Al actually lose? Are airline tickets at over $1,000 actually priced correctly? These are unrelated questions, but ultimately the right thing to do is let people be people on this. They bought the tickets. They didn’t steal them. An opportunity came for them to buy something – which they still spent hundreds of dollars to purchase. I can’t agree with the opinion here. It’s unfair to ask so much from people that don’t have many other opportunities to travel. It’s an uncomfortable reality, but by asking them to do the “right” thing we’re just saying they’ve done the “wrong” thing, which is a tall accusation.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      They have a right to keep the tickets. They also have an opportunity to the most ethical thing and return them.

  • Other peopls stupidity!!

    Dude You know nothing about Airlines and prices and insurances that cover errors like this so until u do know shut up!! And no i didn’t buy the tickets!!!! Your just bitter because you didnt get your hands on any!! so suck it up and take hike!!

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Someone forgot to take their chill pill today. TEN exclamation points in one comment. Impressive. Just FYI, I could have bought the tickets, I heard about the deal at about 10:30 AM. I declined to take the deal.

      • MarkSoFla

        Me too. Minutes after seeing the dansdeals link on twitter, I had expedia up with 7 tickets booked and ready to be paid for. In the end, I didn’t do it. There was no way a $356 fare was real and valid, just no way.

        As an aside, expedia is a pain when booking for a family of 7 because they only allow 2 adults and up to 4 kids on a single booking, so I had to divide it in two.

    • Other peopls stupidity!!

      Its not about the chill pill. its about how stupid people can get. A good deal is a good deal regardless of a glitch. All this ” chillel hashem garbage” is not bec you believe it At all its bec you didn’t get a ticket! Had the person who wrote this letter gotten a ticket he would have packed his bags and bounced! Its pathetic how ppl write such dumb things that they know nothing about!
      And just to ad on- i was debating weather to write anything as this is the fist time ive ever written a comment on a blog or website. It just pisses me off when people ruin a good thing instead of appreciating it. This stuff is backed by insurence and who cares About glitches? there are tons of them everywhere on the web every month. A deal is a Deal Go party hardy and enjoy urself.

      • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

        Your “logic” makes me sad for the state of affairs in klal yisrael.

        And if want to play armchair psychologist, you know, you sound awfully guilty…

  • Donni

    this is your old neighbor here. I couldnt agree more with you. have a great shabbos!

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      @f87dc3558f061b631c9fc4dbeb47ea2e:disqus: Thanks. Nice to hear from you! Good Shabbos.

  • AmericanJew0002356432

    I really don’t get what all the discussion is about.

    1) The pricing was clearly a mistake.
    2) There was no intent to deceive through marketing
    3) Action was swiftly taken to remove such online prices
    4) Their perceived usual high pricing is not justification for taking advantage
    5) Taking the ticket at their loss is most definitely stealing. I’m not even sure halachically they were really ‘mochel.’ They did what they had to as a business to prevent further damage. Unless they could state clearly that they will assuredly not lose money on this, I’d consider it stealing. The huge loss is already realized. Any positive due to PR/legal is purely hypothetical.
    6) Even if you want to nitpick and say ‘halachically’ you have no obligation to cancel, I think this is an easy case where a Jew should take the high road and go beyond the letter of the law. You’re probably not correct on the halacha either.
    7) Suppose Bill Gates dropped his wallet and you found it. Who knows, he might be a nice guy and offer you its contents as a thank you. And that is his right. Now, if he lost five thousand wallets, do you think he’d give it all to you? Further, in this case what are you returning? All you are doing is taking! You’re returning your loyalty to them? Why should they have lost your loyalty. They made a mistake! NO, a third-party made a mistake!

    If you honestly still think keeping the ticket is ‘kosher,’ you really need to do some soul searching.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Thank you.

  • Yair

    Your pretentious and sanctimonious. These companies have been raising prices and lowering the level of service for many years. Why is it OK for these companies to practise extreme price-hikes when it suits them but not OK for the customer to benefit from a rare mistake in his favor???

  • John Lucsoft

    My thoughts, for what they’re worth:

    Rabbi Tendler’s litmus test is typical of his style (I went to the Mechina myself). I think it is a nice sentiment, but not one that I necessarily agree with. I treat strangers differently than I treat my brother. Is that rational? Should it be that way? I don’t know, but I think that it is the way the world works and as such is the way I live.

    I was never much of a Tendler guy, anyway. If I had to choose a rebbe muvhak from Mechina, I would name someone else (and I won’t name him here, because he wouldn’t appreciate that I’m typing this on Shabbos…). And I suspect his answer to this would be, “Al pi din you are entitled to the ticket, and you do not have to treat them any differently than the way they would treat you. If they made a mistake in their favor, they’d keep the money. So you can keep the money, too.”

    Yes, I know. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” I think that’s an empty platitude. We’re not trying to take two wrongs and turn them into a right, we’re trying to do business on an even playing field. If this was true theft, then I would agree. But because we’re only discussing going lifnim m’shuras hadin, I don’t think there’s an issue.

    Kiddush Hashem? Okay, I’ll give you this one. If you care about that, then return the tickets. I personally don’t care about kiddush hashem, so I’d keep the tickets.

    While I’m on my soapbox, a few words about some other things that people brought up in the comments:

    Any discussion of whether this is good for El Al or not is irrelevant. There is no way this is as good as selling tickets at a higher price, or they’d do this more often. If they managed to put a marketing spin on this, all the power to them. They’re still losing money.

    Any discussion of how much they mark tickets up, or how much they’re earning, or price gouging, etc. is also irrelevant. They’re in the business of making money. They are allowed to do that stuff, and there is no such thing as having “extra” or “too much” money. Their money goes to pay the salaries of individuals just like you and I – all types of people. Sure, there are some really rich people making a gazillion dollars. But if the corporation loses money, who do you think loses first? It’s the guy throwing suitcases onto airplanes, not the CEO.

    About the corporation vs. individual thing: corporations are collections of people (shareholders), so when you hurt a corporation you are hurting those people. Is it worse to hurt one person a lot (take $600 from your brother) than a lot of people just a little (take $0.01 from 60,000 people)? I think it is. That’s why I believe that stealing from your next-door neighbor is worse than stealing from Wal-mart. (They’re both wrong, but there are degrees and lots of shades of wrong. And when it’s not stealing, but just not going beyond the letter of the law, these distinctions make all the difference.)

  • Chani

    oh please.
    As usual you make a mountain out of molehill.
    ElAl is not exactly bankrupt. And hey – people get to visit their homeland for a lot less.
    There’s nothing exploitative about it.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      As usual?

  • milhousetrabajo

    For what it’s worth (and for those feeling guilty), after sending an email asking whether ELAL would prefer we just cancel the tix, or if it is ok to keep them and upgrade to nonstop (and pay the extra $600 for 4 tix), Swarti at ELAL (who was probably the nicest customer rep i remember dealing with), just called me in reply to my email and she said that she had confirmed with her supervisors that they want us to come to Israel, preferably nonstop but only to improve our experience (her words, though i’m sure the money is also involved) rather than canceling the tickets. i’m still not fully convinced, but my conscience has been adequately soothed to take advantage!

  • Eli

    “If my brother accidentally advertised a product worth $1000 for $400 I would alert him to his error. I wouldn’t exploit his error.”

    How about if your brother intentionally charges $1600-$2000 over and over for that product worth $1000?

    P.S. Let’s be real, El Al is only being so gracious because the know they will get the money back from the third party.