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The previous column’s question was from a reader who had their bicycle stolen and offered a $500 no-questions-asked reward for its return. They wrote: “To my surprise, I got a response from someone, and we set a time to meet. Then I became worried that I was being set up to be robbed. So I called my son. Next thing I knew there were six hulking 20-somethings tagging along with me in my minivan. At the agreed-upon meeting spot, the guy appeared with my bike in hand. I got out, then the six big guys got out, and while I’m looking the bike over, they said, in no uncertain terms, that it was not necessary for me to pay for the bike. The guy looked scared, and I wanted things to end safely, so I peeled off half the stack. ‘How about $250?’ The guy took the money and ran off. Should I instead have given him the original amount? Or do I owe him nothing?”

In his response, the Ethicist noted: “The practice of offering ‘no questions asked’ rewards can be a useful one. The victims get their goods back for less than it would cost to buy replacements. … [But] you shouldn’t have to pay people to do what they ought to do anyway. Because this person should never have put you in the situation that led to your offer, he would have had no grounds to object if you chose not to keep the agreement. You would have been free, in my view, to give this fellow nothing.” (Reread the full question and answer .)

The letter writer was justifiably angry, but they made a choice to offer a no-questions-asked reward for the bike’s return. That’s a pledge that needs to be honored. The ethical thing is for the letter writer to have honored his prior commitment. David

The owner of a stolen bicycle, motivated first by anger and then by fear, allows the “six hulking 20-somethings” they brought along to sway them into wondering if promises mean nothing — and this is fine? All my sympathies are with “the guy” who “looked scared,” who is not necessarily the thief. For all we know a blameless representative, faced with a casual display of down-punching power. Chris

Two wrongs don’t make a right. If you promise to pay, then pay up! If you don’t want to get involved with criminals, then don’t agree to meet them. If you are afraid you’ll be assaulted, then spend the money on a new bike and write the situation off as bad luck. Don’t endanger your friends by using them as muscle to save yourself some money. Bruce