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Ethics of Using a Stores Parking Lot Fuels Debate

Ethics of Using Store’s Parking Lot Fuels Lively Debate in Newspaper Series

Apr 25th, 2011 • Posted in: News

Can you leave your car in one store’s parking lot while continuing to shop at other stores if you’ve made a substantial purchase? The Oregonian pursues the story all the way to former NYT ethics columnist


The Portland Oregonian has been following a small but interesting moral issue: whether it is right to leave your car in a coveted parking space in the crowded downtown shopping district if you have bought something from the store that provides the parking but want to continue shopping at other stores.

Columnist Joseph Rose set the scene this way: “Last weekend’s Oregonian column on the ethics of customer parking generated a lot of response, but not much love for the guy who thought a store purchase allowed him extra time in a store lot.”

“If you recall,” Rose continued, “the man’s wife thought they should move their car from the tiny Pearl District Dr. Martens lot as soon as their business at the store was done. He thought his $100 purchase gave him the right to occupy a spot while he did additional shopping in the Pearl (where street parking can be hard to find and runs $1.60 an hour).”

Responses couldn’t have been more dissimilar. One caller said the parking lot was the business owner’s property, insisting that “you’re trespassing if you keep using it when your business is done.”

An ethics professor contacted by Rose agreed in principle: “If I were the store owner, I would provide the space to promote traffic in my store,” said Seattle University business ethicist John Dienhart. “So, once you’re done shopping at my store, I would want you to move your car.”

But others contended that the parker had made a substantial purchase and was well within his rights to explore neighboring stores.

In fact, ethics columnist Randy Cohen, formerly with the New York Times and now with National Public Radio, told Rose that while he feels the parking lot is a convenience for the customers of the store and should be treated as such, he also understands the parker’s desire to visit nearby stores.

“There’s little good in a system that requires people to keep moving their cars a few yards every few minutes.”


The topic of this ethics post is whether or not it is ethical to keep your car parked in the parking lot of a store you are not shopping in. In my opinion, the article states the shopper shopped in the store where teh car was parked, and then moved onto other stores without moving her car. I think this scenario is perfectly ethical and anyone who thinks otherwise is a complete moron. The customer made a purchase at the store she was parked at, end of story. If the person parked in the parking lot and made no purchase but shopped at neighboring stores, I would say that is unfair to the business who maintains the parking lot. Anyone who thinks you should move your car everytime you change stores is not thinking clearly. 

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