can I keep the free gift that came with a faulty laptop?
Q: I received a free clock with the purchase of a laptop, but the laptop was broken on arrival and I had to return it to get a refund. The clock is nice, though. Can I keep it?
C.C., Stanmore, NSW
A: Edgar Allen Poe wrote a famous horror story called The Tell-Tale Heart about a school project that Lisa Simpson hides under the floorboards; she eventually confesses to hiding it when the project’s “beating heart” drives her mad with guilt. (My entire understanding of classical literature comes from The Simpsons. Also my entire understanding of religion, politics and the human condition. But only seasons one to nine. After that, I turned to SpongeBob SquarePants.)
Your situation has a touch of The Tell-Tale Heart about it. Yes, the free clock is yours to keep as long as the laptop company hasn’t asked for it back or sent around laptop thugs to retrieve it, swinging USB dongles like nunchucks. But will the free-clock guilt drive you to madness in a mildly scary,
19th-century, Edgar Allen Poe-esque way?
You might find yourself lying in bed at night, the clock on your bedside table, and just as you’re drifting off to sleep, hark! The clock face begins to glow with an ominous, unworldly light … so you adjust the brightness; the factory setting was too high. Easily fixed! You start drifting off again – but hark! Now the clock seems to be ticking! Eerie! It’s supposed to be digital. The tick-tocks grow louder! Each tick tortures your mind: each tock pounds at your soul.
Eventually, you sit up and shriek, “This free clock is not mine! I did not rightfully earn it! I must return it immediately to save myself from madness … though they really should pay for shipping!” Alternatively, you may be fine with the clock and sleep soundly. It’s your call. You won’t know until you try.
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