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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Who wins this bet?


Alice and Bob are at an auction and Alice wants to buy an encyclopedia set from 1980. Bob says don't buy that, you'll never use it. In this age of Wikipedia and Google and THE WEB.  Alice says you don't know that.  They agree that Alice will spend no more than $20.00 on it (and she does win it at $20.00) and that:

If Alice does not use the encyclopedia within 5 years then she owes Bob $10.00. If she does use it then Bob owes Alice $10.00.

3 years later its really cold outside. Alice's house is not that well insulated. So she takes carpets against the bottom cracks in the door and weights them down with the volumes of the encyclopedia. This helps her keep warm and cuts down on her heating bill.

Alice says I used the encyclopedia. Pay up! In your face! I used them! You were wrong!

 Bob says You didn't use them to look anything up. So that doesn't count.

Alice and Bob are asking YOU do decide. So leave comments either way and whoever has more votes before my next post wins! Feel free to leave reasons as well to persuade the other readers.






20 comments:

  1. bob wins. the principle to apply is what would they have agreed to had they thought to stipulate that case up front.

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  2. Did they save more or less than $10 on their heating bills?

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  3. I'm not participating in the betting, but is this related to math somehow, or did someone bet you $20 that you wouldn't be using something that is obsolete with regard to its purpose within 5 years?

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  4. The context for defining the word "use" for purposes of the bet was established by the reference to "this age of Wikipedia and Google". There are many definitions of "use" but there is no doubt about what was intended in this case.

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  5. If all that was said in making the bet is what's written here, Alice wins. Bob should have specified by "used" he meant "accessed the content contained in the books for some useful purpose"; as stated, Alice could have burned the set for heat, scratched her back with a volume, or thrown one of the books at Bob, and won the bet.

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  6. Bob wins. It's so clear I feel there is a sucker follow up post on the way...

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  7. Larry, if any definition of "used" is allowed then she had already won because she used them to occupy a bit of extra space in the car on the way home, or to make Bob sweat a bit as he carried them to the car etc. Quibbling over words which have obviously implied normal contextual meanings is for losers. Noone likes people arguing over what the meaning of is is.

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  8. Alice wins. At any point, rather than googling something, Alice could have looked it up in the encyclopedia, and won the $10. There are multiple ways that the bet is too vague in favor of Alice, and Bob really should have specified not only that Alice needs to "reference" the encyclopedia but also, in order to make his point, that it needs to be in some way superior to do so rather than using the internet.

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  9. Can't they simply agree to disagree?

    - RJA

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  10. Morally, Bob wins, for exactly the reason Daniel Reeves gives in the first comment. Alice did not use the Encyclopedia *as an Encyclopedia*, which is clearly what both parties had in mind at the time the bet was made. She is therefore behaving poorly in claiming victory.

    Of course, there are all too many situations in the world where morality and commonsense lose out to clever lawyers hunting for loopholes.

    Happily in this case, there is no legal contract to be unpicked. They are not going to court. We get to decide, and we furthermore we get to choose the basis on which to make that decision. So I enjoin my fellow commenters to take this opportunity to make stand for honesty and straightforwardness, and against slippery semantic technicalities. Alice loses, gets a stern ticking off, and told in no uncertain terms to pay up.

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  11. There is simply no possibility that Bob won the bet, since the 5 years are not up yet. However, there are at least some uses of the word "use" which will allow Alice to win the bet.

    So, the most reasonable answer is: either no one's won yet, or Alice won.

    - KD

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  12. We don't know just yet, the bet is still on for two more years.

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  13. Alice, for chivalry reasons.

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  14. Solution: Both win without violating any rule.
    Step 1: Alice uses the banach-tarski-procedure to "copy" her bill.
    Step 2: Bob gets the "copy".

    Now both are happy unless they try to cash in their bills at a bank, then they will end up in jail.

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  15. This is why lawyers exist (and how they survive).

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  16. This is exactly why most contracts are written in multiple languages, not just English!

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  17. Bob deserves to lose due to failing to define his contract clearly.
    If you write/say something in such a way that it can be misinterpreted and/or used against you, it's totally your fault

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  18. I think in legal principles of ambiguity in a contract the law benefits the party that did not draft the contract. Therefore, if Bob drafted the language, he loses but if Alice did then she still has to use them in the "intended" way within the next two years.

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  19. Nobody wins (it is like a real marriage). If we allow a broad definition of "use" then we should allow a broad definition of "spend no more". If Bob were to win then it has cost Alice 30 dollars, which is more than they agreed on. Using the enceclopedias as paper weights destroys their functional value. Alice promised to spend 20 dollars in exchange for a useful reference book, but she really destroyed 20 dollars of value by allowing the weather to whither it.

    They should bicker for 2 more years about this and then either get a divorce or evaluate the bet, now the 5 years are over.

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  20. A law school hypothetical: A man leaves a loaded pistol on the coffee table. A toddler in the house picks up the pistol. The boy drops the pistol and it lands on his foot, bruising his big toe. Is the man liable for the toe injury under a theory of negligence?

    Clearly, leaving out the gun was negligent. But for this action, the injury would not have happened, so leaving out the gun is a "but for" cause. However, as I recall it, the legal answer is that this is not a "proximate" (i.e. legal) cause of the injury because the sequence of events was too remote or improbable to properly fall in the scope of the expected cost benefit analysis that is behind negligence law.

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