Some neighbors were nice enough to loan us a few. We worked on them for days, only to find at the end that pieces were missing. This grates at my soul, of course, but it also creates an ethical dilemma.
Should I inform each owner of the missing pieces when I return the puzzles? The problem with this approach is that it might suggest that I am either mighty choosy for a beggar, or that I am ungrateful for the loan. Also, it might create the suspicion that I myself lost the piece in a drunken stupor and am seeking to evade responsibility.
I’ve also considered returning the puzzles without mentioning the missing pieces. Few people are likely to reassemble their own puzzles any time soon and thus they’ll be unlikely to notice the discrepancy.
The advantage of this approach is that it shifts the dilemma onto the next borrower. The disadvantage is that the next borrower may well be crafty enough to suggest that the previous borrower, yours truly, is the culprit. Disasters bring out the best in people, but often bring out the worst too.