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by Abigail Van Buren

Gaming the System Is Not Acceptable in Any Country

DEAR ABBY: I am a foreign exchange student studying in the U.S. Other exchange students and I have been debating two questions.

The first: Is it OK to buy a movie ticket and watch two or three movies? Some say "yes" because theaters tolerate it in the hope that customers will buy snacks and drinks in the process. Others say it goes against the honor system.

The second is: Is it wrong to return merchandise you never intended to buy in the first place? Example: to buy a novel and return it after reading it. My friends say bookstores expect a certain number of returns and build it into the cost of the books. As long as the book is kept in good condition, it's OK. Other friends stress, however, that this, again, is taking advantage of the honor system.

What is your opinion? -- CURIOUS STUDENT IN HOUSTON

DEAR CURIOUS: Both of the examples you have given are forms of cheating and theft. I cannot think of a single country where this kind of behavior is sanctioned. If enough customers behaved that way, it could put the business owner out of business.

And one more thing -- you and your fellow exchange students represent your countries, and what you do while you're here reflects not only on yourselves personally, but also the country that sent you.