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By Jeanne Fleming, Ph.D. and Leonard Schwarz

Question: My husband has negotiated a price for painting our house that's significantly lower than a bid we got a while back from the same small business. I think he may be taking unfair advantage of people who are hurting in the recession. Is he?

Answer: Remember the good old days - you know, two years ago? As we recall, painters weren't reluctant to push their bids up then, when demand for their services was strong. That behavior wasn't unethical, and neither is it unethical for you to take advantage of the fact that today business is slow. Indeed, the effect that supply and demand have on prices is at the core of a market economy. You'll be paying a price the painters agreed to, and you can rest assured they want the work.

Is it possible to overstep? Yes. Squeezing the desperate isn't right. So if your husband has extracted a price from these painters that's genuinely exploitative - for example, if you know the business owner needs the cash to save his house but will have to do the work for five bucks an hour - then you should revisit this bid and agree on a more equitable price.

Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at