iBarking Up the Wrong e-Tree

"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.

This week, a yuppie entrepreneur asks for advice on how to get real gully on someone messing with his cake, and someone in Brooklyn wonders why they should care that someone got bit in the face by their sister's dog when clearly that person doesn't know the first thing about saving the Navy Yards or the Domino Sugar Factory.

I own a fancy-food shop in an affluent town. The entire staff knows that a regular customer routinely shoplifts: our security cameras show it. Rather than confront him — he is prominent locally, and we don't want to risk a scene — we just add the stolen items to his monthly bill. He never questions the bill, but I feel uneasy. What should I do? — Name Withheld

Since you declined to provide your name or location, I'm simply going to assume you are talking about 50 Cent, who lives in the affluent town of Farmington, Connecticut, in Mike Tyson's old mansion, which makes you the owner of fancy-food shop Fabiola's Fine Foods and Catering in nearby Avon. Now we can actually solve some problems!

What you are doing is "pussy" and not "gangsta" at all. You need to "mount up" (no homo) and "regulate" because what this man is doing is "wack."

Just kidding. As the above paragraph should indicate, I'm as clueless as you when it comes to dealing with black people, or at least any black person born after 1992. You're on your own. I would recommend getting a rhyming dictionary, a bullet-proof vest, and some organic range-free malt liquor.

Some years ago, I tied my sister's Jack Russell terrier to a fence while I went into a supermarket. I returned to see a woman being loaded into an ambulance. Bystanders said she stooped to pet the dog, and he bit her on the lip. I untied the dog and left. If I had stayed, I would have had to pay her medical bills. Why should I, when she provoked the dog? — L.R., Brooklyn

If you were from anywhere other than Brooklyn, I would give you this answer: I have no problem with this.

Because you are from Brooklyn, I'll have to offer an alternate interpretation: look at it like a kickball game in McCarren Park. You and your teammates on the Hot Cobras are up against the Lazer Wolves, and it's the bottom of the 3rd inning, and you're out of Pabst and your terrycloth AIDS marathon headband is soaked all the way through with sweat. That girl you have a crush on, the one who is really into DeGrassi Junior High and doesn't have a real job but just does freelance, the one who has a lower back tattoo that you work hard to convince your friends is not slutty, she's up to bat (kick?). There's a pop-up fly and the moist ball seems to blot out the sun and you can't get the beat from the third track off the new Battles album out of your head, you can't remember the name of the track...something to do with machinery or computers. Just then, a party bus full of fratboys and Playboy playmates comes barreling down off Driggs, the lucite stripper pole gleaming in the late-day sun, like some kind of Kafka-esque (Kafka being one of the authors on the list you carry in your Parcel bag of authors to finally read this summer) symbol of the world you thought you'd finally escaped back to haunt and once again taunt you. And as the roar of the engine approaches, all the other kickball players diving out of the way, you are suddenly frozen in place, unable to move, the dull thud of T-Pain's "Buy You a Drank" pulsing through the party bus's windows and into your soul.

So, in case my metaphor wasn't clear: that bus is the shotgun, and you are Old Yeller being put out of your, and my misery. Get it? Dogs?!

Previously: Please Get Some Interesting Problems