Question: Our camp gave us an off Shabbos. A van was hired to take a group of us into the city, but at the last minute I canceled my plans. Am I obligated to pay for the seat I reserved?
Answer: In this article we will not address the issue of mechusar amanah — not keeping one’s word (see C.M. 204:11, Shevet HaLevi 206 and Business Weekly #233). In this issue we will discuss whether you must pay for the seat you reserved.
It is clear that if you do not take the ride due to an oness (circumstance beyond one’s control), you are exempt from paying for your seat. This is comparable to any employer who hired an employee for a job and then an oness renders the job unnecessary. Assuming that the oness was something unanticipated (or something both parties could logically have anticipated), the employer does not owe the employee anything for canceling (C.M. 334:1).
When the cancellation is not due to an oness and the vehicle was ordered by one of the bachurim on behalf of a group that wanted a ride, the matter depends on whether they could cancel the vehicle. If they cannot, because the driver turned away other customers and cannot replace them, those who ordered the ride must pay him (garmi; see C.M. 333:2 as we explained in Business Weekly #421). Therefore, you must pay the driver your share of the total cost even though you will not be going to the city. You would not even pay the discounted rate of poel batel — the reduced amount one pays an employee when canceling, which takes into account the fact that the employee will not have to work, since the driver will still have to drive to the city and doesn’t gain anything by your cancellation (C.M. 335:1). (If the driver stops at each bachur’s house, a small amount could be deducted since there is one stop less, but that benefit is nominal.)
If the ride could be canceled and the driver will not suffer a loss, since: (a) he did not have any other customers looking for a ride; (b) there is time to find other passengers; or (c) if the driver does not ask for payment from the passengers who canceled, you do not have to pay your share of the ride. Although the other passengers will have to pay more because you canceled, that does not obligate you to pay anything, since the group did not make a kinyan to form a partnership.
Even if they had been able to find another person to pay for a seat and cannot because you canceled at the last minute, they cannot obligate you to pay your share of the ride (cf. Erech Shai 312:14, implying that there are sufficient grounds to force the one who cancels to pay).
The same is true even when the ride cannot be canceled but the vehicle was ordered before the bachurim grouped together to assure that all the seats would be filled. Since the one who ordered the vehicle was not acting on behalf of anyone, and a kinyan regarding the seat was not made, if one of the passengers cancels he does not owe the other passengers anything even though they will have to pay more for the ride.
If you already paid for your seat and want a refund, the others are not obligated to refund the money to you even though you will not take the ride (Shach, C.M. 334:2 and Business Weekly #252).
Money Matters: Discount To Guarantor
Based on the writings of Rav Chaim Kohn, shlita
Question: I settled with the lender at a discount on a loan that I guaranteed. Can I demand reimbursement of the full loan amount from the borrower?
Answer: If you were liable as a guarantor — i.e., the loan was already due and the lender sued the borrower first—the debt is transferred to you. Thus, you can demand reimbursement of the full amount (Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 7:).
However, if you settled with the lender before the loan was due, or before he sued the borrower as required, many maintain that you are like an outside party. Thus, to acquire the loan and collect fully from the borrower requires kesivah u’mesirah—a second document that the loan document and its associated debt is being transferred to you, and handing you the loan document.
Verbal loans require maamad sheloshtan, verbal transfer of the loan in the joint presence of the lender, the borrower, and you. Otherwise, the borrower owes you only the amount that you paid (Nesivos 130:5; Pischei Choshen, Halvaah 14:22).
Some maintain that, regardless, the discount is given to you, and you can demand the full amount.
This article is intended for learning purposes and not to be relied upon halacha l’maaseh. There are also issues of dina d’malchusa to consider in actual cases.
Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shlita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an email to email@example.com.