Look a gift horse in the mouth

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It is a sad reality that there are people who use the distress of others for personal gain not in monetary terms (although that happens, too), but for earning cheap brownie points as a philanthropist.

Earlier this month, the Vico Co. Ltd. based in Hai Phong City sent two tons of detergent to flood victims in the central provinces of Quang Binh and Ha Tinh.

The detergent, made in April 2007, was found to have expired seven months earlier.

The representative of the company in Quang Binh Province then told the press that the detergent was new, but they'd used old packaging made in 2007 in order to "save money."

The excuse is not a new ploy.

Previously, Hanoi-based Nam Hai Ltd. Co. had trotted out the same excuse when it was found selling expired fish sauce to the Nam Duong Export-Import Company, which had donated it to people in Ha Tinh Province last May.

The fish sauce's expiry date was covered with a label saying "sponsored goods, not for sale."

The Nam Duong Company also donated powdered milk whose containers were found to have been opened. The milk would also expire in one month.

In another case, the Phytopharma Company last month was found donating more than 300 cartons of expired drugs which were set to be destroyed.

As a drug manufacturer, the company and its experts were surely aware of complications caused by using expired drugs. But they were still willing to give the drugs to poor patients.

How can such acts be claimed as doing good?

It has been said that "it's not what you give, but how you give that matters."

Some people seem to have understood this as a way to gain prominence, creating a media stir by making "huge donations," even though what they give away is expired or otherwise unusable.

In fact, recent media reports covered scandals where businesses and individuals won charity auctions worth billions of dong only to renege on making payments later.

While images capturing them winning big auctions were broadcast on television and reported in newspapers, they were nowhere to be found when the time came to pay up. They either made excuses for not paying up or bargained to pay less than what they bid.

Clearly, these people are not motivated by compassion in their acts of charity, but by petty, egoistic and selfish considerations. In so doing, they trample on the hopes of disadvantaged people and betray the trust of people.

Detergents and drugs past their expiration date are useless, and dangerous. Expired food is no longer food, it can be poisonous.

What about the human conscience? Shouldn't it be considered "expired" too, when it is no longer able to guide people to do what is right?

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