Bellsouth retracts offer to donate building to New Orleans Police

Here’s the quick version:
Bellsouth offered to donate a 250,000 square-foot building to the New Orleans Police Department.
Then, New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, announced a plan to provide free wi-fi (wireless internet) service to all residents & businesses, in order to help rebuild the city.
Bellsouth, itself a provider of (non-free) wi-fi services, objected to the Mayor’s plan.
Bellsouth then retracted its offer to donate the building.

Here’s the story from

Quick points:
1) As the eWeek story points out, the wi-fi and the donation of the building are not intrinsically linked. The implication is that Bellsouth got cranky because it assumed that the donation would result in some sort of quid pro quo, or at least some sort of goodwill. Bellsouth clearly did not get what it thought it was owed.
2) I think the most sympathetic way to interpret Bellsouth’s move: ‘Why would we act generously towards a city that is not just unsupportive, but that moves actively to undercut one of our primary services?’
3) What Bellsouth needs to learn: there’s nothing wrong with thinking that your corporate philanthropy will buy you goodwill, but don’t be so brutally literal about it. Even Social Contract Theorists (or moderately sophisticated ones), who are pretty darned sticky about reciprocity, don’t think that every interaction has to be literally a matter of Tit for Tat.
4) Before you jump to too many conclusions about cold-hearted Bellsouth, gentle reader, make sure to read the very last paragraph of the eWeek story.

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