Would You Rather…

Pretend you work at a mid-size advertising agency.

Would you rather …

1. Be arrested for minor embezzlement and get fired?

2. Be arrested for prostitution (or, more likely, solicitation thereof) and get fired?

Keep in mind that solicitation and embezzlement of under $1,000 are both class A misdemeanors in New York, with prison time of up to a year possible but unlikely. Embezzlement over $1,000 becomes a felony. Between $1,000 and $50,000, it’s an E felony; above $50,000, it’s a D felony. Either way, a judge can you give up to 4 years in prison for an E felony and up to 7 years for a D.

Prostitution, meanwhile, is only a felony when it’s a madam/pimp situation, at which point it becomes more of a racketeering charge, or a D felony.

(These terms are according to Anthony J. Colleluori, a New York defense attorney; thanks for the help, counselor.)

Anyway: which would you prefer, and why? A free piece of Freakonomics schwag goes to one commenter chosen randomly (or who writes the most entertaining reply) within the first 48 hours of this posting.

Max C.

Embezzlement. I could use it as a resume' builder with organized crime.


I would prefer not to.

Raimundo Meneses

If I am arrested for embezzlement, and ultimately convicted after a trial in the future may be very difficult for me to find a new job, because the sentence for embezzlement will be recorded on my resume, and may be consulted publicly. In addition, during any job interview, I will have to explain to my future employers the reasons why there is a period of time that I did not worked.

On the other hand, if I am arrested for prostitution, it means that my work at the agency is not well paid, because if I were an average publicist, I would hardly have the enough time needed to prostitute myself. So this does not necessarily means that it will be difficult to find some work in the area of advertising, because I work in this area because I have no other place to work. Under these circumstances, my dismissal does not mean that I will no longer generate any revenue, and that does not mean I am going to stop prostitution, but I am just going to have less money. If I need another job besides prostitution, it may be that I am not very graceful for my customers, therefore I can not charge high fees, as it can do other prostitutes physically more attractive than me, or it may be because I feel shame of me in my profession and I need another job as a shield.

Then, if I am arrested for soliciting, and then fired for this, it does not constitute a legal cause for dismissal, at least where I live, so I could sue my employer to the court for reinstatement to me my job, or to compel my old boss to pay compensation for unfair dismissal.

If I had a family, it would be very sad to my wife and my children know that I am a prostitute or I pay for the services of one. Anyway, in the second case, it is likely that at this stage of my life, and I found myself divorced or in the process of doing it, because it implies that there are serious problems in my marriage. In the first case, however, there are severe economic problems in my family, so the penalty would not be as high, since the other option would be to sell crack. Finally, if I were a woman, there are high possibilities that 1) I do not have a stable relationship, or 2) my husband knows that I am a prostitute and gives incentives to be one.

Finally, in the case of embezzlement of funds, if not get employment, which very probably that I end my days divorced and being a prostitute.

In conclusion, I prefer to be arrested for prostitution or solicitation.



Definitely minor embezzlement. It's a shame a majority of the respondents judge this question by the consequences (financial and jail time) and not by the crime.

Also, one has to presuppose that the prostitute is a consenting adult. If the question was specified to prostitution where the prostitute was a child, the same sex as the solicitor, or trafficked - people would likely see greater stigma and consequence. Though that's unfortunate.

Minor embezzlement is horribly selfish. But money from "minor" embezzlement can be replaced and coworkers can be repaid after you're caught. Paying a sex worker engages with a system that is taking advantage of someone with limited options.

Some comments mentioned that one's marital status is a factor, but I'm a single, straight, 22 year old fella.


I'd prefer to be arrested for embezzling in order to pay for a prostitute. ;-)


Arrest me for prostitution. I could still get jobs with that on my record. Embezzlement is more restricting with future employment.


What if i was embezzling money to pay my prostitute?

Nick M

I would rather be arrested for the prostitution.

Embezzling is a crime against your employer, whereas prostitution doesn't have a clear victim. I think future possible employers would be much more concerned that you'd embezzle their money than that you'd get caught with a prostitute again.


I'll pick door number 2 please.

Embezzlers will never be trusted again, let alone embezzlers employed in the already dodgy world of advertizing. Embezzling requires deception and guile, and probably an investment of time and commitment for ripping off your employer. You would be hard pressed to write that off as an "oops".

Even a partially competent lawyer could pass off your prostitution/pandering charge as the desperate cry for help of a over worked, stressed out sex addict, and then you're not guilty, just sick. If you were fired, I think you would have a tidy little counter-suit for wrongful dismissal.


Um, I think you need to lay so ground assumptions to homogenize the perspectives of your respondents. As a married father of 2, I would say embezzlement because it wouldn't carry the personal implications of soliciting a workin' gal. If I wasn't married, I would probably go with the latter because to me, biting the hand that feeds you is a low-down, yellow-bellied thing to do (not that prostitution isn't, just not to the same extent in my book--is that askew?)


I'd have to say I'd rather be arrested for soliciting prostitution. My reasoning is that if you were arrested for embezzlement (clearly a breach of business ethics - if there is such a term), you would probably never land a half decent job again or get into any kind of graduate school. Your career and future earning power would effectively be ruined. The prostitution charge, while not glamorous, might be able to be kept quiet, since it is not a felony. Misdemeanors don't have to be reported on things like job/school applications, so unless it ruined your marriage or you got some terrible v.d., it is not unfathomable that you might come out of the situation largely unscathed.

Mike B.

I imagine that a key difference amongst the respondents to this query will be marital status: if you're married, embezzlement might carry greater career repercussions, but you won't be out on the street and tempted to risk more solicitation arrests to ease your lonely despair.

As I'm married, I'd have to go with the minor embezzlement. If I wasn't, solicitation all the way! My rationale: with a little creativity you can explain a solicitation charge if it threatens to interfere with your career. "I was drunk . .. I thought she was a stripper . . . it was a bachelor party/birthday/Columbus Day that went too far . . ." etc. It's an order of magnitude more difficult to rationalize embezzlement to your boss or potential boss. "I thought the money was mine"? Yeah, that isn't going to work.

For professional reasons, solicitation for the win! If you're in a committed relationship/marriage, and your significant other isn't a fan of adultery or STDs, bite the bullet and go with the far less glamorous embezzlement charge.



Well, first, an arrest, but no conviction, doesn't mean nearly as much. But given the two, I would rather be arrested for prostitution. It probably wouldn't paint me as a company risk to future employers (I didn't steal), and with prostitution, I can prove I'm "over it" with therapy. These answers are related to work life, since each option was tagged with "you get fired."

Now if we're talking about our personal lives, embezzlement would probably go over better with family and friends than prostitution (especially if you're married!).

So the ulimate question would be, do you have more at stake in your personal life or your professional life?


This didn't take long for me to figure out....

I am always amazed when, upon offering my debit card for a $3 purchase, I am asked for a picture ID. Folks, if I'm going to blacken my honor by stealing someone's card and using for my own means, I'm going to go for the gusto--a trip to Paris, say!

So, "minor" embezzlement is out of the question. If I'm going down, I want it to be for something worthwhile.

Now, that is not to say that hiring a prostitute is worthwhile. But then I got to thinking....

You didn't say what sort of prostitute. If you're talking about a poor, broken-down, shell of a woman who is trying to support her meth habit, then maybe I'll go with the embezzlement.

But I'm thinking along the lines of one of those $5,000 per night call-girls that look like a classy model and know all the, um, bedroom tricks in the book.

So, let's see.... Fired and arrested for stealing $35...or fired and arrested for having incredible sex with a most gifted and gorgeous bombshell (perhaps with pictures to remember it all by!)?

OK, I'm going with the prostitution. I can even explain it to my wife better than I could stealing a minor amount: "Darling, you remember how we agreed that if Pierce Brosnan ever propositioned you, I would try to overlook it, since it would likely be one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities? Well, something similar happened to me...and though I'm terribly sorry to tell you about it, I will do so once you come an pay my bail."

(Of course, if I had embezzled $30 million and had effectively hidden it, my wife would probably understand that, too...so long as I told her where I had buried the treasure.)



Easy, embezzlement. Even if the financial returns are the same (and the legal punishments seem to equivalent), why would I take on the increased risk of disease with prostitution? I'm going to get fired, fined, and put on probation. Herpes (or worse) would only add to my troubles.


If I am arrested for embezzling, I will have a much harder time finding another job. No other company will trust me if I have to tell them why I lost my last job. The prostitution/solicitation, assuming that I was not using company money or time, is not going to have that same effect. It didn't damage the company directly, I can go to counseling for my "sex addiction", and am more likely to be able to find another job in the field. I believe that the embezzler has a very low probability of being able to do that.


I would much rather be arrested solicitation of prostitution(though my ego would probably want to be on the other side of the crime).

My support comes in the form of Hugh Grant and Eddie Murphy with backup support from numerous political figures. Looking beyond the arrest, embezzlement isn't something that is going to be ignored in a 'don't ask, don't tell' situation. Prostitution is forgiven much quicker. I might actually gain some bit of celebrity status if I make the arrest obscure enough. That could potentially help my career, as Levitt said, "any publicity can be good publicity."

Douglas Joslin

This is a particularly tough question as both scenarios portray the entrepeneurial spirit and individual drive so important to American Capitalism. Assuming that you actually want to work again in advertising in NYC, and avoid criminal prosecution, the embezzelement is your best bet, for several reasons.

First, the victimized firm will be hesitant to pursue criminal actions, because public knowledge of the theft implies that the organization is poorly run and inadequately controlled. As to prostitution, this crime only reflects on the employee, and can be the stuff of fabulous luncheon and cocktail party discussions for years to come. The perpetrator will not only be prosecuted, he/she will never work in NYC advertising again.

Following the logic of the reasoning above, our embezzelor will find it relatively easy to not only work again in advertising, but to embezzele again! Due to employment and privacy laws, his/her first employer will not give the second employer any information about the past crimes. He/she will thus be able to steal to their heart's content.


Mark W

Prostitution - it'd be a lot more fun.


Prostitution. Great resume builder in case Heidi Fleiss ever gets her male brothel up and running.