This question may not be germane to EL&U, but I imagine it is almost certainly too simple for another Stack Exchange site such as Philosophy. (Is there one for the ethical aspects of communication?!)
Here's the back story which triggered my question (and I apologize for its length):
Having entered a book and record store for the first time, I gravitated quite naturally to the used record section and began to select a few records to purchase. Of the handful of records I chose, only one was priced; the others had no pricing sticker on them.
When I went to pay for the records, the owner of the store went immediately to his PC and began typing-in some information. Having been in this situation before at another used-merchandise store, I immediately recognized what he was doing. He was looking up what my chosen items were selling for on the internet (perhaps eBay, Discogs, or Amazon, for example) and then pricing them accordingly.
Prior to giving him my yes or no on the merchandise, I perhaps made the mistake of suggesting that what he just did in making me wait while he researched how much he should charge me for my items was cheating.
Now I assure you, by the way I used the word cheating I did not mean to imply he was doing something immoral or unethical. I guess you could say my demeanor and tone of voice were more playful than deadly serious (like the card player in a classic western film who accuses the dealer of cheating and in so doing triggers a gun fight).
Given the standard dictionary definitions of cheating, about the only one which is at least kind of apt is "to elude or to escape." In that sense, the store owner was eluding/escaping having to sell the items I'd chosen for much less than the internet indicated they are worth. Was my use of the word cheating apt in this situation?
The store owner certainly took umbrage at my use of the word cheating. Being an orthodox Jew, he may have reacted as any faithful adherent to Judaism might react, but I certainly didn't intend to say he was guilty of a moral or ethical lapse. Such is the power of language, I guess, to evoke such reactions when a word touches a "hot button."
Nevertheless, I am still wondering how I could have phrased my comment better, or how I might have explained in what sense I was using the word cheating.(**)
In short, what expression or word may have been more apt in this situation and may have served not to offend?
** The sense in which I used the word cheating was the same way in which I might use the word--playfully--if a friend and I are shooting pool, and just before I take my next crucial shot in the game he coughs or clears his throat in order to rattle me. There was no moral or ethical lapse on his part, just some good-natured jagging (a Pittsburghism for yanking my chain).
In retrospect, I think maybe what I should have said--and I'm unsure on this, which is why I'm asking my question--is something along the lines of, "I see what you're doing on the computer. It's pretty transparent to me that you're keeping me waiting in order to find out what you should charge me for my records. Doesn't that strike you as being a little unfair to me? You're doing what you should have done already prior to my entering the store."