For lunch, I often frequent a salad bar that has an assortment of pre-made salads that you can add to your plastic container, all priced at one per pound rate. There is only one salad that has chicken in it, and often Ill go and pick out the chicken for my container, not taking the accompanying overdressed lettuce. Sometimes Ill get looks from other patrons when I do this, but I often see others doing it as well. And when the store runs out of that salad, they are always happy to bring out more, filled with plenty more chicken. Since they charge a flat rate per pound (and the chicken is much heavier than the lettuce), it doesnt seem to me like Im cheating the store, but I wonder if Im cheating the other customers?
Chicken of the Chelsea
Gothamist sees no problem in your picking chicken out of a salad in order to complete your pay-by-the-pound creation, but suggests one thing that could ameliorate your guilt. Why not talk to one of the store's employees and ask him about the possibility of a chicken-only option at the salad bar?
As long as there is a steady supply and each item on the bar is priced at the same amount, you are free to pick and choose from the many salad options as you wish. If the chicken cost extra it would not be ethical to cover it in a blanket of lettuce in hopes of sneaking it by the check-out person at the counter, but it sounds as if everything you are doing is kosher (drum kick, rim shot!) and might be made even more so if you talked to someone at the store. And remember, theories of consumer-driven economies apply at the salad bar, too. The store, if it is keeping proper tabs, will likely notice which of its salad bar items sell at a higher rate and will adjust its inventory accordingly. Pick away.