Ethics in Business and Society
It is truly depressing to see the universal nature of misleading
and deceptive advertising and product and service descriptions.
Something must be done to combat this.
We intend to do our share in this regard. If any company or individual
is interested in doing business with any of our various products and
projects, we will include two special provisions in each such business
- We will look into past examples of
business practices, for examples of intentional deception, distortion,
or excessive exaggeration. Also, for examples where customers, vendors,
employees, sub-contractors, or even competitors were treated in
unprofessional manners. Occasional examples of such things occur in
any business, but regular patterns of such behavior would greatly discourage
us from being in a business arrangement with such an individual or business.
- We will insist that any future behavior of such business partners
or other business associates, whether individuals or companies, is
clearly ethical and moral, demonstrating solid personal principles.
The person or business does not have to be driven by religious
inspiration, but strong morals, ethics and principles will be
Current examples of such bad behavior is everywhere. We will use
a few representative examples to indicate our thoughts. Far
worse examples abound in modern business.
Innumerable products nowadays are presented in advertising with
ridiculous "prizes" available. In a few cases, the company
behind the offer is large enough to realistically back up such prizes.
But even then, they only indicate in unbelievably small print that
your chances of willing are 67 million to one against you.
It seems to me that someone should mention that your chance of being
hit by lightning in any given year is about 200 times higher than that.
The same observation is true of all Lotteries, including State run
Lotteries. Maybe fewer poor people would spend a lot of their money
on lottery tickets if they are told that their chance of winning
is only 1/200 of their chance of being hit and seriously injured
or killed by lightning.
We just think that all companies should be forthright in presenting
their products or services. Not because of some government regulation.
Not because some lawyer said they must. But, because it is the RIGHT
thing to do. No lies. No deception. No partial truths that would
obviously lead a reader or viewer to an incorrect conclusion.
Honest and accurate information, meant to assist a reader or viewer
to come to reasonably accurate conclusions.
Even worse, are smaller companies that advertise such enormous
prizes. Buy an ice cream cone from our store and win a million
dollars! How easy do you think they would make it that you could
actually win? Or, looking at it from the other side, if someone
would actually somehow win, how could a small business pay out
a million dollars without going bankrupt? They probably couldn't,
and if someone actually won their prize, there is little doubt
that they would find some way of claiming disqualification.
In the early 1990s, some company that was trying to get publicity
offered a million dollars to anyone who could make a basket at
a Chicago Bulls game from the opposite free throw line. The company
certainly got loads of publicity in anticipating the first try.
The very first guy to try it actually made the basket. Even the
Chicago Bulls players were jumping up and down in excitement.
A couple days later, the guy was on the news again because the
company (or their insurance company) claimed some loophole
had disqualified him. Unbelievable! The company then got lots more
media exposure, but now because they were trying to cheat the
guy out of what he rightly won.
- Some of the things that trouble us are not as obviously
deceptive as that. Beginning late in 2000, a car manufacturer
started running TV ads that brag about their car's engine has
its own suspension, its passenger compartment has its own cushioning
suspension and even its CD changer has its own suspension.
They are clearly implying that these are magical things.
Actually, every automobile made since before 1930 has its engine
cushion mounted on engine mounts. Every car made since about
1950 has its passenger compartment cushioned on little cushioning
mounts. And all car CDs ever made have built in cushioning for
the mechanism. If you think about it, if that's all the company can
think of to brag about, their products are probably not worth buying!
- There is some company now that is running TV commercials that
advertise "official" new five dollar coins with presidents'
pictures on them. If you listen carefully, the coins were authorized
by the government of Liberia in Africa. No matter how you look at
it, there is substantial deception involved here. That particular
commercial has so many aspects of deception that it is nearly humorous.
Except that there are a lot of people who actually send them money.
We happen to believe that consumers would welcome a refreshing
honesty. We suspect that Saturn automobiles achieved significant and
rapid success because they claimed, and backed up, a number of ethical
motivations. Consumers like to do business with a company that treats
them respectfully, fairly and honestly, and not like just a momentary
dalliance that represents monetary income. We intend to not only
proceed along this path ourselves, but to absolutely insist that
any company or individual that wishes to join our efforts must
similarly have such attitudes and motivations.
We believe that the common attitude in modern business, of squeezing
every possible nickel out of every customer, is wrong. If what is
best for a particular customer happens to be a less expensive product,
or a product that a salesperson gets a lower commission on, proper
business ethics requires that the customer be assisted in getting the
best possible value for their dollar, for his particular circumstances.
It is the salesperson's responsibility to ask the right questions
and present the right (honest and accurate) information to help the
customer in this regard.
Whether a potential business associate or partner be big or small,
we intend to always require these things in all of our activities.
We see a secondary benefit from this approach. We think that, if
future (young) businesspeople see that it is possible to succeed in
business while maintaining high ethical and moral standards, it might
encourage them to approach their own business ventures with similar
approaches. Our hope is to encourage others to present quality
images in the business environment.
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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago