Business Ethics – An Oxymoron?
We often read and hear references to business ethics. Undergraduate and post graduate courses dedicate large amounts of time and resources to the topic. However, if one were to ask the average consumer if he believed that most businesses were conducted in an ethical manner, we would predominately receive negative responses. Simply stated, ethics can be defined as doing the right thing, the moral thing, and treating others with honor and respect. Related to business, this concept would include several items, and when we estimate how most businesses conducted business, we would often avoid referring to these practices as moral.
1. One of the necessities of being ethical is telling the truth. However, when we look at how businesses, sets and products are often promoted, the truth is stretched rather thin. One example, of course is the mobile communications or cell phone industry. Each carrier runs ads trying to convince us how superior they are. However, since there are no legal requirements already for using terminology such as “4G,” and each carrier handles their lines differently, there is often quite a bit of variation. For example, going strictly by its ads, one would believe that Verizon cellular service is nearly perfect. Its advertisements makes claims about the clarity of its calls, how few calls are dropped, its speed, etc. While that is the case in some areas, several of my friends on Verizon service experience dropped calls, etc., in various areas, while having excellent service in others. ATT Mobility claims its system is fastest, and in some areas it is. I use the system and have had wonderful experience, however, I know others who have been extremely disappointed. Sprint customers have similar experiences, and I have had wonderful experience with Sprint’s Air Card, which works well nearly everywhere I’ve used it. However, as good as it is, it is certainly not as quick as wired or WI-FI service. Every other service has its proponents, in addition as its attackers. The issue is not which service is the best, but rather how the sets promote themselves. While effective advertising is self promotional by definition, misleading ads are certainly not terribly ethical.
2. Have you ever gone into a store and purchased something, and the store quickly asks you if you’d like to buy an Extended Warranty. While there is nothing wrong with offering this, nor with the stores making additional revenues doing so, have you ever been given a clear cut explanation of what is and is not covered, and the limitations. Remember, we are discussing ethics here!
3. Investment Advisers are another area of ethical concern. Is the individual an objective adviser, or is he simply a salesman disguising himself as an adviser? Both duties and roles are permissible, but which is ethical?
4. In Real Estate, does the average buyer truly understand the difference between being represented by a Buyers Agent, a Brokers Agent, and a Sellers Agent? In New York State, for example, by law, prospective buyers must be given an Agency Agreement that explains each of these. however, if the average buyer truly understood the differences, one would think the great majority would prefer using a Buyers Agent, whose loyalty is directly to the buyer. Is this an ethical dilemma?
There are so many situations in business where there is the opportunity for a business, product, or representative to opt to either prioritize ethical behavior, or to merely do what might be expedient and in the store (or business, product, or reps) best interest, instead of the customer (or buyer). consequently, one must surprise if business ethics is another one of those oxymorons, such as military intelligence, moral politician, etc.