|Thanksgiving and Business Ethics
||[Nov. 24th, 2005|11:52 pm]
Thanksgiving was good this year. I was pleased not to have been called in to work, got to visit with family, and of course partook in the customary consumption of mass quantities.
The evening was filled with reality T.V., though I'm not sure if my uncle in particular was really into it. Tonight's episode of "The Apprentice" really brought up an interesting question in my mind, so perhaps I can justify it as something other than junk food for the brain.
If you're not familiar with the show, the basic premise is as follows. A bunch of eager young businessmen and women compete in a series of "business challenges" (usually marketing or sales-oriented) set up by Donald Trump. They're divided into two teams, and the team that loses ends up in the boardroom where one person is "fired" by Donald (a.k.a. eliminated from the show). At the end of the season, Donald picks one of the two remaining candidates to run one of his businesses.
In tonight's episode, the two teams had to run a one day on-the-street advertising campaign to promote free samples of Shania Twain's new perfume. Both teams independently adopted similar strategies: hire temps to run around the streets of New York pitching to random passers by.
As the cameras roll, one team is calling various stores to try to find four megaphones to arm their temps with. Megaphones are apparently very difficult to find in New York, and their only lead comes when they call Radio Shack. The store manager tells them that someone has been pulling megaphones from all over the city to a single store, where ten are currently on hold and waiting to be picked up. A little deductive reasoning reveals that it's the other team.
So at this point begins "Operation Sabotage." They get to the store first, pass themselves off as the folks who reserved the megaphones, and buy nine of the ten.
This sort of deviousness is very amusing to watch. The suspenseful glances toward the door while they're making the sale. The other team's outraged reaction when they call the store and find out their "reserved" megaphones were just picked up. The revelation that it was the other team. But is this really an ethical business practice? Donald Trump seemed to think it was great, and I can see from a certain perspective where this sort of ruthlessness has value. But this strategy almost seemed fraudulent in its execution.
So here's the question: where do you draw the line when it comes to "win at any cost?" When does it stop being clever strategy and start being unacceptable behavior? Still thinking about this one myself.
Back to work tomorrow and Saturday. No day after Thanksgiving shopping for me this year, though I am contemplating a trip to the stores next week. Besides, "Black Friday" is getting ridiculous. Stores are opening at 5am now? I don't even want to be awake before 7:30, much less waiting in line at a Best Buy or something. Glad some people enjoy it. :)