Monday, March 05, 2007

Mock The Ethicist: 3/4/2007

Bah... some days I wonder why I even bother? The lead question in this week's column is someone asking if its OK to jam cell phones because cell phone users are "brazen and rude". What did I say last week? "The Ethicist" is an advice column; we're lucky if Randy deigns to run a question with ethical implications. I'm not even going to bother analyzing this one; rest assured that Randy's reply is just as inane as the question itself.

Randy manages to salvage things somewhat with the second question, which essentially asks whether its ethically permissible to provide products to competing companies. Well, let's see what Randy has to say about that:

Unless you promised your first customer an exclusive on this item, there is no legal barrier to selling to the second.
so far so good...
But ethics sets a more stringent standard. If the first customer believed that you would not sell to a direct competitor, you should honor that unspoken — indeed, unmade — agreement. It is good ethics and good business not to deceive a customer, even passively.
'Scuse me while I go throw up...

Let me get this straight: If I sell a product to someone its reasonable for them to expect, without any additional communication whatsoever on the subject, that I'm not going to sell to a competitor? Exactly what planet are you doing business on?

The ability of a producer to sell products to all willing buyers is such a fundamental assumption that I'm having a hard time coming up with a justification other than "proof by 'duh'". In your world

  • A farmer can't sell to Kraft and General Mills
  • A rancher can't sell to McDonald's and Burger King
  • That trendy little boutique can't sell to Beyonce and Christina Aguilera.
What a monkey-wrench you've thrown into things. As soon as you sell to one person you have to get their permission before you can sell to competitors? Why do 'exclusivity agreements' exist in the first place? If, as you claim, there's an unwritten assumption of exclusivity, then why don't people sign 'non-exclusivity' agreements instead?

So yeah, Randy's gone and messed up the answer to this one by pulling a totally unwarranted assumption out of his ass. The correct answer is that there is no assumption of exclusivity; exclusivity is a non-default state that has to be negotiated, in which case the person who sent in the question should feel free to sell to eir heart's content to whomever is willing to pay.

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