Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

A few days ago there was a minor scandal regarding the purchase of some refrigerators.

This is what happened: the largest retail store in the nation (think Wal-Mart adjusted to the local economy of a country with 40 million inhabitants) started selling refrigerators worth $2.000 for $200. There was obviously some kind of typo, but the price was published that way and people started purchasing the refrigerators and had them delivered to their homes, meaning that the mistake went unnoticed for some time.

It appears that many employees of one of the largest banks in the country (which, incidentally, is not only one of the wealthiest banks, but just as the retailer, it is also a part of one of the largest local economic groups,)  took advantage of the situation and started buying them. 

The bank’s CEO caught wind of the whole thing and wrote a letter to his employees admonishing them for their lack of ethics. I haven’t found the letter on the net, but it seems it was quite heartfelt.

When I read the whole story, I was a little surprised, but not necessarily at the attitude of those who made the purchase. I mean, as a customer you must practice the whole “caveat emptor” premise, but that goes both ways: for the bad (making sure you really get what you purchase and not something else) and also for the good (if the price is right and it’s not illegal, you can buy it). Besides, customers have no way of knowing if these are mistakes or if they are real promotions, so why attack them?

What really shocked me, was that the CEO had the nerve to come out and criticize the employees’ actions, when banks are by far, the most corrupt and unethical organizations, second only to everything government and politics-related.

I mean, aren’t banks fully responsible for the current (and prior) recession? Their  constant quest for more profits in complete disregard of reality and the truth have turned them into heartless, greedy entities that somehow manage to charge you +30% annual interest rate on your credit card, but only get you 0.25% per month on your savings account, all this with the government’s permission. And how about the cost of every single transaction? It doesn’t matter whether you transact at the bank, online or at the ATM, everything costs you, even though you are handling your own money.

When banks are in trouble, everyone has to pitch in to save them. For instance, a few years ago, the financial system of the country was in trouble, and so the government imposed a sort of tax on every single financial transaction to save the banks. Today, the financial system of the nation boasts $8 trillion in profit for the first half of 2012, almost $2 trillion of which belong to the banks, and we are still paying the tax, even though they are clearly out of the woods. And yet, when the people really need the money, the financial system is unwilling to lend a hand, which is quite unfair considering that the only reason there are profits to be made is because we gave them our money in the first place.

And don’t get me started on the torture of visiting the bank: there are 5 windows but only 2 cashiers (who, by the way, are paid very little and are asked to work ungodly hours, for the most part), so you must dispose of at least 30 minutes to waste, if not more. Where I live, if you are going to pay your bills in the bank with your card, and if the sum transacted amounts to less than $600, which is the maximum amount you are able to withdraw per day, you are charged a fee. They recommend paying in cash in these cases. I thought the whole point was to handle less cash and encourage the use of the card, but I guess whatever excuse to make you pay more is valid. If you want a cashier’s check, for instance, it costs about $20 for the bank to issue a check. Really? It costs $20 to have a clerk process the request and have the manager sign the check?

And I haven’t even mentioned the behavior of the retailer.

I used to work for another retailer a few years ago and I vividly remember what some suppliers would tell me about the way they were treated at this store in particular. It became so bad, many local suppliers chose to stop selling their goods there, as the fees and discounts were so steep they were barely cutting even. And I’m not even talking about the small suppliers: many of those who left were huge and did well enough to afford losing the sales made by this retailer. THAT’s how bad they were treated.

So in this case, I don’t feel sorry for the retailer, although I do feel sorry for those responsible for the mistake, because they surely lost their job, were forced to pay the price difference, or both, who knows. And, I don’t really think the people who bought the refrigerator should feel bad either, since, IMHO, there is no ethical conflict there. And last but not least, even though the bank’s CEO is a highly respected figure, he should have known better than to criticize his employees when every single thing he stands for is the reason why these things happen in the first place.



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