Something which I rarely see being mentioned in the mainstream media is company ethics and consumers. The Internet news sites do cover some of the borderline unethical behaviors of major companies like Apple and Dell, but in reality these stories are aimed more at tarnishing the image of corporations, than really covering the actual situation and shady policies of the workplace. As a consumer of products and services, this bothers me somewhat because I try to only deal with ethical companies. After all would you really buy something from someone you personally knew was a thief? When it comes to corporations, we really should hold them to the same standards as our personal relationships. Although holding corporations accountable seems almost impossible nowadays, there are some things to look for.
Public traded companies do publish their financial records and occasionally their dirty laundry does come to light. Most of the time the bad news is published in obscure trade publications and so it is sometimes hard to find. Eventually if the dirty laundry is serious, it will eventually lead to an investigation or multiple lawsuits. At this point you can pretty much tell that the company acted contrary to ethical standards. Note that this is not something that you find with top corporations only, but with all companies in general. Just because Global Widgets did some illegal stock manipulation, does not mean that their competitor Small Scale Widgets is any less reputable. Sometimes an entire industry is guilty, like when all the memory makers made a group effort to artificially keep memory prices higher.
Perhaps the most direct way of finding out how ethical a company is to talk to them. When you walk into their store, call their customer service line, or email them, what type of response you get can reveal a lot about the type of training that the company gives their employees. Although this probably cannot tell you everything about a company, it does reveal enough to let you know if the company is worthy of your business. Talking may be a lost art, although we communicate every day, we do not do it effectively, and so remember the following points when you engage a company.
- Always ask for what you want directly, do not try to hide your intentions. If you want a cheaper price or think that the service or product is not up to your expectations, ask for an explanation.
- In turn, you should always be fair yourself: do not waste a company rep’s time if you truly are not interested in their services or products.
- Since companies can have multiple businesses, you cannot always hold accountable the bad ethical practices of one of their divisions to all of their other businesses.
- Lastly if you are treated rudely without justification, make the company aware of this, and if the response is lacking, never do business with them again.
In general, companies care about their shareholders more than their customers, it is this mentality that has led many companies to lie, steal, and cheat to make their profits ever larger, only to find out much like Starbucks, that you cannot make money without customers, even if you have thousands of locations.