Just like all other aspects of society, businesses involve the interaction of different people and entities for the sake of exchanging goods and services to which monetary value is attached. This day-to-day interaction calls for acceptable standards that would ensure the existence of rules and regulations to govern the conduct of business among entities.
This study responds to the evident problem of fostering good faith and good practices. I experienced a first-hand unethical practice in a shop whereby the shopkeeper sold to me bread that had expired two days ago. It was tricky to tell the expiry date until I took it myself to inquire from the shopkeeper after sensing some funny smell and taste in the bread.
I realized later that the shopkeeper had some evil hidden practices of removing the stickers on the breads once the date expires so that no buyer can tell the real expiry date. I care about this problem because, based on this experience, I came to imagine how many other innocent clients have consumed expired goods from that shop and any other one that has such an evil-minded shopkeeper. The evil shopkeeper only sought to reduce losses by selling expired products.
This problem is very common in many shops. Such unethical practices have led to the conventions touching on the acceptable moral standards for an industry so that all entities participating in business read from the same script on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The practical gap that is study needs to fill is that the field of ethics needs to up its customer-care rules to save even the ignorant and illiterate clients who innocently give their legal money to buy goods, only to realize later that such goods are expired or not in good condition.
To get the intended, the study digs deep into the existing body of literature in the field of business ethics to have a hint of what scholars have concluded concerning the problem under scrutiny. Therefore, as a lesson, it suffices to declare ethical issues a challenge to the maximization of profits and or reduction of losses by businesses because they act as an impediment to the health of innocent buyers. As a way forward, the business community has to work towards acceptable standards that do not infringe too much on the wellbeing of clients.
Why is it a Problem
Customer mishandling is a very common unethical practice in the modern businesses. The practice can be a problem depending on what view one wishes to take, the platform where one stands on, and/or what informs a given individual’s beliefs on the same matter. The situation creates a big divide in the business world concerning those who advocate for having business ethics and those who do not want to follow it religiously.
The debate about ethics is never ending due to the interpretation and understanding of what informs the different parties on the issue. The biggest challenge that many business entities face while trying comply with ethical standards is that these standards are both written and unwritten and that most of them are not informed or tied to the law of land (Hunt, 2012, p. 143).
This therefore makes it voluntary for an entity to observe ethical rules to which most of them may wish not to while at the same time being compelled to do so. Several questions have always come up as to who is responsible for setting up these rules so that others can follow them. So far, different entities have come up to advocate for different ethical practices that they feel are important to safeguard different interests, mostly the interests of the consumer to avoid any mistreatment.
According to Hunt (2012), some of these entities are “international institutions, government departments, labor institutions, consumer organizations, transnational organizations, and civil societies” (p. 144). The problem that comes out of this case is that these ethical rules are always issued by the different groups either in unison or individually and at different times.
The basic reason that has led business entities to have ethical standards and/or rules either voluntarily or in compulsion can be legal issues to do with the environment and social responsibility among others. In most cases, ethical parameters have been set as a reaction to other standards that are being observed in other fields to synchronize with other standards. Many businesses have accepted many terms of ethical compliance that are always set from one country to the other.
However, the problem comes about in terms of compliance and enforcement of the same from one country to the other (Zhang, 2012, p. 554). In most cases, ethical issues are prohibitive to the business way of operation because they restrict many things that would have led the business to make more profit by either having to do things the expensive way or having to forego some things that would make the business perform better. The earlier-raised issue of selling expired goods is a working illustration of this case.
This therefore makes it less interesting to accept voluntarily. An example of ethical practices that are prohibitive on a business can be the labor laws, especially the child labor laws. These laws are restrictive on the employment age of an individual concerning child labor (Zhang, 2012, p. 556). On one platform informed by child rights, it is viewed as child abuse and exploitation, thus compelling business entities to observe the ban.
On the second platform of life economics and poverty, customer mishandling in poor countries is driven by poverty, which requires all able stakeholders to use every opportunity they encounter to make money.
This challenge attracts evil undertakings such as the ones done by the shopkeeper who could not let go of expired bread without getting the money that it ought to bring to the business and to the family by extension. On this debate, one finds that declaring the action unethical without putting into consideration many things simply subjects businesses to further challenges.
This case is one of the pointers on the discrepancies that indicate ethical issues in business. The debate on morality issues has never been concluded. This gap has put many businesses on the edge because they do not have the freedom to practice what they uphold. Whereas ethics in other countries are followed to the later, they are not observed as much in other countries, thus giving them undue advantage on the business platform.
Analyzing the Problem using a Theoretical Model
As many other aspects of business and life, business ethical issues have also been captured under different theoretical models as scholars strive to understand and explain this phenomenon. One of these models is the general theory of marketing ethics published by Hunt and Vettel in the year 1986. The theory examines the cross-cultural comparisons between the United States of America’s business practices and the Taiwanese business practices.
Hunt (2012) examines the model from three different levels that it touches. They include justification for using the ethical theory by asking if each concept in the model can be measured besides trying to find out if the model can be used for teaching business ethics (p. 143). Under the general theory of marketing, the same debate on what is right and/or wrong comes up.
It also raises the question as to who should set the ethical standards because of the different cultural backgrounds informing their practices. In the United States of America, it is unethical to give out something in anticipation of a favor or in exchange of a favor. It is also unethical for a seller to take money from a client in exchange of a good or service that is not in a condition that is worth the exchange.
This is starkly opposite to what happens in Taiwan and other Asian countries, which value the exchange of gifts during the conduct of business transactions. This can be a problem to both American and Taiwanese businesspersons. When an American businessperson goes to Taiwan to do business, he or she will find it difficult and out of order to give a gift, which to him or her takes the definition of a bribe and hence unethical.
This will throw him or her out of favor with his or her Taiwanese counterparts who will view him or her as not having a good will. On the other hand, when a Taiwanese business people go to do business in America, giving out gifts as part of their cultural practices will be viewed as bribery and corrupt. Therefore, business operation backgrounds inhibit business people from doing business in their best way possible.
Zhang (2012) finds that the ‘rights model’ is one of the bases for definition of business models in that it is meant to secure the rights of all stakeholders in a business (p. 146). It secures the rights of shareholders by protecting them against unfair practices from the management by setting standards of what is ethically right and wrong concerning shareholding. It also safeguards the rights of employees in an organization in terms of remuneration and other benefits against exploitation by the owner of the business.
The Writer’s Take
The writers take on the problem of ethics in business is that too many ethical issues are being brought forward by different entities into the business management, thus constricting the way businesses operate. Although it is necessary to have ethics at all levels of life, pressure groups should be restrained from coming up with all manner of ethical standards and imposing them in businesses.
The problem with too many ethical standards is that they inhibit the performance of businesses and hence their profitability. Any practice that acts as an inhibition to business profitability is not good for business. It should be minimized as much as possible.
The Way Forward
The way forward concerning ethical problem in business is that businesses should develop a regulating framework that will consider all factors globally before an issue in business can be described as ethical. All ethical issues can then be graded in a manner that will give them weight and importance in an order that is acceptable to all. This will be meant to eliminate instances where pressure groups take over business issues with only their narrow views taking the center stage.
Hunt, S. (2012). The General Theory of Marketing Ethics: A Revision and Three Questions. Journal of Macromarketing, 26(2), 143-153.
Zhang, L. (2012). A Business Ethics Model Based on Social Identity Theory and Its Application. Information and Business Intelligence, 268(1), 554-559.