Business

Ethical companies don’t make ethical customers

I recall having a conversation with a neighbour last year. The weekend was coming up, and the predictions were promising glorious weather: 24° C, low humidity, slightly breezy, and of course sunny. My neighbour remarked that it would be a perfect day to work from home. I heartily agreed, then stopped in mid-nod as he continued: “Yeah, I can take care of the lawn, have a drink and y’know, check a few emails.”
Wait! Did he not just say he was working from home?

Apparently, even though I’ve been in the workforce for thirty years, I was unaware that WFH means “taking the day off but billing for it anyway.” Is this common knowledge? It wasn’t to me.

There’s  the problem. My company has a generous policy regarding working from home. And I take a liberal policy with my teams. But now I wonder how many of them exploited the policy to have a long weekend and early drinks. The company acts ethically and generously, but the employees do not.

REI (Recreational Equipment Inc) announced earlier this year that they were changing their return policy. In a nutshell, REI’s return policy is (was) one of the most generous: people could return pretty much anything at any time for a refund or store credit. Various articles at the time pointed out some egregious misuses of this policy, including customers returning 10 year old broken equipment, or tents not even sold by REI.

A few years ago I saw a documentary about some American student’s trip to Europe. In Austria, he shoots footage from a tucked-away camera-phone, walking into a store, shoplifting, and walking out. He gleefully narrates how there were no sensors at the door, no security tags on the items, and the helpful staff greeted him on entry and wished him well on departure, never batting an eye.

“Serves them right,” the cynic will say, “you should expect that there are thieves.” I disagree.

I may be naïve, but:
I liked REI’s open return policy even though I’ve never taken advantage of it for legitimate (or illegitimate) reasons.
I like it when shops still have no security gates and burly guards that make even grandma feel like a criminal.
I like it, because I respect their trust in me.

And I endeavour to treat my clients and team members with the same kind of respect and trust.
Might some of them take advantage of the situation? Undoubtedly. But that hangs on them and their conscience. And something tells me that karma is a mean mistress when the time comes.

Or to quote my father: If you’re going to be a sucker, be a happy sucker.

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