Housekeeping: The Ethics Of Undercover Snooping

Warning: this piece is lengthy. –End of Warning–

I’ve just reread Derek’s post. Here’s what we can’t accuse him of.

1. Not letting the salesman see other customers: He arranged for a Saturday morning test drive. The specific time is unmentioned but he does describe that the roads are clear. We can interpret this to mean negligible to exactly zero “drop-in” test drivers(who will then sign all the papers needed to walk away with their purchase that same day). The fact the arrangement was agreed upon shows that there were no prior and conflicting appointments with the same salesman. We don’t know if Derek also had the salesman’s concerns in mind but we can be reasonably sure he didn’t jeopardise his ability to earn his income with that particular test drive.

2. Being a worse person than us: He has done what a lot of us have wanted to but had no idea how. Derek made up a vending machine business background(and advised wearing an expensive watch) in order to persuade his salesman. He does not mention what else was done, presumably(but not conclusively) because it wasn’t. He has done what most of us think of doing and what some do regularly.

As a side-note, I’d say it’s worth comparing what Derek did with what Jack Baruth recommended, through his source. Mr. Anonymous, if you really are in the sales business, I believe it reflects more positively upon you to accept this as a job hazard and work out a plan around it. Your job is to find whoever is going to contractually oblige themselves to product/service you are selling regardless of what others think about it. If someone like Jack Baruth asks you to calculate installments while he takes your test drive unit for a spin, you either live with it or you find a way to get his pen right on the dotted line before you hand the keys. Or just make sure you surf here often so that you know when one of them shows up. I’d let them review it honestly, if I were you. It’s your colleagues in product development and the accountants who need to make sure they don’t put a million dollar price tag on a piece of shiny crap. The sooner they know it, the sooner they can focus on building something of quality.

It’s fair to call out on a salesman who is either too inexperienced or too petty to let an issue like this be. As for whether we might as well launch lawsuits for other kinds of contestable offences, why not review the laws we have already agreed upon prior and ask ourselves which offences we can live with and which we wouldn’t.

If we can no longer tell the difference, then how can we say that our attempts at justice are more than just settling any old score, that we aren’t using “might is right” to justify ourselves? Knowing the difference is why we have ethics in the first place. And a court system.

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