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Business Ethics Are Always Black & White

When is it okay to be unethical in business today? The answer is Never!No, I’m not trying to be funny or a smart-ass. The simple truth is when it comes to ethics, all the things we do define who we are and whether we are ethical business people. After all, what parts of our business interactions --- whether retail or wholesale -- don’t call for us to act with honesty, fairness, respect and a "do-whatever-is-right" conviction?

One case in point is the Internet pricing policy provision in many dealer agreements and/or in many manufacturers’ operating policies that call for dealers to advertise only the MSRP on the Net. But violations of such Internet policies are reportedly on the increase.

“Hey, these are tough times and we should look past it,” some might suggest. No, what makes it unethical is not the advertised cut price per se, but the fact that these dealers agreed, by signing up for the line in the first place, to abide by such an Internet policy. In other words, when it comes to ethics, there are no time outs and no issues too small to be meaningful. Moreover, a short term solution like low pricing hyped on the Net will have a negative long term impact for everyone.

On the flip side, it is equally important that manufacturers step up to the plate with more than lip service when there is a violation of the policy. It’s more than fair for dealers to expect their builders to demonstrate their commitment to the policy by taking firm action against any dealer who isn’t, even to the extreme of providing some form of compensation to those dealers negatively impacted. Ignoring such situations leaves those dealers who honor the policy out in the cold. And, that is just as unethical as the dealer who ignores the policy.

Whether we’re talking about dealer-to-customer relationships or manufacturer-to-dealer cooperation, doing “what I said I’d do” is the cornerstone of good business ethics. Conversely, not doing “what I said I wouldn’t do” is also part of the same stone.

That’s the way I see it, what about you?

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