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June 25th, 2003

Ethical Question

I have an ethical question. Actually, if someone in the reading audience has a good knowledge of retail and can provide me some facts, it may not be a question of ethics at all.

Say a person, let’s call him Bryan, gets a DVD as a gift from an out-of-town relative that bought it at a CostCo/Price Club-type store. The problem: the DVD is full-screen and greedy Bryan wants widescreen, yet he obviously doesn’t want to trouble the gift giver to make the exchange. Unfortunately, though, Bryan doesn’t belong to the discount club that the gift giver does. So, Bryan makes a decision.

Bryan goes to a retail store, let’s call it Bircuit Bity, and takes the DVD, still shrinkwrapped, to the customer service counter. He says to the clerk, “I got this as a gift, but I want the widescreen version. Can I make an even exchange?” The clerk says, “Let me check to see if this came from our store,” and Bryan replies, “I think it did… I could be wrong, though.” The word “Liar” appears in bright lights above his head, with an arrow pointing directly down.

“OK, go ahead,” the clerk says. So I—er—Bryan walks back and finds a widescreen copy of the same movie, noting that the widescreen version and full-screen version sell for the same price.

The exchange is made and Bryan goes home with a widescreen DVD. Bircuit Bity now has one less copy of the widescreen version, but one more copy of the full-screen version, but at least it’s still shrinkwrapped, so they can just put it on the shelf. It’s a big-name movie, too. Surely they’ll sell the copy.

So, was Bryan wrong in making this type of shady return? Will Bircuit Bity lose money on the deal? Will Bryan burn in Hell for the outright lie he told to the clerk?

And leave any “as a GigantoCorp, they deserved it” arguments at the door… I’m worried about my own karma here.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

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