Ethics vs Exploitation

Martin Stellar
Jun 6 · 3 min read

“Excuse me, where can I find the bottled water?”

I’m shopping at my local supermarket, which has recently been completely redesigned, and as a consequence it’s practically impossible to find anything.

“Sure!”, he tells me. “It’s on the other side of the store, by the laundry detergent”.

I sigh and mutter that since the redesign, everything is a complete and confusing mess.

“Yep”, he says. “That way people end up buying more”.

Well, ten points for honesty, I’ll give him that.

But really, is this a way for a company to treat their customers?

Everything in the shop is now intentionally designed to confuse and distract: where products are placed, the way light enters the building, and even the mirrors that are now all around the cashiers, so that a shopper gets distracted right at the moment of checkout, in order to have them pay less attention to the amount they’re paying.

It’s despicable, disgusting, and unethical. They do anything they can, just to squeeze a bit more money out of people.

What’s even worse, is that this in a fairly impoverished part of Spain, in a small town where the majority of the population is not very well off. Tricking people here to spend more is a scoundrelous move. Pure exploitation.

But does the corporation care?

Of course not. Money money money. Grab grab grab.

Oh and then of course they’ll justify it: ‘People are independent agents, it’s up to them how much they buy’.

Yes it is BUT YOU’VE SCIENTIFICALLY ENGINEERED IMPULSE-BUYING INTO YOUR ENTIRE SUPERMARKET, YOU ^%&^$&%!

Or they’ll say: ‘This is just standard marketing practice. Everybody knows that we place premium items at eye-level, and lower-price products on the bottom shelves. What’s the difference?’

The difference is subtle, but important, and it’s something that a great many corporations (as well as entrepreneurs and solopreneurs) either don’t understand, or don’t care about:

Ethics and integrity.

It’s one thing to highlight a premium product, or to place a rack of crackers next to the cheese display.

But it’s a completely different level of douchebaggery to intentionally throw shoppers off balance, just so that they buy more things they don’t need, in order for profit margins to go up.

So why the rant today?

Because of trust.

When you take liberties with integrity, you might be able to sleep at night (though in my opinion, it means you don’t deserve a good night’s sleep), people notice.

Usually at subconscious levels, but the message gets through: “I’m being used, this isn’t about me, they’re not looking out for me. I’m being exploited for profit”.

And when that happens, trust breaks and you’ll find it very hard to run or grow your business.

So if you want to sleep at night (with my permission and blessing, heh) AND you want to have an easier time selling your work, the recommendation is simple: Do right by people. It always pays off.

Cheers,

Martin


Originally published at MartinStellar.com.

    Martin Stellar

    Written by

    Copywriter, ex-monk, marketer, singer, recovering artisan. Lover of life, helper of people. http://martinstellar.com