One Bad Apple

Let's discuss some dubious retail practices. I intend these as ethical, not political questions, i.e., I'm not interested in whatever legal actions should result should these actions be discovered, but in what you should do if faced with a similar situation.

I often get home a package of some fresh item only to find that while the part on display looked great, the bits hidden by the packaging are grim. Now, this may happen sometimes as a result of the packaging itself, I guess, but I worked in a retail grocery store, and I know that it is also often done deliberately, to hide bad products from the customer.

My first question is: If you are an employee, and told to do something like this by a manager, what would you do? (Let's posit you're not going to kill anyone with the bad bits, just put them off a little and cause them to trim them away.)

Would it make a difference if times are bad, and there are few jobs available? Should it?

Would it make a difference if you were the sole financial support for young children? Should it?


  1. I used to work in a deli, where we would put the old meat from the day before into sandwiches so the customers wouldn't see it. It had been in the air and under fluorescent lights for several hours so it was discolored and wouldn't sell. I don't recall anyone ever complaining about the sandwiches, though.

    As far as what would I do, already I have to deal with a great deal of dishonesty on a day to day basis, with practically every employer I have ever worked for and many non-employment related business transactions. I think if you didn't do it, you'd wind up a wandering guy in rags with a long beard, moaning about the vile and evil world or something.

    I am curious -- what would you suggest about this kind of thing, and the other kinds of 'practical stuff' you post about that isn't addressed by 'theory'? I have been thinking a sort of modern voluntary guild system might solve these kinds of problems (or at least address them), but I don't really know.

  2. "If you are an employee, and told to do something like this by a manager, what would you do?"


    "Would it make a difference if times are bad, and there are few jobs available? Should it?"

    Yes it would make a difference. Should it? That's a tricky one. I don't know. I guess something like this would almost be a measure of how strongly you felt that this was an unethical practice.

    Yes it would definitely make a difference if I am sole financial support. Should it? I don't know. It's interesting because clearly there are degrees of acts of wrongdoing. Like in this instance, misleading the consumer about the quality of lettuce is widely considered to be less serious than letting children starve. I think most people would actually be offended if someone upheld his principles to honesty and integrity so strongly that he in fact did get fired and now his children go hungry.

    However, if one is caught in the act of doing this deceptive action, I imagine he still feels guilty, embarrassed, ashamed or something of that nature. So its not as if the dubious practice becomes noble, if there is a strong enough moral justification for it either.

    I don't really know. I do know I like these types of posts. You always get the old noggin working Gene!


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