Would you call honesty part of the corporate culture at Finer Bags? Yes, no, or both? Explain. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the attribute of honesty as “not hiding the truth about someone or something: not meant to deceive someone”. Based on that definition, I would say that Finer Bags had possessing honesty in their corporate culture dealings. They made a business decision to sell purses that were imitations of high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton and Prada, and created a web store at FinerBags.com as their marketing outlet for their products. This approach is consistent with credible business decisions and approach, and in keeping with twenty-first century trends. According to the details of the case study, “they’re totally open about what they’re doing, and their home page lists the advantages of buying their products”.
This showed that they were transparent and used good marketing strategies in keeping with competitive trends. Using this approach, they have not in breach of any legal regulations. In addition, the companies whose high-end brands they imitate have not put in place up to that point, any patent on their goods that would have prevented Finer Bags from making, using or selling their invention. Prada and Louis Vuitton had the open option to request that they desist from such practice or take legal action against them in court, as they were undercutting their profits severely, especially as customers couldn’t tell the difference between the products. They were honest in terms of the lines of reference of the duty theory as well as the utilitarian approach.
Corporate cultural dissonance occurs when what actually happens on the ground doesn’t jibe with the principles supposedly controlling things from above. Do you suspect that dissonance is occurring here? Why or why not? In the context of the corporate industry, should we describe cultural dissonance in corporate terms, it would describe the discrepancies in the activities of inter-organizational operations. This occurs when what actually happens on the ground doesn’t jibe with the principles supposedly controlling things from above. It is consistent with a situation in which ethics governing the ethos of an organization is not carried out by those who execute the day-to-day operations of the company.
I am not convinced that there is any element of dissonance occurring in Finer Bags Company. There is consensus from the leadership and throughout. The company operates on a transparent level, making everyone aware that it sets out to sell imitations of high-end brand purses. It is not operating in breach of any patent set held by Louis Vuitton or Prada and the price range of their imitations are severely competitive to the brands they imitate. They only make the bags using similar materials and with a similar design. There is no indication that Prada or Louis Vuitton feels threatened in the market, nor has threatened any legal action for encroaching on their patent rights. They did not buy the products from Prada and Louis Vuitton and sell them back at a cheaper rate. Consequently, there is no cultural dissonance within the industry, or within the organization itself.
Transparency and the absence of disagreement between the companies, negates the presence of dishonesty in this context. This company is selling counterfeit purses, bags designed to trick people into thinking they’re real when they’re not. No one denies that. Could you use a utilitarian argument (bring the greatest good and happiness to the greatest number) to justify this corporate culture and business endeavor as ethically respectable? The Company has mastered the art of replicating the products so well, that it is not easy to distinguish between the imitation and the original items. The manager of Finer Bags argumentatively justifies his position by saying: Millions of replica handbags can be found on internet these days, they are not a rare thing anymore. Maybe the Louis Vuitton handbag that your friend bought is a perfect replica. Maybe the Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy 30 that Linda paid $1,200 for is a replica handbag. Maybe those replica bags all were bought from finerbags.com.
If we apply the consequentiality-utilitarian theory to the situation, which is oriented by the common welfare, “business decisions are defined as acceptable or reproachable depending on whether they end up doing the best good for the most people”. In this case, we can imagine an organization promoting lying as a common operating principle and making the case that the ethical stance is, in fact, good. Brusseau (2012) cites an example, using an example of fish dealer, in which he applies the utilitarian theory. Brusseau’s example says: If the fake stuff tastes just as good as the real thing, and the only real difference between selling one or the other is that the fish dealer makes out like a bandit, then an argument could be formed that the double-dealing does, in fact, increase happiness (the fish dealer’s) without hurting anyone else. Therefore, the dishonesty is ethically justifiable.
In the very same breadth, the happiness of Finer Bags is increased as well as that of the customers who are happy with their purchase, even if the ones who bought the high-end brand had in fact been sold the imitation. The fact that they have been happy with their purchase, in conjunction with the other factors, on the premise of the utilitarian theory, the actions of Finer Bags are justifiable. This level of justification puts the corporate culture and the business endeavor in an ethically respectable light. Could you use either a basic duties argument (right and wrong is defined by preexisting principles) or Kant’s categorical imperative (to be right an act must be universalizable) to make the ethical case that this company should put itself out of business? Whatever business decisions are taken by an organization, there are always ethical arguments against with which their positions can be referenced.
The actions of Finer bags can be analyzed with reference to the basic duties argument of the duty theory. According to Brusseau (2012), “duty theories affirm that right and wrong is determined by a set of unchanging rules, and they typically include don’t steal, don’t lie, and similar”. Although it is debatable whether Finer Bags can be rendered ethically dishonest, the principle is applicable. Their open declaration of their imitation of the high-end brands allows customer to make informed decisions in their purchases. Realistically, as there would be no evidence of double-dealing, it cannot be seen as a strategy that will backfire, when customers’ purchasing decisions are taken on informed and honest grounds. The ethical good for the economic world of Finer bags is justified by their decisions taken to sell imitations of the high-end purses and bags, as it serves both the organization’s and the customers’ interest.
On a personal level, I do not think that Finer Bags should put itself out of business, because everyone deserves to earn an honest living. Prada and Louis Vuitton do not have any legal claim on the monopoly of the market brand of bags and purses. Finer Bags are selling a commodity, on which no legal regulations have been established. If Louis Vuitton and Prada intercept the actions of Finer Bags with a legitimate claim, then it would be advisable for Finer Bags to put itself out of business. In addition to that, customers are delighted with the product at a considerable cheaper rate, while achieving the status symbol associated with a high-end brand. For all intents and purposes, I would argue that many high-end brands have been ripping off customers for far too long with expensive prices on items that could be sold for even fifty per cent of their current market price.
The psychological manipulation played by high-end brands has mislead the mind of the market for ages into believing that because it is expensive, it is a better quality. While this may be true in some cases, as there are different grades and quality of materials, the exorbitant prices is not an indicator of the product quality, but rather a capitalization on customer’s beliefs in price-quality-status association. The implication of that admission crosses a line of ethical credibility in the authenticity of Finer Bags products and modus operandi. Their actions are also questionable in terms of the significant difference in price between their products and that of their prototype. It would have been rendered more justifiable if their prices were a little higher. Immanuel Kant may have a valid point when he says that “in order for an act to be right it must be universalizable” .
Should we choose to argue from this perspective, the actions of Finer Bags are not universalizable because many company put a patent on the products they manufacture, so that any duplication can be challenged in court, and those who copy their product would be liable to pay a fine. It could be argued that Finer Bags could create their own designer brand of bags and purses of similarly high quality, from which considerable income could be generated. The fact that customers are unable to distinguish between the products from Finer Bags and those from their prototype, could be seen as customer deception, which is s dishonest act.
On the grounds of the Categorical Imperative, I don’t think that Finer bags would like another company to emulate any product the way they copied the products of Prada and Louis Vuitton and sell them at a considerable cheaper rate, thereby undercutting their market shares, profit value and profit maximization. The principle of “do unto others as you would like them to do unto you” is applicable, and therefore, on that premise, it is an ethically reasonable request to ask Finer Bags to desist from such activity and out themselves out of business.
The case in point makes for very interesting discussion by exposing the ethical and social responsibility associated with business decisions and method of operation. As there is no dogmatic approach to ethical considerations, it is only when legal frameworks are applied to these decision-making processes that rigid guidelines have to be adhered to.
- Brusseau, J. (2012). Business Ethics. New York, NY: 2012 Book Archive Project. Retrieved on December 19th, 2018 from http://jsmith.cis.byuh.edu/books/business-ethics/s13-02-the-relation-between-organizat.html
- Honesty. 2017, in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Retrieved on December 19th, 2018 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honest
- Rauf, A., (2014) Transcript of Cultural Dissonance. Retrieved on December 19th, 2018 from https://prezi.com/j5fs5zfdllvq/cultural-dissonance/
- Kant (2004), Kant’s Moral Philosophy. Retrieved on December 19th, 2018 from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/