Honesty is Still the Best Policy

... but it's amazing how few people have really learned that lesson. Of course, there is a slight difference between interpersonal honesty and organizational honesty. We still suspect that "business ethics" might be more of an oxymoron than most people suspect. And some forms of dishonesty are more subtle than others.

Regarding interpersonal honesty, it never ceases to amaze us how often people are discouraged from being honest. Usually, the cause is emotional blackmail. All too often, people are not allowed to express their true feelings or opinions because someone else's feelings might be hurt. Often, this emotional blackmail can be quite blatant. Witness poor little Johnny, to whom an adult -- especially an unfamiliar one -- looms frighteningly large. So, when dear old Aunt Gladys comes to visit, Johnny's first reaction is to withdraw.

Unfortunately, Aunt Gladys demands that little Johnny come give her a great big hug. Is Johnny allowed to express his true feelings and decline? Heavens no! At this point, even the more or less well-meaning but misguided parents get into the act, demanding that Johnny make a display of affection that he neither feels nor understands. Next thing you know, Johnny's out in the back yard, pulling wings off of flies, because he can't deal with the trauma he's forced to suppress.

In the corporate world, things are a bit more subtle. How many times have you seen an ad for the latest electronic gadget that's priced at #2,999.99? (Gee, it's a good thing it doesn't cost $3,000! That extra penny would be a real show-stopper. $2,999.99 we can afford, but that $3,000 would bankrupt us.) Perhaps the most ridiculous example is the price of gasoline. What's the deal with that 9/10 of a cent at the end of the price? When gas retailed for $0.20 a gallon (oop! we meant $0.199), that extra 1/10 of a cent actually made a certain perverse sense, as it represented a far greater percentage of the price than it does when gas is selling for $1.50 (oops! $1.499) a gallon. If you buy exactly, precisely one gallon of gas, how do you get that 1/10 of a cent back in change? We once offered a gas station $1,000 if they'd price their gas honestly, but were told that the price is set by the wholesaler. Businesses would have a far easier time in the public relations arena if they'd set their prices honestly, instead of trying to deceive the public into thinking in terms of a lower price.


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