COMMENTARY 763.1: Dishonest Merchants Don’t Deserve Your Business

Some time ago, I received a handwritten message on a yellow self-stick note attached to a torn-out page from a magazine about a new book. The note said, “Mike, thought you might be interested.” It was signed “L.” It was sent in a non-business envelope with a stamp, but no return address. My assistant thought it was a personal message from a friend and put it on top of my correspondence.

It wasn’t from anyone I knew. It was a marketing trick to sell the book.

I’m sure you’ve seen other deceptive ploys: mailings disguised as telegrams, urgent “personal” messages, announcements that you’ve won something, window envelopes whose interior looks like a check. An especially audacious variation is the salesperson who calls pretending he knows you. To get through the screening process, he or she will shamelessly try to con your secretary with “Oh, he knows what it’s about” or “He asked me to call.”

These are all lies and deceptions, but they’re used because they work. The people who send them don’t care about their credibility or who they offend. No one knows who they are.

While one can appreciate resourceful techniques, clever dishonesty doesn’t make an action less despicable. I make it a rule to never do business with anyone who uses such techniques.

What’s the harm? The harm is that someone has invaded my life with a lie, depriving me of the choice to decide what I will read and whom I will talk to. Worse, it erodes trust and builds cynicism. Dishonest merchants don’t deserve your business.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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