Every organization has an ethical obligation to its stakeholders who include the customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers. Ethical obligation perspective asserts the appropriateness in organizational actions towards its stakeholders (Synoeyenbos et al, 1983). In business, the customer is the key stakeholder and the company’s identification and reputation is dependent on its customer. An organization’s success is based on its ability to identify the needs of the customers as well as providing high quality products to the customers. However, organizations get involved in unethical practices that are damaging, deceptive and fraudulent. Some of these misconducts occur in communication through advertisements. A bill of consumer rights was passed and it includes rights to be informed, to safety, to choose and to be heard (Ferrell, 2004). In this essay, I discuss how organizations can become unethical in treating their customers.
Communications that are misleading or false has become an increasingly key issue when it comes to organizational communications. It has been observed that there are abuses in advertisement that comes inform of concealed facts, exaggerated claims as well as outright lying. Such abuses are unethical and to some extent illegal (Ferrell, 2004). For instant, G. Heileman Brewing Company introduced a new product of alcohol whose brand name was PowerMaster and it contained 5.9% alcohol. The idea of introducing this brand was advised by the realization that the sales of one of their brand namely “Colt 45” was going up among the ghetto youths even when the sale of regular beer was on a downward trend in other markets.
The company hired renowned rap musicians when it promoted its PowerMaster malt beer. The ads for this new brand associated it with the inner city gang culture and subtly portrayed a feeling of being “masterful and powerful”. This form of advert was deceptive in that it failed to inform the targeted population about the associated health and social negative effects. It has been revealed out-rightly that alcohol consumption is associated with a wide range of mental, social and physical harms. This effects associated with alcohol consumption are dependent on the average quantity of consumption as well as patterns of drinking (WHO, 2004).
The problem associated with the above advert is that the targeted youths were being deceived. It has been suggested by social learning theorist that people learn new behaviors through observing and mimicking the role models (Bandura, 1977). For this advert, the company used a renowned rock musician who has power to influence the young people into using alcohol. Several studies have shown that the targeted population (black youths) are more likely to have difficulties in differentiating reality from fantasy as compared to white youths (Donohue et al, 1978). Other studies have shown that many African-American youths watch television more as compared to the white and that, they may unrealistically watch adverts because they fantasize about leaving the destitute environment which they live in (Bauder, 1999). This can closely relate to this case because G. Heileman Brewing Company’s decision to develop the new brand was made on realizing that a similar brand; Colt 45 was selling more and was becoming more popular among the ghetto youths. This was even when other form of beers were losing their popularity due to dispensation of more information about the negative effects of alcohol consumption. This shows that the brand was cheap and could be there was some level of alcohol dependency among the youths which led to higher demand for that alcohol.
Similarly, G. Heileman Brewing Company increasing the alcohol content level in their new brand. This act was not morally right considering that high contents of alcohol leads to higher chances of dependency and other social, physical and mental problems (WHO, 2004). The targeted people were the young inner city Hispanics and Blacks and the advert met a lot of criticism because it was argued that, the targeted population (young black males) had a higher prevalent for liver cirrhosis as compared with other population. It was claimed that it was wrong for the company to target a group of young people who already had alcohol and drug related problems. The claim by Antonia Novello, a US Surgeon General was considered and the company was stopped from selling this brand.
BATF allowed the brewing company to sell the remaining malt beer under the same brand but ordered the company not to sell the malt under the same brand again. Interestingly, BATF did not object the sale of the same malt beer but canned in a container bearing the label “Colt 45 Premier”. This was unethical because, the malt beer whose alcohol level was 5.9 was packed in a container previously used in packaging of malt beer whose alcohol content level was 4.5. This means that the consumers were not given the actual information concerning the product they were using. BATF was wrong because it condoned unethical behavior by the brewing company.
The brewing company failed to adhere to the Due Care Theory of the duties of Firm’s to customers. This view places responsibility on the manufacturers to ensure that consumer’s interests are met by the products sold to them (Lluka, V. 2010). This responsibility is given to them because they are at a better position to understand the products as compared to the consumers. This view substitutes the caveat emptor; “let the buyer be responsible” with caveat vendor; “let the seller take responsibility” (Smith, 1995; Stevens, 1997). This view can be justified on the basis of ethics of care.
Other potential groundings of this view include Kant’s theory, Rawls’ theory of justice and utilitarianism (Arnold et al, 2010). In the Due theory, the brewer have the duty of brewing alcoholic beverages whose risks associated with their use are well researched on and should ensure that the products have minimal side effects on the users. The brewing company failed the consumers by brewing a product with even higher content of alcohol and thus more harmful to the consumers. In marketing, the manufacturers have the duty of providing product use safety information to the consumers and also warn of all possible dangers and should not market to those consumers who are not able to avoid risks (Stevens, 1997). This is in contrast to what the brewing company did and also BATF failed because the Surgeon had made known to the parties that the product was not as good as the company had put it.
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