Tales from the Corporate Frontlines: Work Ethics and the Customer

by Josh Greenberg

This article relates to the Ethics in the Workplace competency, commonly evaluated in employee surveys. It gives examples of how employees and customers consider ethical behavior and sound values an integral part of your organization. This competency covers a variety of topics like customer treatment, employee professionalism, and expected/acceptable organizational behaviors. At a high level, this competency will investigate the standards by which your employees treat your customers, co-workers, and the organization itself.

This short story, Work Ethics and the Customer, is part of AlphaMeasure's compilation, Tales from the Corporate Frontlines. It provides a view from the customer's side of the counter that might inspire you to rethink the old phrase "the customer is king".

Anonymous Submission

I work in a back office environment. The front lines of customer service are far away, so I don't think much about the ethical matters involved in providing good service.

All of that changed recently, when I found myself on the customer side of that check out terminal (formerly known as a cash register), and in dire need of help.

I was shopping for a USB computer keyboard to attach to my computer. I needed that type, and only that type, and I needed it that very day. I visited four different retail stores, all large chains, and had four noteworthy experiences that left me thinking about ethical behavior.

On he first visit, I asked an obviously available (he was playing a video game) sales person how I could tell the difference between PS2 and USB port keyboards as the display models cords were embedded into the rack. His response was -" I just know from working here". Okay. Not unethical, but not helpful either. Well, which one is cheapest, I asked. He showed me a $70 keyboard. I left the store.

At the next stop, I saw no keyboards, so asked a sales person (once she was off the telephone making plans for the evening.) "Oh, she said, the only ones we have come with the computers." I thanked her and went home. The rest of this odyssey would have to wait.

At home, I called another chain store, navigated the voice mail, and asked the clerk if they had USB keyboards in the store and for the cost of the lowest priced model. After a quick click and a short silence, he told me of course, they are $24. Great, I was on my way. It was Saturday evening and the store was packed. I found the keyboard section, and stood there amazed. He had outright lied. The lowest priced model was $80. There was nothing remotely near $24. The few clerks on duty were swamped. I found one available in another department and told him about my situation. He was genuinely sympathetic and suggested that I visit the nearby superstore on the hill. I thanked him and left.

There my journey ended. I found my keyboard, after hours of searching, amid opened boxes (apparently some of them lied, too) in a crowded aisle in the electronics department of a store selling every product imaginable. I was exhausted. No wonder people shop online.