A question of ethics

Let me shake off the dust here. Been a while since I’ve posted. My apologies faithful readers, rest assured that things have gone back to normal in my life – which means more posts.

So here’s the topic du jour:

Consumer morality or, A Tale of Secondary Ethics.

That is: Is it ethical for a business to allow, nay, essentially facilitate a secondary market for their items?

Since the dawn of collecting, there have always been those people – if you can really call them that – I’d say most people on the receiving end would call them scum. I’m talking about the scalpers.

The people – without whom – we might actually be able to buy the concert tickets, action figures, Amiibos – what have you – without having to pay through the nose or compromise our principles to acquire.

So here’s my thought process, and you’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong: Being that I work selling Skylanders, Amiibos, etc – I try to limit people’s purchasing. I have no problem if someone is coming in to buy a whole wave of figures for themselves. But I won’t let someone come into my section and buy up a whole character. I know what they’re doing, and I’m not going to let them profit off of other people’s misery. I’ve been in a position many times where I could have kept or bought and flipped something for double or triple its value. The allure of money is most certainly tempting. That being said – it’s a total breach of my personal ethics.

I do see some retailers, Toy-R-Us for example, who have taken a stance on it at a store (and more likely) a corporate level. They know why people are coming in to buy 20 Meta Knights. But it is a bit of a sticky wicket. A moral quagmire, if you will.

Certainly, they are in it 100% to make money. And to a high extent – to make sure every customer leaves happy to influence future purchasing behaviour. The quandary comes in when you have to decide – at that higher level – which strategy is going to help more, or, burn less. Let’s weigh the pros and cons for both:

Letting the scalper scalp:

Pros

  • Every product sold is revenue earned
  • Selling out basically ensures replenishment
  • More product sold = recognition for the store/management

Cons

  • Allowing scalpers to purchase for re-sale is the tantamount to creating the secondary market first-hand
  • Lack of stock for other customers – which leads to less people coming in looking for specific items
  • Gives the store a bad reputation to the primary customer base
  • Not having accessories like Amiibos means sales drop on the bigger ticket items that incorporate those accessories (read: consoles, software, etc)

Stopping the secondary market on the store level:

Pros

  • Shows the customer that their needs are put ahead of numbers/statistics
  • Equitable distribution of product, creating inherent good will in the customer’s mind
  • Increase in sales of related products due to availability

Cons

  • The possibility of clogging stock due to unsold units
  • Angry scalpers (who, no matter how much you may dislike are still “customers”)

Now I know sometimes there are legitimate stock-shortages due to manufacturing/shipping difficulties. But the truth is that most businesses condone this behaviour because money is money. At the end of the day – all the people who are interested see is X dollar amount gained in X department. They don’t see (and I’m sure in some cases, they don’t care) how those numbers break down – or the ramifications thereof.

Maybe I’m more sensitive because I’ve often found myself having to contemplate giving in to the temptation of buying from scalpers in my various pursuits. Maybe I’m just echoing the thoughts of those I interact with. More likely the latter. Seeing the eyes of customers who are relieved to hear that I stand up for them even without knowing them, makes it all worthwhile. At the end of the day, it’s definitely about integrity. Mine, or the stores, but it should count for something.

– The Ego

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