Ethics Again?

Some recent news stories reported the results of surveys on the topic of honesty and ethics. Specifically, the surveys reported teens’ responses to questions on honesty. Thirty percent of teens responded that they had shoplifted merchandise. Better than 60 percent said they had cheated on tests at school. Moreover, they justified the cheating because it resulted in better grades. Makes sense—the ends justify the means.

Cheating and ethical violations are no strangers to the jewelry industry. We are all familiar with the grading scandal of a few years ago. We know, too, about the financial misrepresentations of high-level management personnel that caused a major chain to fail. And I’m certain each of us can point to specific examples of ethics lapses in our own experience.

At the same time, prominent industry retailers and associations pay lip service to rubies from Burma by lobbying for the prohibition of their sale in the United States in a hopeful but very likely feeble attempt to “pressure” the junta in Burma, a.k.a. Myanmar, to change its policies. Is this action based on a realistic expectation of their actions or simply a preemptive public relations move to avoid media attacks from aggressive investigative reporters? Cynical? Yes. Ethical? On a pure level, the an-swer is yes. On a practical level, the answer is unclear.

Recently, a sales representative who represented an Indian loose diamond manufacturer told me his story about working toward and actually closing a multimillion-dollar deal with a major chain only to be terminated and denied his compensation for the sale by the manufacturer.

Simply stated, ethical behavior is doing the right thing for the right reasons without anyone looking. There are always clear-cut examples of dishonesty. And, when these cases come to light, we collectively say: “How could they be so dumb?”

There are other examples like the sales guy who was left with empty pockets after having done his job and secured the order only to be canned when the order was received. His only option is to sue. That option requires time and money. Neither is a particularly wise use of resources when unemployed.

Knowing your vendors is a key factor in choosing them in the first place. If they play free and loose with their hired hands when they come to the United States, what will they do with your orders? Will you get the quality you ordered? Will the weights be accurate? Will the karatage of the mountings be accurate?

Honesty is a character trait that is required in every relationship. The scary thing is those teenagers surveyed about honesty will go on to college and graduate school and eventually the workforce. Until and unless someone holds them accountable—their parents, their teachers, their professors—they could end up working for you!

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