We can only move into the New Earth if the business world can clean up its act, says Suma Varughese
A forward I read recently talked admiringly of Apple’s pricing strategy, which apparently goes thus: They have three different options for each model, the first one being at the lower end, and the second one considered to be a decoy. The decoy’s job is to nudge the consumer towards buying the top-end model by presenting very little difference between their prices. Thus, in the case of the iPhone 11, the cheapest is for $699, then comes the decoy model, theiPhone Max for $999, and the top-end iPhone Pro Max for $1099. Seeing the difference of only $100, customers go for the iPhone Pro Max. Were it not for the decoy, many would have veered towards the first option.
The logic is clever, no doubt, but is it right? I also read a long time back about a toothpaste company which was cracking its head on how to make the consumer use up their products faster so they could sell more. The award went to a lowly factory worker who suggested that the mouth of the tube be made wider. Again, clever, but right? I often wonder if this is what they teach at management schools—how to deceive and dupe the consumer, and get him to cough up more money. Isn’t it an astonishing and unfortunate situation that learned people are being paid lakhs a month to teach their students how to be duplicitous, cunning, and conniving?
I don’t say that management schools are solely responsible; I am sure that corporates too are masters at the art of the con. But is there even one person who questions the morality of the act? I confess I don’t know any. Should you be using your knowledge of human psychology to make people spend more money? Is this not manipulative? Is it not dishonest? Why then are we not protesting? Wrong is wrong, wherever we see it. Lies are lies, whoever practices it. Somehow, it appears that the entire world has decided to close its eyes to the malpractices of the business world.
But the Universe, at any rate, has its eyes wide open. Friends, we live in an ethical Universe, and you can be sure that we will pay fully and fairly for all that we do. What is the coronavirus pandemic but an economic corrective? The entire global economy is upending, and should we really be surprised?
Remember the fairy tale about the emperor who was conned by a couple of rogues to walk on the streets dressed in what they persuaded him to believe was such a superfine garment that no one but the most discerning would be able to see it? Finally, it was left to a little boy to say the obvious: “The Emperor has no clothes.” I believe that we have come to a similar place in our experience of the economy. It is time to stand up and say loud and clear that the corporates, the economists, and the business schools are morally bankrupt. That in their pursuit of profit, they have committed every possible act of treachery and exploitation. And that it is time for economics to clean up its act. We must insist on it.
It is time for business to turn over a new leaf, to practise its trade honestly. It is time for them to make products that genuinely benefit the consumer, instead of coming up with meretricious ware that they spend a fortune advertising to deceive the customer that he needs it. It is time to speak the truth about one’s products and not indulge in blatant lies. It is time to respect the consumer and not con him.
If the pandemic’s mission is indeed to pave the way for the New Earth, then this has to be the unavoidable next step.
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