Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Special Post Thanksgiving Food Feature: Store Brand Ethics

Dr-PublixI may be the only person who cares (other than the company’s that are losing sales to the tactic), but look-alike labeling, branding and packaging are ethicly objectionable if not flat-out fraudulent, and if it isn’t that, it’s a insult to shoppers’ intelligence. I particularly detest kids DVDs with the same titles and similar graphics as Disney DVDs, but containing cheap knock-offs that look like Hanna Barbara cartoons when the cartoonists were having a bad day. Now that my kids video purchasing days are over, it’s over-the-counter drugs and food packaging that trick me when I’m not paying attention and in a hurry, and with me its one or the other, often both. I got caught Wednesday, in fact, buying a Safeway knock-off that had the same colors as the real McCoy.

Thus I’m grateful to Consumerist, which recently asked for readers’ to send in photos of the most ridiculous examples of store brand imitations. With these, it’s not the lame attempts to fool consumers that’s annoying so much as the laziness and the pure lack of respect and creativity involved in the effort or lack of it.

There was a theme on the late, lamented film satire show Mystery Science Theater 3000 when the special effects or other aspects of the cheesy science fiction and horror movies they mocked were particularly ridiculous: “They just didn’t care.”

That’s what’s going on with this Hamberger Helper rip-off…


and this pathetic “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” clone… Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising

Ethics Dunce: Nutella

The latest ISIS plot?

                                                         The latest ISIS plot?

Remember the little deaf child named Gunner whose school wouldn’t let him sign his own name because of —EEEEEK! GUNS!!!!!—? The people at Nutella think like that school’s administrators.

Nutella offers customized jars of the filbert ick , but  refused to make a personalized jar for a 5-year-old  Australian girl because her name is “Isis.”

The girl’s aunt tried to buy five customized jars for her niece and nephew. The local store accepted her nephew’s name, Odhinn—-Now THAT name is offensive: it’s bad enough naming a poor kid after the head Norse god, but spelling it like that? — yet the manager refused to order jars for little Isis. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Dunces, Marketing and Advertising

When Race-Sensitivity Becomes A Pathology: The Case Of Kevin Durant’s Shoes

The offensive shoes, and even though they cost $180, the offense is not the shoes...

The offensive shoes, and even though they cost $180, the offense is not the shoes...

NBA star Kevin Durant, who grew up in Maryland’s majority African American Prince George’s County, put both his initials and those of his home community on Nike’s  “KD8 PG County” model basketball shoe. Rather than being grateful or feeling honored, however, many in the community are complaining that Nike, and Durant, has “offended” the area.

“As you can imagine, we are very proud of the success of Prince George’s County native Kevin Durant, and the pride that he has in growing up in the county,” the office of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in an e-mail sent to Nike. “We do want to make the Nike corporation aware that ‘P.G.’ is a term that many in Prince George’s County consider pejorative and/or an insult.”

What? I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for decades and heard the county called “P.G.” and “Prince George’s” interchangeably without comment. Now the County’s initials are offensive?

Explains the Washington Post: “Insiders” say the initials could just as easily stand for “Pretty Ghetto” or “Pretty Grim.”


Of course, “P.G.” could also just as easily stand for Poor Godzilla, Putrid Gin, Parsimonious Greeks, or Penis Garnish.

Kevin Durant, who is black, decides to give his community a call out and gets slammed for it by activists and race-baiters who are actively searching for ways to elevate themselves, manufacture publicity and influence, and gain the power of the victim.

A group that is perceived—accurately in too many cases—to be so determined to find racial offense that its allies, supporters,  friends and in this case, members must be constantly vigilant and wary to avoid being accused of offense will eventually find their one-time allies sympathy replaced by resentment.

Who in their right mind want to deal with people who are looking for ways to call them bigots? There is a limit to how tolerant society will be of the “microagression” game, and there should be.

Racial sensitivity is edging toward racial super-sensitivity, and that will eventually become a handicap—a self inflicted one—if it hasn’t already.


Filed under Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising, Race

White Christmas Ethics (UPDATED)


I just watched“White Christmas” again when my wife wasn’t around (she hates it), and was again struck by how entertaining it manages to be while making no sense at all and containing one ethics breach or gaffe after another. Ethics Alarms did an ethics review of the film in 2012, and reading it now, I realize I was too kind. This is an update.

Yes, I still get a lump in my throat when the old general, played by Dean Jagger, gets saluted by his reunited army unit, which has gathered at his struggling, snowless, Vermont inn on Christmas Eve to remind him that he is still remembered and loved. Nonetheless, it is by far the strangest of the Christmas movies, and also the most unethical. Though everything works out in the end, the characters in the sloppy plot spend the whole movie lying, extorting, betraying, manipulating and generally mistreating each other, always with no recriminations at all, and usually with no consequences either.

The movie starts out with guilt extortion. Army private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) rescues his smooth-singing captain, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) from being crushed by a falling wall in a World War II bombing raid. (It’s not a plot feature, but the battlefield set for the entire opening sequence is itself unethical by being chintzy even by musical standards: it looks like they are filming a skit for a Bob Hope Christmas Special.  I thought it was lousy when I saw it as a kid.) Phil then uses Wallace’s debt of gratitude to coerce him into accepting the aspiring comic as a partner in Wallace’s already successful civilian act. This is obviously unfair and exploitative, but Bing accepts the ploy with good spirits, and the next we see  the new team of Wallace and Davis knocking ’em dead and rising in the ranks of stage stars. Now they have a show on Broadway, and as a favor to a mutual army buddy, they agree to watch the boonies nightclub act of “The Haynes Sisters” (Rosemary Clooney as Betty. and Vera-Ellen, of wasp-waist fame, as kid sister Judy. Did you know that in the “Sisters” number, Clooney sang both parts? ). Bing is immediately smitten with older sister Rosemary, but there is a tiff over the fact that younger sister Judy fooled them into seeing their act: she, not her brother, had sent the letter asking for a “favor.”

This is the first revealed of many lies woven into the script. This one is a double beach of ethics: Judy uses her brother’s name and contacts without his permission or knowledge, and lures Wallace and Davis to the night club under false pretenses.

Bing dismisses Judy’s cheat by noting that everyone “has an angle” in show business, so he’s not angry. Rosemary is, though, and reprimands Bing for being cynical. That’s right: Vera/Judy uses their brother’s name to trick two Broadway stars into watching their little act, and Rosemary/ Betty is annoyed because Bing/Bob (Bing’s bandleader, look-alike, sound-alike brother was also named Bob) shrugs off the lie as show business as usual. True, Betty is technically correct to flag the Everybody Does It rationalization, but shouldn’t she be grateful that Bob isn’t reaming out the Haynes sisters and leaving the club in a huff? OK, nice and uncynical is better than nice and cynical, but Bob is still giving her and Judy a break.

As we soon find out, however, Betty is prone to flying off the handle.

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Popular Culture, Workplace

Have A Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, And Don’t Forget To Review The Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide Before The Annual TV Screening!

It’s right here!


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Love, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships

Comment of the Day: Tesla’s Seat Belt Recall, Moral Luck, and Ethics Chess


Rich in CT delivers a Comment of the Day amplifying the issues in the post, Tesla’s Seat Belt Recall, Moral Luck, and Ethics Chess. Here it is:

I owned a Honda up until last year, until a deer took a gamble that it could get across the same stretch of faster than my car could. Mr. Deer ended up taking a short flight further down the road, and my car ended up taking a short tow to the junk yard.

No one (human) was hurt in this instance, and for that I am grateful.

Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Marketing and Advertising

Tesla’s Seat Belt Recall, Moral Luck, and Ethics Chess

Jaws victim

Ethics Alarms Chief Ethics Scout Fred found this one. Tesla was alerted to one seat belt failure in its Model S, and  recalled them all. This involved a huge cost, of course, and that cost will be eventually passed on to consumers and investors. Fred asks,

“Abundance of caution” is the phrase they used, one I gather is familiar to lawyers. Could they have justified some other response that was less catastrophically expensive? Would they have had a fiduciary duty to do so? Or would that duty lie in maintaining the brand image of meticulous quality at almost any short-term cost, building a reputation that could command premium prices for decades to come?
The issue was simply this: how much did the company want to bet on moral luck? Tesla was aware of a possible design or manufacturing flaw that could kill passengers. It could have been a fluke, and it could have been widespread. If the cars were not recalled—and I don’t know enough about Teslas to presume that there would be any other way to check every single car or replace the seat belts without the expense of a recall, so I will assume for this discussion that there is not—and one or more passenger was killed, then Tesla management would have suddenly become Sheriff Brodie and Mayor Vaughn in “Jaws,” as articulated, with a slap, by the mother of a little boy who became shark bait while playing on his yellow raft. They knew there was a possible danger, and decided that chancing it was a better call than risking the summer tourist business. They balanced the risks, and did nothing.


Filed under Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture