Am I cheating people?

September 26th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

I love your services and have been reading your book, Business Secrets from the Bible

I am with a developer who sells overpriced  property. He tells me to go and see the people in the home and get them to like you first, then sell the property.

Whenever I say anything about it (I have mentioned it many times), the answer back I get is that I don’t believe in the product.

Three months later and only two properties sold from 34.

I’m struggling to know what is right as far as morally goes to my fellow man and right to my boss who unfortunately is my older brother.

Your advice would be much appreciated.

Dino

Dear Dino,

Your question reminded us of a story our good friend, Zig Ziglar, used to tell. He was overseeing a group of salesmen who were selling a rather expensive set of kitchen cookware. Despite having an explanation as to why the pots were a worthwhile investment and merited the high price, the salesmen were notoriously unsuccessful.

One day, Zig asked which of them owned the pots they were selling. When no one raised a hand, he told them that evidently they did not believe what they were telling their potential customers. If they thought that the pots were truly an important and justified purchase, they would have bought a set themselves.

Good and honest people cannot sell something in which they do not believe. Since you consider the property overpriced, you see yourself as having to trick people into buying it. As a decent person, you can’t do that. Ethical capitalism occurs when both seller and buyer win by making a deal. In your mind, you are being asked to make deals where you are the winner and the customer is the loser.

Your boss/brother is correct that you do not believe in the product. Is it possible that you don’t have a clear picture of business expenses and that the properties are fairly priced? Are any other people in the company selling more successfully than you? Do they strike you as generally immoral and deceitful?

We would be interested in knowing how you arrived at the conclusion that the properties being sold are ‘overpriced’.  Here is not the place to delve deeply into the concepts of value and price; we explain that fully in our book, Thou Shall Prosper. However, and meaning you no disrespect, since time immemorial, unsuccessful sales professionals have complained that the products they are meant to sell are overpriced.

Can you acknowledge your brother’s charge and ask him to explain the pricing to you so that you will be comfortable – or you will find out that your discomfort is based in truth?

Perhaps your brother is inexperienced and the lack of sales is giving him a more realistic view of what the properties are worth? Both of these explanations assume the best of your brother and allow you to work with a clear conscience as both you and your brother learn more about the business.

Of course, it is possible that greed is the operative word here. In that case, we don’t see how you can continue in this position. You can’t do a job in which you see yourself as stealing from innocent victims. Because of the family relationship you will need to be tactful in removing yourself from the business, but as a good person, it is no surprise that you cannot and should not sell something in which you do not believe.

Wishing you a future filled with ethical capitalism,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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4 comments

Janice says:

As always, such balanced and great advice. This advice can be applied to many areas in life not such sales. Thank you.

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, Janice. One of the things our society encourages less and less is looking at different sides of an issue. We try to do that with the questions sent us as we are only given one view into a scenario.

J says:

Because so few issues in our lives are truly black or white, all right or all wrong. This post and your words are timely. Again – thank you.

James says:

Nowhere else that I can think of can one find such objective analysis taking into account all possible angles and scenarios. What I take home from this superb answer is to challenge every assumption, including one’s own. I can speak from bitter personal experience that oft it is one’s OWN sacrosanct personal assumptions that can be the most tricky and the most dangerous. And the moral would seem to be: look at all the angles, testing FIRST one’s own most dearly held assumptions.

In this I am also reminded of the Rabbi’s destroying the assumption that so many seem to have subsumed, that making money is ‘evil,’ particularly so today, when capitalism is under merciless attack as the root of all evil and socialism defended as the highest good, without further reflection or analysis. The bottom line: who can succeed in life without ‘making a buck?’ On the other hand, our current housing crisis in so many areas should not tempt brokers or house-flipping entrepreneurs to profit excessively from the needy seeking a home base in life.

We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

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