Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unethical Customers?

1990's- Cadence Design Systems is located in the Silicon Valley of California and produces software. Gradually, a group of employees left Cadence to form a new company called Avant!. Avant! is a direct competitor of Cadence. Avant! was somehow able to produce the same software Cadence sells in far less time it took Cadence. This automatically put a red flag up for Cadence's CEO. After some investigation, Cadence's CEO learned that the former employees who formed Avant! stole Cadence's software and started Avant! based on that stolen software. Everyone, employees and customers, eventually found out about the stolen software. But what did they do? When Cadence's CEO wanted to file a civil lawsuit, they told him to lay off, and it's not a big deal. Avant! was still making sales even though the customers knew the software was stolen. All employees involved in the intellectual property theft were prosecuted and fined.

Most people would look at the former Cadence employees and condemn them for their criminal activities...as they should be. Stealing is never right. But what about the customers? They KNEW the software was stolen, and yet they continued to purchase from Avant!. They just totally brushed off the whole criminal case and gave their patronage to a corrupt company. The employees were prosecuted, but the customers buying essentially stolen goods got no repercussions for their actions.

Now, take a look at Walmart. They are looked down upon by some for their business practices: buying goods from overseas made by employees paid next to nothing to produce them; using its bargaining power to negotiate prices for products far less that their worth. Yet people still purchase from Walmart. What is the difference between purchasing from Avant! and purchasing from Walmart? With the recession now, people need to stick to budgets rather than ethics, so they continue to shop at Walmart which has cheaper prices. The dollar has more weight than ethics.

In theory, customers of both Avant! and Walmart would be considered unethical...but society now does not call them out on it. Are these customers unethical, or is this just the way of life now? What is your opinion?

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