Dear Ethix – Issue 46

Employment Agreements

Twice in my business career I have had to deal with employee agreements (noncompete agreements). They do pose an ethical and legal dilemma. (See “Ethics at Work,” Ethix 45).

In both cases the agreements were set aside via negotiation. I was able to demonstrate that it would be in the best interests of my employer(s) to grant me a release from the agreements.

I would suggest that the writer look for ways to present a “win-win” settlement.

Charles R. Jenner
Seattle, Wash.

Broetje First Fruits

The Broetje story (Ethix 43) is truly amazing — and deeply inspiring. It should be reproduced and distributed in every business school — just so students could see what one family business, started by very ordinary people with no silver spoon, can do to make a difference in the lives of the poor. I’ve seen their logo in stores, but now I’ll try to buy First Fruits intentionally. I wonder if critics (people envious of them, perhaps) ever accuse them of being patronizing. I hope not!

Karen Freeze
Seattle, Wash.

Another Electronic Transaction

My experience with Bank of America and Magazine Service Center sounds a lot like yours.

Editor’s note: This in reference to the “Technology Watch” column, Ethix 40, “Who Is to Blame for Failed Electronic Transaction?.

I also had a forced charge to a cancelled credit card for a magazine subscription. I think I went through 10 or so people at Bank of America, most of who were happy to take off the late charges but forwarded me to other departments. Claims, fraud, and disputes couldn’t help, and actually told me that the charges never went through (but were at a loss when I asked them why I was holding a bill in my hand!). They also couldn’t explain how an account that I’d closed a year ago could be charged. They gave me the number for Magazine Service Center, but when I called in and they asked me to enter my credit card number, they couldn’t find it in their file and regardless of what I punched in the keypad, I was unable to get through to a real human.

Finally, today, I found a manager at Bank of America named Suzanne who called the Magazine Service Center with me on the line and made them reverse the charge (it sounded like she was familiar with the company and had heard this bit before!). So, I hate to get my hopes up, but I think its finally taken care of! Suzanne also said that she’d monitor my (closed) account to make sure that there are no other charges from the Magazine Service Center on there. I’m cautiously optimistic!

I found your article on the Web by doing a Google search on Magazine Service Center.

Lissa Van Gorkom
Redmond, Wash.

“Integrity” No. 1

This one made me think of Ethix. At the Merriam-Webster’s online lookup of words, the number one word for 2005 was integrity:

Pronunciation: in-‘te-gr&-tE
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English integrite, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French integrite, from Latin integritat-, integritas, from integr-, integer entire

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptability;
2 : an unimpaired condition: soundness 3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness
synonym see: honesty

Roz Picard
Cambridge, Mass.

Editor’s note: “Contempt” and “inept” were two other words in the top 10. We wonder what this suggests?

New Ethics Resource

Please allow me to call attention to the recently published, 4 volume Encyclopeida of Science, Technology, and Ethics (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2005). This reference work includes a long article on “Business Ethics” by IBTE co-founder David Gill, along with close to 700 articles by 400 authors from more than 30 countries on topics ranging from key concepts (sustainability, conflict to interest) to case studies (Ford Pinto, Challenger and Columbia disasters), philosophical traditions (consequentialism, phenomenology), and religious perspectives (Christian perspectives, Buddhist perspectives). ESTE has been rated by “Choice” as “essential” for both academic and public libraries and appropriate for all levels. At $475 for 2,500 double-columned pages this is less expensive per word than a basic 250 page novel! For more information, see Full disclosure: I was the editor-in-chief of this work. I have also been, from issue #1, a subscriber to Ethix.

Carl Mitcham
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colo.