Saturday, November 26, 2005



The competition between ethics and aggressive business tactics was raised on Episode 10 of
The Apprentice.

As shown on TV (and we get to see only a fraction of what actually happened), here's the story:

Teams A & B both decided they needed megaphones.

Team A thought of it first and rounded up all(?) the megaphones in NY, all of which were at Radio Shack, and had them reserved and shipped to one store.

Team B discovered this and raced ahead of team A to the store. Team A, assuming the megaphones were being reserved for them, took a slow ride down to the store.

Team B got there first, misrepresented themselves (by omission or explicitly) as having reserved the megaphones and bought them (all of them? or only 9 of ten?).

Team B then had 9 or 10 megaphones. Team A had one or none. (Team A did not try some other tactic to replace the "stolen" megaphones by some other means, at some other store, or with some other technology -- eg a microphone and a speaker.)

Team B then won the task (having people call to reserve a free sample of perfume) by 5 calls out of about a thousand.

Team A then complained that team B stole their megaphones. Trump and Rancic praised team B's aggressive competitive behavior.

The lack of information the audience gets leaves open many questions, raised by the explicit endorsement of aggressive tactics. For example: What did the Radio Shack employees know? (There was a cameraman there. Something was out of the ordinary.) Was there any manipulation of the results? (Easy enough to have people make a few extra calls on someone's behalf to change which team wins. For that matter, who even verifies the results they announce?) Why did team A travel so slowly to the Radio Shack to pick up the megaphones, and why did all three members of the team have to travel together?

The ethical questions, of course, are: Did team B commit fraud, and if they did is that OK to win the task? If it was was not fraud, did team B play fair, and should they play fair? Did the producers of the show help (explicitly, secretly, or in some subtle way) team B win, and if so is that fair (to the contestants and to the audience)?

There have been a number of comments on BLOGs and personal websites. Here's a small sample:

"You're saying thet Randal's tactics would have gotten him fired in the real world? Oh Please!!!!!"

"The business ethics endorsed by Donald Trump and Bill Rancic on tonight's episode of The Apprentice are reprehensible. "

"...impressive last night was the lesson that you can foil a competiors plan and you should do it if you get the chance.

When Rebecca and Randall chose to go to Radio Shack to get the other teams megaphones I knew that Trump would mention how cunning it was when they got into the board room."

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