March 05, 2007

Thoughts on Best Buy's secret website and Business Ethics

Business Ethics - yeah like the final Academic Decathlon showdown scene in Billy Madison - it appears that some people may not know what they are. Or maybe they just choose to disregard them.

On the heels of an announcement of Best Buy being accused of using a secret website (via Seth Godin) to pull the wool over in-store shopper's eyes, I'm left wondering who might have built such a site? Now I'm not accusing anyone of anything because there is plenty of accusing going around already and I'm sure there will be more to come. Can anyone say Class Action Lawsuit?

Anyway, I have no idea who built Best Buy's website, perhaps they even did it themselves. And even if someone else did build it for them I am sure that Best Buy maintains it and it would not be too difficult for them to make a copy of the live site and use it for "internal" purposes.

But for arguments sake, keeping my web developer hat on for a couple more minutes, suppose you were a web developer and you had created two (or more) versions of a company's web site for them. If by some strange chance you somehow found out, or just had an idea, that they were using a copy of the website unethically, what would you do? Or, what if you're the webmaster, an employee of the company, and you're asked to set something up like that? Do you question it? Do you wonder if it's being used unethically? Or are you so wrapped up in your own work that you don't even have a clue. That may be the case, but the buck stops somewhere. If even only some of what they are being accused of is accurate, then there is someone somewhere in the organizational ladder who is responsible for making those decisions and having them implemented. There are people who work for that decision maker who blindly followed along even though they should have known it was wrong. And then there were worker bees who just did what they were told and turned a blind eye.

Are some more guilty than others? If put in the same situation, what would you do?

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