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The Apprentice: Ethics vs. Cash?

So I’m watching The Apprentice with my psychologist friend (Troy and Heidi are awaiting their fate outside the boardroom as I type…) and we’re stuck on something: The interaction between Nick and Bill when they realized one of their customers’ ads had been destroyed, and Nick was sent to the customer to negotiate whether to offer a refund.

So I’m watching The Apprentice with my psychologist friend (Troy and Heidi are awaiting their fate outside the boardroom as I type…) and we’re stuck on something: The interaction between Nick and Bill when they realized one of their customers’ ads had been destroyed, and Nick was sent to the customer to negotiate whether to offer a refund.

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Here’s the dilemma: As presented by the show, it’s a simple conflict between Bill, who feels bad that the ad fell off its display, but wants to hold onto the cash, and Nick, who wants to refund all the money unconditionally. Bill was hell-bent on negotiating as low a refund as possible. Nick said it was a simple matter of ethics — the ad fell off, and regardless of how long it was up before it fell, he was determined to return all the money. Bill sent Nick to the customer to negotiate the refund; Nick went against the directive and refunded the full amount without any conversation.

We felt that there was something missing. Were these really the only two choices that Nick and Bill had? Was it really a question of ethics versus cash? I don’t think so.

It was actually an issue of poor planning and lack of foresight on both their parts. They should have decided on a strategy before calling or visiting the affected customer — instead, they called without a plan, and informed the customer of a problem without offering a productive solution. At that point, it was all too simple for the customer to get irate, demand all his money back, and put Bill and Nick in the position of arguing over whether it was “ethical” to retain some portion of the fee.

With even a few minutes of planning, it would have been a simple matter to script a conversation saying, “After half a day of terrific exposure, the advertisement for your business was damaged and we wanted to offer you a $100 refund as compensation.” That way, Nick and Bill’s team retains a fair portion of its fees but still serves the customer fairly, and the customer feels that Nick and Bill have gone out of their way to treat him right. Ethics aren’t even an issue.