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To be or Not to be: Part 6 – The Larger Good ?

I was about 18 years old and I used to be a very active member of a youth group in our area. We had a great bunch of talented guys and girls in this group and we used to have lots of fun cooking up interesting stuff together.

Once we decided to organise a cultural evening; an evening of drama, songs and dance for us to perform and show-off. I was the secretary of the group and played an active role in organising the program. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to get wider participation from the youngsters in the area. So I invited them to participate in the event. Among them there was a girl who was very talented, good looking and a bit arrogant who had never actively participated in our earlier programs except for occasional guest appearances. (Let us call her Monica) I asked her to participate in our cultural evening and she agreed. (May be she could not resist my charm!) She volunteered to be the Master of Ceremonies (MC). She sat through the rehearsals to get a good idea of the various programs, helped us to organise them in a creative sequence and worked out nice introductions for each item which was developed with quite a lot or research to include nice quotes and humorous quips. I was really impressed by the work she did.

On the day of the program, we practiced the whole day and late in the afternoon I went home, had a bath, put on nice clothes and returned to the venue. Then a delegation of few guys from our group who were part of many of the main items for the day, like drama, skit and group songs, approached me.

“We don’t want Monica to be the MC today” Their leader told me.

“Why? She has put in a lot of efforts for this and has done a fabulous job” I replied.

“We don’t care. If she is the MC we will not participate in any programs today”, retorted their leader.

“But you should have expressed your concern earlier. Not at the last moment”

“Nothing doing, it is our decision now”.

I tried my level best to persuade them; begged, pleaded, appealed to their sense of right and wrong and tried to call their bluff. No luck.

If I didn’t heed to their demand many of the items of the day would be cancelled. Many youngsters (in addition to the few who led the anti Monica rebellion) who were part of these programs would be devastated. Also, with the star items cancelled the program would be turn out to be a flop.

On the flip side, if I did heed to their demand, it would be unfair to Monica who had put in so much of effort to knit up a wonderful story line for introductions. Not just that, without the MC, the punch of the program would also be lost; unless I convince her to sacrifice for the greater good, share the story line and get somebody else to do the MC Job.

We can argue the merit of each of these options. Sacrifice many for one? Or Sacrifice one for many? It was double bind, a Morton’s fork; I was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

We face these kinds of dilemmas in our day to day work. Take a few examples; (i) A client comes to us with a complaint. The mistake is ours; but it will be difficult for him to fix it on us. If we accept his demand, there is a cost to the company and one of our colleagues could be in trouble. (Recently Toyota had to go through a similar kind of situation) (ii) We made a goof up in our work. It is easy to bury the mistake and our role in it; but the company will have to pay the price. (iii) We want to push some of our agenda; but one colleague could stand in our way. Should we try to get him out of the company?

Some of us have a simple rule. Choose the option that serves our purpose the most. Some of us want to do what is right. Even this distinction is often blurred and contextual. There are two important factors that will determine whether and when we will compromise doing the right thing. It is the balance between the stakes involved and the strength of our moral conviction in the particular case.

Then what is that could leverage our moral conviction? May be the habit that we develop (Our parents, teachers and Society helped us to develop) would encourage us to choose the right thing most of the times. As Aristotle observed “Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts”. If we develop this habit, we will at the least try to reflect for a moment what is right instead of just what we want. When more people think in this manner most of the time, we will have a civilized society.

Sometimes it is difficult to identify what is right. The reasons tell us one and the conviction the other. From time immemorial the thinking man has tried to find a method to figure this out. Mythologies address this question extensively. Yet do we have the answer? When we get “the answer” to this question, I think we will become one with the god; attain the “true nirvana”

Till then it is a search, and that is what we call life …

About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after. Ernest Hemingway


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  1. Hi Abishek, 

    The answer is in my comment below

  2. Yes, Some comments seem to harsh.  I seem to agree with Gurpreet.

    Even I have a ecommerce site, but I cannot search orders by sku, in fact I cannot search at all.  So some truth in that.

    I have been ecomm for 12 years now (some may say is ecomm that old in India?).

    Yes it many times happens that prices are either not revised or mentioned wrongly on sites.  It is called human error.

    It happens to everyone and has happened to us too.  From our experience we have found it is ridiculous to ask customer for more money.  It always make sense to absorb the loss if it is bearable or cancel the order and refund.  Cancel for refund has it own level of dissatisfaction but it is hurting your bottom line too much, than that is the only option.

    Even BA did this in 2009.  They had mistakenly put USA to India tickets for just $40 Plus taxes.  Many booked in a two hour window before BA shut it down.

    However in the end BA did not honor those ticket and offered some discount coupons to these buyers.

    So there is no right way of getting out of such a situation.  Every solution will cause some pain to the customer. It depends on how much pain one can bear.  MMT and FK are not for profit companies, they are only looking for valuations and will offer phenomenal levels of service.  Even today they are not making much money.

    And no, the vegetable vendor scenario does not apply here.  A sale is only complete when delivery has been done.  In case of vegetable vendor, the delivery was done and sale complete.


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