Ethical bargaining

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Ethical bargaining

Postby cityoftrees » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:45 pm

Hi, everyone. My first post, and I'm very happy to be here.

I've been wanting to make a slight change to my phone/broadband contract, so I called the company this morning to find out what they could offer me. Without going into all the details, I was hoping they would give me a freebie, and in return I was willing to sign up for another twelve months. Well, not only did they offer me exactly what I wanted, but the very amiable customer service agent probably went a bit further than his remit and suggested that if I spoke to the 'Loyalty' team they might be able to offer me an even better deal.

My question is: is there a point at which bargaining ceases to be ethical? It's well known that large companies like these employ 'retention' teams, which can offer much better deals than those publicly advertised in order to keep customers happy or prevent them from leaving. (I should point out that at no point did I say that I was thinking about leaving, the classic hard-bargaining strategy, because that would have been a lie.) It's also obvious that these companies don't consider what is a 'fair' price, only what price the market will bear. Besides which, value is relative; we can never know what value the other person places on something, so we can never determine what they might consider to be a 'fair' price. Do we, as customers, have any obligation to consider what we 'ought' to pay?

If there is no ethical dilemma, the problem, it seems to me, must be in my own state of mind. But how can I determine whether I'm being greedy or whether it's just my own sense of guilt and lack of entitlement that is causing me problems? And let's say, for a moment, that I am being greedy - attaching to money. Wouldn't it be ridiculous to pay more than is necessary, just in order to assuage that feeling? Wouldn't that be attaching to something else: pride in not attaching to money, in being spiritually pure.

Sorry to ramble on. Please be patient with the newbie. Any replies very gratefully received.
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:55 pm

There's nothing wrong with wanting to get a good deal - so long as you don't manipulate, lie, or otherwise take what is not freely given. I really wouldn't worry about, but remember:

"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do.

"While you are doing a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both... you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not... you may continue with it.

"Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful mental qualities.


If, upon reflection, it appears to be an action conducive to pleasant results - which, considering both you and the company will get what they want, it does - then there should be no problem. But that reflection is up to you ultimately.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:06 pm

You, as the customer are just looking for the best deal. The company is not going to give away too much and the company will know what their bottom line is. So there is no way you will be paying "too little." The company on the other hand, there may be some gray areas that they might be crossing if they offer a deal to you but not to someone else who doesn't know how to negotiate well. That ethical dilemma would be on the company, not you.
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby Alobha » Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:40 pm

My question is: is there a point at which bargaining ceases to be ethical?


Hi cityoftrees,

don't lie, don't deceive or speak in another wrong way (swearing, threatening) and you're fine.
People often don't like to bargain in a hardline fashion for understandable reasons like the relationship to people being more important than the monetary issue, desiring to avoid conflict or blame. These are also common reasons why women earn less money - they're less likely to engage in salary negotiations and are less likely to negotiate hardline because of social concerns being more important to them than it's the case for men.

People usually have a good sense as to when they screw others over. If you negotiate with the intention that you simply deserve to have a good deal, to be well and content with the products or services you purchase, you might feel different about bargaining. Honesty works very well. There is no problem in telling your provider that while the services may be good, you would like to know whether the provider would cherish your ongoing loyality and then just see how it goes. Especially broadband providers have to hassle with lots of blame and angry customers every day. Treat others like you want to be treated - If you feel like loyality is of worth and should be treated as something of worth, let your provider know that. That's just that.

If there is no ethical dilemma, the problem, it seems to me, must be in my own state of mind. But how can I determine whether I'm being greedy or whether it's just my own sense of guilt and lack of entitlement that is causing me problems?

If you're greedy to money, you are likely to be angry or disappointed when you don't get the desired better deal. If you can accept whatever offer is given to you at the end of a negotiation, that's a good sign. If you don't feel angry at the customer service, that's a good sign that no greed for profit was involved, too. If you're very greedy, you would also very likely lie or deceive to get the desired thing.

Best wishes,
Alobha
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby Hanzze » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:06 am

cityoftrees wrote:Hi, everyone. My first post, and I'm very happy to be here.

I've been wanting to make a slight change to my phone/broadband contract, so I called the company this morning to find out what they could offer me. Without going into all the details, I was hoping they would give me a freebie, and in return I was willing to sign up for another twelve months. Well, not only did they offer me exactly what I wanted, but the very amiable customer service agent probably went a bit further than his remit and suggested that if I spoke to the 'Loyalty' team they might be able to offer me an even better deal.

My question is: is there a point at which bargaining ceases to be ethical? It's well known that large companies like these employ 'retention' teams, which can offer much better deals than those publicly advertised in order to keep customers happy or prevent them from leaving. (I should point out that at no point did I say that I was thinking about leaving, the classic hard-bargaining strategy, because that would have been a lie.) It's also obvious that these companies don't consider what is a 'fair' price, only what price the market will bear. Besides which, value is relative; we can never know what value the other person places on something, so we can never determine what they might consider to be a 'fair' price. Do we, as customers, have any obligation to consider what we 'ought' to pay?

If there is no ethical dilemma, the problem, it seems to me, must be in my own state of mind. But how can I determine whether I'm being greedy or whether it's just my own sense of guilt and lack of entitlement that is causing me problems? And let's say, for a moment, that I am being greedy - attaching to money. Wouldn't it be ridiculous to pay more than is necessary, just in order to assuage that feeling? Wouldn't that be attaching to something else: pride in not attaching to money, in being spiritually pure.

Sorry to ramble on. Please be patient with the newbie. Any replies very gratefully received.

Dear cityoftrees, isn't the questioning it self a good indeed (for remorse) already?

Wouldn't it be ridiculous to pay more than is necessary

What is necessary? That buyer and seller can live with it without having further troubles?

I guess better as to think to much about the past, it's mabye better to draw a line. Maybe: "I took more than it was nessesary and used the trouble situation of other to gain more. That was not good and causes me remorse and guilty feelings. In future I will be more mindful that I do not fall into such situation." or "I neither took to much as needed, nor did I use the bad situation of others to gain more. I will be carefull to maintain such mays carfully as well also in the future."

This is maybe also useful in regard of the questions: The Exposition of right Livelihood
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby Hanzze » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:13 am

David N. Snyder wrote:You, as the customer are just looking for the best deal.


One moment it read it like "You, as Munika are just looking for the best deal." Maybe that's because of my eyeglasses.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby cityoftrees » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:41 pm

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful replies.

Bit of a strange one, this. I'm still struggling to figure out exactly why I was having a problem. I think it boils down to the fact that I'm quite happy with the price and service that I already get, and so I felt as though, by bargaining, I was going beyond my needs. There seems to be a tension, in my mind, between letting go (of money) in a personal sense - not craving material things, being generous in giving gifts and hospitality - and exploiting the opportunities that I know exist to get good deals when buying things. It's as though, by bargaining, I feel as though I am being ungenerous towards the company. And yet, another part of me says this is ridiculous - that I don't have a 'relationship' with the company and, as David N. Snyder said, the company will not give me anything they're not willing to give.

As Alobha says, a good test is how you feel if you don't get the better deal you hoped for. But my problem seems to be the opposite: I feel that the less-good deal is still a really good deal, and so I feel bad about pushing for the better deal!
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby cityoftrees » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:50 pm

Hanzze wrote:I guess better as to think to much about the past, it's mabye better to draw a line. Maybe: "I took more than it was nessesary and used the trouble situation of other to gain more. That was not good and causes me remorse and guilty feelings. In future I will be more mindful that I do not fall into such situation." or "I neither took to much as needed, nor did I use the bad situation of others to gain more. I will be carefull to maintain such mays carfully as well also in the future."

This is maybe also useful in regard of the questions: The Exposition of right Livelihood


I haven't actually made the decision about the contract yet, so this is not in the past; it is very much still on my mind!

These are precisely the questions I'm asking myself. Am I using the company's situation - their ignorance about my intentions - to get a better deal?

Is asking for a discount - by hinting at an inability to pay a higher price - itself an act of 'nimitta'?

Is offering something that you are willing to give, in order to get something that you value more, itself an act of 'Lābhena lābha nijigīsana'?
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby Hanzze » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:02 pm

Things cheeper as they could be (normaly be), are always at the expense of somebody who loses (whether theses a humans, animal our enviroment generally or anything else). It might be different if it would be a really off-sail or emergency sail.

How ever, enjoy it (that is history already) and just take care in the future. Some do not and start charity work for the third world or other things insteed to compensate remorse. We can do actually a lot in our own sphear.

Just saw you posted something additionaly:
Is asking for a discount - by hinting at an inability to pay a higher price - itself an act of 'nimitta'?

Do you think it's a lie or is it true?

Is offering something that you are willing to give, in order to get something that you value more, itself an act of 'Lābhena lābha nijigīsana'?

I guess that is no problem, if one would not use the bad situation (even if it is simply silliness or strong attachments) of others. For example a poor famer, not knowing much about business and even not able to count, would give you much if you show him some dollars as he is just able to think on his present needs. If you would know that the value of something is actually higher and hidde this secretly, then it is somehow the same.

Look, even a good businessman would not make business with silly people. There is in the end no satisfaction if you make hunting contracts having 100% later with bankruptcy. bad service...

How ever, we always cut of our self if we cut of form others at least.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby cityoftrees » Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:37 pm

Hanzze wrote:
Is asking for a discount - by hinting at an inability to pay a higher price - itself an act of 'nimitta'?


Do you think it's a lie or is it true?


Impossible to say. I don't have a lot of money, but I could pay more, of course. I could give the company all my money. How do you decide what is too much or too little?

I didn't lie to the company. But if I ask for a discount, when I would be willing to pay a higher price, is that 'nimitta'? (By the way, I didn't know these terms before I read your link. I'm just using them according to the definitions in the link.)

Is offering something that you are willing to give, in order to get something that you value more, itself an act of 'Lābhena lābha nijigīsana'?


I guess that is no problem, if one would not use the bad situation (even if it is simply silliness or strong attachments) of others. For example a poor famer, not knowing much about business and even not able to count, would give you much if you show him some dollars as he is just able to think on his present needs. If you would know that the value of something is actually higher and hidde this secretly, then it is somehow the same.


Yes, I agree, otherwise it would be impossible to buy or exchange anything. When we buy or exchange, we are always exchanging something that we are willing to give for something that we value more, otherwise we would not do it. As long as we don't think we are taking advantage of the other party, then we have to assume that they are also acting in their own interests, otherwise all acts of exchange become impossible.
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:32 am

cityoftrees wrote:
Hanzze wrote:
Is asking for a discount - by hinting at an inability to pay a higher price - itself an act of 'nimitta'?


Do you think it's a lie or is it true?


Impossible to say. I don't have a lot of money, but I could pay more, of course. I could give the company all my money. How do you decide what is too much or too little?

I didn't lie to the company. But if I ask for a discount, when I would be willing to pay a higher price, is that 'nimitta'? (By the way, I didn't know these terms before I read your link. I'm just using them according to the definitions in the link.)

What means inability?
I guess there is no problem if one just says: "I am ready to pay this" (without comment) or "I am unready to pay this".

"I don't have a lot of money." even a millionary would say 100 times a day. We are talking about a luxory articel which is not needed in any way. Regarding this special therms, I would not take them as a useful tool for evaluation of ones deeds, they are rather useful for people who are not so able to just look on the intention.

cityoftrees wrote:
Is offering something that you are willing to give, in order to get something that you value more, itself an act of 'Lābhena lābha nijigīsana'?


I guess that is no problem, if one would not use the bad situation (even if it is simply silliness or strong attachments) of others. For example a poor famer, not knowing much about business and even not able to count, would give you much if you show him some dollars as he is just able to think on his present needs. If you would know that the value of something is actually higher and hidde this secretly, then it is somehow the same.


Yes, I agree, otherwise it would be impossible to buy or exchange anything. When we buy or exchange, we are always exchanging something that we are willing to give for something that we value more, otherwise we would not do it. As long as we don't think we are taking advantage of the other party, then we have to assume that they are also acting in their own interests, otherwise all acts of exchange become impossible.


"we are always exchanging something that we are willing to give for something that we value more", no I do not agree with that 100%. Exchange is actually the basic reason for trading. So one has this, know this, has this talent and changes it with things who are made, known by others. There is no basical need to win or a basical need for more value. It's just in a worse sociaty that there is a general thought of win, gain and grow, eating and being eaten. That is an animal sociaty or an animal tendency.

Actually it's more secure and saver of misunderstandings or wrong speculations if we just focus on our own intentions. No need to think about the intentions and situation of others that much, when we are just honest to our self. The more honest to our self we are, the better will be our acting and the lesser will be our remorse and with it a live in peace and of joy with even the possibility to gain more insight step by step.

I find it really great, that you think much about that, most people would. Wish you that you don't stop to discover the roots of remorse and I wish you that you also will never start to develope ideas again, wish could cover the root intentions again.

There is a very helpful word and no more would be needed for success to real happiness: appamada
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby cityoftrees » Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:09 am

Thank you, Hanzze, for your kind words. The link about appamada was interesting and, as you suggested, helpful.

I totally agree that intention is the important thing. Sometimes, unfortunately, the most difficult thing is to understand our intentions!
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Re: Ethical bargaining

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 28, 2012 12:22 pm

Much mudita!

Here is a great sutta, that might give additional support: To Dighajanu
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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