Business Ethics

This is the biggest reason why we’re screwed…

…as long as the United States remains oligarchical this will continue to be the status quo:

Richest 62 People Own as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population

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This article just about sums up my first semester of law school

Since I don’t have time lately to post anything of my own, I thought I might provide a link to the blog “The War on Bullshit” which has, in my humble opinion, posted an accurate and eloquently written article summing up how I feel about law school grading.  Law school is an engine powered by a large amount of arbitrariness and subjectivity along with massive egos of academics (easily developed when one has only had to live in one’s own head for the majority of one’s life).  Couple this with a professor’s inability to teach law in a coherent and logical manner, and voila, you have a recipe for a law student’s living nightmare.

Some profs and some administrators* will say things like, “law is a self-regulating profession so self-teaching is critical” or, “law professors are not trained as teachers” or, “you should spend more time learning from your classmates”.  Well, sorry, but that doesn’t give a law school a valid defense for providing sub-par service (let’s not forget that legal education has become prohibitively expensive).  These are only thinly veiled tu quoque arguments: “your marks stink, student A, because you’re not working hard enough / you didn’t learn the concepts thoroughly on your own.” (but these profs and university administrators know this argument all too well). If I’m learning on my own, then why don’t I just attend law school online?

I will also argue that there is a great deal of special pleading, or goal post shifting, occurring on a regular basis:  “We don’t want the smart students to transfer out of our law school, else we’ll lose our jobs.  Let’s make our marking extra arbitrary and our exams beyond difficult, so we’ll be sure to remove as many marks as possible, and while we’re at it, we’ll lower our grading curve average.”

Thanks.  Make sure that I can’t have good enough marks to transfer out so I can float tuition at your institution for another two years.  But this is all just speculation without evidence.  I wouldn’t want to be accused of making a false cause argument.  My bad. It’s my fault for not understanding the highly sophisticated legal concepts being taught to me.

Despite all of this, we are still left wondering why law students have high rates of depression and substance abuse problems.  Hmm, I wonder why.  But again, that’s just causal speculation.

* I say some, because I don’t want to be accountable for making the composition/division fallacy, where I think ALL profs and administrators are the same.  They’re not, but I often hear similar messages from them.

 

Credit Card Scam?

I realize that I complain a lot sometimes.  But what irks me is lousy customer service (in case you haven’t noticed!) especially when it is because of just bad, or dishonest practices.  I woke up early thinking about this, so obviously it really annoys me and, here I am writing about it.

Happily, I live in Canada, where the banking system has been and continues to be stable, since we have a fairly robust set of laws that hopefully won’t allow our banks to do overly corrupt and hair-brained things like make bad mortgage loans to people who can’t afford them, thereby causing a financial meltdown.

This doesn’t mean of course that banks in Canada don’t do incredibly stupid things, like falling for fraud schemes that are so completely transparent that a 5 year old could have determined that fraud was occurring (this happened to us recently). This caused such a big problem that our lost faith in the competence of the bank’s employees will result in us moving to another financial institution in the near future.

The other week I went into my local major Canadian financial institution branch (this is a different bank than the one mentioned above re: fraud) to do a basic cash withdrawal.  A few weeks later I received a visa card in the mail from said bank.  I could not figure out for the life of me how I got the card, and of course, it made me a little bit paranoid that I received a credit card for which I didn’t apply.

I phoned the institution’s customer service to cancel the card which wasn’t a problem (unlike trying to lose Comcast cable service in the USA, which was like trying to lose an arm).  I also asked the agent how it was that I came to receive a credit card for which I didn’t request, and I was told that I “applied” for the card when I visited my local branch.  I never even mentioned the word ‘credit’ while dealing with tellers at this particular branch.

My feeling is that this is a two-part problem.  The employee who decided to facilitate the false credit application was first and foremost dishonest.  The reason she was dishonest though is probably because the bank expects its employees to meet unattainable sales targets, and this particular employee felt she needed to prop up her sales numbers by sending me a credit card.  I just cancel it, no harm no foul, and either way this employee gets her ‘sale’.

The problem with this dishonest practice is that people like me receive a credit card and worry that there is some kind of identity theft at worst, or, at best, end up annoyed and inconvenienced by having to cancel a product that was forced.  What if I was an elderly customer whose family member was stealing money?  A shiny new credit card would make online shopping easy, for example.

Since I sometimes feel like a little powerless consumer up against big bad corporations in a world where no one seems to give a crap about ethics or customer service, the least I can do is write about it here!

Discussion surrounding sexual harassment and assault in Canada

There has been a great deal of discussion in the Canadian media about sexual harassment and assault as of late; even The Economist has published an article about the subject.  This discussion stems from formal and informal allegations from a number of women who say that they were assaulted and/or harassed by Jian Ghomeshi, the recently fired host of the CBC Radio show “Q”.  Prior to this, I learned that over 300 current and former female RCMP employees were pursuing a class action lawsuit against the RCMP over issues regarding gender discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Also making headlines these days is the controversy over Justin Trudeau’s suspension of two male Members of Parliament (MPs) within the Liberal Party’s caucus; some are viewing his decision to suspend the Members for personal misconduct as politically motivated — done to gain favor of female voters at the expense of the alleged victims’ privacy.  Two female MPs claim that the two now suspended male MPs engaged in harassing behavior towards them.

I read an article in the Globe in Mail recently about a female journalist who was fondled by a drunk male colleague while at a Christmas party, early on in her career.

Sheila Copps, the former deputy Prime Minister of Canada, also came forward recently explaining that a male colleague attempted to kiss and fondle her when she was starting out in her career as well.

When I learned about the RCMP cases coming forward, I felt that the women coming forward were finally taking a stand to say that their experiences were unacceptable, but I didn’t feel as if the issue received enough attention.  Was it because of Ghomeshi’s “celebrity” status that the discussion surrounding sexual harassment and assault has finally gotten some steam?

Regardless, it is positive that many people are thinking about and dissecting the issue. In particular, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of how society engages in “victim blaming” when people come forward with allegations, which plays a big role in deterring victims from reporting these events.  People are also discussing the fact that many instances of assault or harassment become a “he said/she said” scenario because there are often no witnesses*.  These two factors compound distress for the victims, and the latter could even create issues for the falsely accused, making for a very complex issue.  Let’s face it though, do women make this stuff up?  With the way society burdens victims and blames them, it’s almost as if we believe that they do.  The most important issue at hand is the under reporting of harassment or assault because of the burden placed on the victims, and how we can better support them.

Better yet, how can we deter potential harassers and abusers from committing these acts in the first place?  This is not a new question, but one solution is for victims to demand respect when formally reporting these events to create a culture more geared to supporting them.  Lately we are seeing women discussing these issues more publicly.  If perpetrators knew there was almost a guarantee of victims reporting I imagine inevitable consequences could be an effective deterrent.  I realize this is easier said than done, however, as part of the male power dynamic of engaging in this type of activity implies that the victim’s will during and after the fact is manipulated by the perpetrator.

All of this said, I hope all of this discourse means that we are at a crossroads where awareness will help us to make systemic changes to how women are treated both in and out of the workplace.

By the way, where is Jian Ghomeshi anyway?  Is he still in Canada?

* I realize that the instigators of harassment/assault are not always men, and that the victims are not always women, but this is frequently the case.

Have a Comcastic Day!

In light of the nightmarish experience Ryan Block had in trying to disconnect his service with Comcast, today I had the pleasure of spending over one hour on the phone with Comcast, only to move my internet service.   That’s it, simple.  Move my service to another address.  Yep, that’s right.  It took well over one hour to do this.

The employee taking care of my account was not a very good communicator, in that when I was in the middle of giving him my information, he would say “yep” and cut me off so he couldn’t hear me, this way I had the pleasure of repeating myself several times.   This happened until I finally asked him to please stop talking and listen when I was speaking. I was put on hold for outlandishly long periods of time — I will give the employee the benefit of the doubt in perhaps there were ‘issues’ with Comcast’s computer system, but it seemed strange that when I was put on hold twice, there was just radio silence on the other end. I would estimate I was on hold for 10 minutes at a time, until I said “hello?”  to check if someone was actually still there.

The employee didn’t grasp right away that I didn’t want to sign up for a bundle with cable TV, as twice I explained that I did not have a television, and therefore paying for that service would be completely pointless.   So I then said, “No, I do not want a bundle”, after which he finally understood that no meant no.  He later confirmed that I was signing up for cable internet only, told me what the fee was, stating that there was a promotion for a smaller bill than we currently have.  This I find confusing, given that every time we move, the price of cable internet goes up and down for some reason.  Depends on Comcast’s mood, I guess? I’m not complaining that the employee did this, and hopefully he is saving me money so in that case it is appreciated, but I just don’t understand how the price fluctuates constantly.  Anyway.

This customer service person didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t want to have my service moved right away, not until next week.  I had to specify this; otherwise he assumed that the changes would take place immediately.  Furthermore, he tried to impose sending me a new modem, and the $10 charge along with it.  I did not ask for a new modem.  I wanted to move the one I have, and had to be very specific about this, otherwise, I would have gotten a 2nd modem.  The last time I phoned Comcast to move my service, this wasn’t even an issue, so I’m not exactly sure why I was being told that I would be receiving a new modem this time.

At the end of the call, I asked this person for his name and employee number.  Conveniently, he told me he couldn’t ‘remember’ his three-character long employee number.  I then had to wait another 3 or 4 minutes for him to ‘look it up’.

I was then transferred to billing.  I explained that for 3 months I hadn’t received a bill and that  I did not recall asking to be signed up for paperless billing.   I was told that if there was an e-mail address associated with the account, that paperless (“ecobilling”, Comcast likes to call it) would be automatic.  This was news to me.

I have nothing against paperless billing, but it would have been nice if last time while speaking with a Comcast rep, I was told that ecobilling was automatic (i.e., someone actually requested my consent for paperless billing…which of course, never happened). It would have also been nice if, after having ‘signed up’ for ecobilling, that I actually received e-mail telling me I had a bill. But I did not receive any e-mails, for like, two or three months.

The billing person of course could not just wipe off the late charges immediately that accumulated since I didn’t get any bills. She had to ‘put in a request’ to wipe them off the account and this process, if approved, will take 1-3 days to be applied to my account.  So if it isn’t approved, I will have to call back, because, somehow it’s my responsibility to make sure that Comcast doesn’t mess up the billing.  I may potentially get to waste another hour of my life.  Let’s see.

What’s great is, like a person with a record of misdemeanors, now that I was “late” to pay, if a screw-up happens again in the future, I’m sure it’s less likely that I won’t get charges wiped off my account because then it will look like I don’t pay my bills on time.  It’s convenient that Comcast has a monopoly on high-speed internet where I live.

On another note, I sent a complaint about the lousy service I experienced with American Airlines and its inconsistent customer compensation policies due to last-minute cancelled flights, to the US Department of Transportation.  Good luck to me.

Maybe I can become a full-time complainer, kind of like an obsessive, pain in the ass Ralph Nader.

Ralph, I bet you aren't happy with Comcast either.  Just guessin'. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader)

Ralph! I bet you wouldn’t be happy with Comcast either? Just guessin’. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader)