Dis(honesty) and Ethics with Computer Repair


I’m not an avid book reader, but with Audible and my membership in Amazon Vine, I find myself reading much more and two books really reinforced my ideals and business model.

First, I highly recommend Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything. Here is my full review on Amazon, but the nutshell is this is a collection of answers to ethical questions by a columnist . By no means are his answers absolute, but it’s the detail with which he goes into thinking about the answers make it interesting. We often have a “gut” reaction to what’s right and wrong but don’t often consider why and how our own self interest comes in conflict with that gut reaction. You have to think about what’s right and wrong in order to be more ethical.

Similarly, Dan Ariely has a book called The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves. I really enjoyed this one because it talked all about the inherent bias we all have in the way we make decisions, and when given the opportunity we can’t help but cheat just a little. The book talks about doctors who will bias treatments based on their financial gain and how they are likely to requests tests and procedures using newly acquired equipment. The purchase of a multi-million dollar digital x-ray machine suddenly inspires the doctor to want to, well do more x-rays regardless of the patients’ best interest. Pharmaceutical reps who befriend doctors tend to get their brand’s medicine prescribed more. This isn’t out and out bribery or conscious efforts, but subtle nudges that impact rational decision making. Don’t believe this happens? Just try taking the famous Stroop test to see how you can’t even pronounce a color without some bias.

In college, my degree was in business psychology and we learned some of the ways decision-making can be biased. Although I didn’t pursue that field it still fascinated me and in my business I’ve used that too my clients’ advantage. For example, when I interview a technician I do a phone interview before I see the person because I know appearances create bias. If she or he looks like someone who bullied me in grade school, I’m likely to find fault in them. If I find them attractive, I’m likely to overlook flaws.

For our clients, I’ve also try to eliminate some bias that would compromise us working in their best interest. We don’t sell computers because we want to help customers find the best computer for their needs. If we sold computers, we’d be subtly biased to what we sell or even worse, what we have in inventory. We don’t sell parts for the same reason, carrying an inventory might bias us. A part hasn’t sold for a few months? Suddenly we find clients that need that part. We keep a very small inventory of parts for repair, but we don’t sell them for a profit and therefore help reduce our bias.

Occasionally I have to actively remember to remove bias. I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s often in our best financial interest in recommending replacing a computer rather than repairing it. Honestly, we make more money repairing old equipment rather than buying new ones. It’s like the doctors Ariely talks about in his book. They can’t help but allow their financial interests to play a part in their recommendations. I realize that bias and work against it. I’ve actually had potential customers tell me they are offended I won’t work on their computer and I have to tell them that ethically it’s not the right thing to do. I truly feel bad in those situations but ultimately it’s the right thing.

After reading these two books my opinion on the issue is reinforced. I’d rather say no to a customer (even possibly offend them) than do something that isn’t in their best interest. I only wish more people thought about the ethical implications of their decision making and looked inwards to their potential bias. They can start by reading these two great books.

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