Notes from the world of business, Department of Honesty

"We lie all the time and it wears us out. We manage our companies through a series of delusional clichés: 'The customer is always right,' 'I'm not angry;' and 'We're proceeding according to plan.' But lying takes a huge toll in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression."

--Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty

"[Telling the truth] is a bizarre principle to apply to people, let alone to business, where holding back information or telling little white lies is par for the course. Managers, like politicians, have to be economical with the truth."

--Ruth Lea, spokesperson of England's Institute of Directors

"Lying lies at the heart of good business, but when all else fails, tell the truth."

--Michael Finley, co-author of Why Change Doesn't Work

"If you have the right strategy and believe in what you are doing, you should be able to circumvent the need for anything but the truth."

--Julia Hobsbawm, head of PR firm specializing in "Integrity PR"

"One entrepreneur, Gerald Ratner, wiped out half a billion of shareholders' money and was forced to resign as chairman of Britain's largest high-street jewelers when truth got the better of him. Following an especially fine luncheon at the Institute of Directors, he revealed to fellow diners how he was able to peddle his trinkets at knockdown prices: 'Because it's crap.'"

--from The European, November 1997

And this related story from the New York Times:

"It was past midnight when Beverly Dennis came home, weary from her second-shift factory job, and found a letter with a Texas postmark among the bills and circulars in the day's mail. As she read it in her small house in Massillon, Ohio, alone in the dark stare of the sliding glass doors, her curiosity turned to fear.

The letter was from a stranger who seemed to know all about her, from her birthday to the names of her favorite magazines, from the fact that she was divorced to the kind of soap she used in the shower. And he had woven these details of her private life into 12 handwritten pages of intimately threatening sexual fantasy...

The letter writer was a convicted rapist and burglar serving time in a Texas state prison. He had learned Ms. Dennis's name, address, and other personal information from one of the product questionnaires that she and millions of other consumers had received in the mail, innocently completed, and sent back to post-office boxes in Nebraska and New York on the promise of coupons and free samples. Their answers were delivered by the truckload to the Texas prison system, which was under contract to handle the surveys for the Metromail Corporation, a leading seller of direct-marketing information. Hundreds of unpaid inmates, many of them sex offenders, entered the information on computer tapes for Metromail, which has a detailed database on more than 90 percent of American households..."

 
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