Telling the Partial Truth: Ethical or Unethical?

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Telling the Partial Truth: Ethical or Unethical?

Guan Huang
250547949
D. Proessel
Philosophy 2074G
March 27th, 2013

The article Advertising: The Whole or Only Some of the Truth by Tibor R. Machan states that only telling the partial truth is ethical in advertising. I completely agree with the author’s standpoint and am trying to defend his viewpoints by supporting in four aspects. Firstly, I am going to prove Machan’s position that sales associates are selling a combination of product, environment and service. Although there will be various prices for the same product at different stores, sales associates are not obligated to provide all of the locations that sell the product, and the price of said product at each location. Second, I am going to defend Machan’s position towards consumer beware. Thirdly, I will argue against potential criticism by strongly supporting Machan’s position— commercial advertising should be forgiven for putting one’s best foot forward. Finally, I will highlight the definition of essential truth versus the whole truth to support Machan’s point that failing to tell the whole truth is ethical with some boundaries.

In Leiser’s argument, suppression veri is unethical because the salesperson may use the technique of price deception, which is concealing the fact that their product can be purchased at a far lower price elsewhere. As Machan says, “it is legitimate for customers to seek satisfaction from the market, we must keep in mind that customers often seek various combinations of satisfaction, not simply product or price satisfaction” (Machan 586). Machan claims that when a customer is buying a product, he or she is not just looking for the product itself and the price. He or she also adds many other factors such as certain location of the store, customer service during the purchase, and store environment into consideration. These various combinations of satisfactions cannot be ignored. Buying a cup of Starbucks coffee in the Starbucks coffee shop compared to purchasing a bottle of Starbucks coffee in the grocery store can be a good example. The Starbucks shops don't just sell coffee; they sell an atmosphere (Daniel R.). People go to Starbucks usually not for just a cup of coffee, but the combination of product including relaxing atmosphere in Starbucks store, the friendly service they provide, other Starbucks products that could be also bought etc. But purchasing at a supermarket also can be seen as a combination that includes self-service, a package of Starbucks in bulk, and convenience. The combinations are simply valued differently, and thus are priced differently. As a result, this proves Machan’s position that sales person is selling the combination of the product and that price deception proposed by Leiser is inconsistent.

After proving a classical form of egoism as the most appropriate method to morally guide business conduct, Machan holds the position that to promote one’s rational self-interest, “a merchant could be acting with perfect moral propriety in not offering help to a customer with the task of information gathering” (Machan 588). Thus, it is morally correct to answer only part of a question, or even deflect a question from a customer to avoid lying to them. As long as the merchant does not lie, it is perfectly ethical to communicate to the customers with a sole goal of selling the product (not caring for the customers’ personal interest). Buyers should take the responsibility to gather information. For example, McDonald’s posts all of the nutritional information of their foods on the company’s website. It is the customers’ personal responsibility to go on the website to find the information, and not the servers’ responsibility to inform the customers of the caloric or sodium content while placing the order. Machan’s position here is that information is available (through various forms communication) and the customer must not rely on the merchant to receive this, but...
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