The business of deceit

The Wall Street Journal has done a survey of almost 20,000 people in 19 countries — 16 European countries, plus Russia, Turkey and the U.S to see “whether cheating had become more common and whether it was a major problem”. While the survey covered a range of issues including taxes, business, academics, sports and romantic relationships its findings as it pertains to business in diverse countries is of interest.

The report notes, unsurprisingly that “different cultures have different definitions of cheating: A merchant haggling over a carpet in a Turkish bazaar might offend a Dutch banker’s sense of business propriety. A student who uses material from a Web site for an essay might be punished at one school but not another”. Also expectedly, Italy takes a beating when it comes to when it comes to cheating in business deals with survey respondents naming it as “the country that cheats the most in business. Italians themselves (40%) also said they were the worst nationality when it comes to honesty in business”.

The travel and hotel business has more than its share of purveyors of deceit both in marketing as well as outright dishonesty. The most common complaint for deceptive practices among hotels involves the use of “surcharges” that usually are not disclosed during the booking process. These range from absurdly high “resort fees” in resorts to the tried and tested trick: mark ups on phone charges.

But for sheer brazenness on the travel front there are examples like who according to the Australian police “asks customers to pay for the tickets through cash remittance agencies. Once the money is paid, the fraudsters purchase the tickets using stolen credit cards which are often cancelled by the time the purchaser is ready to travel!” Seems like “Caveat Emptor” or Buyer Beware ought to be the operative phrase for customers in most such situations.