Tuesday, January 30, 2007

COLUMN: Ethics

Sometimes doing the right thing stinks.

As a general rule, my moral compass usually swings in the direction of being a namby-pamby do-gooder. "Bravo," you say. "That's the proper way to live, Shane."

Whatever. Frankly, I'm beginning to think that “doing the right thing” might be a touch over-rated.

Let me explain. A few months ago, I wrote a column in which I name-dropped a local business. I can barely recall the column, but I DO know it wasn't an intentional endorsement on my part. While it's true that I definitely respect this establishment and shop there frequently, I wasn't trying to advertise the joint. I was just telling a story, and that story happened to involve this particular place.

In other words, it wasn't a big deal, which is why I was taken aback when the manager of said business called the other day. It turns out they really liked the piece I wrote, so much so, that they offered me a boatload (OK, maybe just a carload) of free merchandise as a thank-you ... with the unspoken understanding that perhaps I might feel inclined to name-drop the store again in a future column.

I was stunned. My mouth said, "I'll have to get back to you," but I couldn't tell you the part of my brain that was speaking. Wait, no, actually I CAN tell you. It was the part of my brain that likes STUFF. And especially FREE STUFF.

I complain all the time in these pages about my loveless, tedious bachelor status, but there really is one pretty good perk to it all. While you, Random Mature Person, probably have to spend your hard-earned money on houses and kids and having a life, I get to blow my limited income on gadgets, gizmos and assorted useless junk.

You might be saving for college funds or mini-vans. I, on the other hand, went to Toys-R-Us and bought all the Lost action figures this week. (Only because chicks dig guys with action figures, of course. That and the little Locke dude comes with a plastic machete, and that's pretty sweet.)

I digress. Suffice to say, I'm shallow enough to really like STUFF. And this guy was offering a whole BUNCHA stuff! All I had to do was compromise my journalistic integrity and plug his store a few times. How hard could that be? Why hadn't I realized this before?

Could it be that my weekly drivel actually can INFLUENCE consumers? Could businesses really be affected by insignificant little ME name-dropping them in a column? And most importantly, could I thusly use my column to become a corporate shill in order for every local business under the sun to call me and give me free stuff?

This brings me to my next point, which is that Harris Pizza really IS the finest pizza in the world. The secret is their hand-tossed dough, you know. I go there frequently in my trusty Volkswagen New Beetle. Volkswagen: We Build Excitement. Or is that Pontiac? Who cares. All I know is that my newfound journalistic ethics can be summed up in one word: Fahrvergnugen.

Now gimme free stuff. Just kidding. Except that part about Harris -- it really IS the best pizza ever, even IF I have to pay for it.

Sigh. If only it were that easy. We can't accept gifts. It's company policy. Plus it's just plain wrong. The second I take the free stuff, I'm basically working for that company. Or what if I start endorsing Company X and then Company Y calls in all mad? It's just a can of worms I'd better not open.

But that little devil guy on my shoulder can sure be loud. After I got off the phone, I waited 10 minutes and then told my boss, just to ensure that I wouldn't be tempted to call the manager back and claim my booty. The I-LOVE-STUFF part of my brain can rationalize nearly anything given enough time.

But I rose above it. Once again I get to be the boring good guy without the apartment full of free stuff. How lame. So dear readers, it's your job to watch this space and make sure I don't fall into the evil trap of endorsements and journalistic payola. I vow to do my best, or my name isn't Shane Brown, The Official Humor Columnist of NASCAR. And if you're planning on bribing me in the future, you'd better bring your VISA card, because this year Shane Brown doesn't take American Express!


Lin said...

Shane, I love this column, and I just have to say... my absolute favorite part? The fact that you got to use the phrase "claim my booty."

thescoundrel said...

Of course by displaying ethics and integrity you have eliminated Lawyer, Sales (especially Car or Electronics) and Politician from your potential career change list.