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The NZ Herald today reported that a real estate firm has been fined $7,500 for breaching the Fair Trading Act, following a case in December last year where an agent, let’s call him Tim because that’s his name, was sentenced for advertising a property as “buyer enquiry over $380,000″ when he knew the vendor would accept no less than $400,000.

This reminded me about a phone call I received last week from a popular cell-phone network. The salesman, let’s call him Bob, promptly ran into a speech offering me a free cell phone and all sorts of amazing bonuses in a call plan for my business and began the usual line of questioning resulting in “yes” answers to hook me into the conversation.

Something along the lines of …

“Would you like a top of the range cell-phone for free? Would you like 30 minutes of free call time?”

I was very busy at the time but I always feel for these telemarketers as we’ve all had to make cold calls at some point. Particularly as I once answered “No” to the first question and completely stumped the unfortunate caller.

Wanting to cut to the chase, I asked a number of times what would be involved for me to get this amazing deal and the answer each time took us back to the beginning of the conversation:

“Well … you get a free cell phone and 30 minutes of call time”

After much banging the receiver against my head, I finally extracted the keystone of the entire conversation: I would have to sign up to a call plan that would cost $45 a month.

Had Bob answered my obviously impatient “let me get back to work” flavoured question at the beginning of the conversation, he would have discovered I only have a pre-pay cell phone which I rarely use for calls, with a total bill of $5 per month. Mostly spent replying to my fiancé’s numerous texts.

Bob the cell-phone man and Tim the real estate guy both tried to hide the truth in order to gain interest and land a sale. The problem is, once the deception has been exposed, who’s going to trust the company enough to do business with them? Not me.

Two more topical examples of deception are the Telecom advertising series that uses actors to portray made-up Telecom clients, and the safety campaign for side air-bags that uses an actor rather than a genuine accident victim. Both of these examples have arguments for and against their deception.

However, I am a firm believer that honesty and business can still walk hand in hand down the happy path of success.

So here’s to the Campaign for Honesty in Business! Let’s treat people like the intelligent professionals they are and generate some genuine trust in our business dealings.

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