VanMoof Bicycles in Flatscreen TV Shipping Boxes: Justified Deception?

business_ethics_highlights_2Deception in business is generally wrongful, but justified in some circumstances. The law seeks to police most vigorously sellers’ deception about the material features of products because it impairs the ability of buyers to make a rational purchasing decision. But what if a seller’s deception is aimed not at the buyer, but at the seller’s shipping partner? And what if the deception is intended not to impair the shipping partner’s rational decision making, but to induce the shipping partner to deliver the level of service it has already promised the seller by contract?

In the linked article, we learn bicycle company VanMoof seeks to reduce shipping damage by putting flatscreen TV graphics on its shipping boxes in order to deceive delivery persons into thinking they are delivering flatscreen TVs rather than VanMoof’s technologically-sophisticated bicycles. So far, the practice seems to be a success: in-transit shipment damage has declined 70-80% since the flatscreen TV graphics were added to the boxes. But is it also an ethical success? This short piece would be a good way to motivate a classroom discussion about the ethical contours of deception in business. >>>

LINK: To reduce shipping damages, a Dutch bike company printed a television on their boxes (by Andrew Liptak for The Verge)

Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof found that it had a problem. As it shipped its products to customers, it found that they were arriving to customers damaged. The company came up with a genius solution: print a graphic of a flatscreen television on the side of the box.

By making its shippers think that they were transporting flatscreen televisions, the company found instantaneous results: “shipping damage to our bikes dropped by 70-80 percent” said [VanMoof creative director Bex] Rad. As Cycling Weekly pointed out, nobody wants to damage a new television, and few people equate an expensive bike with electronics.

What do you think?

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