December 10, 2019

Jewish Business Ethics: Proper Marketing and Selling

There is a famous business concept called caveat emptor (buyer beware). In secular society, as long as a seller does not blatantly lie or actively conceal a defect, it is the full responsibility of the buyer to exercise due diligence and to inspect what is being purchased. Jewish law takes a totally different approach: It is presumed that no defects or problems exist in a product or property if they are not disclosed explicitly by the seller.

We are well aware of fictional examples in literature and old movies of the quack doctor who promises miracle cures. This goes further back than you might think, and was prevalent in the entire Western world. One of the more famous comic Italian operas is Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (“The Elixir of Love”), in which quack Dr. Dulcamara (“Bittersweet”) touts an elixir that cures everything from apoplexy to diabetes, though it is actually just repackaged Bordeaux wine. In this country, the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1906 regulated the drug industry in a helpful way, so that drugs no longer contained dangerous substances like cocaine, heroin, and opium. However, new marketing schemes have continued to emerge and flourish as long as people were unaware of the deception. In the ” target=”_blank”>Nestlé’ Waters’ 5-gallon bottles of water come from the municipal tap water of Woodridge, Illinois, while Aquafina (owned by PepsiCo) also bottles its water from municipal tap water. Even worse, a Coca-Cola subsidiary makes “Vitaminwater,” which sounds like healthful, vitamin-fortified water, but at 130 calories and 33 grams of sugar it is quite the opposite. To make matters worse, several government- and privately-sponsored studies have concluded that tap water is more closely regulated than the bottled water industry. (Additional benefits of drinking tap water instead of bottled water include less waste disposal and lower spending.) In our search for healthy food products, we see labels such as “natural” as well as “organic.” The U. S. Department of ” target=”_blank”>FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.” Thus, all those pesticides, genetically modified food, and “sewage sludge” that are excluded from organic food may well be in “natural” food, and ” target=”_blank”>“low sodium” is often the best option, as it means 140 mg of sodium or less per serving (don’t forget to check the serving size as well). “Reduced sodium” means at least 25 percent less than the regular product. Thus, if a “normal” soup contains a staggering 900 mg of sodium per cup, the reduced sodium version can have 675 mg per cup, which in a 2.5-serving can would still give you nearly 1,700 mg of sodium, already more than the daily suggested serving for children, older adults, and people with diabetes or advanced kidney disease.

In consumer cases, the “>Uri L'Tzedek, the Senior Rabbi at Kehilath Israel, the Founder and C.E.O. of “>Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century.” In 2012 and 2013,