Does a Warranty Make a Product Better?

Ethics is a fundamental part of a model life and it impacts every aspect. Learning good behavior as a child morphs into ethical decision making as an adult. Right and wrong conduct can be seen in business and one’s personal life. It is about integrity and honesty in relationships with people, but it may pertain to other situations that do not involve human beings.

The subject came up in class not long ago when a student told the group that he had spent a great sum of money for one of the best backpacks for business for the job he that expects to have after graduation. He wanted to get it early because he felt it would propel him into the future and enliven his anticipation of what is to come. While the others understood this reasoning, it became an ethical issue when he mentioned that after using the new bag for a short period of time, he ripped it. The seam broke open rendering the backpack useless. He wanted to return it.

Now the tone of the discussion changed. Was this the fault of the user/owner or the company? On the one side, students felt that after the first use, an item is now your responsibility. If it needs repairing, you assume the cost. You can take it back to the store, they argued, and see if there is a warranty. It is kind of like a new car, they maintained. You have so many miles before the vehicle is completely in your hands. You may not like the policy, but you know it in advance. With a backpack, a warranty operates in the same way. You could try publicly shaming the manufacturer on Facebook and see if they respond to avoid bad press. Ethics comes into the picture if the student denied using the new bag to take the burden of responsibility off his shoulders. Then it becomes a matter of defective merchandise to the store. Is it defective in any case, used or not. Not every new object is perfect. The class admitted that it should stand up to normal wear and tear and that the owner should get a refund as promised by the warranty. A few held out sticking to their position that the user is at fault for abusing the product. What then constitutes “abuse?”

It was a lively debate on a mundane topic, but ethics is often applied to ordinary situations in life. Perhaps this is why people struggle so much with it. It isn’t clear cut. A warranty may or may not make an item better. It is not a matter of opinion, however, and the issue is worthy of debate. It made for a good object lesson. While there was a draw in the end, as students remained divided, one student threw out a comment as the class got up to leave at the end of the hour. “You should get a different brand next time,” he shouted. “You won’t have a warranty problem.” Well, everyone has their opinion I thought.