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Moral Dilemma -Product
What would you do?

 12:12 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Part of what we sell online are shoes. One style of shoes has the steel cup on the OUTSIDE of the toe, its a fashion thing. Recently we learned from a customer that people like to weld things to the steel toes. Things like bolts, spikes and other metal parts. Then apparently these people like to kick other people. Pretty disgusting I think.
Now theres no law against this product and we have already invested quite a bit in them. The company will not take them back, they are not defective.
I know its not our responsibility, but knowing this new information I am not comfortable selling them anymore. I've taken all the pairs to storage infact.
What you guys think?



 12:21 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Donate them to an organization that works with homeless people, they will get them distributed to people who really need them. You will get a "gifts in kind" donation receipt for their value so you can write off part of your loss. You'll feel good that you put them to good use and it will probably lift that cloud from your consciousness.

The homeless people receiving them probably would not have the notion to use them as you've indicated.


 12:23 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

I used the belt you sold me to beat my kids, my dog, AND brett tabke every time my Google rankings drop. You should stop selling belts too.

That's not a moral dilemma. It's linkbait. You can't fix stupid, so quit trying. These people would be just using something else to kick people with if you weren't around - it's not like you're making guns. Instead start posting the best things people have welded to the shoes. It could be the next lolcats website.


 1:20 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

It is a good and right thing that you're giving thought to moral issues, and I salute you for that.

However, I strongly suspect that the situation you describe is more urban legend than fact.

For one thing, welding is a highly skilled operation requiring specialized equipment, and it would likely cost more than the shoes were worth to get something like that done. I'm having trouble visualizing how it could even be done without damaging the shoe.

For another thing, anyone who was inclined to weld things to his footwear could do it to ordinary steel-toed work boots by cutting away some of the leather on the toe.

Golf cleats, spiked racing shoes or cowboy boots with spurs could all be used in evil ways similar to what you're worried about. However, that's not why they're made or what they're intended for, so moral responsibility for harmful actions would rest with the perpetrator, not the maker of the items or the merchant who sold them.

If you were selling something that was actually designed and created for the primary purpose of causing bodily harm, with no other redeeming uses, you'd have much more cause for moral concern.

In the case of steel-toed boots, it occurs to me that having the metal protection on the outside rather than the inside could be quite practical, because it would be easier to keep your feet warm on a really cold day.

If this particular footwear style makes you feel too icky, that's your call. But I don't think you'd be crossing any moral lines if you sold them off to at least recover the cost of the goods.


 8:06 am on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

One customer told you that "people" like to do this? Like what... Him and his two friends? I live in L.A. and if it's crazy, people do it here. I've never heard of this. Never seen it. Can't find anything on the net about it anywhere. And my guess is, that if this became a trend and people were getting hurt, the lawmakers would waste no time making it illegal.

At the very least, I'd sell all you have left.


 2:08 pm on Feb 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sell them then don't restock if you wish. While I wouldn't put it past people to do such horrible things, I would venture that it is a small number. Else, we'd hear about it in the news.


 12:58 am on Feb 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I like Seven Cubed's idea. I was selling an item, seeds for a poisonous plant that people wanted to grow because lots of people just like to grow poisonous plants for fun and others like to use them in witchcraft, not to do any physical harm. It turned out that very rarely people were buying the seeds and then using them to try to poison other people, themselves, or animals. First I limited the packs per purchase, but I still got the occasional email that made me suspect that a customer was intending to do something evil with my seeds. So even though I was the only company selling these seeds, I ranked number one for these seeds, they sold well and helped people find my site, I quit selling them because I didn't feel good about it anymore. I know people could go to the grocery store and by rat poison if they wanted to do similar harm, so it wasn't like my seeds were causing this behavior, but I felt like my entire endeavor was being schmutzed up by the bad karma of what a very few people wanted to do with these seeds.

We are in business for ourselves not because we just want a job but because we want something more--our own business where we are the boss. That means we get to make decisions that for others might be irrational because they are based on something other than the bottom line. As far as I am concerned, being able to act on one's own ethics or ideas or a hunch or whatever is part of the beauty of a small business.

If it makes you feel better to get rid of those shoes, get rid of them by giving them to a charity.


 1:07 am on Feb 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm with SevenCubed on this.

I'd guess that anyone who might be inclined to weld things to the tips of their shoes so the could hurt someone would probably know someone like minded who had the equipment to do so.

Sounds bizarre though.


 3:57 am on Feb 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well, that's true enough. You gotta feel good about what you sell. I just wouldn't worry about it that much. Heck, a sizable portion of the population would rank my career as lower than waste disposal technician. But I'm quite happy with the fact that I'm an expert in my field and for the folks that are interested, I'm able to help them. I'm sure it's the same for folks in adult. Some folks would say it's degrading, others would say it's helping people. If you're of the attitude you're degrading, then time to move on. Or change your attitude.


 2:15 am on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks so much for you guys posts.
I have a clearer idea now.
Its almost like the video game debate; Are video games too violent or do crazy people do crazy things no matter what.
We decided to sell the rest of the stock and not reorder. But with one condition, if anyone mentions welding stuff on the toes, no sale.
Thanks again.


 1:31 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

If I owned a gun shop and someone bought a gun from me and shot someone with it, I wouldn't feel morally obligated to close my shop.

It's a style. Just because some people used it in a manner in which they shouldn't have doesn't mean everyone else should be denied the product. I say don't change anything you're doing.


 5:29 am on Mar 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I used the belt you sold me to beat my kids, my dog, AND brett tabke every time my Google rankings drop. You should stop selling belts too.
When you stop selling - please notify me. I know someone who can take over your backlinks :)


 1:44 pm on Mar 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

Come to think of it, you have an opportunity for an amazing ad campaign here... ask customers to buy your shoes, weld random crap to the toe, then send in a picture and have a photo contest for the dumbest crap ever welded to a shoe. I bet you would get a ton of traffic from it.


 7:04 pm on Mar 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

That is a great idea.


 7:24 pm on Mar 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

That doesn't make sense to me ... why should the OP develop a promotion that encourages the very activity he's uneasy about?

IMHO that would be misdirected energy on both the personal and business levels.


 12:44 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Because it would be treating the shoes as art objects instead of weapons. And that would change the orientation of the people who were putting stuff on their steel toes. You don't usually use a sculpture to wonk someone in the head.


 1:19 am on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Maybe it's best not to own a gun shop.


 1:25 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

That doesn't make sense to me ... why should the OP develop a promotion that encourages the very activity he's uneasy about?

It doesn't encourage it, it turns it around. Explain to the visitors what's been happening (and it probably only happened once), and how dumb it is that people would weld stuff to shoes. Flip it around and attract an audience who will buy them for another reason: to weld dumb crap on the front, making fun of it.

There are people out there who love stuff like this. After the initial Obama Mania wore off and he started slipping in the polls, companies selling that Obama coin you saw on TV had tons of them and no one was buying. But in the end, the real sales figures came from people who didn't like Obama. Someone started a site where they encouraged people to buy the obama coin, destroy it, and upload the video to a site. The site didn't stay online very long, but it created a huge surge of sales for all of the companies selling Obama coins in the meantime. I know at least one company selling that coin sold more coins to the tea party types than they did to the Obama fans.


 1:30 pm on Mar 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

You could weld snowshoes on to them :).

Or a chain from one to the other.

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