Written Assignment 1: Business Ethics and Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Ginger and Pickles
In Beatrix Potter’s tale, Pickles (a terrier) and Ginger (a cat) were co-owners of a village shop that sells various household goods, such as flour, sugar, and candy. They were very generous with their customers, giving them unlimited credit for the items they buy. As a result of their graciousness, the customers “came in crowds every day and bought quantities, especially the toffee customers.”1 But as Pickles and Ginger came to realize, there was always no money, and the customers “never paid for as much as a pennyworth of peppermints.” That said, their business thrived and “the sales were enormous, ten times as large as Tabitha Twitchit’s.” Tabitha Twitchit owned the only other shop in the village. Her sales were low because she never accepted credit. One solemn day, however, the good fortune of Pickles and Ginger came to an end: without profits, they simply could no longer operate their store and had no alternative but to shut down. Now, as the only shop in the area, Tabitha Twitchit immediately raised her prices, causing a “great inconvenience” and financial hardship for the villagers. For the next year or so, they had no choice but to pay Tabitha’s exorbitant prices. One can only imagine how delighted they were, however, when Sally Henny Penny re-opened Pickles and Ginger’s shop. She sent out a poster reading “Penny’s penny prices! Come try, come buy!” The shop was “crammed with customers” and she offered a “remarkable assortment of bargains.” Yet, unlike Pickles and Ginger, Sally Henny Penny insisted on being paid cash and did not accept credit. In time, her shop became hugely popular among the villagers and a great financial success. Sally Henny Penny was cherished by all.
Identify and explain the various approaches to ethical reasoning in Potter’s tale. How do they apply to the business practices of Pickles and Ginger, Tabitha Twitchit, and Sally Henny Penny? Were they out-come or duty-based? Who demonstrated the highest ethical behavior, and who the least? What impact did each character’s actions have upon the village community? Use the legal and philosophical terms and concepts from your textbook readings.