Tower advertising ethics question

Dear Michael,

  I'm told that you are in charge of Tower Records stores in the Bay Area. As I'm sure you're aware, many people are feeling the economic pain of high gas prices. I have a question for you -- how would you feel if you saw or heard an ad from an oil company encouraging people to shoplift from record stores and use the money they save on buying music to fill up their tanks? Would Tower see anything wrong with such a message?

  The reason I'm asking such a seemingly off-the-wall question is that I was just listening to the radio and heard an ad for Tower in which people are encouraged to siphon gas from others in order to save money filling their tank and have more money to buy music at Tower. Of course on one level the appeal is not serious, and I'm sure most listeners will not take it seriously. But there are unfortunately many ethically-challenged people out there who do not have a problem with aggressing via theft in order to buy things they want, like the latest album from their favorite artist. Even an ad intended as a joke can have the subtle impact of making such behavior seem more "cute" or acceptable.

  Was Tower's management, or the company's ad agency, trying to project a more hip image for Tower by encouraging people to steal? That would be an immoral strategy that could easily backfire. Is it even in the company's short term, let alone long term interest to encourage a lack of respect for private property? Take a look at your figures for inventory loss and security expenses, and imagine how having them go up dramatically would affect Tower's bottom line.

  This ad campaign was a mistake and should be pulled. If, on the other hand, you wanted to encourage people to figure out ways to pay less income tax, or avoid feeding parking meters, I would consider that a healthy and responsible form of social rebellion. Government is ripping all of us off on a massive scale, individuals and the business community alike. But although this practice is commonly accepted by many, we should not adopt their morality by saying or implying that it's anything less than morally reprehensible to steal from each other. Business thrives in an atmosphere of voluntary mutual exchange, not an atmosphere where people feel it's OK to take what you want without paying for it.

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   Candidate for SF Board of Supervisors, District 8
Outreach Director, Libertarian Party of San Francisco