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Meghan Daniels
SAI Global Compliance

Meghan Daniels is Senior Director, Advisory Services at SAI Global Compliance. She previously managed the corporate compliance program for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc. (BCBSMA), where she was responsible for training, policy development, and management of the conflict of interest disclosure process. While at BCBSMA, Ms. Daniels also supported all other compliance and ethics program functions, such as investigations of compliance inquiries, management of committee structure, and preparation of board reports. Ms. Daniels also practiced law for three years at a Boston firm, where she focused on commercial litigation. Ms. Daniels is a member of the Massachusetts bar and is a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional.
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Discounts for Customer Reviews: Clever or Unethical?

by Meghan Daniels, Jan 31, 2012

I was recently riding in an elevator of a luxury apartment building when I noticed an interesting sign.  It read: “Do you like living here? “ and then proceeded to outline instructions for how to submit a “positive” review of the apartment complex online in exchange for a $150 monthly rent credit.   At the time, my thoughts went back and forth between “wow they are desperate” and “clever idea!”  This week, when I read about a very similar trend in the technology world (click here to read article), I thought back to that sign in the elevator and began to consider… is this type of practice really ethical?   

If consumers are always looking for ways to save money or get the best deal, I suppose it is quite possible, and perhaps even probable, that some consumers might consider embellishing their experience with a product — in order to save money or in some cases, to receive a complete refund.   Sure, this is less of an issue when a customer is in fact happy with a product, but could we deduce that these types of practices actually, although perhaps subtly, promote dishonesty in exchange for reward, at least in certain cases?  Also, at the end of the day, it certainly raises more questions about the credibility of positive evaluations reported by companies.    

Where do we draw the line?  Does it depend on what type of product or service we are selling? In the service industry, we ask for customer references all the time… but we would never consider offering a discount on a service or some other favor in exchange for a positive reference, for that would clearly be unethical, right?   This practice might seem clever…and by the sounds of it, an inexpensive proposition that yields a potentially powerful return… but there’s something about it that just does not feel right.  The question then becomes, what will the regulators think?  I guess we have to stay tuned.

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