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by Carolyn Henderson on 1/22/2013 7:12:45 AM

This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. A regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, Carolyn also writes a weekly blog on Artist Daily. Her alter ego, Middle Aged Plague, publishes lifestyle articles in online and in print newspapers and on her blog site. Recently, Carolyn has collected 30 of these essays each  into two e-books, Life Is A Gift (Ordinary Life Is Beautiful) and The Jane Austen Driving SchoolShe has also written Grammar Despair, a writing guide for ordinary people who don’t jump with joy discussing dangling participial phrases and the difference between subordinate and insubordinate clauses.


Clever, canny, smart, quick, shrewd, sly, crafty, astute.


These adjectives describe the positive, necessary attributes to successfully running a business.


Or do they?


While none of us likes to be classified as an idiot, or think of ourselves that way, it is too easy to fall in with contemporary society's belief system of doing what it takes to get to the top, regardless of what it takes to get there.


Let the buyer beware, we shrug, tacitly understanding that if somebody gets ripped off by another person because he didn't ask the right questions, do the right research to uncover some false fronts on the buildings, didn't read that fine, fine print -- well, that's just his problem. He was stupid.


That the other person was dishonest doesn't factor as strongly into the equation.


"Maybe he was dishonest, but he did follow the letter of the law, and he was smart."


If we don't actively think this we understand it, because this is the hidden current that runs under the river of commerce with which we deal every day. When we go to a used car lot, we expect to be lied to. At the grocery store, we double check the prices at the register because we expect many of them not to be what they are. We take contracts to a lawyer to review because we expect the other side to write it in their favor at the expense of ours.


Years ago, when I worked at a university bookstore, I was flabbergasted when I learned that a 50 percent mark-up and a 100 percent mark-up were the same thing. It goes like this:


The bookstore buys the book for $10. It sells it for $20. (I know; that sounds like a fairy tale; the numbers are just for example.) To most of us, that looks like a 100 percent mark-up because the $10 the bookstore tacked to the price represents 100 percent of the original $10 price.


But no, the mark-up is actually 50 percent because the $10 mark-up is half of the final $20 price.


Same numbers, different interpretation.


That little lesson years ago hammered it in that numbers don't lie, people do, and it behooves each of us to stop and breathe a minute as we're being verbally attacked by numbers, facts, charts, research study results -- whatever it is the person behind the podium is trotting forth to convince us to buy, support, promote, or believe in.


And while for years I have been conscious of avoiding traps set by others to get me to choose a particular door number, I found myself falling naturally into some of these techniques as business practices of my own, when we first started. It felt "smart" and "savvy" but not necessarily "right" or "honorable," but because our commercial culture is so entwined with who and what we are, it has taken, and continues to take, concerted thought and practice on my part to 1) identify practices of deception and 2) avoid practicing them.


And, because nothing in this world is black and white, not everything is always wrong, or always right, all the time and in every situation. But the good news is, everything gets easier with practice, and when we commit ourselves to being honest and forthright, even if everyone else calls us unrealistic, fey, childish, weird, and . . . stupid, the better we get at calling the shots of what is right in the way we conduct business.


Next week -- Accepting Deception -- We Have a Choice



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Topics: advice for artists | art and culture | art and psychology | Art Business | Carolyn Henderson | exposure tips | FineArtViews | sell art | selling art online | selling fine art online 

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Karen Norris
When honor and business ethics take a back seat to making a buck, we are forced to question everything. We can no longer afford to be naive about our business dealings. Do your due diligence or as a wise man once said "Trust but verify".

Barbara Reich
Hi Carolyn - Just because a person can do something, it doesn't mean that they should. Deception comes in many disguises, but it is usually not very pretty. I've noticed it rearing it's ugly head in the majority of business dealings lately, which were plenty considering I relocated to a new city almost a year ago and all the contacts that involves. It's more important than ever to be diligent and really pay attention when dealing with others, because like you said, their dishonesty only serves their purpose. I'm kind of a stickler for fairness, so when people are honest and forthright they earn high marks in my book.

Barbara Reich

Just yesterday at work one of my colleagues (at a customer service dept of a company) had a customer on the phone, telling him they received 5pcs of the ordered item and were only invoiced 4 pcs. After the call he told us about this "dumb goose" (to quote him).
As if honesty = lack of intelligence.

When I told him this, he implied that I was right, but I should stop nagging...

In corporate environment... honesty is usually confused with lack of intelligence.
I guess that's why honest people seldomly become top level managers of companies...

Michael Cardosa
Hi Carolyn,

Interesting idea for a posting. I think it boils down to this, the individual. If you do something that is "questionable" does it bother you or not. If not, maybe you're a budding Bernie Madoff, if so, maybe there's hope.

I think if you do what you believe is the "right thing" not just the most expedient thing, you're in good standing with the moral police even if our present day business moguls would scoff at you. They don't have to look at your face in the mirror. You still do.

Thanks again


Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Hello Carolyn:

Very good article. Thank you.
One that reminds us to stay alert to those deceptions.
I like the reply that Michael gave.
Oh heck, I always am interested in reading the replies from everyone. What Karen wrote.."Trust but verify," is such good advice. Since after a while it can be hard to trust.

Barbara's reply rang true...I too notice that there are people who will do something they know is wrong, but if they feel they can get away with it, will go ahead and do it. And that was digusting what Johan was told . . . stop nagging. Hopefully not everyone in top management is dishonest. Although we have seen that so often.

Looking forward to the next article. I do not even like the word deception.

From a totally different view point . . . about the word deception . . . is that there are times we deceive ourselves when we judge ourselves to not be good enough. Our thoughts can deceive us into being too negative.

Brian Sherwin
Carolyn -- This is a timely article... considering the downfall of Lance Armstrong. For over 20 years he deceived fans, business associates, friends... the list goes on. I've read that he has lost all of his sponsors -- no more deals with NIKE, and so on.

He is an extreme case... but his failure to be truthful shows just how much a business-minded individual can fall when choosing a deceptive path. Had he been honest years ago he may have had time to rebuild his image professionally -- but time is up for him now.

There is a slim chance he will be able to compete again... but that won't be until eight years from now. Time is against him... all because he caught himself up in the web of deception.

Carolyn Henderson
Karen: It's seeped into our bone marrow in this society: expect that people will lie. Hope that they're not, but check it out. This is our "normal." Sad, but true.

Barbara: Like you, I have a mental book -- actually, it's a mental scrap of paper, because the list is so short -- of people and businesses whose outstanding commitment to integrity makes me 1) want to emulate them and 2) interact with them.

Johan: Not just the top level of companies, either. Yes, I hear you -- honesty is generally equated with stupidity. Ironic, really, when dishonesty does come out at some point, and the person looks stupid indeed. (But they generally bluster their way through, sometimes with media assistance.)

When I worked as a cashier in a grocery store, I was really grateful when people pointed out that I had given them too much change, because that discrepancy would be to my major discredit at the end of the day. When we make money dishonestly, we take it from someone else, somehow.

Michael: so true -- each one of us looks at ourselves in the mirror. And each one of us has Jiminy Cricket sitting on our shoulder saying, "Um. Is that the right thing to do?" And it's up to us whether or not we choose to listen to him.

Sandy: I agree -- there is something about the word "deception" itself that runs a chill down the nervous system. And yes, people's comments flesh out and enhance every article (on this site, at least).

Brian: I was not aware of Lance Armstrong, but have just finished reading several online articles about his confession. How very very sad.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Carolyn, Brian..

Brian, Oh my gosh, yes. I was just reading another article about Lance Armstrong in this morning newspaper.
How far he has fallen with his deception. It is such a sad example. He was so on top and fell so far and HIT so hard.

Sad it is that he cannot seem to come up with "I am Sorry for all the pain I have caused to other people. Please forgive."

Sharon Weaver
It used to be that the burden of truth was on the expert in the situation with an expectation of authoritative truth but this principal has been eroded with time. Of course, now everyone is expected to be an expert on everything from investing to buying a car. It seems that deception has been taken to an art form.

Karen Norris
I feel that the burden of truth is on each and every one of us. We should live our lives with honesty, integrity, and a strong moral code with ethical behavior. Unfortunately, too often, people are behaving badly without regard to any of the aforementioned character traits.

Marian Fortunati
Kind of sad, really.

George De Chiara
Hi Carolyn,
It's sad just how far some large companies have taken this "buyer beware" attitude. Smaller portions for the same price labeled as "New and Improved" comes to mind. Could you image what would happen to our sales if we tried something like this!

Susan Holland
I work on wood that was grown and made into something in another country. When people ask of the provenance, I have learned that they are fine with the truth. If they are not, they move on. But they will not be able to call me on peddling merchandise with a lie.

I point out that the roots went into the same ground we are standing on--just on the other side of the world! That the objects I received were from an American company, and that THAT is my raw material. This sounds a lot better to them, when they think of it as recycling, reworking, rescuing what might have been burned up into the air we breathe.

People should seek to tell truth. Vendors, artists, corporations. Sleep well, feel good, and have no Madoff or Lance Armstrom regrets. We all benefit.

Brian Sherwin
Susan -- If you think about it though.... extremely deceptive people tend to only have one regret -- they regret being caught.

With that in mind, if an artist finds that he or she has been 'tangled up' by deceptive practices -- be it business related or how he or she presents himself or herself to the public -- he or she should take a step back... and really consider the path that he or she is on.

There is always time to change -- and it is better to do it sooner than later.

Susan Holland
Yes, I agree, Brian. It's much easier to be up front from the beginning , without guile or guilt.

Jana Botkin
I was taught as a young teen that the one thing guaranteed to kill friendship is a lie. It made a huge impression on me. Now I'm always trying to figure out how to speak the truth in love, and not sharing opinions under the guise of truth.

It is deeply discouraging to realize that lying is a way of life and those who are taken by liars are the dumb ones.


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