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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Bulk Discount Balk

Jocelyn Tan

Jerry is a support engineer at a rising South Bay startup. His company designs and manufactures hardware for audio visual electronics, such as televisions and touchscreens.

Last week, Jerry overhead that Dan, a colleague who was on the sales team, was in the final stages of securing a deal with a corporate customer, H.Technologies, that represented the largest portion of the startup’s sales. The startup had an internal policy that mandated customers who purchased over 15 units of a particular LCD display were qualified for a standard 25% volume discount. However, before Dan’s manager left for a business trip, he instructed Dan to give H.Technologies only a 10% discount.

A few days before the closeout, Jerry asked Dan why the client would not receive the standard volume discount. Dan explained that the discount had not yet been revealed and H. Technologies had a very large budget compared to other companies.

Feeling conflicted with his manager’s decision, Dan felt that just because H. Technologies was profitable does not mean they should be ineligible to receive the standard volume discount. But given the quickly approaching closeout date, Dan needed to make a decision and was unable to wait until his supervisor returned from his trip to discuss his concerns.

What should Dan do? What should Jerry do, if anything?

Jocelyn Tan was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

August 2015

Aug 26, 2015