Theft in the Guise of Flattery

An old adage relates that copying is the highest form of flattery and judging from the many places where I have found my words plagiarized by others, I must be one incredible writer! And while it may seem like I ought to be flattered that others find what I have to say good enough to steal, very little else in the world irritates me as much as plagiarism.

Although I spend a considerable amount of time managing the computer jobs associated with running our business, I teach literature and composition at a state university in what I like to call my "real life." As an educator of college students, most of whom plan to become teachers themselves, I find myself constantly shocked and awed by the decline in students' concern for ethical behavior when it competes with grades. In the business world, the same competition occurs except that money or sales replace the concern for grades.

My husband and I offer
our handcrafted Egyptian items on eBay and have worked arduously to become successful sellers there. From learning how to take better photos of our products to writing the descriptions and clarifying sales terms, it has been a long journey to make our name and brand stand out among the sea of sellers on the world's foremost auction site. And what I have learned along the way is that other sellers, in an effort to build their own businesses, see nothing wrong in stealing my hard work in the process.

Ethics in business has become consumed by the bottom line, and profits far outweigh the value of honesty. I first noticed this when other eBay sellers realized that authentic Egyptian hookahs sell better than the Chinese manufactured ones do and began deliberately misleading buyers about their wares. Falsely labeling their inferior products as "Egyptian" to attract unsuspecting buyers into believing that they would receive an authentic Egyptian hookah, these sellers didn't give a damn about integrity or their customers; their primary concern was in raking in the "big bucks" for an "Egyptian" hookah. In an effort to combat this dishonesty,
I wrote an eBay guide describing the differences between handcrafted Egyptian hookahs and their Chinese manufactured counterparts. The popularity of this guide made it vulnerable to plagiarism. It didn't take long for other eBay sellers to begin copying portions of it in their item descriptions, store headers, and blogs. I have given up on policing the thieves because there are simply too many of them, and I have students to tend to and a business to run instead.

Part of building a successful eBay business is branding, or making your company name and products stand out in the crowd. We've been around the eBay block for several years now, so our brand and products are recognized fairly easily. On one hand, this recognition has helped us tremendously; however, on the other, it has made the benefits of all the hard work that we put into building our business sometimes seem like a wasted effort. Why? Because the recognition that we have achieved has made our item descriptions and photos vulnerable to unethical sellers on eBay and eCommerce sites who see nothing wrong in stealing them. These unscrupulous individuals don't want to build a business of their own; instead, they seek the easy way to the top by stealing.

There is, however, a pot of gold at the end of this seemingly dark rainbow. As
one blogger pointed out in a discussion of the glut of hookahs for sale on eBay and the effect is has on the market, "the pioneer Hookah eBayers still have the power and attract more" buyers. I would argue that the problem is not that eBay has too many hookah sellers but that eBay has too many dishonest hookah sellers.

Comment (1)


2:25 PM
Here is the answer to your well written comment on our hookah blog/forum. I respect you very much! Please read my response!
Hookah 1