Businesses are leery about allowing an outsider with a different agenda to be involved in their activities. For these reasons, businesses maintain a comfortable distance from government, so they can focus on their business pursuits, unencumbered. Recently I encountered two different examples of where business and government could intersect and how these were handled differently.
For years, consumers have struggled with the lack of price consistency between the item or shelf price and price at the point-of-sale terminal. Consumer advocacy groups have challenged retailers to rectify this situation, and they have lobbied the government to intervene and protect consumers. In Canada some retailers banded together to form the Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code. Through a participating retailer, I recently experienced this code at work. I purchased an item with a shelf price of $13.92 for a mere $3.92. The particular item rang up at the register for a price $17.99. Because of the discrepancy and this retailer’s voluntary participation as part of the Scan Code, the price was reduced by the maximum amount of $10. This is a self-imposed penalty to encourage retailers to ensure price consistency, as well as develop a level of confidence in consumers. This was done without government intervention.
A second example, again in the retail sector, shows business reacting to a market situation differently. Canada ’s two official languages can be extremely polarizing. Recently a few small towns outside of Ottawa, where I live, made the newspaper when local retailers were only serving customers in English, despite the fact that half their market spoke French. Retailers justified their position, saying that most French speaking people also spoke English. Steadfast in their arrogance, the retailers heard about calls to the local governments to address the situation. And, the local municipalities responded by enacting bylaws that dictated service in both languages. Why would the retailers allow this to happen? Now if the retailer doesn’t address a customer in their preferred language, they not only face offending and possibly losing this customer, but they may also be subject to fines and other penalties.
Governments will always play a role in our society, and business cannot avoid this. However, businesses can limit the amount of government involvement. The question that begs to be asked is—if you can limit government intervention in your business, why wouldn’t you?