I have found myself in a moral dilemma. I work at a beauty parlor where we perform a certain chemical straightening treatment to the clients, but the chemicals in the treatment are not proven to be safe. So here I am questioning my own ethics, while trying to make my boss happy, and pay my bills. I ask myself if I should act in a way that benefits the business and the owner monetarily, or do I act in a way that benefits the health of the customer, myself and the rest of the staff?
The service is considered to be an absolute miracle treatment because it gives a customer essentially everything they could possibly want from the hair. The hair become soft, silky, shiny, manageable, and most importantly, it manages the curl. The client can easily blow dry their hair straight within minutes, or if they choose they can add some curl serum and have soft bouncy frizz free curls without any effort. The treatment basically gives the client movie star hair without the effort or money. The treatment however, is not proven to be 100% safe. There have been complaints about this particular treatment and many others similar to it, where clients have issues breathing, feel light headed, or that their lungs and nasal passages were generally irritated and uncomfortable. Furthermore, there are ingredients in the treatment that could have potentially carcinogenic effects. This is by far the worst part. The treatment costs about $300 of which I receive a little less than half, and can be done in approximately 2 hours. The profit margin is great, and the customer is always thrilled with the results, but every time I perform this treatment I’m putting the customer, myself, and everyone else in the salon at harm.
There are many ways to decipher this dilemma. Considering a utilitarian theory, there are still several ways to look at it, utility in the short term, or utility in the long term. If I perform the service everyone is satisfied in the short term, but the long term utility does not look so positive. So here is the moral question, perform the treatment and make everyone happy now, or stop the treatment and ensure that everyone is safe.
Utilitarianism in the short term would by a large margin say that the treatment is maximizing utility and therefore happiness. It’s a win win situation. The client is happier than she has ever been with her hair and loves the treatment so much that she will come every 4-6 months to have it repeated. Furthermore, the client has no idea that there are any possible health concerns with the treatment, and her ignorance to that fact makes her happiness even greater. The salon owner is making far more money per service than she would with any other service performed, and therefore her utility is satisfied in both a monetary and business growth sense. In addition, the customer will return to have the service done repeatedly, becoming a loyal customer, and most likely referring other customers to the salon. From the business owner and salon growth perspective the utility of the situation is significant. So significant that I imagine it’s quite easy to push the thoughts of the treatment’s potential harm right out of her mind.
Considering even myself, I cannot say that the utility of the situation does not outweigh the negative. I know the treatment has possible side effects, but I’m not sure of what they are, and in the mean time I am getting my bills paid, and have a few extra dollars in my pocket. I do, however, always think about if I’m doing the right thing before during and after performing the service. In this short term view, if the utility to all is a 9 out of possible 10 points (taking off 1 point of utility due to the fact that there is a discomfort to the lungs and chest while performing the service), and the disutility is a certain number of points that you cannot put a number on, it seems that the utility would definitely outweigh the disutility, for now. Perhaps the fact that the…