Boy we’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this!
Some of you saw our tweet a few months back:
Really conflicted on what to do about a blatant #ethical issue with an MBA applicant. Someone caught in a baldface lie responded by doubling down on the lies.
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) January 23, 2018
And you saw the post that followed where we shared part of our response to the person in question.
And you expressed support, and an interest in knowing what happened:
Culture comes from the top…of our country!
— Vivien Wu (@MissVivienWu) January 24, 2018
Everyone who reads this is hoping that person didn’t get into their school. Do the right thing!
— arkanian86 (@arkanian86) January 24, 2018
And… We never did get any clarity on what to do. So we let it slide.
The gist of it is that this person tried to defraud us.
It’s a business issue, and a claim with a credit card company.
Small potatoes, really. They filed a chargeback claiming that someone stole their credit card and used it to purchase our services.
People do this on the regular.
Which is pretty sh!tty. But whatever. To many buyers of our strategy guides and information products, we’re just another dumb company who’s out to profit off their back, and getting one over on a corporation always feels justified (even though it’s not).
What got us so enraged about this was not that they filed the chargeback initially.
It’s that they blatantly lied to us when we contacted them.
What we REALLY want to do is post the email he sent in. Because can you say O-M-G? You would honestly not believe this one, it’s laughable.
This is clearly a person with a low bar for moral standards.
So. What do we do about it?
Here’s the actions we considered:
1. Forward the email thread to admissions teams at all the top schools.
Why don’t we want to do that?
Well, this is a business relationship. This happened in the course of the admissions consulting process, but we have no evidence that this person has lied on their apps.
It’s essentially a he-said/we-said situation. Right?
It also is a massive betrayal of trust.
We are on THE APPLICANT’S side. We are your allies in this difficult process. We really really really don’t want to violate that trust with all of you.
2. Post about it publicly, while still maintaining his anonymity.
We’re sorta doing that now, except that this post is behind our paywall and admissions people will not be able to read it, and you have no idea what schools he tried for or what he even said. The person who did this would likely know we’re talking about him, only because he’s GOT to have the guiltiest conscience evah (provided his dried-up lil husk of a soul can still summon any twinge of emotion), but he’s not hangin’ ’round here no more.
Anyway, this doesn’t seem very productive. There is NOTHING any admissions team would do in response to a random blahg post that does not identify any applicant. And it just doesn’t seem very classy.
3. Tweet about the incident further but still without identifying who it is.
Same as #2. Serves no purpose except to stir up drama.
So, we’ve opted to do nothing.
But we didn’t want to leave it completely hanging here, since some of you are still around from the Round 2 cycle when it first occurred.
And this raises a question:
Does EssaySnark owe YOU — this community of Brave Supplicants, many of whom we’ve developed close relationships with over the years — an obligation to put you on the alert about some seriously unscrupulous applicant who you may encounter in your bschool travels?
We’re interested in your take on this, but we’re going to first offer our conclusion that no, we don’t owe the community more than we owe any one individual (if there are any formally trained ethicists or philosophers on deck, please jump in with some guidance here!!!). If the trust we have built up with each person is one-on-one and based on deserving it with that person, then that seems paramount. We should not value needs of a group more than how we value each individually. But we could be wrong in how we’re looking at that!
See, slippery stuff, this is!
And, we are also assuming that this particular person has compartmentalized his behavior, as so many of us do. It’s highly likely that he thinks it’s totally OK to be a filthy lying thief in dealing with a business and credit card company, whereas (hopefully!!!!!!) in his personal life, he exercises different standards of behavior. So we have to assume / hope / pray that this person will not be a backstabbing narcissistic Judas in your study team at Whanvard if you were to encounter him there.
But anyway. Let’s look at the full picture, walking the consequences all the way through.
Say we DID publicly reveal this person’s name.
WHAT WOULD YOU EVEN DO WITH THAT INFORMATION?
Like, it’s almost 99% guaranteed that you will never encounter this person in your life. Because what are the chances?
But then even if you’re in that 1%…
What if you end up at the same school. In the same cluster. In the exact same study team as him.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Would you confront him?
“Hey, dude, aren’t you that jerk-o who ripped off EssaySnark?”
And then what would he say?
Hmmm lemmee guess…. I bet it would be: “No.”
Or even better — since we know that this person lies about things like credit card transactions: “EssaySnark lied about the whole thing.”
Regardless, whether you had the b@lls to confront him or not, the outcome is the same: You like him or not, you decide to trust him or not, you end up being friends with him or not… But those things are going to happen anyway.
Does us telling you that we had a poor experience with this person actually matter?
(Apparently in the 2016 Presidential election, for gazillions of Americans, it did not!)
And then what if we ARE wrong? What if this cocamamie story that this guy constructed about how his credit card got stolen and used at essaysnark.com under his name is actually true? (Umm, there is 0% chance of this being the case.) But what if? Then dang, we would have wrongly accused an innocent. And that’s just totally royally lame. (Again, 0% chance, but this is an analysis of an issue and we are exploring all the options here!!)
The other key reasons why we have hesitated to take action are:
We believe in karma.
The same day that all this went down, totally unrelated to this incident, we attended a presentation where someone shared a story of being caught up in a major scandal at their firm where their bosses asked them to lie. It was a totally different situation, but the bottom line was the same: Someone was cheating and it was a trespass. What did this individual do? Did they seek revenge? No. They ended up in a multi-year fight where their reputation was damaged and their career went to crap (until it recovered and took off again in a new direction). This speaker took the high road and did not try to “make someone pay.” But now, those bosses got busted for something totally unrelated to the original ordeal and both are suffering an even worse fate. All of their own making.
That’s really the key point: Are we interested in revenge?
The timing of these two occurrences — the receipt of the dripping-with-lies email, followed that very night by attendance at this talk with a corollary situation — helped us to gain some perspective.
And stepping back from the indignation of being lied to, in evaluating courses of action, we have had to continually ask the question:
What is EssaySnark’s motivation?
By informing the schools about this behavior, what purpose are we trying to serve?
Is it about getting back at this applicant dude who has done us wrong?
Is it to punish him?
Is it so we feel vindicated?
Do we REALLY think that it will get him to change his behavior?
Human nature being what it is, we can predict that this person would only get cemented in his own sense of self-justification, in excusing his own behavior as rational and right. That’s what childish people do, right? The ones who lack maturity? And clearly there is an extreme case of immaturity in how this went down.
So are we trying to teach him a lesson?
Cause him to regret, and repent, and even apologize?
But let’s take this to our own moral extreme:
Is EssaySnark’s motivation in wanting to inform the schools about this guy’s behavior some attempt to save society from the damage that the person may cause?
Are we trying to protect our world from unscrupulous actors?
Are we trying to head off some future greed that will take all of us down in a repeat of the 2008 crash?
Because guess what?
If we tell Harvard about this incident and Harvard goes all-in and believes us, and chooses not to admit this person, it does NOTHING except close down one path for him. There will be more paths.
Being slapped down may not change him at all.
For some people it might, but it can also serve only to fuel more egotistical behavior (case in point
So we end this by asking: What would you do?
What is your rationalization or justification for those steps you would take?
What is the goal or primary objective that drives it?
What do you want to see happen as a result?
What good can come from such actions — and conversely, what harm might befall you, them, the larger community, if you do nothing?
These are sticky questions indeed.
Our reaction to the unethical behavior is on its own an ethical decision and we are loathe to follow one person’s poor choice with one of our own.
We are open to feedback, comments, and reactions.
A continuation of this discussion is HERE!