Me, Myself, and I

It was during a hot summer spent abroad working in Japan. I was always thirsty to learn about the culture and looked for opportunities to interact as with the local people both at work and during time off. Early one day, following the morning calisthenics, during our team communication circle, one beaming co-worker proudly announced that he had won 5000 yen (about $50) the night before playing Pachinko. Many oohhs and aahhs followed. This little exchange left me perplexed; gambling is illegal in Japan. Moreover, one cultural observation already booked was the amazing respect shown toward the rules. Few seemed to question the rules, and very few ventured across the line out of respect for the rules themselves as well as respect for those one might embarrass if they were caught. So this quandary remained, everyone in the circle seemed to condone this remarkable feat of winning money gaming, yet the rule was clear: no gambling.
I turned to my close Japanese friend for an explanation.
“I thought gambling was illegal in Japan.” I began.
He quickly and strongly replied “Oh, yes. Gambling is against Japanese rule.”
“A guy today said he won money last night at a pachinko parlor, how is that possible?” I shot back.
“Oh.” He seemed to understand my query. “You can win pencils when you play pachinko.”
“Pencils?” I repeated, “But he said he won money last night, nothing about pencils.”
“He sold the pencils.” He explained.
“Huh? He sold the pencils at the pachinko parlor?”
“No, no, not at the pachinko parlor… at the, um... other place.”
This was getting interesting. “Where is the ‘other place’?” I continued to press.
It turns out that in the parking lot of every pachinko parlor there is a little hut. One can take pencils they have won playing pachinko and sell them for cold hard cash to the pencil aficionado out in the hut. Interestingly enough, those same pencils somehow end up back in the pachinko parlor the next night.
Anyway, everyone seems perfectly fine with the arrangement. Technically speaking, no rules were broken.

Honesty and integrity get thrown around as imperative attributes of doing business. While few disagree, there does seem to be a pretty big gray area around how far the truth can be stretched and still be considered honest. Wordsmithing has become a valued art, not just in politics, but business as well. It can come down to what the definition of “is” is.

In a competitive business, companies strive to beat the competition to market with new products. Corporations call press conferences, stage demonstrations, and issue press releases to brag about the release of new products ahead of their competitors. This of course is to impress analysts to upgrade or increase price targets for the stock. Of course, announcements must be true. Enter the gray area of truth:
A company wants to announce that it is shipping a product on a certain date, but the product is not ready. They cannot lie in the announcement. What can they do?
If only there was a customer to which the product could be shipped before it was ready; a customer that would overlook the shortcomings of the product. Then some executive says “Hey, what if we become our own customer. We could ship the product to ourselves, hold the product in inventory, and then when it is finally ready we can exchange the inventory.” Brilliant…wink wink.

Oh, that reminds me, I have to call myself to see if I want to play tennis with me today.