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Internet Business Ethics 101 Case Study

Following is a study in business ethics. This experiment was initiated when ShopNonProfit.Org sent us unsolicted email. After recieving the email, we immediately filed a complaint with the FTC and replied to ShopNonProfit.Org:

Dear Angel,

1) You are giving the impression that you a are non-profit organization.

Is this the truth or deceit?

2) You say:

A visitor to our site requested us to tell you about ShopNonProfit.org

Who? Who gave you my name? Or, is this more deceit?

Thank you. I shall await your advice.

help desk

cc: Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection


copy of complaint filed with FTC:

  1. www.shopnonprofit.org sent me unsolicited email
  2. www.shopnonprofit.org seems to be posing as a non-profit company --
    1. they use .org in their domain name
    2. they give the impression in their solicitation that you will be making a charitable donation: "At ShopNonProfit a percentage of every purchase is donated to the Non-Profit Organization of your choice. Support organizations like GreenPeace, Coop America and Amnesty International."


ShopNonProfit.Org responded to our email. Below you will see their reply and our response. ShopNonProfit.Org statements are in red. Our replies should appear in black.

It would have been considerate to contact us first before filing a complaint.

Perhaps you are right... however, it would have been nice if you contacted me prior to your spam. Thus, I was just trying to live up to the golden rule.

Nowhere on our site do we claim to be a nonprofit organization.

However, you name does seem to imply it.

1) shopnonprofit

What would a reasonable person assume this means?

shop non-profit.

2) .org

How long has your company been around the internet?

Do you not know that .org's are traditionally meant for non-profit organizations, associations, etc.?

It would appear as though one of two things must be true --

  1. either you are ignorant to internet communications
  2. or, you purposefully choose a name that ends in .org in order to give the impression that you are a non-profit.

We do, however, help nonprofits.

Exploiting non-profits' names so that you can make money... hmmm... perhaps you meant you are HURTING non-profits?

Dot Org's are not specifically reserved for nonprofit organizations.

Are you talking legally or ethically?

On an ethical basis, I must whole heartedly disagree.

Someone who thought you might be interested in what we are doing entered your name into our Tell-A-Friend program.

Oh, boy. I find this really, really hard to believe.

I have several hundred email addresses. The one you choose to use... has never been given to any friend of mine. Please provide me with proof of your claim as soon as possible.

We provide a "remove" link at the bottom of the page for those who do not wish to receive this type of mail.

The bottom of what page? The email? Hyperlinks on an email are a security and privacy violation.

Or, do you mean that I must patronize your website to opt out of a program that was forced on me?

You presume the worst without even asking for an explanation. Shame on you! Nowhere does it ask for money for anything. You have a choice to shop through us or not. The cost is the same either way. By shopping through us an NPO of your choosing benefits. How you interpret that as being harmful is way beyond my way of thinking.

cost v. benefits
Exploitation of intellectual property. Please explain how your company is not a tremendous cost to the non-profit organizations?

Or, do you have permission from GreenPeace, Coop America and Amnesty International to use their names in advertising?

With all the offensive UCE floating around it seems you could spend your time more productively...

Offensive trickery is easy to spot. Your company was much more like a snake in the grass. Therefore, it took a lot of my time to expose you.

We do wish to thank you for responding. Every attempt will be made to portray these events in a fair light. If you do not want your name, Angel Larkin, to appear in the published version, please contact me immediately.

John Doe

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