What's right isn't necessarily fair

The other day walking down a street, I am startled by a tow truck that whizzes past, swerves, and stops beside the road. Out jump two ruffian looking characters who run to a mo'bike parked on the pavement, lift it and tow it away. The owner who spots the bike being taken away runs helplessly behind the tow truck to try and salvage it, but without success.

The scene I described plays out on Indian roads all too often. Tow trucks towing away vehicles with owners running behind. Now I am all for people parking at the right spots. But there's more to the story than the traffic police doing its job towing away vehicles. The story must also include those that aren't towed away because they belong to privileged folks. Take for instance this real estate firm that has its offices close to where we stay. They park all their office vehicles on the pavement. I've never seen those vehicles being towed away. Guess their privileged position as a business firm allows them such outrageous privileges. Towing away a wrongly parked vehicle is the right thing to do. But it isn't fair when its done only to the common man who isn't privileged as the firm I was talking about. That's what gets my goat.

John Stacey Adam's Equity theory asserts that employees seek to maintain equity between the inputs that they bring to a job and the outcomes that they receive from it against the perceived inputs and outcomes of others (Adams, 1965). The belief is that people value fair treatment which causes them to be motivated to keep the fairness maintained within the relationships of their co-workers and the organization.

That means equity is not just about what I receive vis-a-vis what I put in. Its also about how that compares with what my coworker gets. Towing is right, but turns fair only when there aren't differential treatments meted out, depending on the who the transgressor is.

Just as there are equity perceptions, there are value perceptions too. Consumers perceive value not just in terms of what's delivered by a brand to them, vis-a-vis what's promised. They also compare this equation with a similar one, as delivered by another brand. That is, I say a brand's delivered value when I know its given me what it promised, plus its delivered greater value as compared to what another brand of its kind did or could have.

Its important such relative comparisons be understood by social administrators as by marketers. Because scoring on either of the comparisons is what makes them successful with citizens and consumers.


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