People living in lower socioeconomic communities in the United States often face a dearth of retailers and service providers and lack outlets for healthy or affordable goods. For example, large, durable items like furniture and home electronics are often only available in rent-to-own outlets that charge significantly higher prices. Although these items may be unaffordable for many in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, prevailing cultural and societal perceptions suggest that these material goods are widely available and important to self-esteem as well as local social status. In this case, a young man who grew up in an impoverished community, but left for better education and job opportunities, comes back to run a chain of rent-to-own stores. He struggles with the ethicality of his firm’s offerings and its exchange relationships but also recognizes the role it plays in making such products widely available and the benefits he receives from the job. The case calls attention to the complexity of ethical decision-making when personal decisions affect the collective and the social environment influences decision-making models.
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