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Ask Dave

Due diligence

Gordan calls in from Milwaukee, WI. He wants to make sure the parts he gets for his work are on the up-and-up and asks Dave for advice. In the process, Dave touches on business ethics and that "gut feeling" people have sometimes.

QUESTION: Gordan has a small business in Milwaukee, WI, and he specializes in cell phone repair. Sometimes he buys cell phones and cell phone parts on Craigslist and eBay. Gordan says he can make sure the phones themselves are not stolen by running a check on the serial numbers. He says he cannot, however, be sure about the parts. He asks Dave if there’s a way he can ensure that he’s not dealing in stolen parts.

ANSWER: Well, you certainly don’t want to intentionally buy or deal in stolen goods — for a number of reasons.

I would try to only deal with reputable sellers. eBay, I believe, has a ratings system, and you have power sellers and so forth. Try to find someone who has a steady stream of cell phone parts, someone who’s a reputable seller and doesn’t appear to be a fence. eBay doesn’t tolerate that kind of stuff if they can find it. They’ll dump people who are doing this pretty quick.

If you’ve got a guy on there who has only done like five transactions, and by the way he has parts for other stuff, too … I’d probably stay away from him. You don’t want that spirit on your business.

I’m going to do a reasonable amount of due diligence to try and avoid all that. But at the end of the day, you can’t completely guard against that unless it’s a serial-numbered item. I wouldn’t say I’d never buy something on eBay because one out of every how-many-hundred might be stolen. But I would try to use some common sense and judgment about the people I’m dealing with and make sure I’m not accidentally dealing with a fence.

There are few things I use when looking at business ethics — one would be the Moccasin Rule and the Golden Rule. Walk a mile in their moccasins, and also treat everyone like you want to be treated. Two, when in doubt, I don’t. I used to say I had a bad gut feeling. Then, a good pastor friend of mine, who’s 85 years old, told me not to call the Holy Spirit a gut. It’s a gut feeling, it’s God’s spirit, so listen.

So, if you’ve got a “check” in your spirit? When in doubt, don’t. But that wouldn’t cause me to rule out an entire thing like eBay. It would be a particular eBay-er that I don’t feel good about.