Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Call from Peerless Bank: A Case Consideration of Telemarketing and Ethics

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Call from Peerless Bank: A Case Consideration of Telemarketing and Ethics

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns marketing ethics and strategy. Secondary issues examined include the evaluation and selection of direct marketing tactics. The key words for the case indicate the major areas for student learning: marketing ethics, marketing strategy, direct marketing, telemarketing, consumer privacy, banking and credit cards. The case is most appropriate for the junior level or above, including the graduate level, so it has a difficulty level ranging from three to five. The case is designed to be taught in two class hours and is expected to require three hours of outside preparation by students.


Rebecca MacDonald receives a call concerning a "special opportunity" being offered to Peerless Bank's Visa cardholders, a program called "Basics" which offers discounts at retailers and reimbursement for haircuts in exchange for an annual fee charged against her Visa card. Rebecca is interested but unable to obtain literature without consenting to enroll for a trial period. After deciding not to enroll, she wonders about the ethics of the bank's marketing tactics and considers whether to put herself on a do-not-call list. Following a review of the regulatory environment pertaining to consumer privacy, telemarketing and banking, the case transitions to a discussion of these issues by Peerless' management that could well be taking place in light of the times. Management questions the choice and execution of the telemarketing strategy and decides to re-evaluate the offering and its promotion in light of ethical, regulatory and competitive concerns. The Note on the Commercial Banking Industry, especially prepared for this case, places this episode in its larger and important context.


Rebecca MacDonald poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down to reflect on the call she had received from a Peerless Bank representative. Peerless Bank was a leading regional commercial bank. It was 10:12 A.M. on a Saturday morning.

The representative had called that morning to let her know of a "special opportunity being offered to Peerless Bank's Visa cardholders." This opportunity was a program called "Basics." (1) Rebecca was told that once enrolled in the program she would, for "a small annual fee," be able to take advantage of discounts of up to 20% from retailers like Eddie Bauer and LensCrafters, and receive fifty dollars a year "for haircuts for the family no matter where they were done." While interested in the program--she and her husband had made purchases from among the few retailers mentioned--she had reluctantly declined the enrollment opportunity and was pondering not only her decision but also the ethics of this special promotion and actions she might take.

Before the morning call from Peerless Rebecca had been thinking about the things she would try to accomplish on Saturday and Sunday. As usual, the weekend was going to be a busy one. Work consumed most of Monday through Friday for Rebecca and her husband, John. Both were involved in challenging careers that left the weekends, holidays, vacations and personal days to deal with the responsibilities of house, children and family. The demands on their time were many.

While the children were married and on their own, Rebecca and John were involved in planning birthdays and baby showers and helping refurbish the homes that each had bought. They also assisted in the care of an ill parent of a daughter-in-law. Proud of their house and grounds, the MacDonalds did as much work as possible on and around the house, both to keep fit and to reduce expenditures. Every weekend there always were routine and, it seemed, non-routine things to do. Their own aging parents and aunts and uncles imposed almost weekly demands upon them, as well.

It was with this myriad of current responsibilities in mind that Rebecca had declined the opportunity to enroll in the "Basics" program. …

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