Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It’s Not Personal, It’s Proprietary

In my “day job” as a technical editor, I deal with lots and lots of information, much of it proprietary to the company, and all of it sensitive to the business at hand.

Our security manager constantly preaches “loose lips sink ships,” and non-disclosure agreements are standard practice, not only within the company, but also with partners and even customers. Email traffic is monitored, and social networking sites are banned from company computers. In short, the company goes to great lengths to ensure its “secrets” don’t end up in the hands of the competition. 

How does this apply to online selling? I’m glad you asked.

Three years ago, I spent an afternoon conversing via email with a woman who sold on Amazon.  Much to my dismay, I can’t remember who she was, but she was very open about the business, where to sell, where to buy inventory, how much to pay for inventory, etc.  I was very appreciative, and thanked her profusely.  I listed and sold my first book soon after that, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Later, I questioned a fellow seller at a local thrift store, without telling him that I also was a seller, about his business, where he sold, what he sold, etc. I started scouting heavily after than, and I’ve never seen him again. I almost felt guilty for the minor deception … almost.   After all, he was the one giving up information about his business.

While scouting for books using my PDA and scanner, I am frequently asked what I am doing.  This creates a dilemma for me.  I assume most people who ask are genuinely intrigued by the sight of me standing there scanning book after book. However, I know that a small percentage of the people, if I were to tell the truth about what I was doing, could/would take the information, and new competitors could/would be born.

So, I tell a small fib.  I tell them that I am checking my database to see if I want the book. If pressed for more information, I tell them that I am a collector, and I have so many books that I need my database to make sure that I don’t buy a duplicate copy.

Again, I almost feel guilty about telling the small fib. However, I have to remember that the information they are asking for could have a direct bearing on my ability to provide for my family in the future.

So, if you have to tell a little white lie about your activities, remember, it’s not personal, it’s proprietary.

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