Israeli Business: Dishonesty is Expected
November 13, 2013
While certainly unethical business practices exist
elsewhere in the world, it's worse in Israel because
of its cultural acceptance, says Saul, an American
As Randall Terry said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." In Israel there is NO shame. Israelis do not comprehend the ramifications of their actions. Invariably they fall back on, "anti-Semitism," as if the Holocaust gives them a free pass to do whatever they want.
We've heard the phrase, "all's fair in love and war." Well, in Israeli business, profit is all that matters.
This is the meaning of the common Hebrew phrase, "shitat matzliach," literally, "when it comes to succeeding, anything goes."
Deception and misinformation are hallmarks of the Israeli business model whether conducted at home or abroad. Literally anything goes, as long as a profit can be had. Indeed, Israeli society is so used to this type of behavior that there appear to be no ramifications for getting caught trying to cheat a client or customer. If caught, the 'seller' just shrugs -- "Everyone does it" -- and the buyer, shrugs back with a smile, "Caught you!" Business proceeds.
Foreigners should be aware that to an Israeli you are a "frier," which means a sucker.
Non-Israelis are simply easy targets for deceptive business practices because outside of Israel, in the more 'civilized' world, people take the Golden Rule for granted. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In other words, treat business partners and customers fairly.
But, in Israel the golden rule is different -- it means, "Screw the other guy before he screws you." This is "shitat matzliach" in it's most base form. All Israelis know what the term "frier" means, and many liberally apply it to the less clever folks from abroad. Yes, in every country there are cheaters, but in Israel, it is an art and way of life.
This type of business practice fosters a culture of deception and mistrust.
The biggest culprits of this behavior are the cell phone companies. Israel's pride -- Israelis invented the cell phone -- these are the most corrupt institutions in the country. It is common for the major cell phone providers to double charge, to extra charge, and to flat out change services of customers' account without notice.
Making matters worse, they almost all insist on linking to a customer's bank account. When the government froze my bank account due to child support, my cell provider refused to do business with me by cash. No direct bill pay, no account.
The result is that frequently thousands of shekels are stolen from bank accounts. The banks in Israel typically side with the company. It's not like in America where a customer can dispute a charge with his bank and the bank will credit the money back, forcing the biller to prove the charges were owed.
It's the opposite. The customer now has to sue in small claims court to get their money back. The companies know that most people won't go through this hassle of court for smaller amounts of money (under 1000 shekels), and this is clearly part of their "shitat matzliach" strategy.
(left, Olga, a repair shop manager)
Shitat matzliach can be seen in just about every Israeli business. For example, the process of registering one's car in Israel is a major racket. In the US we have the "smog check" racket. The Israelis take this to new heights. Every year drivers must have their automobile tested. The tests alone cost over 1000 shekels, and invariably the testing facilities will find problems with the cars that need to be fixed.
There are only so many testing facilities in the country, and all are equipped to do most of the "work" required. It's like having an accountant figure out your taxes and keeping the tax money.
Everyone is aware of the Israeli registration scam, but it's written off to "shitat matzliach" (these agencies and the government are going to make profit somehow) and the citizenry inevitably falls back on the age old Israeli adage, "Ein ma-la-asot" (there's nothing that can be done. This is Israel. A scam country.)
An acquaintance was recently scammed by El Al. They charged her $200 for a third bag and when the customer complained that the stated charge was $100, the company told her she misunderstood their policy. Threatened with small claims court over the difference, El Al said, "Bring it on." It's all shitat matzliach.
The companies in this country know most people will not sue for $100 dollars, thus they will push the envelope, cheat, break their own rules. Failing to do is like giving money away. These greedy companies suffer no ramifications for deceiving customers with incorrect rules and terms, or in flat out not respecting their rules and terms.
Not just private landlords but rental agencies will screw over the tenant every chance they get. Deposits are routinely withheld, the landlord or agency claiming damages were done when none were, or when the problem was legally the property owner's.
A friend of mine recently had his apartment flood from a leak within the walls of his unit. The leak persisted for days while the rental agency claimed it was the tenant's responsibility. It absolutely was not, but the agency, notorious for this type of behavior -- in the name of "shitat matzliach" -- was hoping the tenant, who has to live with the water and mold, would grow tired of waiting and deal with it himself.
The apartment is now full of mold, the leak still not fixed, and the rental agency is threatening to evict him, no doubt planning to use his security deposit to fix the leak. It is illegal, but common practice here.
Ordinary Israelis are not unlike ordinary people in other countries -- they conform to social norms. Unfortunately, in Israel the norm is to expect to be cheated and to always be on the alert for scams. It is thus typical for ordinary Israelis to cheat first figuring the other is going to try it too. This becomes "circular logic" - a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will. Israelis inevitably conclude, "nothing can be done. This is Israel."
As Randall Terry said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." In Israel there is NO shame, thus Israelis do not comprehend the ramifications of their actions. Invariably they fall back on, "anti-Semitism," as if the Holocaust gives them a free pass to do whatever they want.
As a Jew I find it embarrassing, and it is my hope that people around the world cease association of Zionism or Israel with Judaism. Not all Jews are deceptive in business practice, even if a majority of Israelis are.
Saul is a prisoner in Israel due to stringent child support laws.
New Immigrants sue Israeli landlord who rented apartment he didn't own
First Comment from G: