Cheaters Never Win

Business Friday’s continues through November with a look at what, in today’s society, appears to be an oxymoron—business ethics.

Let’s start by being honest about the cliché that “cheaters never win.” As sophisticated 21st century individuals, our life experience sometimes tells us just the opposite. Cheaters often win and sometimes they win big but don’t let this fact make you ignore everything you ever learned and know is right.

Sometimes ethical dilemmas are easier to solve, like the time a client paid me twice for the same assignment. The second check arrived several months after the first one and chances are they would never get caught if I just kept my mouth shut and cashed it. arrived at a time of tight cash flow and this would have really help me pay some bills. These things were running through my mind while I held the check in my hands knowing that no matter what excuses I made up, cashing it was stealing. I returned the check along with a note explaining that it must have been sent in error.

And then something interesting happened. I expected the original assignment to be a one-shot deal but after returning the check the client continued sending me occasional small projects. I don’t know whether returning that money had anything to do with this repeat business but I knew one thing for sure: I could sleep at night without my conscience banging me in the head with a hammer calling me a cheater.

I know business ethics is a concern for many photographers because it seems to be a constant thread in questions I’m asked about how you handle clients on assignments where mistakes were made. Look, it happens. When you make a mistake, admit it. Don’t make excuses, just tell the truth.

Graphic in header: By Muhi Sándor grafikus (E-mailben Muhi Sándortól) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Joe Farace

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