Calling in sick when nothing hurts

Most of us have called in sick, sometimes even when we feel fine. But have you ever gone through the trouble of typing up, printing up and handing your boss a phony doctor's note?

KOMO 4 News conducted a few experiments to find out what it takes to sell a fake sickness to the boss.

First we bought several phony excuses from the Web site, which specializes in just that.

Then, with the help of three employees of Jones Soda, we sent in our hidden cameras to see whether their bosses bought the phony excuses.

Our first accomplice handed over a phony doctor's note for a future medical visit. And we mean business when we say "phony." The list of doctors on the slip was actually the list of the cast members from the ABC show "Grey's Anatomy." And the address of the phony doctor's office was that of the Space Needle.

As it turned out, we could've just as well used the address to the White House; the fake slip worked like magic and there were no questions asked.

So for our second experiment we upped the ante with a note asking for time off for an upcoming dental surgery. The address on that slip was Pike Place Market.

But again, the worker ran into no problems.

The third worker took the biggest risk. He handed over a phony funeral excuse for a person that doesn't exist. The funeral was to be held in sunny Barbados for three nights and four days.

The worker nervously shuffled into his manager's office, not so sure his excuse would work.

Perhaps he didn't look as nervously as he felt. To his own surprise, his boss bought it.

When we revealed our experiment to all three managers, they were all surprised, to say the least.

Each of the three bosses laughed and explained they had granted the workers' requests so willingly because they trust their workers.

But the three workers shared a different reaction. Even though they did it all in the name of fun and didn't actually miss a day of work, they felt guilty handing over the phony slips to their managers.

That reaction is not only normal, but also healthy, according to Scott Reynolds, a University of Washington professor of business ethics.

Reynolds says businesses lose time and money when workers call in sick. But businesses and workers lose trust when workers lie. And that, Reynolds says, can potentially cost a great deal of productivity, especially for small businesses.

However, the Web site says one out of three workers have called in sick at least once when they were well.

And it seems phony excuses are profitable for at least one industry -- the companies that sell the phony slips. We purchased a batch of five for more than $80.

When we asked a person who identified himself as a co-owner of the Web site if he felt any responsibility for contributing to workers acting unethically, he said no, that what he sells is merely a novelty.

Prior to our experiment with Jones Soda, KOMO 4 News received permission from the company President and CEO Peter Van Stolk.

The company noted that the experiment proved a timeless lesson -- honesty really is the best policy.
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