In the business world, loshon hora is often spoken as a “marketing tool.” You may have observed this technique when asking a salesman for his opinion about a product and receiving, instead, a thorough denunciation of his competitor’s merchandise. “Well, that’s business,” is an often-heard expression. The Chofetz Chaim informs us, however, that such reasoning is never an excuse for speaking loshon hora.
Maligning competitors’ merchandise is an all-too-common practice. The obvious motivation behind this is a desire to increase one’s sales by minimizing competition. Sometimes there is a second motivation at work: jealousy. Someone with a product to sell finds it difficult to accept the fact that a competitor has better merchandise or better prices. Speaking loshon hora is his attempt at convincing others of what he would like to believe — that his item is superior. (In a later section, the Chofetz Chaim deals with a case where the salesman has only the customer’s benefit in mind.)
The Chofetz Chaim closes this section with an important point. When derogatory information is related by two people, the sin is even greater than if it had been spoken by one person. The reason for this is simple. A report has greater impact when more people give it credence. Think about it: If you hear derogatory information from just one person, you may accept it “with a grain of salt.” You may tell yourself, “I shouldn’t believe everything I hear.” Or you might tell yourself, “This speaker may be biased.”
But when you hear the same information from two people, you perceive it as a widely held notion. The second person has given the report added credibility. The Chofetz Chaim notes that even if one person delivers the initial report on his own and then a second person comes along and concurs with the report, the second person has also committed a grave sin.
In any conversation where loshon hora has been spoken, one may be tempted to add his comments in the belief that the damage has already been done and one more comment will not make a difference. This, too, is a serious mistake. Any additional comment is yet another transgression.