I'm not going to get into whether it's morally ambiguous or not. It's ridiculous. Morality is neither objective nor fixed, and considering that the role of a business is profit, the question remains infinitely mute.
However, I do believe it should not happen. No, I am not contradicting myself. I am not attempting to add an evaluative facet to this practice, just a descriptive one. The concentration of wealth, economic control and subsequent governmental control all hinder progress. Technologically, scientifically and culturally. This, of course, is purely a matter of taste for me - the hindrance of these things is not morally wrong in an absolute sense. But I can reason my opinion. It follows that some men are superior to others (Da Vinci would be more valuable than a brick layer, at least mathematically). It follows that to secure the continual progress of the three aforementioned aspects then personal autonomy must be key. Capitalism ultimately works on a basis of corporate interventionism in everyday life, the perpetuation of consumerism and coercion. In order to have a society of free individuals who can make progress - and thus happiness as a byproduct - capitalism must be abolished and replaced with a minimal state and worker-owned, but still hierarchical, economy.
Exploitation can actually harm profit. If workers feel as though they are being exploited for the mere profit of the company they work for, this can ruin motivation, pride in the company that they work for, destroy morale and harm incentive to a great degree. The result of this is are poorer goods, poorer services and so on and so forth which can have the knock on effect of damaging business and therefore profit.
Profit is not a measure of success, it is a measure of how much workers have been exploited. Capital is what allows wage-labor to exist. Wage-labor in the current form, is dependent upon the minimum wage, which in fact is equal to the average wage for the worker. The minimum wage is just enough to survive, enough to be miserable, cold, and hungry. In our economic system, labor is a tool for the rich to ensure the continued dominance of the wealthy. The middle class is an illusion, something that is fragile and can be destroyed easily by "fat cats." Profit is simply a means to oppress.
The company I work for has not given us a raise in five years. The cost of everything has gone up. Why does our goverment allow such things to happen? They are making a profit. If I ran my household like our government runs our country I would be homeless.
If you want to make profit, and are not concerned about the customers, fine. But its not acceptable to cause people to suffer so some corporate fatcats can make more and more money. Im sorry, but I am not a sacrifice for your narcissistic desire for more money. And the people should be held accountable if they are intruding on our rights.
Businesses exist for one and only one reason - PROFIT. Customers are a means to that end. Workers are a means to that end. If a business did not need any other workers other than the owner to make a profit, then that business will have no workers.
Why do businesses try to nurture repeat customers? Because such customers result in long term profit.
Why do businesses try to retain good workers? Because hiring new workers to replace them is not cost effective, which eats into profits.
If you were running a company that became so greatly impacted by an economic down-turn that not even firing workers would help you enough, why shouldn't to temporarily exploit people for profit? If you can survive the economic down-turn and get your business back on its feet, then you can pay back the workers, and no harm done!
Prostitutes are a good example. The fact of they sell themselves and "pimps" sell "hoes" for money, in their eyes it's okay. It depends on who you are to see the point of this debate. So, therefore there's nothing that can exactly be said to support or neglect this specific case because it's morally opinionated rather than statistics etc.
Chaining children to a table to pump out tennis shoes for 14 hours a day for $1.00 is exploitation. Selling customers an inferior product and offering nonexistent guarantees is exploitation. You can make a profit doing both of these things. However, if you provide a quality product, a value, while offering your employees a way to feed their family while expressing themselves as individuals, that is not exploitation.
As the recent economic crisis has shown us, many people without jobs can not support themselves. Sure there were a lot of small businesses that sprung up but on the whole people need a niche role.
I have faith in people and their abilities but the vast majority have been conditioned from day one to do as their told. Without a leader giving direction they are truly lost.
As far as profit... It is not evil in and of itself. Profit is just an indicator of value received by the customer. If you exploit either side of the equation you will not be a business that stays around very long. Competition will spring up that will exploit the inherent weakness of the "exploit" business model and they will either take the employees from the exploiting business or, take the customers or, both.
Is it wrong for customers to exploit corporate greed in order to get access to goods and services? Is it wrong for workers to exploit owners' and stockholders' lack of skills in order to get paid?
The trades work both ways.
As long as no one is being threatened with violence, being chained up, or being threatened with someone coming and taking our money without giving us the goods/services, then we are all just trading time and goods and services for other time and other goods and other services.
Obviously slavery and the Obamacare individual mandate fall outside of this model. If working, and buying are not voluntary, then it is exploitation.