briefly, the customer is usually wrong

…and refuses to admit it.

In my years of employ for The Man, I have been routinely amazed at just how awful people can be. Truly, horribly, unbelievably awful. And our service sector is such that we are not allowed to retaliate, which may also be for the best.

In a time when people claim to love the straight talker, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners type, in actuality, they can’t handle it. We can’t handle it. We want Judge Judy to stick it to someone, but when it matters, we will not tolerate anything less than being addressed by Mister Rogers.

It doesn’t matter how long one has been a customer, how on time one has been in the past, how much one pays or what may or may not be on one’s balance sheet: the fact of the matter is that there’s a very good chance one didn’t read the terms of the contract between customer and company and, as a result, most are playing checkers when the game is chess. This is at the heart of recent economic fallout with almost every aspect of financing and credit in the global marketplace. It’s what gave rise to sub-prime mortgages, the meltdown of easy credit and is rearing its ugly head again as we teeter on the brink of another economic crisis.

(Oh, you didn’t know? Fool me once, shame on you. There will be no second fooling.)

This may be an unpopular opinion these days, but my time in this realm has proven time and again that so much of the problem at the heart of the problem with economies today aren’t big, nasty corporations or societal inequalities–I’ve seen and interacted with many people of means who were completely clueless, while also working with people of more modest stature who were completely savvy–it’s a matter of simply reading the contract before signing.

In complete honesty, if people read applications and cardmember agreements, asked questions about their loans or otherwise demonstrated a sense of honest inquiry into whatever investment, program, service or product they were interested in getting into, they wouldn’t get into it.

…and that would be perfectly ok!

Instead, when things don’t go their way, they stomp and spit and scream and yell and turn into the type of people who make Brownshirts look like the Dalai Lama. And people like me are left to clean up the mess as best we can. And it doesn’t help when we’re marginalized: ‘Oh, you’re not the company, it’s not your fault, and don’t take this personally, but %^& YOU!’ Well, actually, yes, I am the company, and you made a mistake. Why should I let you on the trolley to the Land of Make Believe when you’re clearly already on your way there?

The power of literacy goes much further than opening up imagination furthering education or bringing enlightenment on a macro level, but is at the heart of honest economic enterprise, fair dealing, good will and benefits everyone proportionally. When one looks at numbers, rather than words and ideas, one inexorably ends up seeing everything in terms of what others have–and what one doesn’t. When we look at ideas and language, though, we see the way in which we can survive and thrive, for ourselves our families and in mutual benefit.

The hope for the future isn’t in encouraged egalitarianism or in rugged individualism, but in reaching understanding together in fairness and in good faith. Sometimes that means reading the fine print.

In fact, I think that just means reading.


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