Sorry this is so late.  I spent a significant portion of this morning dealing with customer service for a newly-purchased malfunctioning device.  It’s apparently a known-issue, though it doesn’t usually strike this early, and they’re sending me a replacement.  Of course, I lost three hours of work early morning, plus having to do without the device (which I was loving) for a few days why they ship.

Which is fairly normal, but dear Lord, is the onus on the customer.

And it kind of brings us to where I am right now.

I’m annoyed that this is the normal thing of customer service.  Yes, I know, they need to make sure the device really is malfunctioning and not just customer error, but can’t they stream line the process.

I know, I know I’m a spoiled American.  No other country is run as much for the comfort and convenience of its citizens as the US of A, and boy are we used to it.

The other side of it is that no other country is as “efficient” to live in.  People in Europe and probably the rest of the world not only put up with a ton more inconvenience, to live, which means on a routine every day basis, they lose more time and concentration than we do, but also in general have access to fewer “convenience devices” than we do.  And generally endure a ton more nonsense.  I described my experience with the train from Paris to Cannes, and how we were put in an un-air-conditioned first class car, but they keep running it and selling tickets to it even though the temperature in the train car could legitimately kill people who are in fragile health.  In the States it would be out of business.  In France, they gave a Gallic shrug and the ah “political officer” at the airport who talked to us, I suppose to determine threat levels, said that he had got that car “several times” and that he hoped we’d complain because “maybe they’ll listen to tourists.”

That’s screwed up.  That’s also normal in most of the world.

You know why?  Because in most of the world (not nearly all) the government steps in the relationship between customer and provider more than they do here.

All the idiot children out there who decry “capitalism” which they seem to think is some sort of organized system and not simply “people trading, as they will if no one prevents them” as a system, should think very carefully about the alternatives.

Once the government steps in: in health, in commerce, or simply by such excessive regulation about how you pay and treat your employees, the result is that the company or business is no longer serving the people but the government.

And when the customers, be they ever so humble — or derpish.  Yes, I read Amazon reviews — stop counting, what you get is that train car in 90 degree weather, with windows that don’t open and the air-conditioning which apparently hasn’t worked for 3 years.

You also get a loss of things you might have used to make your life more interesting/rewarding/easier, but which never come on the market, because regulations most of all squelch the small, the innovative and the risk takers.

For instance everyone (and their father) tells me I need an assistant.  I know that, you know that.  But the government is convinced if I get an assistant it will be for the purpose of exploiting him/her, making them work in the dark and cold, and beat them with sticks.

So it has regulations.  I have to fill all sorts of forms, but more importantly, unless I can prove the assistant is a contractor, not an employee, (and I’ve seen friends try to do that) I have to fill all sorts of paperwork (which would require another assistant to fill,) as well as provide a contribution to the assistant’s social security, which at my present stage would cost more than I can afford to pay.  Oh, yeah, also of course, pay whatever the government says I should.  The whole thing is daunting enough it’s not even worth trying.

My question is this: If adults are free to express themselves, buy firearms, marry whoever they want, or jump off a cliff if they so wish…  why do we need the government to tell us what deals we can accept, what products we can buy, what things we can do?

And if we are not free, then what’s the point of giving us the right to vote?

Because I’m getting truly sick and tired of this idea that if I strike a bargain with someone, be it for a product or a service, the government can step in and tell us we’re wrong and can’t do what we want to do.

Which brings up another point: all the things labor and consumer regulation are supposed to prevent are already crimes under other laws.  If I kept an employee locked up and mistreated him/her this would already be a crime under other laws.  If I defraud a customer, that’s already a crime.  Yes, even in drug and food — Sinclair’s fanciful invention not withstanding — all those things were already crimes BEFORE the FDA and could be persecuted under the law before any regulation intervened.

So, despite my being peeved at — private — customer service, and having pointed out to their Customer service person that unless performance improves and Customer Service is streamlined, I won’t buy from them again, as is my right, I do have a recourse.  And customer service responds, because if I complain and don’t tell other people to buy their gadget, or even worse tell other people NOT o buy their gadget, they will suffer.  Hence they comply and listen.

But if a service or a product succeeds through government intervention, they’re likely to have no competitors, and give very few d*mns what the customer thinks.

This applies, now, to any company that becomes really large like, for ex, tech giants.  Because the government has set tons of barriers on small businesses and small businesses growing (Obamacare being the final nail there,) the field is in possession of a few interests that really don’t have to please the people, only the government.

This is the only result of government regulation of business and contracts.  This is also ALWAYS the result.  This is the secret sickness of socialist regimes, the one that eats them from the inside out, the sclerosis Europe is dying from, and the reason we’re not doing so well, ourselves.

The only question is, why do people think this is a good idea.

292 thoughts on “Convenience

  1. They think this is a good idea because they never go past the rhetoric and their own private interest. “A living wage” means “i will get paid for existing and make lots of cash if I choose to work an entry-level job because I’m special and everyone has a right to be able to buy lots of stuff. The government should make it so, since my boss refuses to pay me $$$$ to take orders and mix milkshakes.” They are used to running to the teacher and having their desires granted and the rough places made plains. Once you start trying to pin them down on “how is the government going to enforce that? Who is going to pay for everyone to have a basic income?” they splutter and start talking about replicators and fairy godmothers (or the modern version).

    1. It does make me wonder if any of them have ever been in a situation where they’ve been wholly responsible for themselves. I’m thinking something first-world like backpacking, where you certainly have a large safety net to fall back on, but you hike in with all of your stuff, and if you didn’t pack the food, well, you’re hungry and have to hike out to get it.

      I’ve run across so many people who can’t comprehend living without electricity, let alone vehicular travel. They don’t have to hate camping, but you have to ease them into it.

      1. The big govt sports don’t want people to ever think they are responsible for themselves. Becomes inconvenient when they stop listening to their betters.

      2. Indeed about 15 years ago our power went out for 4 days in the summer. We live in a condo development and of all the people in these condos we were the only ones able to cook anything with the power out.
        I sat up and cooked breakfast by the swimming pool. People still speak of it to me. I was confident the power would be back on in a few days. In different circumstances they would have been on their own. Too bad.

        1. In San Diego a decade or so back, we had a major power outage—I was at home, and when my power was out, I walked a block or so to check how far it went, but I learned later that it was pretty much the whole county, around when C got home. We contrived things to eat that didn’t need electricity (happily we had a gas stove then) and after a few hours we went out for a walk around the neighborhood. Pretty much all the stores had shut down, because their cash registers weren’t working and their lights were off. But someone the bars had all managed to figure out how to take people’s money and were keeping their doors open. . . .

          1. The Fox Business correspondent Stuart Varney was in San Diego at the time, and he mentioned it on his program later. The sound crew cued up, “When the Lights go Down in the City,” and you could see his guests trying not to fall out of their chairs, laughing, as it went to a commercial.

          2. I was part of the second wave of Katrina responders, who went in about 4 weeks after the storm. Nobody had managed to get reopened except for the bars and strip clubs. Seemed like every damned one of them had figured out a way, even if there were no other lights back on for miles.

          3. Different customer dynamics. For one thing, drinks don’t require ice, and if there’s food storage, it’s limited access where you can keep your customers from opening the doors and standing there letting the food thaw faster.

      3. No, and they don’t see responsibility or independence as being desirable things. They like being told what to think and what to do.

        1. Here is the inimitable J P Sears to do your thinking for you.

          How to be Mind Controlled – Ultra Spiritual Life episode 71

      4. You misspelled “betters”.

        Then again, I prefer some other variant spelling such as “busy bodies”, “frightened inferiors”, and “self congratulating morons.”

      5. Most of them? no, most of them are still sponging off mommy and daddy. Obama’s economy at work.

        I guess that’s the real reason they hate Trump. Everyone expects them to go get a job because the economy isn’t a wreck anymore…

      6. I dislike camping on principle. But I can bug in with the best of ’em. 🙂

    2. Because, God Damn Me to Hell for Eternity, I told my kids, as so many others have done to theirs,

      “You need to vote. (Nothing wrong there.) You need to learn the issues, and choose what’s best in the long run for you, your community, and your country. (Still good.) If you don’t know the issues, or don’t have time to get to really understand them, then vote for whatever personally benefits you now.” (And that’s where we totally screwed the pooch.)

      It’s not possible for most young people to think long term. if it was, disaster preparedness would be easy. We’d have no social security problem. And socialist would be dead before it even got out of the gate. And the American Public Education system has done its best to prevent long term thought on cause and effect in the political and socio-economic fields.

    3. I suspect that by far the most people who are carrying the banner for A living wage are not looking at themselves.  They are people who are working in professions and feel something should be done.  Or they are are going to university and have yet to have to completely support themselves, no less a family.   
      For decades we have been being fed a load of propaganda about how the little people cannot make it and how big business is heartless and greedy.  We have been told that the solution would be to raise the minimum wage so that any job will enable people to support their family. 

      Few people realize the costs involved in regulation and documenting compliance.  Why would they when it is largely hidden from them?  When the politicians sell us the programs they feature the supposed benefits.  (I really wonder how many of those politicians are really aware of the costs as very few of them have ever been involved in building and running businesses.)

      1. They’re probably working on a generation two of the taking of “social justice” from Catholic theology– “Living Wage” really is a thing, but it’s tied to a just wage, with the original meaning of justice.

        Long digression that doesn’t add to it unless you are not clear on what I mean by justice:
        It’s like when I hit a yardsale and got roughly $200 worth of kids’ plastic blocks plus a bunch of add-ons like a train with wheels and some house-pieces, with a case for them; the gal who was there had no idea what they were worth and tried to offer it for five dollars…I think I insisted on $20, and explained exactly how much it would cost to get the same batch at the best bulk rate I’d been able to find. Yeah, they were used, but they were also clean, and I didn’t have to buy a huge tub for them. I could add our existing bunch of blocks (two of the $20-on-sale baggies) into the box without it overflowing. For an idea of how insane of a deal that was, I only even ASKED about it because there was a bag with blocks in it in the bunch– I asked if I could fill the bag with more of the blocks or if the $5 was only for that one bag. The gal looked at me like I was insane and said no, the $5 was for the whole container…. I’d been looking for more blocks for about two years at that point, and I’ve still kept my eyes out, and it’s almost as hard to find them as to get used Legos for less than new price.

        End of digression.

        About the closest it comes to the pop cultural meaning of “living wage” is that you’re supposed to recognize you’re hiring people, not cogs, so individual employers are supposed to consider “hey, Joe’s wife is in the hospital dying, even though he doesn’t have any vacation days or sick days left I should let him take some time off.”

        That they then try to take the “don’t be a stupid heartless machine” and make it part of a heartless machine is…



      2. I think the concept of a “tipping wage” is both immoral and too hard to force compliance—those states that have the sub-minimum wage for tipped jobs still tax as though the employees were making minimum, so if they can’t get the tips (which is less about them than the customers, honestly), they can actually *lose* money. And wage fraud is really easy when you have an undocumented source of money coming in.

        So—I’d like to abolish tipping. Make it flat-out illegal and change the prices in the restaurants as needed. Which does make me sound like a “living wage” proponent, but honestly, it would make things SIMPLER and EASIER TO RUN and dear lord, why are we still doing this in the 21st century?


        (I knew someone young and cute who said she loved tips and they should keep them, and I didn’t rub her nose in the fact that “young and cute” made for much larger tips, and at least one of those conditions does not continue…)

          1. Tipping should continue. It was abolished by law in Portugal. You don’t want the service we then got.
            As for a tipping wage, if grown adults make the bargain, it’s their business.

            1. Regarding the service without tipping, likely. While some people might take a professional pride in their work and keep up the level of service most would probably do no more than was required of them. This is particularly so as laws have made it harder to fire anyone once they are on the payroll.

            2. Ah, but Americans do have a better cultural grasp on good service than a lot of other countries. I’ve gotten excellent service from low wage, non-tip jobs (including fast food!), so it’s based on other understandings than tips.

        1. I read somewhere that in the early days of the Republic, foreign visitors noted that Americans regarded a tip as an insult–either a condescending pat on the head or implying they normally didn’t earn their money.

          1. I’ve heard that you don’t tip in Japan because that apparently implies that the person performing a service WOULD NOT do a good job if they weren’t tipped.

            IE they see “a tip” equaling “a bribe to do a good job”.

          2. This had certainly change by the early twentieth century. IIRC there were a few advertisements for both the electric interurban railways and early camper trailers made mention of taking advantage of them to avoid the “greedy tipsmen” at the hotels. For the electric railways, that was because they usually offered more frequent service than the steam railroads, so as to avoid the need for an overnight stay when making a trip to nearby cities.

            1. Hm, possibly the word isn’t being use consistently?

              From reading old books, it seems like the tips are a lot bigger than now, and that they won’t do the work without them, and your luggage might get lost on top of it.

              Contrast with leaving a gratuity after everything is said and done.

        2. I think the concept of a “tipping wage” is both immoral and too hard to force compliance—those states that have the sub-minimum wage for tipped jobs still tax as though the employees were making minimum …

          I have worked at several different tipped jobs.  In our state at the time those working at tipped jobs could be paid half of minimum wage, but if the tips fell below that necessary to bring us up to the minimum the employer had to make up the difference.  The employer was supposed to pay all the various matching contributions based on the paid wage plus the tips collected.  Therefore the government required us to report our tips each pay period. 

          The way one particular restaurant (one of a chain now defunct) dealt with this was to sit us down when we came in to collect our pay and make us fill out the form that our tips miraculously came to just enough to make the minimum wage.  I was happy to leave that job for that and many other reasons in less than a month.

          But — in some of the fancier places the tips you can pick up in a weekend are such that you would have a hard time convincing the staff to accept taking tips off the table.

          1. Not even just “fancy,” just has to a place where there’s an expectation of tipping and/or grateful customers.

            I support tipping, because there are a lot of jobs that don’t deserve minimum wage for the “I have a pulse and am here” level job, and I don’t like forcing people to pay to support it. (This is AFTER being in the food service industry, and no I’m no good at getting tips, sorry.)

            My sister pulled down hundreds in tips for doing baby sitting on new years eve a couple of years in a row, at a “lodge.” (basically resort with few amenities)

            There are always customers that are the equivalent of the tax frauds you worked for– that’s why I always tip 10% as a minimum unless there wasn’t any service at all (has happened exactly ONCE, and yes we checked that it wasn’t something justifiable, the guy just…forgot….?)

            Minor digression, I’m somewhat scandalized that folks who actually go out to eat after church are such notoriously bad tippers. Justly, they should be tipping more generously– because the folks who are working are doing a needful job, like how cows have to eat even on Christmas, so you make sure not to short them on that day.

            1. I usually tip well. The few notable exceptions were very memorable.

              I’ve left no tip exactly once, the time my waitress literally got into loud, lengthy argument with her boss, quit, and stormed out of the restaurant.

              And I left a two cent tip on two occasions. One was when I got up from my table, went to the restroom, and came out to find they’d cleared my table, tossing my remaining food and the printout I’d been reading, and seated new guests.

              The other time was when it took forever for a “quick lunch” where the restaurant was almost empty yet it took forever, because the waitress took 20 minutes to come take my order, it came out wrong, took 20 minutes to fix, and then she and all the other wait staff disappeared for like 20 minutes when I was done and ready to pay.

              1. I usually tip…. which led to an amusing incident a few years back. I was on a long term contract, and there was a Cracker Barrel between my hotel and the office, so I was in there pretty much every morning. The waitress was extremely good, and I generally tipped in the 20-25% range. They knew exactly what I would order and pretty close to when I would show up, so I would often walk in to find my table assigned and my iced tea waiting.

                After about 4 months, the manager came up, looking bothered, and wanted to know if they’d offended me in some way, because last week, I only left a tip once all week. Well, I certainly wasn’t, and when he told me the day I had left a tip, I realized that was the only day I’d used my credit card to pay for breakfast. They had a new cashier with sticky hands and the bad luck to choose a long term customer among her targets.

                BUSTED! 😎

            2. As well you should be, but one of the weird things about people is that when they do something they consider virtuous, they often take it as license to do something that isn’t.

              1. I think it may be more tied to “the service was lousy,” but they’re usually understaffed and have a really huge influx of customers which should be considered when evaluating service.

                Not that the observation is wrong, just wish folks would use a bit more charity.

          1. Yeah. Eventually we find out that whatever they tell us they mean — ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ — and they are always among the more equal ones.

  2. For instance everyone (and their father) tells me I need an assistant. I know that, you know that. But the government is convinced if I get an assistant it will be for the purpose of exploiting him/her, making them work in the dark and cold, and beat them with sticks.

    So find people to pay YOU for that service. 😈

    1. It’s already been suggested that she use existing contractors (like maid service) to take care of the things that she really doesn’t need to be the one responsible for. At least she’s finally learned to take days off on a regular basis! (Seriously, keep doing that. It’s HEALTHY.)

      1. Someone probably could set up as an Assistant to Writers contractor. Figure out some of the most time consuming sorts of things writers need to regularly do and offer those as clerical services. Swag management. Post Office duties. Being an accountant would probably help, too.

        I wonder how many clients a single person could manage? Assuming that they had the requisite organizational and book keeping skills.

        1. Since those would presumably be the services they were advertising, I’d bet they could have as many as they wanted. Basically a Personal Assistant but on a piecemeal basis.

        2. I was thinking the same thing. Much of a writer’s workload is online nowadays; an assistance doesn’t necessarily have to be even in the same country…

        3. Hmmm. ::Looks at long history of being an office admin/general organizer::

          Granted, I’d have to do most of it long-distance, since I currently live in Nowhere, Wyoming, but…not a bad thought…

          (Except for the thrice-damned self-employment taxes.)

        1. I know, but won’t it be amazing! 🙂

          And keep up the “resting” and the walking… it’s very very good for you.

          1. From personal observation: If you don’t take care of yourself now your body will take it out on you later. It won’t ask if the time is convenient, in fact it prefers to strike at a time when it is anything but.

      2. Finding assistants to work on contract from overseas is a thing. As much as I hate to recommend the book, The Four Hour Workweek is a good starting place to learning how.

          1. Organize it from a central call facility, perhaps largely automated in the modern age (something like Uber perhaps) and you’ve got “We also Walk Dogs.” 😉

            1. Fiver, taskrabbit, Rover, Wag (those two are exclusively dog-walking jobbies). There’s also Uber Eats, which is basically a food delivery service from whatever restaurant you choose on their list. Not that I’ve been investigating ways to supplement my Navy pension that don’t requireally specific set hours, or anything.

  3. I guess the answer to your final question is: Because they want it to be. Refer to “news” coverage of Venezuela before approximately 2014 for an excellent example.

  4. Why? Because they are now taught from a young age that it is a good thing. To get the big lie to stick, you have to start beating it in from an early age, until that “fact” the yellow door is actually red, is ingrained.

  5. In regards to customer service, I am reminded of the time we moved to Denver and contracted with the local phone company for internet service. Come a month or two later, they send us a bill—for service we did not have. We called to complain and they said they’d left us calls. “You mean on the number we specifically said had no phone attached but that you said was necessary to hook up the internet?” And they said we still owed them, even though the specific service we’d contracted for was unavailable. (We eventually set the apartment complex management on them, because that company guaranteed access to high-speed (for the time) internet, and they wouldn’t bother to tell us—or anyone else—where the problem was, and whether the apartment complex was on the side that required upgrades. And the apartment complex had high-speed internet as an amenity, so they were REALLY interested in knowing the answer.)

    They ended up sending the amount to collections, and when collections called us, we explained the situation, and that company said, That makes sense and never called us back. (If you know collections companies, this is not something that happens. Shows how badly that phone company was regarded.) Funny thing, that particular company lost HUGE in a customer service lawsuit and ended up having to change their name to get out from under the fallout. Haven’t heard good things about their service now, either.

    I can’t imagine what would have happened had it been a governmental utility. We still wouldn’t have internet, I bet.

    1. There was an idiot on one of the boards the other day that said if we hadn’t broken up the Bell System, we’d have been calling people on our videophones years ago. Only a really, really big organization could possibly have done that for us.

      I couldn’t even reply to that one. (Installed several “illegal” switches on phone lines back in the 300 Baud days…)

      1. Pauli’s “not even wrong” would be a strong contender for a pithy reply to that one…

    2. > collections

      Legally-sanctioned blackmail, in most places. Now that your credit score is tied to your insurance rates and interest rates, they figure they have a big stick to beat people with.

      They’re particularly fond of sending people demands for money to clear up debts for medical or lab work that never happened. We’ve been through that schtick many times. We’ve filed complaints with the state insurance commission each time.

      All those bills for lab work and consults after you find your insurance only pays for the primary doctor or procedure? Make sure that work actually got done. From experience, it doesn’t. Most people will just pay the $50 or $75 after being threatened with a credit smear.

      1. We ended up paying for an MRI that never happened, rather than lose a house some 15 years ago. We should have let the house go in retrospect.
        I also once got charged for a sperm lavage (where they optimize the sperm for intrauterine fertilization, for those who don’t know) from the fertility clinic we’d used 4 years before. In another state. And yep, they charged ME (it’s charged to the male of the couple.)
        AND NO ONE all the way to the collection agency tweaked that it was unlikely someone named Sarah had a sperm lavage. (think about it. 23 years ago, too.)

        1. But . . . but . . . you are a Mormon male (though with a great rack) so it could have happened . . .

      2. We had a case of insurance fraud. Had a procedure. Moved. Got bills. Paid bills from new address. Also had copies of insurance statements. Five years later, a problem shows up on our credit report claiming unpaid medical bills. It is billed through a legal firm specializing in medical collections. We dig into things. They claimed they’d billed us a few weeks after the original bill was taken care of. They sent it to old address. It should have been forwarded if true since the other bill was. So they liked about that. It hadn’t been on the credit report either in the mean time. Found old statement of benefits and called old insurance company. They found statement too. The collections company was attempting to claim the amount that we clearly were not responsible for.

    3. Oh. That phone company. I was a customer for 10 years. I never missed a payment. One month, I did. They threatened to disconnect me. I pointed out my perfect record. They didn’t care. I said “fine, do it – and send the bill to collections because I’m not paying it.” Never did pay it. It’s probably scrolled off my credit report, by now. Advantage of a good credit score: One can do things like that without repercussion.

      Coda: I switched to Comcast, which I’m now rid of, finally. CenturyLink offered me 1Gbs fiber. It’s great.

      1. “Advantage of a good credit score: One can do things like that without repercussion.”

        Yes. Amazing what you can get away with/threaten when your credit is in the “OMG, Holy Cow, they really, really, like you!” range. Especially when you are right & they are wrong.

        That was almost the exact wording (bit more slangy). Our credit score was just over 800 then. It has gone UP since then.

        Have had the relatively lousy rating, no credit history. Such a pain in the sitting region that we started kid off as soon as they’d start tracking. Thus by the time he was out of college he had some score. Probably not astronomical as he hasn’t had utilities or other payments since college, just his CC, which is relatively low amount, & work salary.

        1. CentryLink bought a LOT of really bad companies.

          I know because one of the horribad companies they bought was near my folks– they seem to have copied over existing system issues, while fixing customer service issues.

          For example, I tried to set up putting in new internet.

          the system for the local guys where I was putting it in sent guys to my PRIOR address…..

          1. The difference: when the install guy called from my prior front door to say “what the hell?!?!” he just sighed and went “oh, alright, sorry to bug you” and I wasn’t charged.

            Prior guys would’ve charged a service call and first month’s.

  6. why do people think this is a good idea.

    Because they’re idiots or because they were taught by idiots or both. 😈

  7. Yes, I know, they need to make sure the device really is malfunctioning and not just customer error, but can’t they stream line the process.

    And then someone suffers through that process, figures out how to streamline it, DOES IT and makes a decent living from that.

    I am looking at you, created-effective-chat-support guy…. (I hate sitting on the phone.

    1. Most customer service is run as a cost center; their primary metric is to get the customer off the phone as soon as possible. If the customer goes away mad, they don’t care. If the customer never calls back, even better.

      On the other hand… a support call is likely the *only* time a customer will ever deal with a company directly, instead Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target, etc. where they bought the product. The customer can’t see your billion dollar “campus”, your trophy secretaries, or your employee foosball center; the only “face” to your company is that voice on the phone.

      I ordered some parts for my air conditioner just after the Fourth. 32 days later, after half a dozen surreal exchanges with their email autoresponder and leaving never-returned voicemail, I left a final message: I was calling my credit card company to reverse the $1,300, and they had five working days to arrange pickup for the partial order that made it here.

      The young lady who called back shortly after was very polite and got my stuff to me the next day, but it should never have had to go to that point.

      1. “Most customer service is run as a cost center; their primary metric is to get the customer off the phone as soon as possible. If the customer goes away mad, they don’t care. If the customer never calls back, even better.”

        …aand this is why customer service should be part of a Customer Retention & Growth department, which should be measured on the retention and growth of existing customers. No always feasible, but often is.

        All kinds of research shows that it is much cheaper to keep and grow existing customers than to go out and find new ones.

      2. One reason I’m fanatically loyal to Apple is that every single time I call with a problem, I find myself speaking with someone with native fluency in English, who actually listens to my problem and guides me through resolving it, rather than reading robotically off a script. I’m sure that costs Apple a lot more money, but it also lets them get away with charging me a lot more for what are nominally “the same” products.

        1. I got dialup internet a dozen years ago, before we could afford satellite broadband. Their customer service has been sufficiently good that I still keep an account with them, largely for the email service. I have way too many accounts tied to that email to want to change…

          FWIW, it’s They have other services, but email is the big one for me.

          1. Until two years ago, I was happy to keep my old dial-up internet email address. But the security kept getting worse and worse (as evidenced by the floods of spam in my inbox, and the fact that I could not make an actual complicated password, and had been hacked more than once), and when I called them to discuss it, was told “We’re not going to improve our security.” At which point I told them “Then I won’t be paying you for my email anymore, and won’t be doing further business with you.” There was stammering, and weak apologies, but obviously they weren’t going to change.

        2. Of the three times I’ve had to deal with human beings at Amazon, they have 1) had Indian accents thick enough to cut and 2) informed me that their names were Alexandra, Bob, and Nellie respectively. My husband does QA for a company with lots of workers in Mumbai, one of whom regales him with stories of HIS call-center time. Allegedly, they all got cheat sheets to help them more believably sound like natives of whatever city the company was located in.

            1. Which is a likely excuse, considering that the current Firefox is built off of Chromium.

            2. The “browser wars” of the 1990s aren’t over yet…

              Why some places – including multinational corporations – hire retard web developers who “optimize” corporate sales sites so they only run on one web browser boggles me. I’ve run into a few that not only wanted a specific browser, but it had to be running on a specific operating system too.

              They don’t get my business any more. And up at the level where people write the checks to pay for those kind of web sites, I doubt anyone could make them understand why.

              1. I think after our buyout/merger it has gotten better, but for a time, those in a supervisory roll needed FF,Chrome and IE to do their jobs. Payroll needed FF to work but Time keeping only worked under Chrome (and for added fun, actually using the online timeclock needed IE, though I was able to get it to work with Palemoon), then for a far too long time, the benefits website only worked in IE/Windohs, making those of us using a Linux or Apple at home a bit irate. I figured a workaround using Palemoon for that and they fixed the issue, then for a time, the Supes were really mad as some of the stuff they did required the latest version of IE, while other things would not work in the newest version, and only worked in the previous two versions. I had the same issue with some things I needed to do needing older IE and some needing the newest, and of course one can’t have both versions on the same PC.
                Lately, though it seemed not to happen this week, maybe because they worked a full 7 day week, but every monday morn the computers we workers use stop printing over the network (with one exception but it prints one type of label only) and accessing the internet, which is where nearly everything we need to print is held. IT gets a callout, and it gets “fixed” by tuesday, though at times a return on wednesday happens.
                Here at home, I use FF for company email, Opera for Tubes of You and opening links in emails etc, Palemoon for my daily links etc, and sometimes Flashpeak Slimjet for streaming UK tv for motorcycle racing (MotoGP, BSB, Speedway etc)

                1. That’s ok, we encountered a fun bug a couple weeks ago where trying to print directions and a map from Google Maps in Chrome under windows 10 crashes our printer if we use the native drivers but not if we use the PS3 drivers…

              2. Everything “optimized for a smartphone.”

                Which means “looks like an Apple ripoff and doesn’t work very well.”

                FFS, WHY!??

      3. You’ve got a paying customer on the phone, talking to you, on their nickel. Back in the day, salesmen would have sacrificed their own children to Ba’al to get that.

        Well, except for Comcast, who turns each call into an endless harangue trying to sell you more stuff you don’t want…

        1. I delt with Comcast once upon a time. As it happened I worked about one block away from the one person in the whole are who was capable of fixing problems. Nice Gay Man, working in a couoke of rooms of a house that had been converted to a node of their system. The first time it took me several day and numerous calls to get somebody to tell me where to go to get my problem addressed. I belive the phrase “If I don’t get some service soon, I am going to make making Comcast miserable my hobby.” was used.

          Thereafter, I just went and saw him. The first time I did that he asked if I had gone through the phone center. I said, “No. Do I look stupid?”

          He just nodded and said, “I’m not supposed to help until you have, but I always do. It cuts down on the amout of screaming.”

          Next day I took him a box of the kind of pastry I’d noticed him eating.

          I expect they fired him eventually (we moved out of the Comcast only territory fairly soon), and that their node went down and stayed down for a long time shortly thereafter.

          1. A trick I learned from my days as a Comcast customer and not getting problems solved by talking to their phone support– if you can find an email address, email the VP of customer support (of whatever company, not just Comcast), detailing your problem and all the ways in which the employee(s) you talked to on the phone failed to fix it.

            You get remarkably quick solutions afterwards. Only problem is a lot of VP’s contact info is really hard to find these days.

            1. I once got in trouble for pointing out to customers that the website (of the phone company for which I was contracted to provide customer service) included a section on corporate officers. (When the call I was receiving was indeed a corporate level concern that should be passed up.)

              Got a lecture. Still not sorry. I did both companies a favor.

            2. When I lived in Virgina, we had a local hero in the personage of a little old lady who, upon being given the runaround by Comcast for Entirely Too Long, went home, borrowed her husband’s claw hammer, came back, and went totally Librarian on their office equipment.

              Never, ever push a little old lady too far. Their givadam is usually broken.

      4. Our propane was through a large national company. So so service, but it was tolerable. However, they had a reputation for billing people with odd tanks. Some friends had a tank left over from the late 1940s, they never heard anything about it until [redacted] sent them a bill for rent. They were rather annoyed (the tank was idle).

        We changed providers and told the old company to come get the tank. No response. A second call, no luck. At which point, I sent them a letter telling them (politely, somehow) that they had to get their damned tank or we’d start charging rent. Took a week for them to get it.

        And for the next two years, we got billed for the rental of the tank that they had retrieved. Not sure how I kept my temper, but the local person finally found the right people at the national office to tell them to stop it. (It never went to collections; we’d tell the locals and they’d back the charges off the account we weren’t supposed to have. Sigh.

        1. One of the cars we had when we were married was a 1958 Power Wagon, called the “Blue Whale”. Our first purchase was a smaller used 1978 Celica, & the Blue Whale was parked along side the back yard (someone, cough, cough, was going to “restore it”). Oregon Plates in Washington State.

          About 1985 got a letter from the DMV (it’d been parked for 6 years by then, grass growing up in floor). My call to the DMV was short. Not being driven, can’t be driven, not getting it licensed. Gal said they’d confiscate it. My response was “Please! Promise? When will you be here?” Silence on the other end. They never came.

          Sold it for parts to someone doing restoring the 2-door version, rather than transport it back south when we got transferred out of Washington. Except for floor, brakes, & tires, parts were in decent(ish) shape.

      5. I once got a service canceled by informing the person that I had been told I could cancel it, and she had thirty seconds before I hung up and called the cops to report I had been a victim of telephonic fraud.

  8. The lesson from the late Jerry Pournelle’s “Iron Law of Bureaucracy” is that any bureaucracy will eventually (and in my experience sooner rather than later) become directed toward furthering the bureaucracy itself rather than the causes for which the bureaucracy was created. So unless the furthering of that bureaucracy is tied (like, say, via the market) to actually furthering those goals effectively, it will become less and less efficient at achieving those goals and more and more “efficient’ at increasing its own size and scope.

    1. See also; PARKINSON’S LAW. In fact, read all of C. Northcote Parkinson that you can get your paws on. THE FUR-LINED MOUSETRAP is particularly good.

      1. “Parkinson’s Law” made me think of Dilbert, except set in 1950s British Colonial Service…

        Seriously, people: the book is worth your time. It is a viciously barbed commentary on monkey pecking order as applied to management structures, and you’ll sit there nodding like a bobblehead while you read it.

        I kept loaning my copy out until it didn’t come back. I need to order a couple more…

  9. Yes, even in drug and food — Sinclair’s fanciful invention not withstanding — all those things were already crimes BEFORE the FDA and could be persecuted under the law before any regulation intervened.

    Funny you should mention that. Thomas Sowell in “Basic Economics” in the section on the value of brands, went into how generic foods could be adulterated but when Heinz put his name on canned goods he had a vested interest in ensuring he put out a quality product which created confidence among his consumers that allowed him to charge higher prices and make more money.

    1. Old man Rockefeller called it “Standard Oil” for a reason. He wanted to be the standard for safety against which all other oil products were measured.

  10. There are a lot of people who think that “regulated” or “gov’t approved” means safer or better. That’s the mindset that needs fighting.

    1. There is probably a huge overlap between them and the people who thing “non-profit” means virtuous and nothing but good while “for profit” means “will rip you off.”

      1. I keep wanting to do a guest post on that second phenomenon… (featuring a local credit union who had bought an hour with every new class at the call center–read, mostly young people at the beginning of their working lives–mostly advertising that it was not a for-profit company, and gave profits back to its members. And I was just FLABBERGASTED that no one knew they were marks. Or wondered how much the call center was charging for access.)

  11. Oh, the difference between customer service and amenities in Europe and in the USA – my god, the difference between night and day! For ex – too nearly forever to get a telephone in Greece. Nearly forever to get telephone service in a rental unit. Most military families stationed in Greece were never there for long enough to get a telephone, or phone service. I lived in a three-story,three unit apartment block. Landlord lived on the ground floor with his family, his wife’s sister and her family on the top floor. (I lived in the second-floor flat.) There were phone drops in all three apartments – but only a single telephone! Landlord and sister-in-law passed the phone back and forth, according to need – in a heavy plastic bag at the end of a long rope.
    And as for getting Greek license plates for your automobile? The waiting list was years long. All of us had AFG (American Forces Greece) plates on our cars, and didn’t that make us stand out on the road! At least, when we got to Spain, we got ordinary Spanish plates within a week or two of arriving, once our cars were registered on base.
    In Spain, the last winter we were there, the central heat unit went titzup. The landlord was on it, but we were nearly two months without heat, in a very cold winter, because it was so difficult getting the furnace unit replaced. The next winter – we were in Utah. The furnace in our rental house also went titzup. Was fixed in a single day!
    No comparison, with regard to customer service.

    1. I was told in Germany that hot water, especially in summer, was a wasteful luxury so don’t worry about not having any for several weeks at a go. That was an eye opener.

      1. My first stay in Bavaria, I discovered that washcloths aren’t part of hotel linen, at least not for that hotel. Made do with a kitchen scrubbie from the grocery store (paid in Deutschmarks, just before they went to the Euro). And yes, mosquito window screens were also considered a decadent affection. Mosquitoes consider me to be a prime treat, alas. Wasn’t going to sleep with closed windows when the temps were pushing 95F during the day. A/C wasn’t normally needed there, but Al Gore must have been elsewhere.

          1. The scrubbie incident was the first trip; I made sure to pack something the next two times. The last trip was the mosquito adventure, and we were told (with a straight face), “we never have mosquitoes here”. Pull the other one, it has bells on.

            Buying anti-itch ointment in a small city in Bavaria was an experience. Lots of point and mime. Nice hotel, but decidedly not a chain. (This was Wasserburg am Inn, east of Munich.) Where we were actually working, there was a hotel we were told to avoid at all costs. 🙂 Not sure that town had a market, though it had a decent Bierstube for lunches.

    2. I served my LDS mission in the UK. Water pressure is a joke. Hotels and B&Bs have the best plumbing. So you get “something” but ordinary housing the pipes are still all on the outsides of many of the buildings (freezing and breaking regularly in the winter – and no, these aren’t always the old housing where they are shoehorning plumbing into an existing house, these are the modern buildings that they continued to build in the same way) but no where near even the eco-flow levels you get here. Phones were of three styles. Phone-in, phone-out, and both. Meaning you could receive calls only, make calls only, or both. Lots of people opted for phone booths (pre-cell phones).

      1. In the mid-90s a friend spent a year in England. His employer moved him from an apartment to a two-bedroom house when he pointed out it would save them a couple hundred pounds a month…

        Being a fix-it sort, he got to experience British plumbing. Apparently it was common for water to be pumped into a tank in the attic, where it had only a modest gravity feed down to the ground floor. And a mass of floats, valves, widgets, and gubbins, most of which were either redundant or had no obvious purpose.

        Commenting on this at the hardware store, the clerk explained to him that it was all “to save water.”

        “What do you mean, ‘save water’? IT RAINS ALL THE TIME!”

      2. Back in the ‘90’s I read somewhere that in Italy most people were using cell phones and not even trying to get a land line….the land service was government, but the cell phoes were private.

        1. Eastern Europe mostly made the jump from nothing to cellular. Copper only existed in a small percentage of the countries, and it was way cheaper to put up towers than to set up poles and wire. So many formerly-backward countries have far better phone or internet service than the West.

          The problem with being first is that when something new comes along, you’re saddled with the huge installed base of old tech. That’s why England had steam trains long after most places went to Diesel or electric, why US NTSC TV resolution was so wimpy, etc.

          1. Good chunk of the actual reason that there is less obscene speed internet in the US vs Korea

          2. NTSC is based off our electric frequency, PAL is based off of Europe, SECAM is because France needs their own standards. So our frame rate is 60i, PAL is 50i, and SECAM… i dunno because i’ve never dealt with it.

        2. If we had decent cell service (whacking great hill in the way to the only tower), we’d ditch our landline. Repair services were abysmal until the company bought another, who had technicians who actually understood electronics, and, gave a damn.

      3. Truth Coefficient : Unknown. Only heard of it n-th hand, so.

        Supposedly a UK visitor to the US was impressed by the simple consistency of [HOT] on the left and [COLD] on the right, every time. Claimed it was always a bit of a guess in a new-to-you place as to which was what, in UK.

        1. My grandfather, for reasons unknowable, hooked up one of the sinks in his house backward. It was extremely annoying. My aunt lives there now. I should ask her if she’s fixed it.

          1. We discovered the previous owner (or someone…) had rigged a cross-couple setup for the previous water heater.. neat looking, and utterly pointless. Had the water heater been set up for that, simply turning it would have done as well – and it wasn’t, so it was rigged “backwards’ to what it should have been. When that water heater was replaced, there was a Simplification committed on the plumbing for it.

            And no matter how screwy the sink setup is, plex tubing can likely rescue it. Some genius decided to run the kitchen water lines along an outside wall.. in Minnesota – and a bizarre gas line arrangement meant that outside air was apt to get in at one particular point in that arrangement. Plex was used to re-route the kitchen water lines (Christmas present from $HOUSEMATE & I to… us) and the frightening gas line (overhead outdoor gas feeder?!?) was removed. I will not claim it is ideal now, but it is no longer psychiatrist-bait.

    3. Rent laws are fairly strict in most US states; it’s common to have something like a “Certificate of Occupancy” that states the rental meets various required standards – primarily water and heat, AC in some places.

      With no heat, dwelling may have been legally uninhabitable, and the landlord might not have been able to collect rent, or might have been on the hook to pay for moving you somewhere else.

      Or they could have just been on the ball and taking care of business efficiently…

      1. Fastest I ever got my first landlord at Flat State U to move was when I pointed out the problem electrical circuit had also taken out the hard-wired smoke detector (required by state law and the fire marshal did truly random spot checks).

        1. New NFPA code for fire alarms requires that they be interconnected, so if one is triggered, they all go off at once. This is supposed to be for “more safety.” And they all have to have both AC and internal battery backup.

          My one-bedroom project house, to properly meet code, needed four of those, including one in a hallway that was only 39 inches long.

          Fortunately, the house is small enough a fire would be easy to spot. Someone in a 3-story McMansion, staggering from room to room at oh-dark-thirty with a stepladder to reset every separate alarm… I wouldn’t be surprised if most homeowners did some “creative” rewiring.

        2. My uncle once got a dead tree down by not only pointing out his expertise in the area, but by telling the institution that owned the grounds that he was worried about the liability.

          1. Our apartment complex, lo these many years ago, was informed that a particular tree branch had to come down if our unit was to have access to TV and internet. The manager said she’d submit a quote and have it down in a week or so. The maintenance guy came by an hour later, looked at the branch, said, “I can do this,” and chainsawed it off right then.

            I still have no idea if he was authorized to do so. But hey, that was fast.

      2. Use and occupancy permits are a thing in PG county, Maryland. When we were opening a small craft gallery (no, it didn’t succeed) I set some kind of record by getting said permit in ONE WEEK. I later learned that acerage time was SIX MONTHS.

        What did I do? When I got to the counter and met the handsome, well dressed, Black lady who had just been yelled at by the previous six ‘cistomers’, I said, “Excuse me. I’m in WAY over my head. Can you help me?”

        She walked me through it instead of making me go through the line a dozen times. I think I was the first person she’d seen on my side of the counter in weeks who was halfway polite.

        It doesn’t always work with low level government clerks, but it does with a lot of them.

        Which brings up a question. If the people who want lots of government were the kind who were polite to clerks, I could understand their preferences. But they aren’t. They’re the kind who shout and demand their rights!

        Case in point:

        When I lived in DC, I quickly learned that the neighborhood around Farragut Square was a ghost town on Sundays. Six days a week those roads were heavy traffic areas. On Suday ir wasn’t unusual to see people using them as an outdoor roller rink. Shopping in the stores in the area was nice on Sunday, so I did it a lot. One Sunday I was headed to the Borders in the area, and came adross a Gay Pride parade, loudly marching through the area that was otherwise as desolate as a dying town in a Sergio Leone western.

        I knew one ofmthe staff in the nearby Suncoast slightly. Knew he was Gay, knew he was active in the Gay community. So I popped in and asked him what was up?

        He said, “There are three Gay Pride parades every year because the Gay community split into three squabling pieces a decade ago. That one is by the group that is most quarrelsome. See, what happens when you are rude to the nice Black ladies who deal with parade permits is, suddenly the only place and time you can get a permit for is here on a Sunday, where and when nobody will see you.”


        1. There is a lot to be said for being friendly, polite and non-confrontational when dealing with clerks – like say, at the DMV. About fifteen years ago, I had a small accident with the motor vehicle of the time (The Very Elderly Volvo) which – in order to get any insurance to repair, meant that I had to declare it as a wreck, then repair, and re-register. (Approximately the process, it may have been more complicated than that.) Threw myself on the mercy of the DMV clerk, and one of their supervisors came to the counter, marked out for me in pencil on some blank forms EXACTLY what I had to say on the forms, watched over me as I filled them out, then stamped the forms … and it wall went as clockwork.
          Back when I was still on active duty, I was the building manager for the unit – meaning that any maintenance and repair issues had to go through me to base Civil Engineering. I did very well at this, by always being civil to the CE people, never declaring an emergency unless it really was an emergency … and bringing them cookies at Christmas. Oh — and usually having a good idea about what it was that needed repair. I learned so much about building maintenance issues through that additional duty …

          1. My first job in semiconductors was for The Boss From Hell. A non-trivial part of my time was spent apologizing for the twit after he pissed off the people we needed service from. Stayed there two years, then left. TBFH went to another company, successful, from what I heard, but (many years later), the department he ran was a whole lot more pleasant. (Was job searching, and post 9/11 & Dot Com Bust, they lost their openings.)

          2. To keep stuff fair– I’ve also run into folks that go “hey, they’re polite, put them at the bottom of the response pile.”

            In some cases, the logic is “they are being polite– that’s weakness, I can abuse them.” In others, the logic appears to be “they are not a pain in the rump, deal with the stuff that will make my life more pleasant when they are GONE first.”

            I’m still going to be polite, because I would rather spread decency, than risk infecting people with being a total jerk. (When in doubt, be nice. Work to establish self doubt. When you’re sure anyways, bring out the warhammer.)

            1. My attitude is usually, “I’m angry at the company for (XYZ thing that they did). The person in the company who did XYZ is never the person at the customer service desk in front of me / on the other end of the phone line. So I’ll be nothing but polite to them personally, while telling them my irritation with $COMPANY and the steps I intend to take if $COMPANY does not act to redress the issue.

              1. “Good morning. I’m calling because I’m seriously pissed off. Would you be kind enough to forward my call to someone who deserves it?”

            2. Their goal is to get you to leave. If you show a friendly determination to stick around until the problem is fixed (‘that’s okay, I’ve got a book’), they tend to help you just to get you out of the office.

              1. Sadly, I don’t have much of a presence. Folks have been known to overlook me when I’m standing right there when they do want to help!

                Although having a pack of kids seems to work pretty dang well. ^.^

        2. Works for call centers, too; somehow my husband ended up in a guild that is basically “People who worked at XYZ call center, and folks they know.” Seriously, one of the guys was the janitor for three weeks, but struck up a conversation with the gal who had the geeky shirt, that kind of thing.

          Frequently they’d have Discord up while they were dealing with people.

          …did you know there are folks dumb enough to put customer support on hold, when they’re trying to pull a fast one about the delivery of federally monitored drugs?

        3. “See, what happens when you are rude to the nice Black ladies who deal with parade permits is, suddenly the only place and time you can get a permit for is here on a Sunday, where and when nobody will see you.”


          Yeah, it’s amusing….. until you realize that many government employees have all the indoctrinated resentments of the modern Left, and that YOU are likely to get that treatment whether you are polite or not, just because of your assumed privilege.

    4. Served my LDS mission in Romania, where hot water was turned off all summer, and frequently most of the rest of the year. And sometimes, the water was turned off altogether–“to conserve” it apparently.

      And paying one’s electric bill involved standing in long lines (at least, it did until the mission office just said “Screw it, we’ll pay all of this centrally) and just getting your mail from abroad frequently involved petty bribes.

      And oh yeah, the sealed train compartments. I know those well. Freezing and/or stifling hot, filled to choking with cigarette smoke. Why? Because “open windows are bad for your health” and so they sealed them all. (I’d lay odds that this is the reason for the sealed windows on French trains as well. The oddness regarding drafts and breezes does not appear to be confined to Eastern Europe.)

      I got told, very solemnly, that sitting in the back of a pickup truck (we were helping someone move house) like that meant we’d all catch pneumonia and die. We laughed, and told them we were weird Americans, and we’d take that risk.

      But yeah. I’m eternally grateful that, by the time I got there, the vast majority of the inconvenient problems that plague day-to-day business while living in Europe had been handed off to the mission office and the beleaguered mission president’s assistance (who did not get to pick that job) and staff. Because otherwise, large chunks of our days/weeks would have been spent dealing with that garbage and not doing what we were there to do. I never really had a desire to live in Europe prior to that–only to visit–but that eighteen months definitely put paid to any tiny inklings of ‘oh how romantic’ that might have arisen.

      (Look, I enjoy the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” but I don’t buy for one hot minute that it was anything remotely close to that enjoyable, and although I have not read the book it’s based on, I suspect the film was a highly-optimized version of an already optimized memoir.)

      1. Germany and Austria do the “drafts are evil” thing too. I tend to pass out from heat. Amazing how that gets a train window opened.

        Flat State U turned off hot water from April 15 to November 1, because that’s when they turned off the boilers for heating the campus buildings. No boilers, no hot water, except for food service. And yes, it did snow in April. And October.

        1. My BS came from the Ivory Corn Silo. The campus power plant ran all year long, because all random needs for heat were steam based. This included the clothes dryers in the laundry room .My first year, I was just downwind of the plant–in-state coal was required, but the bituminous had a lot of crud in the carbon. Moved across campus the next year; across the street from the physics building. Bed to lecture could and did happen in 10 minutes at times. I suspect some folks did it in 5. 🙂

      2. > oddness regarding drafts and breezes

        True in England through Victorian times, at least. The “wingback” style of chairs was supposed to protect the occupants from deadly drafts.

        The bricked-up windows probably helped, though the main reason was a rather steep “window tax” in the 1700s and 1800s. A lot of people got the backs up over it, and bricked up their windows rather than pay.

        1. It was not uncommon for us to knock on people’s doors, and they’d open them, only to immediately slam them shut in our faces while hollering “Hang on, there’s a draft, I have to close the window!”

          (Also not uncommon for people to answer the door in their underwear, in the summertime, or naked, or come to the door, look out the peephole, and then inform us they were in the shower. To which I always thought “Then why did you even get out and come stand at the door…?” People are hilarious.)

          1. Mormon, right?

            I am so incredibly disappointed– all the local Mormons, both in Seattle and El Paso area, refuse to come inside. 😦

            I grew up with mom inviting any door-to-door missionary that didn’t hit the “This guy is a predator” bell in for a sit-down, pleasant conversation and cookies if they were geeky enough about their religion to really get into a good conversation. It was FUN to talk to folks who love their faith.

            1. My mom does the same. All Mormon missionaries in the village like her because of that. She feeds them and argues with them. Also she told the village they weren’t “children of G-d” a particularly noxious cult of the seventies. Having met our Mormon friends and their kids, she could dispel those fears.

              1. When I was growing up, most of the door to door folks were “Joe-Hoes”– Witnesses. (For those wondering, it was an affectionate nickname, at least from any lips I heard it.)

                The local Mormons were…well, from learning more about the organized Mormons, I’m pretty sure they would be technically a splinter-sect who were doing a lot of stuff they really, really shouldn’t, and they didn’t show up because my mom would’ve fed the local head a body part he was quite fond of. (Amusingly enough, his wife was our favorite babysitter…guy was a high school teacher, so when mom would substitute his wife would babysit us. Wonderful lady, being married to that guy was a true act of loyalty/obedience to an oath given.)

                As best I can tell, NONE of the local Mormon groups around my mom’s hometown are there anymore– but there are Temples, now, and door-to-door missionaries, although the situation is still very standoffish. Not sure if that’s just because folks remember the prior generation or not…..

                1. Sometimes, those more isolated LDS communities can go…very strange. Sometimes even not so isolated ones (I heard the bare outlines of a tale that occurred in Paris about two decades ago, and all down to a single charismatic fellow who…caused a lot of problems and led a lot of folks astray. I mean, look, our Church is–technically speaking–very big on free will, making one’s own choices, and thinking for oneself, but there are still Rules regarding Doctrine, and not going outside of it…)

                  My mom likes the Jay-Dubs (which is what we call them ’round here, and on my mission). She’ll buy/accept their pamphlets and try to give them a Book of Mormon in return, and generally chat with them. Most of them she’s had friendly discussions with over the years. Some freaked out at the whole “offered a Book of Mormon” thing (that old chestnut that we believe it replaces the Bible, heh–we don’t believe that). Some wanted to argue (and not in a friendly debate manner).

                  The ones I encountered in Romania were…well, I’ll credit them with sincere and good intentions, but they *really* didn’t like us much. And always wanted to spend an hour or two arguing. Still, it led to amusing situations sometimes, like the time a companion and I got on a bus, and there was a JW convention in town (they were, next to our church, one of the more popular “new” churches to come into Romania), and everyone on that bus was going to said convention…we decided discretion was the better part of valor and took a second bus, lol.

                  And then there was the one who’d show up at our English classes with letters he wanted translated into English so he could send them to the JW leadership in New York…and the letters were long and earnest arguments as to why said JW leadership was entirely wrong. (We translated them for him, of course, but wondered if he saw the irony in the whole situation…)

                2. We got both Mormons and JWs at my little country house.

                  One time apiece.

                  Because my cantankerous father had the Book of Mormon, the New World Translation, AND a four-language seminary Bible handy, and he liked to argue. He let the Mormons go after two hours, the Jehovah’s witnesses took four.

              2. Mom’s greeting line:
                “I’m Catholic, I’m not going to change, but would you like to come in for some coffee or something and I’m willing to talk with you.”

                  1. One of my favorite (and most commonly heard) lines from folks after greeting them was some variation of “My family has been Orthodox for two thousand years…” 😀

              3. Bless your mom, Sarah. We always appreciated the folks who would just *talk* to us even if they weren’t actually interested in the church itself. It’s nice to actually get to know people, and it lessens misunderstandings down the road!

                (And food is always welcome to a young missionary, lol!)

                1. My mom feeds people. It’s what she does. We met some missionaries in the supermarket and were helping them and at some point one said “Oh, you’re senhora Almeida’s daughter from America.” 😉
                  They’d made the acquaintance of mom’s pumpkin doughnuts….

                  1. That is awesome. 😀 Pumpkin donuts…sounds amazing.

                    And yes, I have no doubt that word about your mom and her awesomeness (and her food) was spread amongst returning missionaries to outgoing bound-for-Portugal missionaries, many of whom go on for a stint of teaching the language at the Missionary Training Center. I heard similar tales, and also other things, such as “read the instructions on how to make homemade root beer VERY carefully if you’re using yeast” (failing to do so led to two accidentally very drunk missionaries–and us Mormons do not drink alcohol, if we’re being good–and one mission president laughing himself sick when they tearfully fessed up.)

            2. Yeah, I’m Mormon. (See the mildly amusing articles in our Church’s president’s latest–and in my opinion probably doomed–effort to get rid of that nickname.)

              If you are a woman who is home alone, and the missionaries at your door are male, they are not allowed to come into your home. Them’s the rules. It’s not meant to say that they worry you will do anything, or that they will, I’ve always understood that it’s really about the optics of the thing. Don’t get into a situation that anyone could misinterpret, particularly if you are a missionary, heh. Also safety for all concerned. (We had a member in my first city in Romania whose husband–an abusive asshole–would go BALLISTIC if any missionaries, particularly male ones, set foot in their home. Yeah.)

              Same rules go for sister missionaries: if it was just a guy (or multiple guys) with no woman around, we weren’t to enter their home. If they were interested we’d give their info to the male missionaries, and vice versa. 😀

                1. They’ve been trying since forever. And sure, I’ll tell people “I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” and they go “Huh?” and I go “Mormon” and they go “Ohhhh, okay.”

                  They want us to stop using LDS, too, which is also a handy “known code word” for our religion, albeit less well known than “Mormon.”

                  At least I run into fewer people these days that think we worship either Mormon or Joseph Smith (sigh)–though I dunno if that’s because people are better informed, or just because I no longer live in the, um, buckle of the Bible Belt (Oklahoma) where folks have heard the *darndest* things about us.

                  (Though not as hilarious as Romania: shortly before I got there, they showed that Harrison Ford film Witness on national tv. And for some bizarre reason, translated “Amish” as “Mormon” in the subtitles. So the whole time I was there people were going “Oh, so you’re the folks who don’t use cars or technology, right?” To which I usually had to reply “Um…you do realize we’re sitting in a cab/on a bus/that I had to take a plane to get here…? No, that’s the Amish.”)

                    1. And that’s pretty mild on the ‘crazy things people think Mormons believe’ scale, heh.

                      There’s even a bit of logic to it: they really only know the name “Mormon”, or “The Book of Mormon” and don’t know the church’s actual name (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) or the full title of the book of Mormon (“Another Testament of Jesus Christ”), and have heard Weird Things.

                      I actually encountered a couple of folks growing up in Oklahoma who were dead convinced we had horns and were actual devil worshippers (eyeroll). One lady in Romania insisted (screamed, really) that we forced siblings to marry each other. My dad had a coworker that thought marriages conducted in our temples involved consummation at the altar (another eyeroll, because it’s so silly). Someone, again in Oklahoma, got us mixed up with the Holy Rollers, which made me chuckle.

                      Usually, though, it’s a case of “thinks Mormons worship Mormon or Joseph Smith” or “practices polygamy” (nope, not anymore, and if they do they ain’t actually a church member in good standing, cause that crap will get you excommunicated).

                      My great aunt and uncle even had some very odd notions of our temple-work (I get it, ’cause we don’t tell everyone all the details of all the things–because it’s sacred) that they weren’t interested in hearing the correction of.

                      I learned long, long ago just to find it generally funny, overall. The only times I get annoyed any more is when one of the more rave-y conspiracy theory types insists they know what I *really* believe better than I do, lol.

                      My personal favorite story on dealing with the subject: some time ago–this would have been in the late 80s or early 90s–a tiny branch (which is what we call the smaller congregations of our churches, while ‘normal’ sized ones are wards) in Kansas found out some yahoos on the town council got all het up about those heathen Mormons and were going to host a showing of an anti-Mormon film and run those awful people out of town. So the Relief Society (our church’s women’s organization) showed up at the showing…with cookies. It sort of…fizzled, after that…

                    2. My dad had a coworker that thought marriages conducted in our temples involved consummation at the altar (another eyeroll, because it’s so silly).

                      Oooh, I recognize that one! It’s cribbed from ancient Roman sources– most likely someone applied their classical education to some “this totally isn’t smut, you’re reading an expose of how horrible Those Guys are” pamphlets.

                    3. That makes sense. When I heard about it, it rather struck me as “we’re making up titillating crap because we WANT it to be like this, and don’t care if it’s actually true or not”

                      (This same guy also earned an eyeroll because he thought you couldn’t get eggs from a chicken without a rooster. I mean, I’ll give him points in that he actually knew eggs come from somewhere other than a store, but man was he a walking stereotype of ‘urbanite who doesn’t know jack’. And really, this was in Denver, which I never found to be all THAT urban.)

                    4. *snickers* I recognize the pattern from when I was searching for stuff for my “myths about the Catholic church” blog posts, probably from about the same time that Sherlock Holmes story mentioned Mormons. (As the current obscure religion that was so far away you didn’t even have to think about it.)

                    5. I finally accepted that there is no stupidity people won’t buy into if it a.) confirms their previously held prejudices and/or b.) excites/outrages/titillates them. (Sometimes all three at once.)

                      Another funny one: someone once very, very seriously informed me that Mormons have secret stockpiles of weapons, food, and gold under all their temples. Also a standing army (I think he was talking about the missionaries).

                      Like so many conspiracy theories, that one credits humanity with far too much ability to a.) organize THAT efficiently over an extended period of time (we’re great over short distances!) and b.) keep mum about it. Hell to the no.

                    6. Another funny one: someone once very, very seriously informed me that Mormons have secret stockpiles of weapons, food, and gold under all their temples. Also a standing army (I think he was talking about the missionaries).

                      Recycled anti-Catholic junk, my grandfather dealt with that when JFK was running, in rural Oregon. They were actually getting a bit hot under the collar about it. (heck, probably goes back at LEAST to the Jews in Rome)

                      He solved it by asking the mill owner and the foreman to come with him one afternoon after lunch, took them to Saint Pat’s, and showed them that there was a pool table, a bunch of folding tables and stacked up chairs, some vases and other decoration stuff, and the priest’s therapeutic whiskey stash*.

                      They hadn’t realized that he was Catholic, just figured he was around the church so much because he took care of the community graveyard.

                      * not actually snarkey, he used it for the confessions that were a bit more counseling than “three #4s, a #8 and two #10s, I’m really sorry and do not will it do it again.”

      3. Depending on when you were there, you might know one of my friends who has some awesome stories, like when he had to carry the suitcase full of money for one of the mafia-type families so something could get done. He was also a (still is) a great chef.

      4. One thing I do NOT miss about living in Europe: The tendency of various sections of the populace to NOT bathe in winter, because that was considered dangerous.

        My face was armpit height to about 90% of the populace.

        Then they turned off hot water in the summer, and … yeah.

        1. A friend of mine was stationed in Germany during the 1980s. He said that was one of the harder things for him to get used to, particularly when on a bus or subway.

        2. I noticed that, as a rule, a lot of folks in Europe don’t seem to believe in deodorant, either. And while I was lucky, in that I was usually at least a head taller than most…well, there was that whole “tiny personal space bubble compared to us weird Americans” thing.

          And boy, did one notice when a man (in particular) DID smell good, lol!

          1. I spent a year in Seoul, ROK – and one of my jobs necessitated traveling on public busses, often in the rush hour, when they were very, very crowded. Sometimes on the subways – which sometimes also were very crowded. I mean, crammed in like sardines! And I will have to say that from what I smelled, in summer AND in winter, I can testify that the urban Koreans were fanatical about cleanliness, and assiduous in the use of deodorants!

            In spite of a fondness for kimchee – toothpaste and mouthwash were also apparently used after every meal.

  12. Now, some of the FDA stuff should be law– because, frankly, a lot of people are stupid and I don’t want other people dead because of their stupidity, even if they’d be punished. That doesn’t undo the damage.

    Call it the “you can arrest someone for shooting at a guy before he hits him” level of regulation.

    Can it be abused? Of course. So can the “only punish people when they actually manage to hurt someone” level. There’s nothing that can’t be abused, especially without perfect judgement and perfect knowledge.

    1. But Fox, with all the regulation we have, and life-saving drugs withheld forever, we then have our medicines manufactured in China and one in a hundred — including of life saving medicines — shipments is bogus. WTH?

      1. Was looking more at the food angle than the drug one– I’m all for making FDA drugs a certification, not a requirement.

        I’ve seen too many people do stupid stuff with basic food sanitation even with the threat of getting caught before someone gets sick. Some of them got away with it until someone got sick because they short-circuited the checking process, basically. (“Health food” is especially bad for this.)

        One point of contamination in a system can be catastrophic, sadly. It’s like letting people move sick animals– you can’t undo the damage when entire farms are wiped out by the pests, and you can’t even make it right.

        It’s a balancing act.

        1. You mean like, “Ranchers have been using sawdust containing arsenic as an additive in cattle feed and people who ate the beef started getting sick, so we’ll outlaw treated lumber instead of doing anything to the ranchers, who not only knew what they were doing, but bragged about it?”

          The local termites aren’t even slowed down by the new “safe” treated lumber…

          1. I’m not familiar with that case–if that’s an accurate reflection of reality, the ranchers are morons if they knew the sawdust had arsenic in it, and whoever took it as an opportunity to attack treated wood is just as dumb. Right up there with banning detergent to prevent algae growth but not checking to see if the additive actually makes algae grow….

            I was looking at things like a case I am very familiar with, the organic raw milk advocate who cleaned out stalls, milked, handed out milk and cookies, and at no point washed his hands. Because it was “authentic.” He most likely didn’t clean the buckets he milked into, either, but I don’t know if that was checked out.

            At least two dozen people went to the hospital, mostly kids, because duh it was milk and cookies.

            He wasn’t ever punished, besides having his booth shut down (for the last day or two of fair) for not complying with basic sanitation. Several years later he tried to gun down cops before committing suicide. (Did the standard “I have my wife hostage” thing, but being a small town one of the deputies knew her and knew where she was. So he just blew his own brains out. Lived down the road from my folks, they helped his wife do AI on the cows and such.)

            1. He wasn’t ever punished, besides having his booth shut down (for the last day or two of fair) for not complying with basic sanitation.

              What he did was illegal according to the laws in force at that time & place, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to shut down his booth. If so, then I think this example actually argues against your point, because if the existing laws on the books aren’t being enforced against people who really deserve to be in jail for endangering people’s lives, what good are they doing? And having laws on the books that aren’t enforced consistently just gives corrupt cops and/or corrupt prosecutors a chance to enforce the laws inconsistently, enforcing them against people they don’t like while giving a pass to anyone who donated to their reelection campaign fund. You know the kind of thing.

              So on the whole, if a law isn’t being enforced*, I think it does more good than harm to remove it.

              * At a level that’s more than “Well, you broke the law, but there are extenuating circumstances so we’ll let it slide just this once”, e.g. a policeman choosing not to write a ticket to someone speeding because they’re driving their pregnant wife to the hospital. Though as an aside, now that I’ve experienced that situation myself (absent the speeding part), I’ve learned that the time between start of labor pangs and delivery is way longer than I thought (my previous impressions were from fiction), so the classic “driving your pregnant wife to the hospital” example is far less good than I thought, because there’s almost never a need for excessive speed in that situation. Driving calmly and taking an extra ten minutes to get there will not, in most cases, result in one’s wife giving birth in the car. The point is, I didn’t know that before, when my only source of such information was fiction. Which has some subtle implications about worldview that I don’t want to take time to explore now, but that Sarah has written about before (people in Europe thinking there are Western-style gunfights on the streets every day in America, and so on).

              1. Does he deserve to be in jail for endangering people’s lives?

                How exactly will you do that, if there isn’t a law against it, before someone dies or is direly harmed for it?

                For that matter, when people do everything right, food poisoning still happens– should they be jailed like the guy who is using the same cutting board for raw pork and then the salad?

                When someone gets sick, who gets charged? There’s usually at least three people in the kitchen, and then there’s the servers….

                That would give far, far more power to whoever is enforcing the rules, because we don’t have any perfect enforcement.

                1. Health Department usually just fines people, heavier fines for worse offenses.

                  But there are heavier penalties out there. If you did it on purpose, or if you did it through negligence. And of course, the Health Department could quarantine you indefinitely without charges being filed, and wherever they want, if you provide them with good reason.

                  Don’t mess with Public Health. They are scarier than cops.

                  1. *Shudder* As the Ebola medics showed us, you really can’t trust the good sense of even well informed experts for self-quarantining.

                2. Via existing laws about negligent endangerment. E.g, this is Montana’s (nicely simple) law:

                  You’d have to prove negligence, which would involve proving that he wasn’t following normal sanitary standards. And then you’d have to prove that not following normal sanitary standards was putting people at substantial risk of death, which would likely involve testimony from an expert witness who could say how many people die from food poisoning every year. Nobody died in the incident you mentioned, but were any of then in danger of death? I.e., did whatever bug infected them carry the risk of death?

                  As for the “when people do everything right, food poisoning still happens” scenario: then they weren’t being negligent, and listing out the precautions that they took should be a clear-cut case against any accusation of negligence. “They tried and failed” is a totally different scenario than “they didn’t take elementary precautions”.

                  Imperfect enforcement is indeed an issue, of course. But in a case like the one you cite, negligence seems an open-and-shut case, so I think existing law would be sufficient to deal with it and there’s no need for any new laws on the books.

                  1. Which still runs into the issue that someone has to be hurt before you stop the problem– a variation on the “first hit is free” problem with libertarian self-defense.

                    1. If no one is hurt, though, who deserves punishment? And the first hit is never free. How is the first hit free? Someone has been hit.

                    2. They get to hit you before you can do anything– which means that you better make it count.

                      An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…especially for things where there isn’t any cure. How do you un-kill people?

                    3. No — someone has to be endangered by the actions you’re taking. I.e., it’s the same “you can arrest someone for shooting at a guy before he hits him” level of regulation that you called for in your original comment at the top of the thread: you can arrest the guy for selling the unsafe food even if nobody got sick, because what he was doing was clearly and obviously putting them in danger of food poisoning. (A drunk driver who manages not to hit any pedestrians when his car jumps the curb can still be arrested for negligent endangerment; same thing here).

                      As for what I understand you to be suggesting, making a law against particular unsanitary practices… if there’s a commonly-accepted standard that this is what you need to do to be safe (washing hands, etc.), then someone who isn’t doing that can already be arrested for endangerment before anyone has actually eaten the food, because he’s putting people at risk by simply offering it for sale. (At least, that’s how I would rule if I was on the jury; it’s just like the drunk driver who didn’t actually hit anyone, but who nonetheless put people at risk by his negligence).

                      So I still believe that what you’re asking for is already the case with existing law.

                    4. If you’re assuming legally established standards for safety, and in order to KNOW if people are following those standards you’d have to have inspections, then you’ve just recreated what you’re suggesting be replaced.

                    5. Doesn’t need to be standards established by law, just normal practice among people who do that job. Which makes it far more flexible and adaptable: if someone discovers that (say) chopping carrots and broccoli on the same cutting board can lead to a safety issue, which do you think will be faster in responding? The FDA, or restaurants with a financial interest in keeping their customers healthy? And if almost all restaurants start following a new sanitary practice, that gives you ammunition in a lawsuit to claim that it’s now common knowledge that carrots and broccoli shouldn’t be cut on the same cutting board.

                      Depending on a government bureaucracy to move that fast would put more lives at risk, IMHO, than basing things on the commonly-practiced standards of the relevant industry.

                    6. Seeing as how even with legal consequences in place, they’re still finding people who are being lazy about basic hygiene?

                      Sadly, experience shows that it’s human nature to be willing to risk someone else’s life for your immediate benefit.

      2. Interesting cultural note I’ve heard from both military and business sources:

        Chinese culture expects that you will pile on a ton of stupid requirements you don’t actually expect the manufacturer to follow, then you’ll only check the ones you care about.

        This is why I don’t buy food, or stuff that touches food, that was made in China. No way to know if they had the guy enforcing the “don’t substitute in street sweepings” rule on duty that day.

          1. And that especially extends to anything for pets. Chinese sourced dog food has a bad habit of being lethal.

        1. China tried to enter the German car market. The Germans ran their car through testing and basically declared “this is almost less safe than driving in a tin can.”

          The assumption of life having value is a cultural thing…

          1. A racist cultural value. Not being willing to back my plans for mass murder, proposed after a spilled glass of water or dropped hat, is super racist against my culture. O Racist Hater. XD

        2. One of the big news articles that happened around here was that one of our big bridges needed to be replaced. The only place that makes the steel needed (thanks EPA!) was China. These are of a particular specification and type of steel, and getting it wrong is a bad thing.

          And, they got it wrong. Very, very wrong. As in “we have to pull about half a billion dollars worth of bolts from a half-built bridge because they will rust in less than five years” wrong.

          If I ever had to sign a contract to have anything built in China, I’m going to make sure we do one thing. I’m going to find the culturally appropriate and clear way of saying, “If you (YAY!) us over on anything here, or ship us a single, sub-standard product item that doesn’t meet spec? I’m going to have you, every member of your family from the grandparents down, and everyone that is one step above a worker on the floor crucified with nails. Live on YouTube, with you nailed up last and facing them to watch. And I’m going to sit there with a big-ass bowl of popcorn as it happens. And rewind for the interesting bits.

          “And, after that, I’m going to your competition, giving them the contract, and including the pictures of your crucifixion.

          “And the people doing quality control? Paid by me, and they will take absolutely no shit at all. And, don’t try to bribe them or figure out how to blackmail or honey trap or do anything else. If you do, I’ll have you crucified. With rope.”

            1. I’m saving that for the particularly SPECIAL circumstances. Like them calling in the Very Nice Men (i.e. organized crime).

              Ever see an entire criminal enterprise vanish overnight? Never to be seen again? It’s beautiful…and the price of dog food goes really low for a few weeks.

          1. Bay Bridge? Yeah, that was interesting. (I’m not likely to use that route for other reasons, mostly traffic, but news like that was certainly a disincentive to do so.)

            1. It’s a very pretty bridge, I’ll give you that. The view is spectacular, going either way. Have a SUV or truck and you can get lovely pictures of the Bay. But, I also know what sort of chaos was required to even build that thing, so I only use it when I have to. And, as fast as possible.

  13. Apropos of, was it yesterday? Day before? Where the topic of card processers came up: my kids’ dance studio was just slammed with a doubling of fees.
    They are small-it’s a town of under 60,000! And this is a killer hike-2.5% of total amount processed changed to 5% of total processed. The solution is being scrambled after, but in the short term autopay has gone away and please pay check/cash if at all possible. I don’t know what sort of margin they have, but I doubt very much it’s 2.5% big. And simply not taking any plastic would get rid of the problem and increase their margin . . .

    I think they-the processer-moved too soon. And picked the wrong targets: people have major emotions about the instructors they pick for their kids, the ill-will will be towards the card companies who are the visible face if not the originator of the policy change.

    I still have no card, which can make life interesting and a bit more difficult.

    1. Holy crud, 2.5% of the whole take wasn’t enough?!?!

      That’s ludicrous, those little white dongle things where they GIVE you the reader to plug into your tablet only charge that much.

    2. Any more, it would be a good idea for any business that takes credit cards to have more than one processor.

      I’ve been in various stores that had their processor or terminal link go down; they were unhappy campers. Very happy that I used cash, though.

      Some businesses… I made a “do you take cash?” joke at a restaurant one day, and it turned out the guy working the register was the owner. During a brief chat, he said that over 90% of his sales were via debit or credit.

      I haven’t encountered any yet, but I’ve been reading about stores and restaurants that have gone “credit card only.” I’ve never been able to follow their (claimed) reasoning, though.

        1. That’s how it’s sold, anyway. And, of course, you make sure you have plenty of criminals available for ‘encouragement’. See sentencing reform.

      1. When I worked retail, we had a back up for when the credit card thing didn’t work. multipart form with carbon paper. you rubbed the form over the card.

        1. When I worked for Suncoast we stil had what I was taught to call a ‘gadanger’: the plastic and metal appliance that made credit card impressions. Suspect it’s gone the way of the buggy-whip.

          1. The latest incarnation of my Discover card literally couldn’t use it; it has no raised numbers etc. to make the impression.

          2. I still use those! Helping my mother-in-law out at craft fairs. (She’s the one managing the contract/terms/etc, I just run the machine to let her have more time to talk with customers. Well. I did before I had the kid, anyway.)

            They still exist, though we keep being afraid they’ll stop letting us use them. When I come across a no-raised-number card–increasingly common–I just have to manually write the information on the slip. But hey, it works.

            So: Now You Know.

      2. I’ve wondered about that. It says right on the Federal Reserve Notes, “legal tender for all debts, public and private.” Does that mean that they aren’t permitted to refuse to accept cash? Does it mean that if you offer payment of the quoted amount, in cash, and they refuse it, you can walk out without paying, and they have no recourse? Of course, that would be a jerky thing to do, but is that the legal rule?

        1. You can pay off a debt with cash, but have no recourse if somebody declines to sell you something for cash, as there is no debt, yet.

          At least that’s how it was explained to me.

          1. This is a bit of a tangent, but does anyone else remember a recent bit of news where a gun shop prevented a shooting because they refused to sell someone firearms, because the owner had a vibe that person was going to be shooter incident.

            I have a not-certain bit about the guy who wanted to buy the guns being a leftist, too, but I am not sure.

            1. There have been stories like that before. I tend to be skeptical.

              Unless they’re in one of the slave states, they can just look in the “for sale” ads in the paper, call up the seller, and buy a gun just like you’d buy a used lawnmower or baby clothes.

              The ATF encourages FFLs not to sell to people if they don’t like their looks; this is contrary to normal commerce law and civil rights laws, but US law is a rat’s nest of contradictions, the better to support the court systems and their hangers-on.

              “Bake the cake!”

              “But he wanted it shaped like a GUN!”

              1. I’ve known a lot of folks in person who refused to sell someone a gun they’d advertised– “oh, gosh, sorry, you just missed it!”– because they had a Really Bad Feeling about the buyer.

              1. I’ve heard of people simply saying that they’ll only do a personal sale to someone who can show them an concealed carry ID. It’s entirely legal to buy a gun without one, but for a random person who can’t run a background check, it shows that they’ve passed one before.

        2. Does that mean that they aren’t permitted to refuse to accept cash?

          Nope, there’s a thing on the treasury site explaining it.

          Same way you can’t demand someone accept a $100 bill when they don’t have change for more than a $20.

        3. Note the Feral Government does not accept cash, either.

          For some dealings, they don’t accept checks or money orders. You have to open an account with an affiliated bank, then do EFTs through FedPay. (and yes, there are service charges for that…)

          Every time I run into this, I think about Kip’s father in “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” dealing with the tax man…

  14. Much earlier in our relationship—I think so long ago that we didn’t have Internet!—I said to C, “We’re Americans. Instant gratification is our birthright!” Of course I was being ironic, but there’s some truth to it.

    1. If it wasn’t, Amazon one-click wouldn’t be so deadly to our wallets. “Oh, look, there’s a new book out about [topic of the month]!” Click.

    2. …and then we created and implemented the technology to make it possible.

      It’s not the future we were expecting, but it does have its comforts.

  15. I am starting to think people think it is a good idea because of envy time laziness.

    You spent the time on customer service. I had some poor service this past week by an airlines (specifically, having to pay for something I should not have). I didn’t bother with customer service and figured the $25 is gone this time and will be gone in the future but to a different airlines. I am sure someone else hit by the same glitch that cost me a free bag called, spent 30 minutes on the phone, and got a refund.

    In both cases neither of us worried that someone else got a better device or got their free checked bag. We solved our problem to our satisfaction and moved on with our lives.

    Too many people seem incapable of doing that. They are also incapable of accepting someone got a better deal because they got the device that didn’t fail as fast or called and got the bag fee refunded.

    So they engage their inner five year old and cry, “That’s not fair.”

    So, they want government to ensure everyone gets exactly the same even when it means (especially when it means?) people get lowered to their level.

    And that’s why I say it is envy. They are envious that someone got lucky with the device that didn’t fail or the refund they didn’t call about and demand those people suffer as they did.

    Yep, even writing this out, I’m convinced it is what socialism always is about for the garden variety socialist: envy.

    1. The root of socialism, communism and Marxism and it’s various offshoots is in fact, via demonstration and extended historical evidence, envy – the envy and bitterness at the soul-eating thought that ‘somewhere, someone else has it slightly better from me, or is happy. This must not be borne!’

      1. I don’t know if it was an actual study, or if it was just an observation, that many people would rather ruin the pot for everyone if they got a lesser benefit than everyone else, in that such people would turn down a large sum of money if their agreeing to accept it meant that other people would get a larger amount.

        1. Sounds like the “fairness” studies– from memory, the results were very culture based. Made a bit of a to-do when someone actually decided to check something besides American psychology students….

  16. Had a debate on “income inequality” lately, and asked why people wanted income equality. It just means you get paid the same as that slacker screwup who just phones it in.
    And note- that also means the person you really want to get things right is also probably some slacker screwup who’s just phoning it in- like your surgeon or roofing contractor.

    1. If the government even came close to enforcing some kind of income equality I’d be out of this job and back to delivering pizzas. Sure, my lifestyle would eventually suffer but that’s true no matter what job I stayed at during the fat “years” (days? months?) where pizza guys make what models in banks make. I’d just have spent the fast years still earning what I was making.

      Then when the lean years came I wouldn’t be one of the “fat cat hoarders and wreckers mad they had lost their privilege” the mob would be whipped against. I’d just have to make mob noises at the right times.

      1. Of course, some incomes are more equal than others, and we’d see the rise of a new nomenkultura.
        Of course, should Bernie and his bros come to power, the smart (if not especially moral) thing to do is to become one of the people that officially gets to tote a gun. They are usually the ones to wind up in charge once the collapse happens.

      2. Matthias: One creature, caught. Caught in a place he cannot stir from in the dark, alone, outnumbered hundreds to one, nothing to live for but his memories, nothing to live with but his gadgets, his cars, his guns, gimmicks… and yet the whole Family can’t bring him down from that, that…

        1. I’ve got absolutely no idea what that is from– the only connection I have to the name is an early saint or a non-English version of Matt– but my heart beats faster just reading the intro.

        2. That movie never got the recognition I thought it should. I first saw it at the theater, though, and it just didn’t have the kick on the Larte Show or cable.

          Matthias: We waited for you, Neville, so you could see this: The end. The end of all you done. You see, none of it was real. It was illusion. Your art, your science, it was all a nightmare. And now it’s done. Finished. My brethren, our task is nearly complete. He was the last of those who brought the punishment to us. We have cleansed and purged his world. Now we must build.

          Neville: [defiant] Build coffins. That’s all you’ll need.

    2. Yup. They wanna be able to make a living off the dead-end minimum wage job their SJW Studies diploma gets them.

      1. And, to a small degree, I sympathize with them. Now enough to want a minimum wage that trashes the exonomy (and they all do), but society sold them a bill of goods. “Get a degree!” They were told. Whatever you want to do, get a degree!”

        Basically, with the Baby Boom past, and the boomers having fewer children, the Higher Education industry had to get more warm bodies into classrooms, or downsize. And, of course, downsize wasn’t a popular option.

        Nobody was going to tell the kids that what a humanities degree qualifies you to do is study for the next higher degree. Nobody was going to come right out and say that a society only really NEEDS so many BAs in English Lit..

        And of course nobody was going to come right out and say that a degree in (fill in yor favorite victim class) Studies qualified you for not one damned thing, since all the sinecures were occupied by old radicals.

        Now, you CAN get a degree that’s worth something without going into the Sciences or Engineering. I knew a young man who was taking a dual degree in Political Science and Arabic Languages. Provided he doesn’t get blown up or beheaded, he’ll be in demand for a long, LONG time. But he had a plan.

        1. There’s also the factor that humanities majors were largely being trained to become teachers of the next generation of humanities majors, who would become teachers of the next generation of humanities majors . . . and unless it takes one teacher to train one student over a generation, that turns into a pyramid scheme.

          I had two friends who were musicology majors. One is now tenured faculty; the other has been through a succession of jobs that made no use of her graduate studies at all—for example, dog care. And that’s the natural fate of a lot of humanities majors.

          1. Knew a grad student who bragged that half the grad students were brought on to be exploited as teachers, and then flunked out with the qualifier.

          2. The whole “Higher Education industry is in deep serious gritty trouble….and denial. They think they are too important to have to suffer the fate of an oversupplied industry.

            They err.

    3. I’ve experienced the slacker doctor under the NHS several times. Sees a lump on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing.” Hasn’t asked any family history so I volunteer several things including the massive amounts of cancer. He orders a blood test. For cholesterol. End appointment.

      Another doc checked my companion’s swollen, painful ankle. Rather. Looked at it and poked a couple places. Didn’t manipulate it, x-ray it, or anything. “Rest and elevation. It’s not broken.”

      Another time the bureaucracy couldn’t drill down their data on females who have used the NHS services for giving birth. So they sent a survey to random females in their system asking specific questions about hospital, doctor and support services with no way to say “I haven’t used this service.”

  17. We need a federally appointed commission to regulate all these federal agencies over-regulating our lives!

  18. “The only question is, why do people think this is a good idea.”

    Projection. They think everyone else is like them.

    1. Then they really don’t think, because they want to be the perpetual children, and that means you need a Mommy and Daddy, however indulgent, to look after things.

      No, they really believe that other people are happy to be exploited as they are to exploit them.

      1. There’s also a subset of dupes who actually think that the government is honest and fair when it comes to fixing problems, and isn’t tainted by sordid greed for profit. Any shortcomings are due to a lack of funding, or because the party in charge isn’t caring enough (which goes into lack of funding).

        1. Or are likewise of not great judgement, and haven’t gamed out physically possible implementations, and hence do not have a really solid idea of the responsiveness of the system.

        2. Basically all the people I know in the UK persistently attribute any slack/incompetence on the part of the NHS to the less left-wing parts of the government not pouring on enough money.

        3. That’s why I tell them, “The problem with a government that is big enough to give you everything you eat is NOT that it is big enough to take everything you have, but that it is so big it can crush you like a bug without intending to, or even noticing”

          Most dismiss that with a wave of the hand, but some get thoughtful.

  19. It’s the zeroth rule of public choice economics: everybody in ‘public service’ is primarily looking out for themselves.

  20. I sort of remembered that a few years back, there was a trend of something called ‘micro jobs’; where people could be hired to do a specific task – and the tasks ranged from specific housework such as ‘wash dishes’ or ‘clean bathroom’, to ‘pick up flowers and deliver them to my mother’, or ‘water my plants for me’ ; some of the jobs were also of the ‘buy from this restaurant and deliver to my address’ – RL micro jobs.

    I say RL because I tried looking it up online, and the only thing I could find that was somewhat similar were things like these;

    1. I derped; but they do have RL jobs:

      The majority of this popular task site’s gigs are in-person activities such as making deliveries, cleaning, and odd jobs. TaskRabbit has a much more extensive application process than other micro jobs (which usually have very little), but the jobs pay more.

      1. Last I heard, Taskrabbit was the site of choice for that; I looked into it but decided to spend a little more time on my content mill site instead. 🙂

  21. Well, I’m well past the NDAs for the call centers I have worked for, so let’s talk “customer service.”

    1. “Customer service” means call center. It has no other meaning now.

    2. Call centers are very rarely run by the actual company. Almost all call centers are contractors (such as Teleperformance). Even if a call center is run by the actual company, as with credit card licensee companies, about 3/4 of the employees will be temps from a temp contractor like Kelly.

    3. Call centers vary widely in the knowledge demanded of workers, and the trust reposed in them. Some call centers are relatively nice working environments; others are basically a cube farm with no amenities. Filipino call centers are notoriously Arctic hellholes (to keep the computers cool while giving the employees pneumonia). All call center employees (that I know of) are subject to immediate firing at any time.

    4. Voluntary turnover is immense, because the job is difficult and one must constantly be “on”, as well as constantly keeping an eye on metrics and whatever the new objectives are. There is very little help given; managers often are perpetually angry and scared for their own jobs.

    5. Almost all first level tech support for phones and computers is provided by customer service reps with no technical training, and who do not work for the tech company. If they want to transfer you to real tech support, please let them do it.

    6. Almost all sales support is provided by customer service reps with very little sales training, and who do not work for the company they are selling things for. Catalog companies like Victoria’s Secret are the exception to this rule, which is why VS employees make beaucoup commission bucks.

    7. Mandatory overtime. Yes, it’s good pay. Yes, people working over twelve hours a day on the phone are not always your best problem-solving entity.

    8. Most call center employees will try to help you. But their behavior will vary according to how they were trained, how they are managed, and what metrics are being pushed this week.

    9. Hanging up on a customer, no matter how abusive, is usually a firing offense.

    1. 10. If live chat reps are not AI bots, they are people working in a call center. They probably just got off a phone call, too. And if they are first level tech support, they don’t have any technical training, either; they are reading off the screen and pushing buttons that have pre-written responses. Some live chat reps don’t have any ability to respond with anything but pre-written responses.

    2. 11. Also, everything on the rep’s computer screen while they are on a call is usually captured, as well as everything that is ever said on a phone call (and other stuff too). Call centers are visually monitored by managers, also. Even the best call centers are a panopticon.

      1. Interesting aside:

        I read somewhere that the standard “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance” (or “for [fill in blank]) counts legally as permission for YOU to monitor or record. Apparently, a case went to court where a company tried to get a customer in trouble with wiretap laws, and the judge came down on them like a load of rectangular building material.

        1. In sensible states, you only need the permission of one party to the conversation in order to record it. In most left-leaning states, you need the permission of both (or all) parties in order to record a conversation. But yes, by playing that message, the company has explicitly given their consent that the conversation be recorded.

          1. “I wouldn’t be surprised if most homeowners did some “creative” rewiring.”

            And that works….. until you actually have a fire claim, they don’t work in a way that can be proven afterward, and the insurance company refuses to pay because you didn’t ensure all of them worked as your policy usually requires. Especially if you took the rate discount a number of companies offer (my Liberty Mutual policy among them) for having them in the first place.

            Even if the policy and/or building codes don’t require it, also be aware of the principle of contributory negligence where the court decides that you were xx% responsible for the damage because you failed to take reasonable care by maintaining them.

          2. And that was actually supposed to be a reply to TRX. Since I got here by clicking the reply button in the e-mail of the comment, there’s only one conclusion:


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