I seem to be experiencing some sort of repeated pattern lately. It has to do with how businesses and bureaucracies treat people. Dead last, it seems to me. Permit me to share some examples most of which are trivial, but it's the pattern and the message that I don't much care for.
Exhibit A: we're in the local hardware store where we have made a fair number of purchases since we arrived in this town. We pass by a rack with kitchen mats – 33% off. We need one, so we look and find a suitable one and take it to the cashier. It rings in at an non-sale price. After considerable consultation among staff, we are told that the sign did not refer to these mats but to others that they no longer have in stock. They take down the sale sticker, and we go on our way.
Of course, I am mumbling a bit as I exit the sttore. If it's their error, they should sell at the advertised price. It is their error too. A sign by a shelf of mats saying there's 33% off mats is pretty darn straightforward and not a matter for interpretation. We don't complain. It's not that big a purchase to get in a kafuffle.
Exhibit B: we're in the local grocery store and pass by those plastic clips that you use to seal plastic bags with: two bucks for two packages. They ring up at a higher price. A call ensues, and we discover that there are two manner of packages of clips there. We didn't see two kinds, but nevertheless there were – apparently. Silly us; we picked up the wrong package. We leave it; this purchase really is much too piddling to bother with, but it's the same principle as above. They should sell at the advertised price, or the seemingly advertised price.
Exhibit C: a few months ago I paid $160 for a service plan for my hearing aids. With it, I can get free hearing tests as well as free labour on maintenance. Since a hearing test is priced at $70, I figured it was a good deal as I can pretty well guarantee requiring two tests in the next two years. In fact, I was there to get tested that very day.
Here's the rub. Hearing tests are covered by my medical plan – up to 80% anyway. But all they can do at the audiologist's is to itemize the bill. In other words, it will show that I bought a service plan and that it included a hearing test valued at $70. I figured right then and there that the insurance company would use that as a reason not to cover the hearing test. The mail came today; I was right.
Exhibit D: our backyard backs on to a street with a fair amount of traffic. It gets noisy back there. They have a plan to widen the street. That will increase the noise. They made a big study, an environmental impact study. Apparently, however, people are not part of the environment, and they have no plan to construct a sound barrier. I knew it, but I'd hoped for better.
What is common in these four examples: the first two being somewhat trivial and the last one being pretty darn important? Well, it's that people come last, last after computers, business convenience, policies, and plans. It doesn’t matter than a reasonably intelligent customer believes that a for sale sign means what it says, the intent of the company is all that matters. It doesn't matter that your hearing test is valued at $70; if it's rolled into a service plan, the insurance company jumps enthusiastically at a chance to deny your claim. It doesn't matter that traffic noise will be a problem because they find a rule saying that it will only increase by x decibels and it is against policy to build noise-reduction fences for that amount.
It's all about hard-edged economic decisions where companies and governments make it their priority to do as little as possible for the people that they are supposed to care about and service. I'd like to think that people matter more than a few cents or a few bucks, and it saddens me that we have these kinds of attitudes to and about others. Frankly, although these matters are of little importance in the grand scheme of things – they pale against the genuine problems that face humankind after all – I'm disappointed in my fellow humans and their inconsiderate attitudes. I'm a bit of an idealist and tend to expect the best of people, and these kinds of things bring me down and sadden me. All of these organizations should be working for their clients, should be putting their interests first. Unfortunately, none are.