The emphasis on convenience in American culture coupled with the devaluing of intelligence has made the people stupid. Rather than looking for the solution, we are given the solution. Buy another one. Wait until the light turns green. Wait until you are called. I once knew a guy who had driven the same route in his car no less than 20 times and still depended on his GPS to give him directions. It is possible to cluelessly wander through America paying little attention to you surroundings without incident.
People don’t question rules that slow them down. They generally don’t question the waste they generate. So many pieces of paper have to be signed that we barely bother reading them anymore. More times than I can count, I’ve read a piece of paper that was presented for my signature to be told by whoever gave it to me, “It just says x, y and z,” or, “You’re the first person I’ve even given that to who’s read it!” Really? What are these other people doing? Every company is covering their ass in the most aggressive way, by fucking us, and we let them without question.
It seems to me that here in Buenos Aires, people trust the government and corporations less, and it’s no wonder, but it is a much smarter way of operating. At a gym, you pay by the month. You are required to go to a doctor and get a checkup before you join a gym, and once you do, they have a piece of paper that says you are in condition to do the physical activity. In the US, you sign a paper that absolves the gym of liability should you drop dead there, and guarantees that you will continue to pay them for a specified amount of time. If you don’t, you are beholden to them to pay, and it goes on your credit report. This is all regardless of your physical condition. If you dropped dead and they had your credit card number, I have no doubt that they would continue to charge you by the month until your contract ran out. Because if you dropped dead in the facility, you wouldn’t be there to present them with a notarized change of address form. We sign up for these sorts of things without questioning them and without complaint.
Before I left, I was trying to straighten things up with my mom’s phone company. The company required that the client would be recorded answering a series of questions for an independent contractor that handled the phone contracts. In order to use the service, the client was required to answer every question with the word “yes” regardless of what the question was. The woman I spoke with said, “When they ask you to agree to international calling, just say ‘yes.’ Even if you don’t want the service. If you say no to any question, you will be refused service.” When I expressed my disapproval of this policy, she was very evidently annoyed by me. I clearly was being unreasonable and holding up progress. She treated me as I were the stupid one, when what it amounted to was that at any time, the potential existed for my mother to be charged incredible rates for services she didn’t use based on a recording of my voice idiotically saying the word, “Yes” regardless of what I was asked. “Will you give us the soul of your first born child? In the event that you do not have any children will you give is the soul of the first born of any brother or sister that you may have?”
Most people I know have been hit by some kind of corporate screwing at the hands of a cell phone company or buying a car or joining a gym. Then the attitude seems to be “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.” I guess there’s not - we all know we signed some piece of paper and lost our copy of it a long time ago. We know that these bastards have teams of lawyers that make it impossible for John Q. Citizen to contest being unfairly charged. What’s astonishing to me is the fact that it continues. No matter how many times we get screwed, we keep it up, keep throwing good money after bad and signing on the dotted line. We think we need what’s on offer so badly that it’s necessary to enter into a contract regardless of what the contract says, if we even have the capacity to understand the nuances of the legalese.
If there’s one thing that this impending economic crisis engenders in us, I hope it’s to exercise more caution - to be as suspicious of companies as they apparently are of us. Wouldn’t it be great if we all rejected the contracts, the rules and the restrictions - if there were a massive movement to pocket the papers we were presented to sign and said, “I’m going to have to have my lawyer look into this,” and walked out? I love to imagine a country in which people said, “You are providing me the service, so how about you treat me like a customer instead of a criminal.” I don’t imagine it will ever happen in the US, but it would be great to see businesses that treated customers like people instead of potential lawsuits really succeed and the rest go straight down the toilet where they belong.