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Sign by the X

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.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 26th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
Well said!

I usually put it in terms of mental laziness, we have a country of people who don't want to think. It's too much work to read the EULA just sign it, just vote for the candidate who seems 'sincere' because I can't remember what I stand for anyway.

We need to pay at least enough attention to see that we're getting screwed.
Sep. 29th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, but those EULAs are so long. I admit to only skimming them. I bet it's the very end when I'm bored to tears and stop reading that they add the stipulation about the soul of your unborn children...
Sep. 27th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
The practice of using recordings of "yes" as a substitute for signatures is truly obnoxious, but it's the overall thrust of what you're saying here that is the reason I simply don't sign up for anything over the 'phone, even if I'm the one who initiated ...

As for your last statement, I hate to say it, but I believe even in the U.S. there is a legal principle that when a contract is standard and customers have no opportunity to do anything but accept or refuse to be bound by the terms, specific terms that nobody in there right mind would agree to can be stricken by courts, where in a negotiated contract situation the party not in their right mind would be stuck with that term -- and the kinds of standard contracts you see by and large don't run afoul of that principle as it is understood these days!
Sep. 29th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
In some ways a contract protects you, too. I have a friend here who can't get a contract for her apartment and she really wants one so she can stop worrying that she'll be out on her ass! It works both ways, but it's easy to get ripped off by a giant corporate entity and it leaves you feeling so helpless when it happens!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 29th, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)
Add me! And check out couchsurfing.com if you haven't already!
Oct. 1st, 2008 07:50 am (UTC)
corporate customer service
Every so often my dad and S. will act up about this stuff, and balk less or more vehemently until they get passed up the chain of command to someone who can either make it better or or else apologize/facilitate extrication.

It's never easy, and they have to have enough mad and enough money/time to burn on the project.

With me, I seem to do better calling back and getting another agent, once one of them has written me off as a whiny old bag. I never get passed up the line, I think it is a misogyny thing.

The upshot is sort of a growing terror of being an exception whose needs the system does not bother to consider because it doesn't pay. You really don't want to be an outlier. Dumbing down because that is the only way the system works-- you want to be dumb as a survival strategy!
Oct. 20th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
So--how the hell are you doing? Your constant readers are waiting for another post...
Oct. 20th, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
Well, thanks! I just went to a huge cemetery today and will be posting some photos soon. I also saw a giant shrine to Gauchito Gil, but I didn't have my camera with me and so will have to go back...

And you? I still haven't found a poster for you, but I am keeping my eyes peeled. Meanwhile Gil is on the backs of trucks and in store windows, but he's always painted on.
Oct. 20th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC)
That's fine...doesn't have to be a poster, a sticker would do. Or maybe at some point I could print out a photo of some shop-window Gil that you take, and post that around Portland...might be even more mysterious.

I'm fine, waiting for the other shoe to drop on the endless election. We're going on a 16-day around-the-world trip in late Nov./early Dec.; so I'm busy preparing for that. Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, Seoul, Vancouver: those are the highlights--maybe another border crossing or two. I should get some great photos and have some fun; I've always wanted to go all the way around. Not that we can afford it, but we have enough credit cards...

I'll be watching for your next post!
Oct. 21st, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
Wow! That sounds like a great trip.

I'm obsessing over the election, too. I'm more into it than I would be if I were there, I bet.

As for Gil, I will probably have to try for a good photo of something for you, because I have not seen one iota of Gil fan merchandise anywhere!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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