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The erosion of service and implementation of structured lunacy results from the perfect storm that has been quietly brewing under our social radar, seeded by the confluence of technology, Wall Street greed, globalization, political correctness, lawyers, government, and most importantly, our own apathy.  We’ve all stood by and watched as these component influences coalesced into what has become a briar patch so tangled and insidious that it may have outgrown our ability to kill it or even slow its growth.    

Technology has supplied access to limitless information, instantaneous communication, and poorly designed, inflexible processes that, unless we use extreme measures and a flanking strategy, distance the customer from remedy by limiting or precluding participation in human dialogue and rational thought. 

Wall Street, beyond its own unremitted greed and its well-intended but fickle demand for earnings, has forced companies to cut beyond the fat into the muscle of their ability to serve the customer.  Through the nineties, we called it downsizing and reengineering, but it was effectively the elimination of middle management.  The Army works because of sergeants. Imagine the chaos that would result if the Army eliminated sergeants.   Business tried it, and we’re stuck with the results.  

Globalization has given us cheaper products, generally of acceptable or better quality, but along with them the occasional disaster, like dog food that kills dogs or toys with unacceptably high concentrations of lead.  It’s also given us a corps of enthusiastic, eager, third world customer service workers, tasked with rendering service, but lacking authority or empowerment.   

Political Correctness and the notion that everyone other than heterosexual, white, Christian males has a fundamental entitlement to not being offended has forced conformance with silly rules and allowed agenda to eclipse performance, excellence, and reason.  Multiculturalism has created a world where the ACLU is actually suing companies that require employees who serve customers in America be able to speak English.  (You couldn’t make this stuff up)     

Lawyers are growing in number faster than they are dying off or retiring.  They all have to eat, which is why there is a warning label on your new screwdriver telling you not to stick it in your eye.  Everybody lives in fear of being sued, so companies and industries that once provided useful products or services have adopted tortuous practices, raised prices, installed preemptive defenses, or even disappeared altogether.  From the birth of aviation up to the early eighties, a middle class earner could buy and fly his own light airplane.  That market disappeared in the wake of huge product liability awards, not because of faulty airplanes, but because careless pilots screwed up and flew perfectly good airplanes into the ground.  A Georgetown University study found that 43% of medical tests are unnecessary, and as many as 20%-30% of these were found to read false-positive, leading to more unnecessary and costly tests. This CYA shield, intended to stave off the flock of hungry lawyers circling overhead, costs the American healthcare system billions of dollars annually. In some markets, it’s hard to find an obstetrician because malpractice insurance premiums have destroyed the financial incentive of the practice.   

Government at the federal level has lost its way.  Until recently, Congress and the Senate was a relatively harmless cluster of egomaniacal gasbags who generally acted in their own self-interest first, and then considered how to best serve that interest by considering their constituents.  With the collapse of our economy, we’re seeing the genuinely dark side of how damaging their power can be.  Until we take back control by drafting Joe the Plumber and the lady down the street to go to Washington and fix it, the gasbags will continue to give away our money in ways Jefferson couldn’t have imagined in his worse nightmares.   They give 170 billion dollars of our money to AIG, which then uses it to pay 165 million dollars in bonuses to the executives who drove the business into the ground. AIG is stupid for not firing their incompetent management, much less paying them “retention bonuses” to stick around. Our government is stupid for writing blank checks, from our accounts, with no strings or oversight. We are stupid for letting them. Fool me once, shame on you. . .  Reporting to the gasbags is an ever expanding legion of bureaucrats who, unfettered by intellect or market forces, add incomprehensible mazes of silly regulations simply for the purpose of perpetuating their own existence.  At best, we’re talking about foolishness. We’re paying these people to come up with regulations like the one that requires dairies to label natural, unpasteurized, raw, whole milk—the kind that comes from Bessie’s udder and goes straight into the jug--as “artificial milk” because it doesn’t contain certain federally mandated chemical additives.  At their worst, these legions of cost centers are writing policy that will bankrupt us as a nation.  They’ve become an endless bad dream. 

Our own apathy is evident in our willingness to accept usurpation of our control because we’ve been desensitized incrementally.  If someone were to awaken from a thirty-year-coma, they’d want to go back to sleep.  But we don’t have to put up with it.  With apologies to Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for reason to triumph over stupidity is for rational people to get the redass and do something about it.  We did it as recently as the seventies.  Seatbelts had a federally-mandated interlock device that wouldn’t allow you to start your car until the belt was fastened.  American consumers refused to accept them.  They simply reached under the seat and snipped the wires.  The government, in a rare fit of pragmatic reality, capitulated and replaced the interlock with a buzzer or chime.  We later rejected, as a culture, the idiotic government campaign to force the abandonment of our traditional measures and adopt the metric system.  Canada, you will recall, succumbed.  We stood up and flatly refused.  Although spotty vestiges of the crusade are slow to die (Time Magazine, always politically correct, lists all measures in both), we said Hell No. This may have been our last, shining hour, but it doesn’t have to be.  

I have undertaken this book in hopes that others might share my burden by recognizing that we don’t have to endure the frustration and disappointment of simple things, or worse, gone wrong.  When an airline or a bank or a restaurant or a retailer or a government agency screws up and you’re on the receiving end, there is a proven formula for taking control and getting the situation resolved to your satisfaction.  First, you need to get the redass.

 

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What got us here