This post has been rolling around in my head for a while now. It has nothing to do with herbs, but everything to do with how we (and I think a lot of other people) get through life, so indulge me for a moment.
Recently there have been three instances where a bit of calling around has turned up huge savings for the same product or service. It seems to me that we, as consumers, need to do a little more of that conscious spending.
When I was very young, things were different. Businesses and service providers were made up of people "like us" and because of that, there was an element of fairness. If it became known that a business in town was gouging or treating customers badly, they weren't around very long. We just didn't put up with it and we didn't give them our money. We railed at the bills from monopolies like the phone and electric because we could not demand better service or better prices. All we could do was choose options that were less expensive (party line anyone?) or use them conservatively. When cable became available for tv, that was the first service that I can think of that was a non-essential thing that people wanted A LOT. They treated their customers like they were doing them a favor, and people accepted that. We took a day off work to wait for the guy to come hook up the cable. All day. Soon we came to accept that sort of service from everyone.
In a lot of cases, we've just become too busy to notice things. People rush to work, maybe dropping the kids off at day-care, scooping up groceries after work before picking up the kids and rushing home to cook dinner (or pick up some take-out), getting everything done at home, and falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Convenience is no longer an extravagance for a lot of folks - it is a necessity. And we pay dearly for it.
The worst thing I've been seeing in this latest round of "investigative shopping" is that when I fire a current provider after finding someone better, the old one offers me something similar, price-wise! This is infuriating!
A good example is my trash collector. My mother had chosen this company when she lived in this house, so when I moved in it came with the place. The price has gone up every single quarter in the past 6 years. Every single quarter. And then there' the fuel surcharge... it only goes up, no matter what the price of fuel does. This company has been cannibalized by ever larger companies, so when a small family owned company put door hangers up last week (LOVE their cost effective advertising, by the way...) with a price that was fully half of what I'm paying for better service, I jumped. The old company offered to see if they could "do better". I suggested they should have done that while I was still a customer.
We are currently in the process of changing out fuel tanks here on the farm after finding that since the ones we have are owned by the company, we are hostage to whatever price they decide to charge. We will again save over half on the cost of fuel, paying for the tanks in less than 2 deliveries. The old company *would* adjust the charge if we called and complained every. single. time. But why? Why not just treat people right?
Are customers really so easy to come by?
The last one (for the time-being) is the credit card processor I use for my business. After finding a less expensive option, my processor offered to beat the new price and reimburse me for an overcharge over the last 6 months. The check should have been here yesterday. If it isn't here by Friday, they will lose their chance - again.
Many of my friends are small business owners and we have several businesses here on the farm. We can't treat customers like this, and we wouldn't want to. So why would we accept that treatment?
I'm not asking the businesses I deal with to go into the hole to keep me, I just don't want them to continually cheat me. Apparently we need to start protecting ourselves with vigilance.
And here's the best part... I just got a 10% raise with these changes. That will make a real difference. It will also make a big difference to the companies that I've chosen because they aren't big faceless companies - they are small businesses. Do yourself a favor and look around a little bit. You might be very surprised (and maybe a little horrified).
And to add just a bit of humor, I just got the following in an email.....
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month.
By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it..
I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.
You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.
My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, --- when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.
From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.
My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an OFFENSE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.
Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete.
I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.
Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.
In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me.
I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.
As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Let me level the playing field even further.
When you call me, press buttons as follows:
IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH
#1. To make an appointment to see me
#2. To query a missing payment.
#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required.
Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.
#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through
#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry.
The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.
#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English.
While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.
May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?
Your Humble Client