Nothing Personal, It's Just Business

So this guy, all panting and sweating, in the midst of his cool down, having just finished up a five mile jog on a sweltering early afternoon in mid-July, comes upon two darling pre-teens, a brother and sister, behind a crudely-crafted wooden stand, the sign reading, "Lemonade: 50 Cents a Glass!" The jogger, all smiles, reaches into his pocket for some cash, exclaiming, "I'll take two glasses, please". The sister holds the cups while the brother pours, the tandem looking like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. They place the drinks in front of the still out of breath runner who frowns, realizing he doesn't have correct change. "Wow, sorry, kids, I just have a twenty." Without blinking, the little girl grabs the bill, offering an empathetic grin, chirping, "That's alright, mister, we can handle it!" The man can't help but chuckle over the youngster's determined response as he quickly gulps down the first glass attempting to quench his well-earned thirst.

Nothing like a disarming little paragraph to start off. No need to get down and dirty right out of the gate, is there? Better to ease into things gently before slowly, almost imperceptibly, turning up the heat. Ya' know, kinda like the gambit big business everywhere has been employing for all too long now. You're familiar with the ruse, they woo you with their offer of great service for what seems a very fair price and then, little by little, find ways--some more nefarious than others--to exact their pound (or two or three) of flesh from you for as long as possible in the form of creative billing fees that invariably turn out to have been hidden in the fine print all along. So yeah, the gloves are off, the disarming part of the story over.

Ahh, you're thinking this sounds personal. Yep, it is. Presently, I'm waiting for a response from a car rental company that--after I paid nearly $1,200, our agreed upon price--hit me up with a $30.82 add-on fee on my VISA card for who knows what (the car was returned on time with a full tank of gas). Small potatoes?... Yeah, but still, the principle and all. More importantly, this isn't a one-off, more like one in a long string of questionable charges I've received over the years from phone companies, ride services, time share enterprises, car dealerships and banks, just to name a few. So if we're going with the old saying, "Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is a pattern" then this smorgasbord of avaricious creative billing is what... a full-fledged, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners, too-big-to-fail money grab etched in stone?

So, yes, I'm a tad upset and, as noted, taking it personally which is funny because another old saying, "Nothing personal, it's just business" coined in the 1930s by Otto Biederman, an accountant for an organized crime syndicate, has long since been hijacked by big business as a mantra to help assuage any guilt associated with "sticking it to" anyone unfortunate enough to personally get in their way. The rationalization is simple: shareholder profit, in the form of stock yields and quarterly dividends, is all that matters. I know, pretty cold and dispassionate. But at least it's confined to the big bullies of industry, surely not so with their smaller counterparts, right? Yeah, about that... Unfortunately, medium and even smaller-sized businesses have taken note, using whatever tactics necessary to conspire and finagle their way ever deeper into your wallet, embracing the one "trickle-down theory" that actually works.

You've experienced it with healthcare providers--be they doctors, dentists or eye specialists--always pushing extras, looking to provide you with more than you initially wanted provided. And how about the gauging (no, you can't prove it but you know for sure it's happening) associated with computer, electronic and appliance repairs. Not to mention, the add-on fees levied by contractors, delivery services and finance specialists. And then there's the auto mechanic who convinces you that your front right radial tie rod facilitator is shot causing your ambient post coital gasket flange to rupture, the fix costing you an arm and a leg and part of another arm (wait, was that just me?). Bottom line: Every day this insatiable lust for a bigger piece of your economic pie becomes more prevalent in the business world. Seemingly, at every turn you notice another entity lookin' to take you to the cleaners. Where it ends?... yeah, that's anyone's guess:

The jogger, having downed his first glass of lemonade, makes fast work of the next, his thirst finally quenched as he wipes the sweat off his brow. The two kids smile in unison, unmoving, as the runner eyes them curiously, "So you said you could make change for the twenty?" Again, the two remain still. "Excuse me, you owe me nineteen dollars." They both point to the left hand corner of the booth, the fine print reading: "Exact change required. If more than the exact amount is proferred than it will be construed as a gratuity. We thank you for your business." The jogger stands wide-eyed, looking back and forth at the sign and the two siblings, unable to speak. Finally, the young boy breaks the silence, "Hey mister, don't take it personal. It's just business."