Bob vs. Contractors
Bust Bob's Chops

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© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

New character in Dilbert: Bob-bert, the lovable old guy who means well but who just makes everything worse with his crazy ideas.
On May 12, 1999, Bob Levey said:

"[Contractors] should be forced by law to set up a 'reverse bond' fund. Consumers could tap into it if an appointment goes unmet and there's no good excuse or explanation. I'd say $50 per miss would be about right."

Ahhh, the Government. The Government, the entity, as opposed to the government, the concept. The people of a nation form a government as a collective form of self-protection. The people establish rules for themselves and for their Government to follow.

Only, once a government becomes a Government, something happens. People begin to see it not as the result of a collective will, but rather as an entity in its own right, here to shelter us rather than to serve us. It takes a few generations for the metamorphosis to take place. It needs time for the memories of no government to vanish in the past. So no one ever remembers, or hears about, life without the Government there for us.

Gradually the Government makes rules without the will of the people, and the people, too preoccupied with more important things such as life, fail to notice.

Which is the only possible explanation for how someone could seriously suggest a Government- regulated fund to reimburse people for wasted time.

Contractors frequently draw people's ire because they frequently are late for, or break, appointments. Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it is rude. No, it is not worth a Government payout.

Sure, contractors could be required to fill the kitty. It could be part of their license fee. But let's have a look at some of the many problems such a fund would have:

By what criteria would a contractor be expected to pay in? Would large contractors pay the same fee as small contractors? Would the fee be based on gross income, or number of customers served? All of these methods could punish good contractors just as harshly as bad ones.

Will it be based on a merit system, where contractors must pay based on their rate of complaints? Who will determine whether complaints are legitimate? The court system? Are we encouraging lawsuits over whether a contractor was technically "late" just so the plaintiff can collect his $50 in small-claims court? What will be the penalty to those customers who are late or do not appear, which causes the contractor to be late for another appointment? Will filing a false complaint be a criminal offense?

How would such a system help the next person? Will contractors be required to post their rates of complaints? Or will it be confidential, so the next guy won't know he has a problem contractor until it's too late? Would such a system be sufficient punishment for the offenders? If they're paying into it anyway, they could blow off appointments knowing customers will be pacified with a big fat check that the contractor prepaid with his license fees.

"There oughta be a law." Hah! There oughta be some common sense is more like it. If a contractor blows off a customer, that customer should give him an earful and move on to the next company. Then he should tell everyone who listens all about his experiences, both good and bad. Networking is very effective at communicating information and influencing the actions of others. Far, far more effective than some sort of Government-run merit system.

Suppose, somehow, such a system were put in place. What sort of precedent would it set? Would you be able to get a check for a late doctor? Late automobile repairs? Late movie? Too many lines at the amusement park?

Extreme? Maybe. But next time you do your income taxes, think about how in 70 years it crept from only affecting the richest 5% of the population to taking 30% out of your paycheck. With the Government in full "shelter" mode, the protection you seek now may be the burden you carry later.