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Subject:  Re: Brokers, Cribbage, & Mosquitoes Date:  7/6/2006  10:23 AM
Author:  Lokicious Number:  17398 of 36693

I find the lack of personal responsibility today to be incessantly irritating. The onus is on the customer to make sure they know what they are doing.

Lack of personal responsibility is a major problem in this country (starting withthe politicians and extending down to the girl who almost ran me over yesterday because she pulled into the crosswalk to turn right, talking on her cell phone—luckily, I assume this will happen, but we have little kids on bikes and little old ladies with canes walking crossing the same intersection).

However, the Libertarian belief in "buyer beware" is a perversion of business ethics. Business is based on the social contract, a basic assumption of trust betwen buyer and seller. That's why I like small, locally owned businesses: if they cheat, they get held responsible. Itinerant peddlars were the suspicious ones, and even they had to worry about tar and feathers, if they ever passed that way again.

It is not up to customers to make sure they aren't being cheated. I pay some attention at the supermarket to make sure mistakes aren't made (mostly because cashiers don't seem to know the difference between on sale string beans and expensive snow peas), but it isn't because I think they are getting a bonus from the boss for pulling a fast one. At a restaurant, I'll glance at the bill to make sure it looks right, but I don't demand the menu back to recheck the prices and add it all up for myself, as I would if I was worried about cheating. Obviously, when buying anything substantial, a good consumer does research and doesn't just rely on the sales clerk, but even with this, I've generally found clerks on commission pretty reliable, not trying to sell me something more than I want—my biggest complaint is places where you can't find help or the clerks are hired because they are Olympians and don't know thing one about the products.

Wall Street has now joined used car salesmen as one of those businesses where "buyer beware" has become a necessary precaution, but it is not the customers' fault for missing this, when the industry has cultivated a belief in putting the client first. That's why many of us got involved with TMF, and if we go overboard in proclaiming that you should expect to be cheated, the finance industry deserves it (and the top executives at Merrill Lynch, City Bank, etc., should be in jail for investment banking scams). Hidden costs are part of the cheating, and it should not be up to naive customers to learn how to read the fine print to figure out hidden costs: if big business doesn't want to be regulated, since we don't have tar and feathers, it should learn how to behave honestly.

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