The Traveler

Sometimes the world does change. For some reason the habits of the people shift from one mode to another. The American attitude toward divorce is the most obvious example for someone my age. I can recall my parents saying, “There’s no way he can run. He’s been divorced!” By the 80’s, I don’t think anyone cared much at all about the marital history of public figures. In one generation, divorce went from being a deal breaker to a non-issue for public figures. That’s a big change that people could watch happen in their lifetime.

Then other times you just start noticing something that has always been true, but for some reason you did not know it. All of us are prone to thinking that something new to us is actually new to the world. Millennials are especially prone to this. They carry on about the mundane as if they just discovered fire. But, it is not always easy to know if what you are seeing is a change in custom or just the accumulation of experience leading to a better understanding of something, that has been there all along.

Traveling, I cannot help but notice that I now have to navigate a thicket of thieves, hustlers and bandits, most of whom fly the colors of authority. For example, I check in at the airport and I’m told I will be charged $20 to check my bag. The airlines used to include this in the fee, but now they lie about it so they can pretend they are giving you a deal when you book the flight. Somewhere on the on-line booking site, I’m sure, there is language indicating that someone at the airport will rob you, but no one ever reads it.

When I was in the land of elves, I was charged $47 to check my bag. I fly often and on almost every flight, they beg people to check their items because they lack space in the overhead bins. Inevitably, there are people trying to rob the airline out of free stuff in exchange for them checking the carry on item. This feels new to me. I don’t recall having to go though this sort of stuff with the airlines. You paid a fee, they encouraged you to check your bags at no extra charge, and that was that.

It’s not just bag fees. Airlines have a million ways to rob the unsuspecting passenger. They charge for food, of course, but they also charge for things like a desired seat. I just flew on American and the man at the counter tried to “upgrade” me to an aisle or window seat. I reminded him that I was already booked in first class, where there is no middle seat. He tapped away at the keyboard for a minute, pretending to examine my claim against his company’s information, and then finally handed me a boarding pass. He had no shame.

This is not unique to airlines. Travelers are now familiar with the many people, who have their hands out, expecting something from the traveler. My swank hotel normally charges for water. Not bathing water, but the bottled water they leave in the rooms. The absurdity of this is never noticed, even when you point it out. I was once presented with a bill at check-out for a newspaper, as part of “guest services.” If they had not listed it on the bill, I would never have noticed, but it was like they wanted to rub your nose in it.

Highway robbery is not new, which is why we have the term. It just seems to me that the airlines, hotels and even restaurants used to go out of their way to let the traveler know they were not bandits. It used to be an axiom. for example, that you should eat where travelers eat, because you know the food is good and the  proprietor is honest. Today, it seems like the opposite is true. Places that cater to travelers are crooks, working every angle to separate the traveler from his money.

Last night I was out to dinner at one of the many places in Miami that cater to tourists. In the fine print of the menu, our menus are now legal documents, is a notice that they apply a 12.5% gratuity to the bill. Most people, as was the case with my host, just assume they decide the tip, based on the service. They conduct themselves accordingly and often fail to notice the included gratuity. By definition, a gratuity is voluntary, but this is no longer the case at many places catering to travelers. It’s just another hand reaching into your wallet.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, going back to the days before metal detectors and weirdos fondling your business at check-in. Air travel was always a hassle, but it now feels worse. It feels like people that talk like me and look like me are part of an organized plot to rob people like me. Everyone now has a grift, an angle they are playing to “increase their per client yield” as the business dorks say. That’s just it, behind these schemes are business majors with econ degrees looking at the customers the same way a serial killed looks at prostitutes. It is a transactional experience.

When I travel these days I’m prone to dark thoughts about the future because all along the way, I’m navigating around one hustler after another. They are kitted out in costumes and language intended to fool me into handing over my credit card, which they will pillage like Vikings on holiday. This is the very definition of a low trust society. It did not always feel like this. Maybe it was and I never noticed, but I am noticing now. My default assumption when dealing with anyone while traveling is to assume they are a bandit.

On the way back from dinner, we passed a man waving his arms next to what one would assumes was his vehicle. My host wanted to stop and help. The man waving his arms looked Middle Eastern. I told my host to not stop as this has become a way to rob people. They pretend to be a traveler in distress, you stop to help and then they rob you. She gave me that look that women give to men when they are disappointed in them, but then she realized I was probably right and we moved on.

This is the dream world of economists and libertarians. They fantacize about the day when no one has any loyalty to anyone and everyone is a moist robot, calculating their advantage in every transaction. It is a world dominated by rootless men of commerce, who go from one deal to the next, without any thoughts of the future or the past. They invest in nothing because they have loyalty to no one but themselves in the moment. If you want to see the future, go to the airport. That’s what they are preparing for us.

57 thoughts on “The Traveler

  1. I can only think of one place where I did not feel like tourists were being targeted & gouged. Japan.

  2. People I’ve known a long time always ask me why I left my very profitable job in that “managerial class” to do something that pays a fair bit less, but is more rewarding. Although there are about 6 things ahead of it in line, and the rankings change depending on the mood I’m in, travel – particularly airline travel – was a big thing that I walked away from to secure my freedom.

    I’ve been to city/county prisons that are more welcoming and easier to navigate than airports in the last 15 years. Flying used to be fun. The security was fairly minimal. Your family could walk you to the gate, or you could meet somebody getting off their flight. What do they have up at Denver International Airport these days? An entire Food Court that is the hub of their “cell phone waiting area”…and it is 5 miles from the terminal. Another way to separate people from their cash, even the people who aren’t traveling. I’d chalk this one up to some entrepreneurialism, but it’s really not. The government owns the land, and those vendors are contractors who pay back a hefty tax (i.e. “rent”) in order to sell things there. It’s just a matter of time before you’re required to have an “EZ Pass” to drive on the airport access road…or stop and pay $1 toll…to pick up your buddy from out of town.

    The airplanes themselves are frequently dirty, smelly, bacterial-laden affairs. I could immediately tell who had recently traveled in my company simply by noting who was sick in the conference room during Monday’s a.m. meeting. The seats are sciatica-inducting torture racks.

    And that’s before all the retarded rules that exist mainly to give busybodies an opportunity to lecture people. It’s only in the last few years that you could leave your IT device on during the flight without drawing scowls and lectures from flight attendants. I’ll never forget after one passenger-thwarted terrorist attack (have you ever noticed that the passengers always catch them these days despite all the “security”?), the rule went out that nobody could bring liquids on the plane. I’m sitting at DFW one day listening to a flight attendant argue with a passenger who wanted to bring her 32oz Pepsi from Subway onto the plane. The flight attendant told her she could drink it or throw it away. The conversation grew louder until I yelled for everyone in 3 gates to hear,


    The entire concourse (I shit you not) broke down laughing. It diffused the situation, and the lady drank a few more sips and tossed her potential-bomb in the trash.

    I learned to f***ing hate travel.

  3. Many of the problems zman cites can be traced directly back to government malfeasance, incompetence and outright criminal behaviour.
    Don’t like the interminable “security” lines at the airports?
    Well, guess what; the airlines have to pay for them (that is, you and I).
    Because the govt. allows Sunni Arabs and Sunni Pakistanis to fly US domiciled planes as well as US citizens who are actually on the terror watch list. And profiling is prohibited (it is profiling that ENDED Israeli plane hijackings).
    We hear the endless crap that we cannot allow terrorists to “change” how we live. But in case you have been living in another solar system, we had to change long ago.
    We cannot enter any venue these days without our carry-on’s being checked; and we have to wait in lines, whereas before, there were no lines because no one needed to check your backpack or purse.

    Many of the “beggars” we see on the streets are mentally ill. In the old days, they were in mental institutions. That ended when the ACLU sued the local and state governments to shut down the mental institutions. They claimed that no one – even a total nut job – should be hospitalized or otherwise incarcerated without their consent.
    Too bad ALL these crazies on the streets do not literally live on the front yard of these ACLU lawyers and verbally abuse and throw their excrement at the families of these ACLU lawyers. Watch how fast the ACLU lawyers sue to incarcerate these loons.
    When politicians in black robes – “judges” – make laws and social policy, you wind up with panhandlers on every corner because they have a “right” to be there.

    Now that drug addiction and alcoholism are DEFINED as illnesses, you can’t sweep the streets of these folks. After all , they are “ill.” For some contrast, check out Depression Era photos of 1930s bread lines or photos of that era of Harlem. Those folks were better dressed and comported themselves civilly; better than many of today’s middle to upper class folks.

    You can blame welfare programs many of the social pathologies we see daily. Welfare ENCOURAGES idleness, laziness, broken families and permits young, able bodied men and women to “hang” at street corners all day and night. Before welfare, they were too busy working if they wanted to eat. And before welfare, something like 80% of all black families had two parent households, In fact, in the late 1800s, post slavery (and during really very severe discrimination against blacks ) most black families had two parent households).

    It is the government – the academic elites (its a revolving door) – that have re-defined and restructured the traditional family and social mores such that it is acceptable (actually encouraged) to be on relief and permissible to be a junkie or alcoholic or street urchin (its a disease folks).

    Formerly , such behaviour was frowned upon by society; now no individual is responsible for their own bad” behaviour, because everything is the fault of others’ (i.e., society).

    • “government malfeasance, incompetence and outright criminal behaviour”

      S N, A F U

      I would translate the quote from your comment into ancient Sumerian, but really, do I have to?

  4. An interesting post, but, on balance not quite right.

    Firstly it’s a bit of whinging about first world problems, especially from a guy flying first class. By any measure, even when you pay for the extras, flying is unbelievably cheap. The world is a much better place when even the working classes can and do travel by air. The airlines I fly are astonishingly upfront and honest about their charges, especially EasyJet out of the UK, which is also highly and efficiently computerized. The schnook at the counter who tried to upgrade your first class? Never attribute something to dishonesty when mistake will do just fine.

    Secondly, it’s a bit of old guy “when I was young the world was better” whinging. I’m 64 and I try to avoid doing that but my sons tell me I do it anyway. I try to remember the world was also worse in many ways when I was young, a lot worse. How reliable were cars, appliances and airplanes when you were younger? They were crap compared to today.

    As for people trying to upsell and oversell you? That has been going on since the monkeys tried to trade bigger sticks for more bananas. Me, I kind of enjoy it. I just started a new business with one of my sons, opened a bank account, put a bunch of cash in it and got a call from the bank trying to sell me ‘business services’. At first I was as irritated as you. Didn’t those fools link the new account to my profile and realize that I was already well established with that bank as a user of many of their services? Bah humbug! Anyway, the guy was young and pleasant, I listened, and he actually had a new service in which I was interested.

    Must take the rough with the smooth, as the Brits say.

    • Ha. I remember those guys. The terminal would be thick with weirdos handing stuff out, but the Krishnas were the best.

  5. Great column. I don’t fly but I get the idea. The trucking industry has a great scam in the grocery business. The load has to be sorted, each item on a different a different pallet, a certain quantity at a certain height. Mind you, these are boxed products, not loose vegetables. You have to have the truck out of the door in two hours. So you pay a lumper. In many places they are union. Sometimes the day people at the company work nights as lumpers, and vice versa. I asked my boss once, ” Why do we do this? They ordered this stuff, they should unload it. ” He just shrugged and said, ” That’s the way it always has been. ” Industrial firms didn’t operate that way. BTW, Walmart did not do this. They unloaded the trailer whatever you hauled in. Walmart distribution centers were good places to unload. It always took 3-4 hours, but they had set procedures they ALWAYS followed, everywhere, so you knew what to expect.

  6. My eighty-one year old sister and I reminisce about being able to go to a movie for a quarter. And, yes, of course, quarters were hard to come by. However the paradigm shift of the value of things against the cost of things is now grossly out of balance and I attribute that to the inevitable negative influence of excess prosperity. The age of ‘little is much’ has given way to ‘much is never enough’.

    The toughest part of growing old is being able to compare the then and now and recognize the unstoppable downward slide.

  7. business majors with econ degrees looking at the customers the same way a serial killed looks at prostitutes

    Damn, that’s hilarious. Apart from the fact that I agree with most of what you say (and the rest is worth considering), it’s lines like that that make this blog obligatory reading.

  8. This made me think of a recent experience. I went out for my 32 mile bicycle ride, which this time of the year requires about an hour of riding in the dark. I got a flat rear tire 5 miles from where I parked. Because I was wearing shoes with cleats on them, I had to take them off and walk in my stocking feet. Because the rear tire was completely destroyed I had to carry the bike on my shoulder. I walked 4 of those 5 miles on public roads visible to all. Not a single person even inquired if I needed help during that carry. That was in Glen Burnie Md.

    When I lived in Mechanicsburg PA I went for a motorcyle ride through the state forest quite far from home. It was totally dark, with a one and a half lane road (well paved) running across the mountain. I am a big, very scary looking guy, wearing a leather jacket walking in the pitch black in the middle of the forest. Not a single person went by who did not offer to help me. Not a single person. One who was going my way took me all the way back to my house. That was only 6 years ago. Part of it is this time, but a lot of it is the location.

  9. One of my earliest recollections of the unbundling strategy or simply cost cutting was the good ‘ol gas station. Recall when you could pull in tell the guy at the pump to “Fill ‘er up!” and head off to take care of business. And when you came back, your windshield would be cleaned, you hood would be up and the man would be checking fluids, radiator and oil. Now in our low trust environment and cost cutting ways, help? You want help? Fugetaboutit! And you have to keep everything locked, hood, gas cap, wheel locks, etc. otherwise, well, you know.

    But to me the biggest culprit whom I despise to no end are the banks. Unbundling and charging up the yinyang for every frigging little thing. And the ATM fees for eft transactions that cost little. When traveling internationally, talk about every Tom, Dick and Harry in the financial pipeline having their hand in your account. Fees for everything coming from everywhere and everyone for the privilege of using “your” money. And all this is abetted by our glorious Congress-critters.

    Imagine that your payroll or other monies sit idle (read unavailable to you, the recipient) on weekends and holidays while the banks are using it internationally as float. But you have to wait until the “next business day” to access your funds. In this electronic day and age of 24×7 global transactions, this is ludicrous. If you make a purchase, your account damn sure is debited the very same minute! The banks don’t wait for the “next business day.” And the way they manipulate your account to make sure their fees get paid before your “expenses/purchase” is a joke. The same goes for the Insurance industry. There is no more “risk” in the insurance industry. They have legislated most of the risk away and as usual placed it on the taxpayers. Just like everything else.

    Few seem to have any scruples any longer. No honor. No commitment to quality or service. Marketing and advertising has fallen to new levels of lying and deceit. I agree with you on the travel business. I’ve done my share, mostly business related, and it used to be a relatively enjoyable experience. But man, I am glad I don’t have to deal with the TSA now. I would probably get into trouble given my current attitude towards bureaucratic BS. I can’t stand it and I am pretty vocal about letting people know.

    By globalizing, American business has degenerated to a lower common denominator where the thiefs and other criminals rule. Boy Scouts no longer have much of a chance. The paradigm has changed and we have to adapt and overcome.

    • This —> ‘thiefs and other criminals rule’. Yes they do because this is the age of greed and avarice. The cherry on top is that no matter where you go, where you transact business, you are assaulted with a demand to fill out a survey to ‘tell us how we are doing!’. Isn’t that ironic? I’d laugh if I wasn’t so busy weeping.

    • @ LetsPlay – Does Oregon still have a law that drivers are not allowed to fill up their own cars? I remember when I attempted to fill my tank in Ashland years ago, some kid ran out and stopped me. He said it was some sort of law.

      It’s all self serve here in Germany and Switzerland, but you can still find full service, but it’s more expensive. And when I say full service, that means they only put in gas, they don’t check the oil, wash your windshield or anything else. As you say…Fugetaboutit!

      • I am not sure about Oregon law but I do know that in Nevada, there are stations that offer “full service” for a higher price per gallon. And like Germany, that is only for putting gas in the tank and nothing else.

  10. You seem to be painting business, specifically airlines, with a very broad brush of greed, arranging things to squeeze the last dollar out of your wallet. Well, yeah, they are, but it’s not necessarily simple greed (except for Mylan’s EpiPen pricing – that’s greed.)

    In this age of, Google, online price comparisons, and the almost unlimited amount of free product & pricing information that the internet provides, just about every industry has come under severe pricing pressure. When you’re not shopping in brick/mortar stores, customer service pretty much declines to “how easy is it to return an item that was purchased online?”

    Since deregulation and elimination of subsidies, airlines have had to closely watch costs… just to survive. I don’t fly often, but I’ve still never looked upon it as a comfort experience — it’s transportation* (at least since the era of Pan American, Northwest, TWA, et al., that is.) The fixed costs for each flight are immense, and each seat that flies empty is a revenue loss that can never be recaptured. Their seat pricing strategy is to match the minute-by-minute changing seat price with a willing buyer. Each of us has his seat price point, and the airline essentially conducts an auction to find what that is — except that no one can see the other buyers or knows when the algorithm will raise or lower that offered price.

    Life is different when you’re spending your own, not your employer’s, money. Me? I’m El Cheapo: I fly Southwest when I can (check bag), but don’t need to reserve a special seat, or sit with family members, or board first, or any of the other options. If I can’t fly Southwest, I pack light, carry on my bag, & fight with the rest of the pax for overhead bin space (it’s usually not that big a problem). I don’t buy food or drink. For a flight of <4-5 hours, why would I need to eat on the plane, knocking elbows with my neighbors?

    Oh, and the breakout of fees and taxes? That was mandated by the government — for our own good, of course.

    * best airline I ever flew was Midwest Express: leather seats, lots of room, real silverware & china & cloth napkins, and warm cookies.

    • Mylan’s pricing is not greed- it is simply a case of making hay while the sun shines. Pricing is all about maximizing profit and minimizing blowback. Mylan just went a weeee bit too far.

  11. It’s no longer a “service” economy – it’s a skim economy. It has been for a while. I suspect a lot of the skimmer realize that the party is winding down and want to get as much as they can while they still can, consequences be damned, because they’re likely hosed anyway.

  12. Epic rant, Zman.

    One of my observations is that most of the inflation since the fall of the USSR and the rise of the cloud people has been in luxury items and services. A good pair of trousers that will last me ten years, a good watch, a stay at a four or five-star joint, or a luxury meal have all increased in price by 4 or 5x. On the other hand, a run of the mill car, a set of blue jeans, a digital watch, or a room at a two or three star hotel cost about 1 to 2x of what they did at the start of Pax Americana. As a matter of fact, a five-function Casio watch with a quartz crystal costs precisely the same as the very first one I bought in the summer of 1983.

    Airports seem to be a special zone. Enough of the clientele seems to be from the managerial class (20% or so) that the managerial premium applies to everyone, but the dirt people get squeezed figuratively and literally while the managers head to the business class lounges after being whisked through the premium class screening lane.

    • The clientele are the managerial class, the foreign H1B workers the managerial class is bringing here, and their extended families.

  13. All waterholes have predators. Trail crossings are ambushes. If you can’t tell who the mark is in a game, it’s you.
    The veneer of polite civilization is a fading memory, and the animus of the begrudged is thinly veiled and ever present.
    The wise words of of Uncle Remus: stay away from crowds. One spark and the fuse is lit.

  14. I’ve given it up. God willing, I will never see the inside of another airport. I’m not that old, pushing 50, but I’ve traveled extensively and I’m just over it. The dealing with all the hustlers as you call them and then all the other tourist all looking for a ‘unique’ experience. It just became tedious. I’m extremely content with this decision. We are all searching for beauty but we don’t have to slog through the muck to find it. All of us have it close to home

  15. Good column. I haven’t traveled much in a long while, but did so a year ago to Boston. The first thing I noticed was how all the service people are now Mexican. They were actually polite. Tim

  16. Many years ago I flew into Africa where I worked for two years. I arrived in Johannesburg and I thought to myself, ‘now I’m in Africa’. Then I took a connecting flight to Nairobi and I thought, ‘Oh, now I’m in Africa’. Then I took a flight to Uganda, my final destination. It was at that point that I realized that I was really in Africa.

    Recently I flew home to Melbourne after a week in Singapore. After the First World perfection of Singapore’s airport, service, and functionality, arriving in Melbourne was something of a shock. It wasn’t Third World but it sure as hell wasn’t First World either. This is not as it used to be. We have regressed. It wasn’t Uganda but it wasn’t Johannesburg either. It was somewhere in the middle, around Nairobi. The funny thing is that when I left Melbourne I didn’t notice. It was only evident on my return.

  17. I just spent nearly a week doing timber stand improvement on some recreational property that is essentially off the grid. I can occasionally get a phone signal on a hilltop and a rare internet connection if the sky is clear on the right spot. Coming back to town even after a short stay is a bit of a culture shock and it takes a day to catch up. All this talk about airports is a bit foreign to me right now, but how much more does it take to realize that they are run by crooks when all you see on every screen is CNN?

  18. The general dynamic is that whatever group has the most power in a society, changes the society to its own liking. For a stark example examine the Soviet Union of 1917-23 – the Bolsheviks entirely re-made the society in their own image.

    And what an ugly image that was.

      • It was an archaic society, and long neglected by their monarchs and nobility. But it was also very rich in its human capital. They had real intellectuals, scientists and just good patriotic citizens. The sorely needed reforms, while long overdue, had been finally started. These were intentionally subverted (see: Stolypin).

        Their problem, as I see it, was the utmost ineptitude of their monarchy and the higher nobles. The fish rots from the head.

        • It was a shitty place before the bloshies, and a shitty place during the bolshies, and a shitty place after the bolshies.

  19. @ theZman – You have obviously not enjoyed the pleasure of eating out in Italy. It’s one of the few places where they actually charge you for a place setting, often around 2.50€ before you’ve even ordered anything. In Venice, if you want to sit at a café in St. Marks square, expect to pay upwards of 5.00€ for the privilege of keeping a chair warm. And don’t look surprised when they charge you10.00€ for a 1-liter bottle of water. And you thought gas was expensive here!

      • @ Yub – I have visited Venice enough to know exactly where to buy lunch without paying tourist rates or a seating fee. Small cafes which the locals use are scattered around, but my favorites are in the north-east section around Camp de la Celestia. You just have to know where to look.

        • I would have thought any table upwind of the canals would draw a premium charge (in Venice)

        • @Karl Horst – It would be great if you would write a mini-guide to eating in Venice at a good price 🙂

  20. “If you want to see the future, go to the airport. That’s what they are preparing for us.”

    In other words, the worst of the start of the Dark Ages.

    I think in the olden days, even up to the 1990s the idea in travel was that it was supposed to be decent because it was something special for the upper and upper-middle class. Now that anyone can do it, its alright to fleece everyone.

    • I could be wrong but I think the era of jet travel will end as soon as the first killer disease is spread worldwide through the airways. If not that, terrorists will increase martyrdom operations aboard commercial flights. It’s relatively easy to shut down an airport though: throw FOD on the runway or dumb-fire model rockets into the approach. Or jam the GPS or VOR/ILS. You don’t have to be more than partially successful to make an airport risky for airlines.

      Cuckservatives assure me jet travel is essential to ARE ECONOMY in this era of video teleconferencing.

  21. More travel bitching…

    I used to fly cross-country on jumbo-jets. Wide-body 747’s and DC-10’s that were half-empty. I could literally lay across an enormous isle and only wake up when the stewardess came by with my free food.

    Now the penny-pinchers have us packed into much smaller econo-planes and I’m lucky if I get a bag of free peanuts and a shot of soda.

    • The response to this is “but it is so much cheaper now” but that’s not true. In the 80’s I was not giving up a kidney to buy a plane ticket. I was not being groped at the airport and I got a drink and sandwich on the plane. Maybe flights are a bit cheaper, but the service is vastly worse.

      • You are being groped at the airport because the powers at be don’t have the cojones to implement the laws of the land WRT illegal entry.

      • I flew a bit in the 80’s also. It wasn’t that expensive and it was nice. I always carried a swiss army knife and would just put it in the coin tray going through security. No one ever said anything. I wouldn’t fly today unless I had no other choice.

  22. Excellent article. I do have to point out that it’s a race to the bottom: travel used to be much more expensive, and it has become much cheaper. Unbundling is one way to keep costs down. And the ‘man at the counter’ is probably required to try to upgrade you…he is just a moist robot.

    And for all your Southwest fans (and I am one), their labor costs are far higher than Low cost carriers in Europe and Asia.

    So Southwest is someday, going to have to give in on the bags. If Spirit Airways ever gets its act together (and it is truly awful), then Southwest will have to cut costs. As it is, their pilot contract took several years to conclude.

  23. I have remarked that the present-day general social atmosphere resembles accounts given of the late Soviet Union. Like the late Soviet Union, the illusion is falling away; the media pretend less and less to be something other than naked mouthpieces of the state, white men walk in small steps and take up little space on the sidewalk, blatant graft is everywhere. Even the healthcare industry—especially the healthcare industry—is saturated in a morass of fraud.

    What sort of country do you live in where even those with the responsibility to heal people unapologetically stick you with bills above and beyond that which you agreed to, if you agreed to any in the first place. Hospitals will try to charge you twice as much as indicated by signed and agreed-to documents. This is no joke, I have first-hand experience, and these were supposedly reputable institutions catering to a supposedly reputable clientele.

    Unlike the Soviet Union, there is no obviously appealing “alternative order”, so to say, as there was when the Russians wanted to be part of the Grand American Order, offering themselves up to the International Community™, who proceeded to financially rape them for their naïveté.

    The Siberian tiger Calamity pads silently over the fallen snow, its tail twitching hungrily.

    • Very true, and another resemblance is the increasing number of “crime-thinkers”, as represented by the sites this like one.

    • At hospitals and when dealing with medical grifters when I’m out-of-pocket, I’ve just started paying only half the bill and telling them to send the rest to collections. Sutter never does send bills to collections. I had a gap in coverage on my third because I forgot to add him to the policy in the 30-day window after his birth and had to wait until “open enrollment.” One of the bills for routine vaccines came back north of $1500 and I simply refused to pay more than half which still allowed the hospital (Sutter) handsome profits. They never sent the bill to collections and I haven’t heard more of it.

      The point is, grifters and thieves only understand when you respond in kind. We don’t want to stiff anyone for services rendered, but at the same time providers think they can charge whatever they want. At least the corporations the providers work for do. Insurance companies are a little bit better but are basically a tax to protect you from medical grifters.

      To stop enabling medical grifters, we unfortunately have to give them a taste of their own medicine. In good conscience, I give them what I think they would get if my insurance company were covering it. Remember: rapefugees and illegals pay nothing and the hospitals have no problem shifting the sunk costs onto you with their billing software.

  24. A little off topic, pale people tend to be over-generous and also tip bad service as well as good, pussies that we are, so the 12.5% this-ain’t-a-gratuity might get a lot of up-votes here. Also, if tipping is more an American practice than a universal one it makes me wonder if that policy is in response to a large new population who stiff waiters. Dindus are a long standing known quantity so maybe this is something about the vibrant population.

    • Waiters get good at spotting bad tippers. Blacks are famous for leaving no tip. The Irish are well known for not tipping well, but they do leave something. I have Irish friends who are baffled at the idea of leaving more than change for a tip. Waiters figure this out quickly, which is why they sabotage the food of these people.

      • Grew up in South Florida. Automatic gratuities got an early start there because of all the European tourist traffic that commenced with airline deregulation. And yes, they did not tip, nor did the French Canadians who flocked to Hollywood in those days. One odd sidebar. When the old National Airlines first started running really cheap jumbo jet service from the UK and opened Miami to thousands of working class Brits that had never been south of Devon or perhaps France, several did manage to sunburn themselves to death or near death in the July sun.
        Always check my bag. It gets priority with United. But if flying coach (extra leg room coach is another great scam–if you are 6’2″ and usually work on the plane you suck up and buy it to avoid ending up like a praying mantis on the computer) But I absolutely despise the 30 minutes of “roller bag” derby as the people that have brought enormous, barely compliant roller bags on along with a second similar sized “personal item”. I put my backpack sideways in the overhead. But it’s going to stay there and regularly tell these nitwits “no, not going to move it” so they can load their entire siege train of luggage into the overhead.

  25. You nailed it – business focus groups tasked looking for new “revenue streams”. They ignore everything except a few dollars revenue in the short-term.

    I work with a senior manager who loves to use airline baggage fees as an example of good progress. One airline did it, then the rest followed (except Southwest who I now fly whenever possible). I try not to roll my eyes and make a disgusted face each time I have to hear that story. He ignores the unintended consequences – lines and delays at security as passengers roll their luggage into the terminal, and the full overhead storage bins. Flying sucks now.

    Sure they scammed $25 off me and I don’t really care when travelling for business – but I now hate the airlines and flying in general. It’s been a decade since I bought an airline ticket with my own money – congrats.

  26. Hustlers and scammers target old people because they have money and are more trusting, but society has changed for the worse, the new normal is a low trust society, in the near future is going be a high distrust society

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