Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Win Ben Stein's Brain!

I am rarely unimpressed by Ben Stein. Whenever he speaks, he seems to speak rather intelligently.
It may be because Ben Stein listens. He listens to society, and what makes them angry. He listens to big business and understands what makes it profitable. He listened to his economic professors and now seems to understand how a free market economy works (which, I don't feel many people truly understand).
It may be because he knows when to keep his mouth shut. I don't know how many stupid or irrelevant thoughts he's had... if there have been many, he's been smart enough not to say them out loud (a skill I sometimes wish I had).
Mostly, I think it's that Ben Stein doesn't have grandiose feelings of narcissism. He doesn't feel like the world owes him something. He doesn't feel like big businesses should offer services for free.
I am tired of paying for gas. It's expensive. But, I'm also tired of consumers who feel that it's collusion or price gouging on the part of big oil companies. If the product you sold was more expensive... you'd have to raise your sale price. That's how it works. Ben Stein understands that.
I like that Ben Stein doesn't whine or bitch about things. He doesn't try to tell you that your bank is evil for trying to turn a profit; a concept that seems foreign to Liz Weston.
Liz is upset about how banks charge overdraft fees, but doesn't seem to realize that you can avoid the whole topic by maintaining a balance in your bank account and not writing checks for more money than you have.
I've read the article, and I understand that my statement above is a simplistic conclusion based on material in her article. But, the point I'm trying to make is that big business is necessary. Big business doesn't try to screw customers - otherwise, they wouldn't have any.
Think about how many customers there are for a company like Wachovia (which is used in Liz Weston's story). Think about how many of those customers balance their check books and never have to worry about overdraft fees. Think about how many customers pay overdraft fees, but don't complain because they understand they make a mistake. Now, think about the customers that complain about overdraft fees. It's probably a small percentage of the overall population. And, even of all those that complain, how many are complaining simply so that they can raise a stink (My wife raised a stink about an overdraft fee, and they waived it). The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Do you think Wachovia could stay in business if they screwed their customers? They could if they were the only show in town. But, customers probably move money into accounts at other banks all the time. If Wachovia was in the business of screwing customers they would be hemorrhaging money.
Big business is necessary. If you don't agree... put your money in a local bank. Stop buying gas from Shell and Exxon. Cut up your credit cards and hawk your Dell or Ibook. Don't ever go to Home Depot or Wal-Mart and stop watching NBC on your Time Warner Cable connection.
Or... understand the services that are provided by big business. Call the customer support line and complain when you think you've been wronged. Don't be afraid to move your account to Bank of America or cut up your HSBC gold card and apply at Capital One.
Life is too short to be cynical (All banks are evil and the gas companies are in collusion). Be positive and happy (I don't like the way my bank treated me, so I'm taking my business somewhere else). Understand that prices are high because people will pay them. Think about your kids and smile. Know that sunshine is free.
Act like Ben Stein. Don't complain and think about what you're going to say before you say it.

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