Once upon a time, in a far off land, people thought it was virtuous to . . . tell the truth. To tell it like it is. When someone did that, you didn’t put him or her up on a pedestal. Because it wasn’t that unusual. It was what people taught and it was what people did.
If you received an invoice in the mail from your healthcare professional, your retail merchant, your lawyer—well maybe not your lawyer—you could just pay it. You didn’t have to audit it. You knew the provider had done that before sending it. You could trust it. If your provider told you something was so, well, it was so. Because that’s just the way things were.
Then, things began to change. Subtly at first. When your provider told you something was so, maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. But at least he or she thought it was. If they said it, they believed it. The problem was they hadn’t audited it so carefully before saying it. Too busy, they no longer had the time to do that. They delegate the vetting task to someone else. Someone they trusted to discharge that responsibility for them.
As time went by, the errors in those statements and invoices began to increase. After all, the persons to whom your provider was delegating that task were becoming more and more busy too.
We got to the next step. Just make the statement or send out the invoice. No need to check the facts first. Hey, buyer beware. Right? If the customer wants to know the statement or invoice is correct, he or she should check it out. Right?
From there, it wasn’t really that much of a leap for some to make a statement or send out an invoice that they didn’t even believe was all that accurate. It was just what the sender wanted. If the recipient didn’t scrutinize, well, too bad for him or her.
Consider The Wife. Why not, aren’t I always consider-ate of The Wife? Isn’t The Wife always on my mind? The Wife is more trusting than I. When she receives an invoice, she still assumes it’s been checked, by someone, anyone, and it’s correct. She just pays it. After all, she’s busy too. No time to check the accuracy of those invoices on top of everything else she has to do. I get it. She does have a lot to do. Much of it taking care of me.
Like I said, I’m not as trusting. In the past week, I received the following three invoices:
An invoice from a plumber for $280. Hey, a lot of plumbers I know have a way of charging more for their time than a lot of lawyers I know. Nothing surprising about a bill from the plumber for $280. The only problem was that I had a written agreement with the plumber that the work in question would be done for $50 because it was to correct original work that had been incorrectly done. When I called the plumber on it, he said he would look into it. I subsequently received a corrected invoice for $50. No explanation, no apology, no embarrassment. Just a revised invoice. Just an innocent mistake, right? Hey, he’s busy. Too busy to get it right the first time. Or to apologize the second time.
An invoice from a contractor for $620 for work done on our home, $495 for materials and $125 for labor. The only problem was that in quoting the price at the outset, the contractor had represented that the $495 included both material and labor. When I questioned the invoice, the contractor explained that he was generally charging $620 for this work and he forgot that he’d told me $495. He sent a revised invoice.
An invoice for $1,290 from still another vendor. That amount was perfectly correct. The only problem was that the vendor had somehow failed to note that I had already paid the invoice in full. This was not a matter of communications crossing in the snail mail. Plenty of time had transpired between my prompt full payment of the original invoice and the second invoice. No apology or confirmation on this one. Just silence. And no third invoice.
Statements can be even more hazardous to your health. Today, certain people make statements that they know are not true. Buyer beware. Remarkably, however, when they are called on the accuracy of their incorrect statements, not only do they not correct themselves, but they make the same statements again—over and over and over.
I liked it better the old way. But those times seem to be gone forever. Because too many of us accept the way it is today as . . . the new normal. After all, we’re busy. And so are the politicians. Too busy to be truthful. What counts is not the truth, but what they think will sell. We have to understand that. Not expect too much of them. Just turn the fate of our country over to them. And our fates too. Right?
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