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Post No. 15

August 3, 2008

Everybody seems to have an opinion about everything these days. It’s not like we’ve suddenly become a population of voracious readers … Should all these opinions be given equal consideration?

In our rush to grant each person his or her rights and dignity we overlook the most obvious “thing”: the person’s community. Each one of us is a member of a community whether we like it or not. We have two options – accept the mores of the society we live in or expect our society to live by our rules whenever it comes into direct contact with us. Let me elaborate…

Imagine a shopkeeper whose policy is to allow customers to use any method they prefer to effect payment. He advertises it far and wide and sets up shop. The first customers walk in and they want to buy the green thingamajigs.

“How much?”


Out comes the purse (or wallet), money plonked on the counter, fiscal receipt issued, thanks all round and bob’s your uncle.

The next day a bright spark comes along and reads the “Pay as it suits you” notice in the shop window.

“Three green thingamajigs please.”

The shopkeeper obliges.

“I’ll pay you now for one and the other two over the next two days.”

The shopkeeper, accustomed to people paying him on the spot, reminds himself of the sign he had put up outside and says nothing.

People hear of this and start doing the same. The adventurous types push the limit, as adventurous people are wont to do. Paying-up ideas become wackier by the hour, as everybody has his or her own opinion on how best to pay. The shop owner, bound by his word, has to accept without protest.

Thingamajigs start flying off the shelves but money only lurches in like a drunkard. The shop faces serious cash flow problems (don’t we all? ha ha) which overwhelm it, and the shop owner has to call it a day. Thingamajigs are no longer available and people who need them will have to do without.

The shop owner was playing with fire when he allowed people to pay as they thought fit. He was burnt to a crisp. Although they all paid lip service to the notion of paying, few actually paid up.

He should have enlisted the help of suitably qualified accountants and economists, to explain to him the nitty gritty detail of business and establish a reasonable payment policy. The rules should have been made amply clear and they should have overridden anybody’s opinion. Special cases may require individual attention, but that should be left to the the discretion of the experts. The individual customer is important to the business, of course, but no customer is greater than the business.

People’s opinions, more often than not, are shallow and are the result of little or no thought other than “This suits me now”. This is a direct result of people thinking that the community they live in (and its rules) is incidental to them. It is a picture hung on a wall, beautiful to look at but that’s about all there is to it. They don’t understand that their thoughts, choices and actions directly affect the fabric of their lives and the lives of people around them (remember the shop’s forced closure.)

I leave it to you to decipher who the players in this scenario are 🙂


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