Disappointed (a rant about the way things are)

I’ve been in DC for about 2 weeks now and I’ve been hit a couple times with situations that caused an internal rolling of the eyes at the petty and annoying ways that business is run these days. The first is the draconian attention to one’s age when purchasing alcohol. We’ve got huge problems with alcohol in this country, with 1/3 of our road deaths caused by drunk driving not to mention the domestic abuse, health issues, and lost productivity due to alcohol abuse. But those problems aren’t what we focus on. We are instead extremely concerned that young adults (legally eligible for every right and benefit our states and nation provides as well as full accountability under our laws) might gain access to alcohol in those precious 3 years between legal adulthood and the age of 21. It’s a overcompensation for an embarrassingly paternalistic policy that doesn’t pass the “land of the free” test in my opinion.

The drinking age policy aside, I don’t understand why we legislate punishments for those who sell the alcoholic beverages. Everyone knows the rule, so why not hold those under 21 accountable for it? If you buy beer when you aren’t old enough, you should get punished. Of course sellers should be permitted to request verification of age on patrons they suspect aren’t old enough, but we are now in a state where failure to ask for ID is punishable. Grocery store checkers can’t tender the sale without checking ID. If it takes 10 seconds to check an ID, thats 1 minute of productivity for every 6 people. If a bar sees 360 people, that is an hour of labor spent checking ages. Just seems like a needless waste for a country that prides itself on liberty and personal accountability.

More than this annoyance is the “gotcha” approach to business employed by large corporations who have no need or incentive to build a quality relationship with customers. I stopped by Ruby Tuesday the other day on my way home from work only because it was between the bus stop and the hotel. I initially balked at going to a chain restaurant but since all I wanted was a beer and some chicken wings, I relented. I was there during happy hour and asked to be seated in booth. When I got my bill, I was confused to find that I hadn’t been charged happy hour prices. Turns out you only get happy hour prices if you sit in the bar area, even though all I ordered was wings and beer in the middle of the happy hour time period. Apparently where I sit determines the prices I pay these days.

Finally, I had to spend about 45 with an Avis manager to figure out why I was charged $147.xx for a car that I’d reserved and prepaid $118.xx for. He did a good job dealing with it, so I give them good grades for the point of interaction care. But I learned that my rate went up because I’d used the car for less than the reservation agreement. Yup, I paid more because I used the car less. My flight was delayed arriving so I picked it up about 3 hours later than I reserved and I returned it about 30 minutes earlier. This change in the reservation resulted in my account being charged a different (i.e. higher) rate. We got that mostly sorted out but I was still being charged more than expected. Looking closely at the taxes, the math wasn’t adding up. It looked like I was being overcharged on taxes, $11 for an 11% tax on $80 of services. Turns out that the taxes are calculated according to my “base” rate. This is the rate for the car before I got my USAA discount and then the manually adjusted discount he’d added to make up for the higher rate associated with using the car for an shorter period.

Yup, they charged taxes on a theoretical base rate that had about 20% discounts on it. I don’t know how this is legal, to be honest, as I thought taxes were assessed based in what you paid for goods and services. I paid about $100 for the car and GPS but paid taxes on $125 dollars of “base rated” before the discounts and adjustments that I actually paid for. Disappointing that there are hidden fees and charges in this kind of interaction at all, doubly so that I’m paying taxes on prices I didn’t pay.

Needless to say I no longer intend to have any commercial relationship with these companies.

 

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