By TLB Contributor: Ken Larive
It isn’t easy being an honest man in a world designed by thieves. It isn’t easy to live by rule of law in a system where breaking it is lucrative. Honor is hard to uphold, love perverted, and a moral compass is rendered inconsequential in a world where nearly everything depends, and is configured by, a black bottom line.
What do you feel, as an honest person, when you stand in line after checkout at Sam’s to get your groceries rechecked? A nice lady counts your items and puts a yellow line on your receipt to indicate it was done, rendering the receipt null and void to be used twice. A thief shrugs it off, accepts it as normal, but to an honest person it sticks in their craw. And as the years progress, and never once did you ever get caught stealing, or a single mistake found, you become more and more belligerent. It is all you have, all you are allowed to have, in a system who questions your intentions to be evil.
Several weeks ago, the day my new grand daughter was born, I was on my way to visit her in hospital. I found myself on a one-way street full of flashing lights, cement trucks, and street workers. With only a few hours sleep, I backed up into a brick mail box trying to get out of the way of a large truck playing chicken… a person who had to go first. No damage to the mail box, but I had a deep scratch on several rear passenger side panels, and my light assembly popped off.
The insurance company recommended that I use a specific body shop, and that I would get 35 dollars a day on a car rental, conveniently located next to the shop. My insurance broker communicated with them, organized it, and they seemed to all be working for a common cause, something I have never seen. Over the coming days I got a call from all three, with the future pivot-point being the part’s delivery in a few days.
When that day arrived I brought it to the body shop where an adjuster assessed the damage. He told me that the insurance company might not allow what looked to be a previous ding on the left, a hit and run bump in a parking lot, on a small panel above the the bumper.
“I’ll do what I can.”
He said with a winning smile…
The insurance company allowed me 35 dollars a day for car rental, but they did not have one on the lot. She told me the only one left was 41.28 a day, and that I’d only have to pay 6 dollars or so, along with eight percent taxes. They told me I could come back the next day and pick up a 35 dollar car, but since it was almost five in the afternoon, I would have to pay for two days at 41 and change, because I should have called them first. Oops! I trusted what the insurance company told me… Should have been more assertive.
The car was a mini-van, you know the kind you see soccer moms zipping along in? But I liked it, especially the shift on the dash… I didn’t have the time the next day, so called them to say I’d keep it for the duration. I had a lot going on working with a carpenter building a gate in my yard…. They had told me there was only a quarter tank of gas in the tank, so I quickly filled it up. I’ve rented cars a number of times in my life, and always it had a full tank… and you always fill up before returning it, or you will be paying a lot for that service. And so, this way, they got about forty dollars of gas…
The next day I got a call from the shop estimator saying the insurance company did not approve the work on the left side, and that they could give me a break in that repair.. 150 dollars would do it.
“A lot cheaper to do it all at once, as it will all be painted at the same time…”
But again that little voice of experience whispered to me what was not being said. That each incident had to have a separate thousand dollar deductible fee, for one, but the real kicker is that it is considered normal that insurance companies pay more then an individual does out of pocket. A windshield is a case in point, but this scenario was different, the body shop was protecting the interests of the insurance company… Some shops give a good discount, about 10 percent, if you pay cash. They can hide that, I speculate, from taxes… So how does all of this convolution sit with a man of honor? He is drawn into it, and is complicit to save a few bucks, most often. He knows it is wrong, but it seems to be just business as usual… and everyone is doing it. Most all will fall to these tactics, and become a part of one scam after another…
Ten days later I got a call telling me my car was going to be ready in 40 minutes, if I wanted to come in soon it would be fine, to get the paper work done. I handed in my car to the the rental first, not even mentioning I almost had a full tank, paying with my company gold American Express card, and hurried to the body shop, walking over a convenient little foot bridge.
I looked over the work they had done and saw that my Ron Paul sticker was gone, so they had painted my bumper too… but wait, there was nothing wrong with my bumper… still, the work looked good. Inside, I signed several release forms, and they asked how I wished to pay the deductible, and the other work as well, and I pulled out my American Express card.
“Sorry sir, we do not accept American Express,” she said with a smile.
“Well, this is what I use for my company. Guess you are going to have to bill me” I said.
“No sir, we don’t do that. Do you have another kind of credit card, or a company check perhaps” she said, a bit more serious.
“No, I use American Express. But if you bill me, I’ll get a check to you soon, asap. I have no other way of payment.”
“Well, we normally don’t allow a person to leave without payment first.”
she said. Looking more and more uncomfortable. And then something welled up inside of me, the last tool to an honest man being treated like a thief, belligerence. I use this word now, because in the middle of an introduction later it was used to describe my attitude… It was a true description. Yes, I was being belligerent.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to talk to your manager. I’ve handed in my rental car, so I have no means to go to my company to get a check, and you are about to close.” I said forcefully.
Everyone got very uncomfortable, some even red in the face. “Of course, I’ll get the manager, but this is highly irregular. Hardly anyone takes American Express any more… and the manager, seeing a cog in the wheel of his smooth-running operation came out of his glass office, an office that commanded a 300 degree visibility.
I put my hand out to him, and it was soft and fleshy… a salesman’s hands I thought. And he became a bit flustered as the floor manager attempted to explain this highly unusual “demand” as she put it, and how I had become “belligerent.”
I then interrupted her…
“Sorry, it is a simple matter.”
I Said “You do not use American Express because I win with a 2 percent cash back, that you have to pay up front in fees to them. As it is my only way I can pay now, you will have to trust me that I will pay you by check as soon as possible. Can you bill me for your services?”
He Said “Well, first off, your receipt is your bill, It is company policy that you pay before you can be given your keys.”
I fell silent, and just stood there, and that set everyone, now five, even more on edge. From the corner of my eye I saw the adjuster move slowly and inconspicuously into his office.
“Sorry Mr. La Rive.” He mumbled.
But the Manager was not finished with his justifications…
“I have a stack of bills on my desk that are unpaid… people who have not paid, and so we ask for payment first. It is company policy.” He said.
“Well, guess I could call my wife to pick me up, since you do not trust me. I am a businessman in this community, and my reputation is impeccable. I pay all of my bills, and I’m considered trustworthy. Let me ask you a question sir, how would you feel if I told you I thought you were lying about that stack of papers on your desk, that it was all just a ploy to get your money fast, to put it in the bank, so that it could be used as collateral. If you were an honest man, would you be belligerent, as your floor manager described me?”
He looked at me for a moment up and down. Like I was a life-form he had never seen before… Not too many Libertarians in his neck of the woods, I suppose.
“Can I have a copy of your driver’s license, Mr. La Rive?”
He said, as he handed me my key.
The work on my car was well done, and I called the manager to tell him at the same time my wife was giving his comptroller another credit card number they would accept. The floor manager also talked with me, saying she finally understood my take on the situation, and said she liked my Ron Paul sticker, and was at one of his speeches at a church in Alexander several years ago. I told her I was there with a press pass, and had actually asked him a question about the Gold in Fort Knox. We talked for twenty minutes and she told me about an amazing kid’s movie she had seen recently about how the media manipulates our minds. She got on-line as we talked, and saw my writings, and said she would dig into them, and so, because of my belligerence, something positive was created.
I also found a fifty dollar error in my rental-car receipt. Just saying. They credited it to my American Express card. I’m also looking for another Ron Paul bumper sticker…
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