Archive for the 'promises' Category

Price guarantee

January 24, 2014

An employee of my phone/internet service provider made an unauthorized change to my services last summer and, in the course of putting that situation to rights and restoring my old services, I ended up with a deal that included a price guarantee for 12 months but no contract.  I was specifically told that because I was dealing with a manager and she was giving me a manager’s bundle, which included services a regular customer service representative could no longer access, it could include a price guarantee without a contract.  She went into detail with me about how this price guarantee would work.  We went through examples.  It was not just a passing comment.

So a few months later my bill increases and I call to get this increase rescinded and a rep agrees she sees the price guarantee, once I reference the date of the call and the manager’s name, and that they will honor it.  She points out that I had actually ended up being charged slightly less than the guarantee, due to a customer reward coupon, and that I would now only get the guaranteed price, and I replied that I could not argue against that.  She also adjusted the current bill, using a credit.

Next bill showed no change from the increased bill.  I called again.

Now I’m being told that a manager could not have given me a price guarantee outside of a contract.  But here’s the kicker:  they now claim the notes don’t contain evidence of the manager’s price guarantee.  Last month they obviously did, now they don’t.

Eventually the representative in the “Elite Dept.” gave me a third coupon to offset most of the price increase.  Now I should be getting something slightly below the price guarantee and above what I had been paying before.  I accepted this arrangement.  It does, of course, not include recognition of the 12-month price guarantee, so if they raise the price of individual services again company-wide, I will again have a problem.  But I could not see that I was going to do any better than this at this point, short of taking my business elsewhere, because they now claim there is no such thing as a “manager’s bundle” and that a manager has no authority to give a price guarantee without a contract.  I am thinking that they may have revised their rules, but I don’t know.

The other issue, which is nothing new, is that it is difficult to get anything in writing, even in electronic writing, from them.  Even when one knows what one wants in writing.  Sometimes they tell you they’ve sent you an email and it never comes.  Then they hold it against you later that you don’t have enough evidence.

What am I learning from this?  That company policy of a reputable company seems to include what amounts to lying and covering up.  I don’t know how one responds to that.  I got the extra coupon and then turned the rest of the problem over to forces greater than myself.


The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Public promises

November 13, 2013

I’ve written a number of comments expressing my reaction to the discrepancy between “If you like the health plan you have now, you can keep it” rhetoric and the reality of cancellation notices.  The discrepancy seems to be due to the fact that the power to control the situation and keep a policy was not left to the subscriber, in fact, not left to the person promised, but to the insurance company issuing the policy (that, and also because of a narrowly structured grandfather clause).

I think the grandfather clause should be expanded and the control left to the subscribers who currently exist.  I think the requirement to have comprehensive coverage needs to be phased in, in order to mitigate real harm to real people.  If this is not actuarially feasible, then the ACA was not sufficiently well-crafted, in my opinion.  I suspect it needed to have reined in the insurance companies on this issue;  if they hadn’t kept changing the policies of individual policy holders, more people would have qualified for grandfathering and there would be fewer people left with empty rhetoric and higher premiums.

But my point here was not to get into health care policy issues, but to sound off, again, on my life-long study of “empty promises.”  Here the promise was made publicly and there is no lack of evidence that it was made.  It did not have strings attached when it was uttered, it did not explain the structure and mechanics of the grandfather clause and how it would function in practice.  It induced reliance and could have been reasonably expected to do so.

A lot of people think this instance of an empty promise requires mitigation.  They see the actual financial hardship, they see the psychological cost to those who relied on the promise, they see the loss of good will.

I don’t have an individual policy, but I do benefit from the public criticism and call for mitigation, because it validates my sense that we don’t just put the burden on the person who was reasonable in relying on a promise that proves to be empty.  That is not our cultural consensus, is what I hear, or at least, it is an argument that people accept as reasonable, even if they decide for other reasons, reasonable or not, not to follow that argument.

Willy and I were once promised help with health insurance which never came through.  It was after botched medical care.  The ensuing damage to my health meant that the insurance I was currently eligible for was not adequate.  Willy was upset when this became a promise that was not honored, but his larger negative emotional reaction in this instance was to the damage to my health and to the lack of acknowledgment of what had happened.  I guess in an indirect way, maybe this current public problem may help me resolve all those issues, too.  I wonder if they would have helped Willy resolve them.  For him, it was an open wound he tried not to focus on.  He actually tried at one point to resolve the issues through direct communication, but was roundly rebuffed.  (I’ve sometimes thought that the people involved thought he was motivated by me, but no, this came from him, from his heart, and it meant a lot to him.)  He was hurt by that, too.  People, I guess, have their limitations.  Willy was pretty good at seeing people for who they are, not as they present themselves to themselves, to us, and to the world, but he still got hurt.  We all do the best we can.

Inconsistent defenses

September 4, 2013
  • “I was daydreaming.”
  • “I was addressing someone else.”
  • “I thought I was addressing someone else.”
  • “You were hearing someone else.”
  • “I was lying and you should have realized that.”
  • “I changed my mind.”
  • “I’ll do it later.

I remember learning in law school about inconsistent defenses.  In terms of zealous defense of a client, I can see where they have a place.  In terms of social relations, they tend to undermine credibility.

The above list come from a spiritual story in which the guy has promised the girl marriage.  In earlier versions he has given her a ring, but in later versions, the idea is reworked as a treatment of how people use words.  For me, it’s really about how one person’s indulgence in a diversion can be a serious, and potentially devastating, issue in the other person’s life.

The teacher came and the student said, “Never mind.”

August 29, 2013

I was using, in a news comment online, the old aphorism about how when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Sometimes this happens, and instead of a learning experience, what occurs next is a dissolution:  the student realizes what is entailed and does not follow through.

It can look as if the student was lying about being ready, but I think the problem is that the teacher forgot about free will:  the student has the power to bail out at any time.

What can make a mess of an essentially simple situation is when the teacher has sacrificed on behalf of the student and predicated what they have done in preparation for the teaching on the student’s following through.  That leaves the teacher in an impossible situation.  The student won’t help.  It’s a lesson for the teacher not to go that far for a student.

What has gone wrong is that the teacher had a some personal investment in having the situation work out.  That, together with the student’s capacity to believe their own lies, is enough to have created what looks like a false promise.

The teacher may be left in a difficult situation, but the teacher is the one with the tools and the knowledge.  They know how to let go by simply observing what is going on.  It does not require that the student change what they are doing.  It does require more emotional health on the teacher’s part than the teacher had going into the situation.  But that is between them and God, it’s not about the student.

It’s much easier to see all this if one is a teacher who has been happily married.  Expecting bachelors to navigate this kind of unbalanced relationship is unrealistic.  Expecting bachelor teachers who have been upended by this scenario to ask for help immediately was also unrealistic, but eventually even they got tired of replaying this scene over and over again with the same dismal results.

I can see why they kept at it, though, because the resolution of the situation is very sad and very disappointing, and that’s on top of all the damage done.  It’s kind of like retiring a bad debt and not being seduced into pouring more money into subsequent loans on the hope that this will lead to the entire amount being repaid in the end.

Part of the situation is really what could be called “continuing education” for teachers.  Teachers can have flaws, too.  Teachers may need a tune-up and some gentle supervision, may need some help themselves to bang out a ding to their emotional apparatus.

The teacher can, in time, be grateful to the student for showing them how they have a flaw of wanting to help a student more than serves the greater good of student, teacher, or anything else.  But it’s tough all around.  Nobody walks away unscathed.  When everybody walks away at all, we see it as a success.


July 21, 2013

I got an email recently, an automated one, thanking me for requesting some materials from a brokerage firm.

I didn’t request them.  I agreed to receive them when an employee from that company was making a pitch to me on the phone — it was a way to end that part of the conversation and get back to what the original agenda was supposed to be.

It’s interesting, because I’ve had others do a variation of that when I’ve been in the other role, but often the scenario has included my interlocutor embellishing their willingness to entertain my proposal — and I have taken that embellishment as a reflection of their willingness to go further than entertain my proposal (which sometimes has been in the form of a statement of need).  I am pretty sure that in many cases, my interpretation that they were on board was welcomed and encouraged by them — a few even were explicit that they were on board.

But I suspect that in some fundamental way none of these people ever really moved off the space of being willing merely to entertain the issue, and that they didn’t feel obliged to follow through because in some way they had never committed themselves to what they had indicated to me they were going to do.

And for me the lesson has been that people can do that, regardless of the impact on me, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, and certainly regardless of (my) need.  It has been damnum absque injuria.

For me, Jackson Browne’s “Sky Blue and Black” comes closest to depicting someone trying to make amends in this kind of situation.  Don’t know what the other person, the person addressed in the song, thought of the attempt.

I had a friend in high school whose mother had died when she was twelve (from breast cancer).  Kelley more or less raised her younger sister and three younger brothers, they had very little money, and she was in honors classes and went on to a prestigious university.  She used to say, “Take what you can when you can and be grateful.”  She died at the age of 28 from ovarian cancer.  I suspect she had (figured out?) a more helpful attitude than I have towards the type of scenario I still struggle with.

Help or deception?

June 29, 2013

There’s an old spiritual story I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, in which the adult male tells the young girl he’ll be back, she should keep the household going until he does.  And he doesn’t.

He thought he was giving her hope that would buoy her through hard times until she was old enough and experienced enough to perform her role comfortably, to survive on her own and care for her younger brother.

I now wonder whether the adult male was engaging in a distorted version of attempting to provide a “flight control system” that would disguise the difficulty of the situation.

In the case with the young girl, the device did not give her something that made her tasks easier, and once she became overwhelmed and/or realized he was not coming back, she succumbed.  It was an inadequate version.

But it could be made to work in other circumstances — an older person in her role, for example, would help, even if that person lacked other elements needed to go it alone.

And when enough of the factors that led to the original scenario’s being unworkable were adjusted, she survived her ordeal long enough to be able to find the man who made the false promise and tell him, “You didn’t capture an important element of the technique.  It’s not about fooling someone in the sense of a deceit that is convenient to the deceiver, it’s about figuring out a help that actually makes the tasks easier for the other person.”

Variations on “No”

January 10, 2013

I was thinking of that Paul Simon song about “fifty ways to leave your lover.”  My thoughts were probably not about the concept as it was intended to be understood by the songwriter, because in my case the person wants to pretend he is not saying no.

I was thinking about how a person can say no, not like the consequences of saying no, and then try multiple times to try to dress that “no” up so that it doesn’t look like a no.

I was also reminded of the song about Tam Lin and how Janet is warned that he will transform into a series of monsters but she should not to pay them any mind and to just hold on to him.  This series of no’s feels like a series of monsters.

I could try pointing out to my interlocutor this perception of mine that he is just saying no in a variety of ways, and that to the extent that that is a problem for anybody, that problem still remains.  I could explain that I don’t have to pretend that his rationalizations somehow go to the core of his declining, but he can so decline if he wants to — I have no power over that (or, for that matter, over its consequences).  I could point out that the consequences of a “no” will still remain, regardless of how he dresses it up, that what he is really looking for is that I accept his version of what has happened between us, which I don’t.  And I could reiterate that I heard his “no” the first time, that I accepted it then, and remind him that I even wished him well.  That, to me, is enough for my part.

I haven’t heard anything different since.

If he wanted to withdraw the no and substitute a positive response, that would be a horse of a different color.  I would hear the difference, but even more important, I would be hearing from him without the current smokescreen of ambiguity.  Ambiguity, or a disjunction between words and deeds, is not the same thing as a third path or finding middle ground acceptable to both parties.  It strikes me, actually, as a mistaken attempt to resolve dualism through the ego (and an ego that does not put itself in other people’s shoes) instead of through a higher form of apprehension.

The limitations of explanations (and of their sources)

January 6, 2013

I have encountered a pattern among people who see situations only from one perspective, the perspective of a self so closed off from itself, and hence from others, that it cannot put itself in the shoes of others:  the person promises to do something important for my welfare and then finds it inconvenient or difficult to do and so doesn’t do it, I pipe up with some sort of protest, and the person then explains why they said what they said originally and why they’re doing what they’re doing now (occasionally they also re-promise, but it is even clearer that that promise is not going to be kept).

The part I am continually amazed at is that they really don’t comprehend that their explanation does not meet the need that is also not being met by not doing that which was promised.  To put it somewhat rudely, do I really care why they’re not following through?  In one case it was a forgotten theater ticket; “Yes, I made plans over weeks to drive you home from surgery but I just realized I have a ticket to a theater matinee performance,” he said the day before my surgery.   That’s the easiest example for me to write about, but there are half a dozen more, at least, in my life.  The promises are equally explicit and about significant matters, and the person just doesn’t do it.

What I’m writing about here is Stage 2:  the explanation.  Because sometimes the person does feel compelled to explain, especially if I pipe up and ask for what I need and what they said they would do.

It’s sort of the “That and 50 cents will get you a ride on the subway” kind of issue:  just what am I supposed to do with the explanation?  Wrap it around my naked self like a torn blanket that does not cover?  Use it to produce magically another person to drive me home from the surgery?  Take it to mean the person does care and that should be enough, even though they do not come to grips with the difficulty to me from the situation they have left me in?  They have induced me to extend myself and then not come through with the support to make that extension work — where do they think that support will come from if they bow out?

My own take on this is that it is a path towards a fuller relationship with God:  to quote Dave Carter, “in praise or lamentation, peace or desperation / any way I do, I come into the presence of the lord” (from “any way I do”).  God is the dance teacher who will dance with me when my date who brought me to the dance won’t, and this is a blessing.

The catch is getting hung up in an argument with the human partner who won’t dance with me.  They want me to see it their way and assure them it’s okay in a way that it’s not.  It is okay in the great scheme of things; it’s by their own system of values and view of the world that it’s not okay.  I don’t have to subscribe to their system of values and view of the world, and I don’t, but I also can’t get them to subscribe to my system of values, view of the world, or view of the particular situation and my (unmet) needs, any better than they can get me to subscribe to theirs.  If I get hung up on getting an acknowledgement, I create difficulty for myself.

To go back to my surgery example, I needed the ride then, I would have chosen a different appointment and/or made arrangements with someone else for a ride, had they not promised.

In the other situations, a way to regroup has actually been less clear.  They have involved things others could not provide for me, or me for myself (or children).  There has been real damage as a result.  I have learned enough to know that those are my issues now to deal with, and I have learned enough to know that no one has to make amends to me or that such amends will meet the original needs.  What I am still struggling with is acceptance, the “How could you?” part of my reaction.  One of the tools that has helped me here is thinking about the meaning of “No room at the inn” in the telling of the story of the birth of Jesus — it helps me to know that this is a part of what is encountered on a spiritual journey.

The person will never see themselves as I see them, is what I can get stuck on, especially if they want to have some kind of on-going connection with me.  It’s like the tunnel constructed by drilling in from both sides of the mountain that doesn’t meet in the middle.

For me, the lesson seems to be, “It happens, it’s not the end of the world, it’s painful, difficult, etc., etc., but there are always forces greater than I who can guide me through and through whom I can feel sustained.”

I know others have foundered trying to land this airplane, that is, trying to play out an ending to this script that doesn’t look like the end of a grand or soap opera (with bodies strewn all over the stage).  Their difficulties finding a way through inform how I handle my turn.  And I know that the more mature age at which I have encountered this scenario has helped, as has my having been happily married for a reasonably long period of time before this.

But it’s still a rough landing, I don’t deny it.  Some of the folks who have gone before me have said that it has helped them come to terms with their own attempt to hear me learn from their experience, to hear me point out what helps I have had that they did not, and to hear me point out how hard I find this.

In the end, some of this story is about self-forgiveness, forgiving the self for trusting another human being and having that trust have been unsuitable for the person and situation, and forgiving the self for having had the need to trust that other human being at all in the first place.

The other part, for me, is about learning to recognize the difference between expectations I can have of God and expectations I can have of people, even people who want me to see them otherwise.

Writers seem to preach that writing about things helps expiate them or accept them or see them in a new light.  Maybe it’s testimony to the fact that I am not a writer that I don’t find that to be true, or maybe it’s just that I haven’t written about these things thoroughly enough or precisely enough yet.

Thinking you remember

December 23, 2012

I wrote a post here some time ago in which I referred to computer programming in Basic, to “if … then …” structure, and as I wrote it, I could feel myself not really remembering the details, in terms of the programming, of what I was writing about.  I’m not sure it mattered in that post, the concept I think I got right.

But that experience gave me a window into what some people apparently do when they continue to act as sources of wisdom after they’ve lost the knack of discerning in a way that gives access to profound understanding.

This is easier to see within a belief system that includes reincarnation, although maybe after I explain it that way, I will be able to see how to translate it into a system that doesn’t.

Somebody attains in a particular lifetime the ability to see beyond dualism, to no longer see things in opposition to each other but to see unity, to harmonize seemingly conflicting strands organically merging and to see unity without intellectual rationalizing.  I think what I’m referring to is what Richard Rohr describes much better in his book The Naked Now.

But they are missing something in their spiritual development and are reborn to explore that.  (I don’t think everybody develops themselves in exactly the same sequence.)  They grow up and they have a vague sense they should be offering wise counsel and they have a vague sense of how to do that.  And they have a fleeting thought that even if they don’t do it exactly right, it won’t matter in terms of whether their audience notices.

I think they don’t want to do what it would take to regain the ability to see in unity (again).  It may be that what they are looking to explore in this lifetime of theirs is the humility to relearn alongside of people learning how to discern in stereo for the first time.

That learning requires, I think, a huge amount of openness, and coming to that state of openness can be quite painful.  I suspect that for some reason the person in question just really doesn’t want to go through that, perhaps because they have a vague sense of what it would entail from having done it before, and they don’t have the vague sense that that’s just the point — to go back and do it again.

I’ve struggled with the explanation that maybe they have a good reason for not going through the learning process again, for not becoming more open.  In the end I think I made no determination on whether they could have done it successfully, because it became clear that, regardless, they weren’t agreeable with trying.  So somebody else took their place, in terms developing this particular talent.  And the original person tried to continue to offer wise advice, although now, in this lifetime, they were doing it while relying on their imperfect recollection of how to discern it.  And they did not pursue the lesson they had come to learn.

If I try to explain this without reference to past lives, I guess I would say it’s someone faking it, maybe after reading a description of how it’s done but not actually going through the process described.

For my own part, I’ve come to see that my lesson may be to learn that people don’t have to follow through on what they set out to do, that I have to stop believing their self-reporting that they will, and that eventually some other way of serving the greater good needs to be used.  Eventually, the “This is so stupid” aspect of the situation comes to trump any concern about whether finding another way to resolve it is “fair;”  who cares about who spilled the milk?  We can clean up a spill, regardless of who or what contributed to its occurrence, if cleaning it up is the important thing.

I’ve also learned not to wait around for the other person to perceive the situation as I do.  Jewel may sing about not being “made useless with despair,” I’m more worried about being made useless by waiting for something to happen that won’t.

Which brings me back to the issue of belief, or not, in reincarnation.  Because some of these people take the attitude that I should wait, that they really will get to it [in this lifetime].  What I see is that maybe they will get to it, but it will be during another lifetime.  That explains their sincerity and my disbelief.