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"Few of us ever read the small print."

In Manhattan, the Shakedown exists as an art form. Nobody expects to find a bargain there. The very hotel which touts its dedication to serving clients won't blush when demanding thirty or forty bucks for a substandard Continental-Style breakfast. The client will hold his cool, understanding that the place has him over a barrel. They will levy spurious service charges simply because they can. Nobody seems to pass up an opportunity to take their piece of the action. The price of admission won't actually bankrupt you over the duration of your short stay, but it might get you thinking about staying away the next time you're enticed to visit.

My Subaru dealer makes more subtle threats.
We could foul that warrantee should we allow a third party to service the vehicle, producing a kind of customer loyalty based upon something other than excellence of service. To complete the small humiliation, the Service Technician passes me a satisfaction survey and coaches me on how to answer to ensure that he receives an Excellent rating, for none other will do. Even my opinion's a Shakedown. Our relationship's strained as a result. I expect to be taken advantage of and usually leave feeling as though my expectations have been exceeded, the sure sign of a successful Shakedown.

I have grown accustomed to finding myself over one barrel or another. Even my attention gets baited and switched now with promises rarely satisfying the expectations they worked so hard to instill. Once my money's in their till, they've had their fill of my presence and I'm shuffled out the side door and forgotten. The rent takers claim that market forces force their hands. No, that's not man's inhumanity to man insisting, but an imaginary and invisible thumb running the operation. Anyone would have to be foolish to accept less than market price whatever the resulting negative externalities, or so they insist. My mom once told me that pork chops cost five cents apiece during the Great Depression, but nobody had five cents. Food was destroyed rather than forcing anyone to relent to the rather obvious fact that rents were simply too high for survival of some. They called the ones who couldn't afford five cent pork chops 'deadbeats,' which remains the term for those who will not assume their proper role in a Shakedown.

I recall the Columbia House scam, which ran ads in major magazines. It promised records (later CDs) for absurdly low prices. The rub was the provision that the agreement was irrevocable until the shill … er, customer … had bought an absurdly large number of recordings at close to full retail price. The customer became indentured for something approaching forever. Current subscription services have modeled their contracts on that early Shakedown success story, insisting upon indenture as the normal price of entry. Signing on the bottom line signifies that the subscriber has read the
small print, which taketh away much of what the headlines promised. Few of us ever read the small print.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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