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Let's talk about social contracts.

Not officially notarized things where everyone signs off and agrees to conduct themselves a certain way.  I mean contracts that are implied by how society interacts and things that just seem like a logical extention of that behavior.

Let's set the magnification to "shopping in a store."  The set-up is simple.  The proprietor has in his store a variety of things he is hoping you can be pursuaded to purchase.  You enter the store to see if there is anything there you would like to purchase.  You ask questions, you examine, or maybe you just look until something catches your eye.  You come up to the counter with the item.  You give the proprietor money, he takes it, he tells you to have a nice day, and you leave.  Everyone has gotten what they want -- you have your (formerly the proprietor's) item, the proprietor has his (formerly your) money.  Everyone is happy.

This is how it usually works because it is so simple.  No one is really obligated to anything more than that.  It's when things start shifting around, when people start asking what exactly their obligations are, that things get dicey....

In Japan, they call it tachiyomi.  These are people who go to a newsstand, start reading the comics and magazine there for a couple of hours, then leave without buying anything.  They keep up with their stories and news and such without paying a dime.  This is not limited to Japan.  Back when Funcoland let you try video games before you bought them, people would drop off their kids at the store for a day of playing free video games, then pick them up afterwards, like a combination babysitter and arcade.  A guy I know who self-publishes was at a comic show.  A guy came up and saw his original 200 page graphic novel that took him years to finish.  The guy read the book from start to finish right in front of him, then walked away.  When he told they guy he owed him money for the book because this wasn't a library, the guy told him "Fuck you!" and vanished into the crowd.  If you are wondering why publishers continue to not offer free samples and to search for ways to DRM the shit out of their digital offerings, it's because of fears of things like this.

We see plenty of examples of customers behaving badly.  The corporate policy of, "The customer is always right," gave rise to a lot of bad habits, where customers could do all kinds of things and basically get away with it (abusing the staff is the most frequent expression of this).  I was picking up art supplies this weekend, and saw a store sale.  I went and got a price check to make sure I was grabbing the right stuff.  I told the woman behind the counter that I didn't want to cause a scene at the register.  "I don't want to be THAT guy," I explained.  Well, the manager heard me, and came over to say thank you, they had apparently gotten some people grabbing things the sign didn't cover (even though it was spelled out on the sign) and trying to use coupons that explicitly stated they couldn't be used with discounted merch, and these people threw a shit fit.  What followed was a fifteen minute conversation as we talked about rude customers.

I bring this up because of this image here on the right.  This is an image from a comic store (can't find out which one, though) that has been retweeted into immortality.  Check it out.

Wow.

Now, keep in mind I worked retail a loooooooong time ago, so I know about dealing with asshole customers, some of whom get you in trouble with the manager just because they can.  That said, there are also times when the shopkeeper or whoever truly is an asshole and should treat the customers better, like the comic shop I used to go to.

Some shop owners act like dicks.

Some customers act like dicks.

And this has prompted a Twitter war as everyone argues that the comic shop should be grateful people are coming in to spend money and should treat the customers better, and comic shop owners tell horror stories about horrible customers, like a guy in his thirties who, when informed no new comics had come in for him that week (the publisher was late, it wasn't the store's fault), the customer actually spit on the clerk.  The tachiyomi.  Comic book nerds who come into the store smelling like they haven't had a shower in a week, bringing in greasy foods and such, ruining the books, and then just leaving.

And all because of a breakdown in the social contract.

The obligations are simple, but become complex when people start throwing their weight around ("Well, you clearly don't want my money."  "Well, I have the right to bar anyone I want for whatever reason I want.") and establishing who has the bigger obligation, when everyone was getting along just fine when those obligations weren't being weighed and questioned.  Are some shop owners rude?  Oh, you bet.  Are some customers slobs and freeloaders?  Oh, you bet.  Does each side have the right to do as they see fit?  Oh, you bet.

The disagreement happens over what each side believes the other has the right to do.

This is what I mean when I talk about entitlement.  It has to do with people no longer thinking they have to be decent to each other, to show simple human consideration, that they want to lash out at the lower order critters of the other worlds, but need a big excuse so they can cover their pettiness with justification.

Who's right and who's wrong?  I can see both sides, both as a browser (although never to the extreme that the tachiyomi take it) and as someone trying to sell his stuff.  All I know is, when things get this bad, neither side is right.  Because their stances are based on them having every right to do what they want, and the others having to honor that and be measured in their responses.  Each is restricting the other while denying they should be restricted themselves.

What a mess.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
clionona
Sep. 5th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)
To me, it's just so simple: nobody be a dick. I don't understand why it's so difficult for certain people to be considerate of their fellow human beings. It's not hard. :/
pinkmossrose
Sep. 5th, 2011 11:33 pm (UTC)
I don't think people should read comics in the store. I agree it is not the library. Although, this does mean that store owners need to be rude either...People should learn to to treat others how they would want to be treated. I know what you mean about a sense of entitlement.
mornblade
Sep. 6th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
"Well, you clearly don't want my money." The correct response is, "Spend some and we will talk."

Sadly, the social contract has been broken for a very long time. It just seems that some people are trying to put it through a shredder.

Another example that I'm sure you've heard me bitch about before: Charities. A charity is something that is set up to help people "in need". Yet there are people that think it is okay to be above poverty level, be driving around in a new car, and still collecting from a charity, "because they can". The fact that they don't "need" it, and therefore should not take it, would only enter their minds in the form of "Ha ha, I just got something for nothing. Aren't those charity people foolish." Meanwhile, you can not get the idea that these people are stealing from people who are truly "in need" into their skulls with anything shy of a 20lb sledge hammer. These people just will not think beyond, "I got something for nothing."

The same thing happened when health care reform was in Congress. The news was interviewing people that honestly answered that Obama was going to give them insurance, and when pressed for how it was getting paid for, they said at Obama was going to pay for it. Not understanding that the money was coming from themselves and their neighbors in the form of taxes, not from the President's personal accounts.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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