Tuesday, November 19, 2019

stealing it softly

Last year, I visited a local doctor about a pain in my left heel. She said it would most likely go away on its own. She prescribed no treatment and no medication.

We then talked a bit about some of her community projects. When our conversation got to that natural ending point, as all conversations do, I asked her how much I owed her for the consultation. She told me, and I paid.

As I was leaving, she took on a very serious face and told me that recently she has experienced something new. Northerners, who have arrived recently, will come into her office to discuss their current health. They inevitably bring a long list of prescriptions. She will often spend a half hour or 45 minutes with them. And then they leave without offering any payment.

That was the first time I had heard of that type of behavior. I told her that people in Canada and the United States may have become so accustomed to someone paying for their health care that they do not think about how medical care works in other countries.

Being gracious, she smiled, and said I might be correct. But it did feel a little bit insulting.

I thought of her last week. I visited my favorite telephone-computer guru here in town. I had experienced trouble resetting my password on one of my multiple Telcel accounts.

When I arrived there was another northerner talking with him about the various ways to buy telephone time in Mexico. The conversation then switched to a series of problems the northerner was having with his telephone. My guru walked him through each of them. The northerner missed a lot of the information because he was intent on arguing that the Mexican telephone system was all wrong.

I do not know how long the full exchange took place, but I waited for twenty minutes. When it was over, the northerner said "thanks," and simply walked off. My guru just stared as he left. Having received what he wanted, the northerner simply walked away without paying -- the technological equivalent of a dine and dash. According to my guru, it happens to him more often these days. Always with northerners.

Because I am a generous sort, I do not ascribe bad intentions. In both cases (the doctor and the telephone guru), I suspect that it never enters some minds that the consultations were exchanges of expertise. That expertise is a commodity that has value.

The same people would never think of picking up a diamond watch in a jewelry store and walking out the door without paying for it. But that is exactly what happens when we seek expert opinion and that opinion is given.

Let me offer a gentle reminder. If you seek out advice from a professional, the coda of your conversation should be: "How much do I owe you?"I can almost guarantee that you will be pleased with how low the price will be.

It is just another blessing of Mexico.    

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