Monday, June 01, 2009

Following Instructions

I was just thinking about how devious free trial offers are. You know -- those offers your receive that give you a 15- or 30-day free trial to this, that, or the other. Or 12 CD's for a dollar, or 10 books for a dime, or whatever. If you don't cancel by a certain date, then they'll charge you $79.95. And then they'll continue to send you more of their product & continue to charge you.

You know these treacherous schemes.

Anyway, I'm trying to unravel my way out of one of those (don't judge me!), and I just finished sitting on hold with a Customer Service Line for 46 minutes (... and 23 seconds, but who's counting...) before getting hung-up on. It's not that bad -- I actually enjoyed the classical music on their hold line as I finished up another task. Nevertheless, I now recognize that I'm gonna have to go the extra mile in terms of inconveniencing myself to be able to free myself from the clutches of this diabolical arrangement.

I only recognized the fine print later, you see. Had I read it in the first place, I likely wouldn't have signed up to become a possible victim of this fiendish plot.

And then it occurred to me: this plot wasn't wicked after all. It was brilliant! How many people ever really read & follow the instructions? So many don't! That's the point!

I recently hosted a movie/Bible Study at my home. My Church Family is big on eating (quite literally), so I made sure to advertise that this was a finger-food-only event (you should see the looks I get when I try to insist that "we don't have to have Thanksgiving everytime"). I was doing BBQ kielbasa (which I carved up & placed on toothpicks), and instructed those who were coming to only bring "Chips, Drinks, or Cookies." That's how it read in the Bulletin. "Chips, Drinks, or Cookies." That's how I spoke it from the pulpit multiple times. This way, I could avoid the need to buy any disposable silverware. So, of course, one of our good-hearted ladies brought a dessert dish in a casserole pan that she just had to whip up. It was a good thing that all the forks in my home were clean.

We don't follow directions. We don't even read the directions. "Who cares about directions?" "Aren't I smart enough to figure it out on my own?" "I know which way I'm going; I don't need a map or a set of guidelines to get in my way of getting there." "What a waste of my time."

Are we too proud for instructions? There's this myth about being a grown up, especially in America, that we are to be self-sufficient every way. And so we think that we can blaze our own trail in any direction without ever stopping to read the directions in the first place.

Part of what makes a good human being, it seems to me, is being able to receive instruction. To be humble enough to accept being rebuked when you need it. To be able to listen intently when a friend takes the time to spell out the directions to something important they've asked you to do for them. Instead of incessantly nodding your head, looking around distracted, and anxiously uttering, "Yeah, yeah, yeah... I *GOT* it!" Or being able to listen to the wisdom God would share with us if we could just crack open the good book.

So I say good for the profiteers for figuring out a way to capitalize off of those who don't ever stop to read the instructions. Make an offer that folks cannot refuse in bold print, while in fine print laying out a near impossible set of conditions that have to be met along with a steep penalty for not meeting them. Brilliant! These clever engineers of commerce are not evil; they're just entrepreneurially-minded to take money from careless people.

And don't forget to stop to read the directions when you're supposed to. It'll do you a world of good.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

I went back after I read this and looked for one of those trick instructions, "don't read the rest of this blog" or something like that. : )

Seriously, people bringing more food? That was not ignorance, my friend. That was good old southern grandma mutiny.