This article topic came to mind while I was taking a shower this morning. I’ve heard it put like this from a business partner of a few years ago: “It sucks to be a vendor.” In case that’s not incisive enough to get his point, the topic we were discussing was: what is it to be trading associates of equal standing as against being service supplier to a client? In my experience a widespread stance of too many clients has been that guys supplying them services are not flesh and blood sensitive, fragile humans, as are we all; but mere resources to be kept under, exploited and discarded.
This might sound a statement tainted with jaundice, and I allow that I am not immune to colouring things, especially when a subject touches a nerve in me. And this one does.
Has it not happened to you, when you offered accommodation at the farm for a week or two to a guy, that the guy pays you for the hire and thinks he’s bought the place from you, lock, stock and barrel? Further, he feels he has bought title to your will and self-determination, that you are at his absolute beck and call henceforth?
And if that is not difficult to handle as a constant conflict and agitation; he begins after a few days to demand other facilities and equipment that you had no idea were thought to be in the contract.
Next he wants some slack cut for him and some reductions in charges. He explains, the place is not as hot as it first looked and certain items are not as he had imagined they would be.
The guy by his demeanour begins to show all too painfully he is happy to make cavalier judgements and dismissive off-the-cuff remarks. Often the guy thinks he knows a lot more than he does, of course a lot more than you do; even about, especially about ins and outs of property letting. He argues black is white and white is black; he can get a better bigger more luxurious place down the road – and at half the price. He could have done the deal better himself if he had been hiring to you – and so on.
You do a bit of asking around and discover from your networks that the guy does this as recreation exercise with all the hirers of homes, farms, chalets, treehouses, apartments he sets up in. He makes his living out of the money he pares off his deals. Always after he has sealed them.
His modus operandi goes something like this: you are a small guy and don’t have more than 2 or 3 properties to hire out. He knows this and that is one reason he selected you. He knows you live precariously; not quite hand to mouth but near to that highbar. He knows a non-payment is for you a big issue; you can’t stand too many of them. He has you over a barrel and knows it. (This is about the only thing he knows that has any truth-value).
So you are a good target to harass and to try and test; to whittle down inch by inch steady as she goes – he has a lot of persistence where cutting costs are concerned – you fear he is creating so many and such choppy waves that the whole showboat is in danger of capsizing. Will he will walk away from the deal altogether? Will he leave you an empty farmhouse and nil income? You must come to terms with him.
He holds nearly all the cards – your only ace is a joker wild card that can fire him peremptorily but that will badly hit your business. If you’re brave or just so pissed-off you don’t care anymore you play that ace. If you have mortgages and loans to service you think twice. You cave to his demands.
He of course comes back for more shavings off the bill soon; and to boot tells all his shark friends in the infested local waters – here’s a guy can be pushed around and manipulated.
Like vagrants as they wander who mark up secret signs at gates whose homesteads offer a bite to eat and some small change, this guy marks you out as eligible for future ‘charitable’ handouts to all his pals.
This syndrome all begins and ends on the basis of dominance of one person over another. This is the nature of his business relationships. Economic theory condones it. ‘Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest’. ‘Individuals in business acting solely upon self-interest will in aggregate result in economic benefit to the wider population’. ‘Competition is the lifeblood of a virile economy’ and so on.
All these maxims tend towards promulgating the proposition that Plato has Socrates discuss and demolish – and in doing so he crushes its Sophist advocate Thrasymachus. The proposition is: ‘Good behaviour is the behaviour of powerful persons in authority; what they feel is best for themselves and which they impose on the weaker’.
Socrates was before Milton Friedman in noting ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’. He understood well that behaviour like our guy uses against ‘the weaker’ is corrosive of the general good. That the guy’s behaviour is not even in his own interest. That his reaping what he did not sow is a crop of tares and infestations – the direct result of his willful domination of a business relationship.
It is natural, almost necessary, that one has to ‘cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth’. If a guy keeps beating you down and demanding more and more for the lowered price; what is able to be be provided under the restricted resources will be greatly inferior to what is available for a fair price and at a more modest specification.
The guy is also spreading virally his poison around his community – not just to his buddies who deal in like poisons – but to the business community at large – spreading a precondition of distrust and hostility among potential business associates. Guys now go into a deal fearing the worst; not expecting the best. The guy also spreads a wise-guy superficial culture to newcomers to this ‘cool’ way to do business.
The guy releases into the marketplace his signed off deals – they are second rate items – poor quality instead of useful ones which benefit general life to the optimum.
This guy who thinks he’s superior bases his working life on that premise. But he doesn’t even know his own best interests. His well being, as is every individual’s, is bound up wholly with the general good. He doesn’t know that. Each act of his measly measures he perpetrates diminishes that general good inchmeal – to the extent that his and all personal quality of life is little by little depleted.
Let’s finish up with a great guy who famously and profoundly said all there is to be said about this truth about the human condition:
PERCHANCE he for whom the bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.
…………The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; ……
Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it [his ear] from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.