J. S. Eiland
The Problem, As Seen By Tobey
Tobey was a careful young man. He always adhered strictly to whatever rules were in place for any particular event or interaction. He understood, and sorely so, just how impetuous and impulsive people could be and this knowledge only instilled in him even further, the resolution to pay the most strict attention to each and every detail of his life.
There was not a single-minute occurrence that Tobey did not notice. Women in his company were regularly blushing at his noticing a slight change to their hairstyle or a new brooch they had donned for the first time. Men of his own ilk were regularly repentant of their own lacking awareness as they witnessed Tobey regaling any and all young ladies with any tale he liked as he was so detail-oriented as to be almost cumbersome. On the contrary, though, Tobey’s zest for the smallest detail was contagious and infectious at the least. None were immune to the charms brought about as his eyes lit up describing a resolution to a problem that was discovered only after examining what seemed to be the most insignificant of traits.
Old and young alike were enamored with Tobey and his seemingly infinite knowledge of the lesser-known attributes of life. Now Tobey was not a lucky lad by any means. All he had he had worked diligently to possess, including his detailed nature. There was not a day that went by when Tobey did not consciously look around him, listen intently, breathe deeply through his nose, all this he did readily and repeatedly each day in hopes of discovering some yet unknown detail to enhance the quality of his life and his world.
Tobey made a regular practice of looking over his finances. Few things brought him as much pleasure concerning details as those numbers representing the sum of his bank accounts and the unyielding uses of those sums. Despite his lavish and opulent tastes, Tobey maintained a rather modest appearance. He was not one to show off his knowledge of the material things unprovoked, rather he’d always hoped his humility would speak volumes more for his character than any of his diligently researched possessions ever could.
Though it was such diligently-researched possessions that most people came to attribute with Tobey, rather than the process that he took to arrive at the conclusion of which, if any, of the available products could be deemed the best and thusly worthy of Tobey’s purchase and subsequent possession and use. Tobey took pride in discovering companies that resided and performed within the borders of his own country. He did not abhor international business, quite the opposite, he relished those opportunities where competing nations could come together under a common goal. But for Tobey, the quality and craftsmanship of these joint endeavors always suffered. He found, quite unastonishingly so, that he much preferred the products that were clearly overseen by one person, or at least one company.
While Tobey believed this honor would be the noticeable feature in his facade, he was sorely mistaken. Instead of recognizing a shrewd man who willingly spent more money for a superior experience or product, Tobey’s acolytes saw only a snobbish air that could not be troubled for a bargain or for a cheaper imitation. To Tobey, the price of quality could not be described. To everybody else, Tobey only liked to show off and spend more on a product they all knew could be purchased for a fraction of the cost despite its lack of reliability. None recognized the larger picture as Tobey saw it.
Tobey believed emphatically that the people, the market, the consumers held all the power. Sadly after generations of wielding said power in a morally unscrupulous way, seeking out only to find the cheapest bargain, the producers had discovered that the only concern the market had was how cheaply they could purchase anything. Tobey was alone in his quest for quality. Alone in a world that demanded ease and simplicity while he demanded perfection and resolute direction. While Tobey favored companies that proudly wore a badge of quality craftsmanship despite the hardships of maintaining such a practice in the modern world, those around him saw only a self-perceived moral superiority.
While Tobey did his best to avoid those sinking feelings of betrayal that languished about his life, he was not completely immune to them. All too often he would question his scruples. He would wonder emphatically as to why he held out such high standards for himself and the world around him. Tobey would push his reeling mind exhaustedly as he sought out an answer to his inability to sacrifice quality the way it seemed the rest of the world had done, and easily so at that.
Then one day, Tobey came to a realization. It was a day like many others, Tobey was combing over some of his financial records with a fine intention when he discovered that an account was being charged an exorbitant amount for a service he had canceled years earlier. In Tobey’s early career he was in charge of the online presence of a small events company. Tobey oversaw everything from the website to the social media to the advertising of the boutique. Like everything Tobey engaged in, he was quite successful because he would not sacrifice quality for speed. All too often his employers, clients, and customers alike were forced to wait longer than they had anticipated and certainly longer than they had wanted because Tobey was not yet satisfied with the quality of an outcome.
Eventually, as is often the case, the firm closed its doors. The partners’ respect and camaraderie had dissolved over the years of working so closely and Tobey was charged with closing out and canceling any and all of the accounts he oversaw of behalf of the firm. There was no question in Tobey’s mind, likely as there is none in yours nor mind that he performed his duties diligently and with all the detail-orientation we have come to expect of him. Hence the shock Tobey felt when he came upon this bit of discovery.
The company that had handled Tobey’s web hosting for all those years had not actually canceled the account when he called up to do so. In fact, they had somehow done the exact opposite. Instead of canceling the service and ending any future billing, Fat Cow had actually upgraded Tobey’s plan eighteen times over. That’s right, they went from charging him the nominal $9.99 annual package that easily sought the boutique’s needs just fine for years, to charging a comparingly whopping $179.40, almost an 1800% increase!
Tobey was outraged at the discovery. What made matters worse was that the boutique’s account had been charged this new rate for three more years since Tobey had originally called up to cancel the service. Here it was, staring Tobey in the face. The collection of all that he abhorred in American capitalism. Lackluster pride in one’s work, fleeting attention to details, and an all-around lack of concern for the customer and what is best for them. How Tobey wished he had been born to a different generation. How he would have liked to live in a time where a man’s work was judged openly and honestly and its quality the sole point of decision as to whether a customer would enact business with him or not.
Alas, Tobey was a child of the modern world. A technological age of instant gratification that encouraged cheap and sleazy tactics to get ahead. Tobey believed not all businesses and the people running them could be so corrupted, but he had so little tangible proof to this point that he began to despair. Tobey knew that he would bring this error to the attention of the men for whom he used to work. He also knew what their reactions were going to be and he did not look forward with any excitement. Tobey feared they would enact the course of action he expected and force him to rectify the situation both contractually with Fat Cow and also monetarily with their expired firm.
Tobey’s life was filled with many similar stories. I have no doubt that you can likely figure the next course of action Tobey took and also the outcome of such moves. Yes, Tobey reached out to Fat Cow and no, Fat Cow did not stand by their customer. Rather they maintained that they had no record of the cancellation. Tobey managed to point out that they had not mentioned any record of a phone call regarding an upgrade either, that point they reluctantly acquiesced. In the end, Fat Cow remained unnerved and relinquished no apology nor recompense for the mistake. Tobey’s old bosses demanded that he repay the amount lost to them as a result of this unfortunate event.
To Tobey, it wasn’t even the loss of money or the sinking inclination that he had maybe, despite his best efforts and his intuitive feelings otherwise, made a mistake all those years ago. It was the fact that once again, a group of people did not see Tobey for who he really was. What they saw exactly is anybody’s guess. But what they did not see was Tobey. A man of honor and scruples. A man who took more pride in his work than the lot of them did so combinedly. They saw a man who was apparently incompetent to enough of an extent that he could not manage to cancel a simple web-hosting plan. In Tobey’s eyes, they were all to blame for the sad state of the country’s current economic crisis. Tobey did not wish ill upon them for he knew that would only serve to darken his own mind with the evil thoughts it would create. Instead, Tobey decided he had but one course of action. After nearly forty years of swimming upstream, Tobey let himself sink into the rushing waters of that honorless river system.