The Post-Standard newspaper box in the lobby of my building continually and randomly takes money but doesn’t open the door so you can get a paper and I, continually and randomly, keep trying to get my money back from the Post-Standard, which refuses to accept responsibility. My last blog on this was Sunday, May 13 (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/a-little-something-for-everyone/).
On Monday, May 14, I got a phone call from Tim Dubois, the circulation manager. At least, I think it was Tim Dubois, circulation manager, but I can’t find anything on the Post-Standard web site that confirms this. The web site doesn’t even admit that they have a circulation manager—I guess some things are best kept secret.
Well, anyway, Tim and I have already had multiple conversations about this business of the Post-Standard box stealing my money and on this day he doesn’t sound very happy. I had sent the link to my blog to a whole bunch of people at the Post-Standard, including Stan Linhorst, the manager editor, and somebody who wasn’t me sent it to Tim, probably with a note that said, “Fix this!” so Tim’s got to deal with me, the Customer with a Mouth, which he would just as soon not do.
Tim tells me that they have had someone come out and check the box, and it’s working. This conforms to one of Murphy’s Laws of Selective Gravitation: “When a broken appliance is demonstrated for the repairman, it will work perfectly.” If the box were completely broken then the distributor would have reported it. Since it only does not work sometimes, the box is left in place to work sometimes and steal other times.
This is what psychologists call “random reinforcement,” which is the best way to get people to do things. If you reward the subject every time he performs a task then he will quit working if he misses a single reward. If he only gets rewarded on a random basis then he will continue the act ad infinitum knowing that sometimes he’ll get a reward. This is why we keep gambling, e.g., putting money in the Post-Standard box. It’s a crap shoot, i.e., random reinforcement.
Then Tim tells me he’s talked to the distributor who owns the box and, basically, the distributor has called me a liar. Oh-h-h, you so don’t want to go there. There is a multitude of less-than-pleasing behaviors to which I will admit, and even the occasional sin, but lying? No. No, no, no—I do not lie. Nobody has ever successfully argued the case that I am a liar.
So I crisply ask Tim for the name and contact information of the distributor. I will deal with this guy directly.
And Tim refuses to tell me, claiming some kind of confidentiality thing and saying that the distributor will place his contact information on the newspaper box within a couple days. Excuse me? This is not a private citizen we are talking about here. This is a businessman with whom I have a business disagreement! And if it will be publicly posted in a couple days, then why won’t Tim tell me now? The information is supposed to be public now, so tell me!
See also policeman Matthew Malinowski, who knew the name of the woman who harassed me but would not tell it to me. He said it was a matter of public record and I could go to the police station and get it, but he wouldn’t tell me. He is now trying to explain to Professional Standards (nee Internal Affairs) why he refused to give me the name. (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/the-police-response-to-the-incident/ )
Tim is insistent that he will not give me contact information for the distributor but he will call the distributor, get permission, and call me right back.
So I go down to the apartment building office and ask the administrative assistant if she gets many complaints about the Post-Standard box. No, she says, she doesn’t get any.
This, too, is learned behavior: the 176 tenants have learned that the management will let vendors put their machines in the building but will not take any responsibility when the machines take money and don’t return product. Since this gets constant reinforcement, as opposed to random, the tenants don’t ever report the Post-Standard problem to the building management.
I wait a few days and check the box again. It still has no distributor information posted on it.
The next time I see someone putting money in the Post-Standard box, I ask him if he ever loses his money. He replies, “Oh, yeah. Lots.”
So the Post-Standard newspaper box continues to steal money on a random basis and the Post-Standard sides with its distributor, not its customers, and the distributor’s identity is kept hidden by the Post-Standard.
Or, in other words, local government agencies continue to be corrupt, the Post-Standard sides with them against the citizens, and the Post-Standard lets the corruption continue under cover of reportorial darkness.
This micro-moment of the Post-Standard’s failure to serve the people is brought to you courtesy of the tenants who keep trying to be informed.