Sweating the Small Stuff

So why bother worrying about a few hundred dollars here and there? It’s a lot of work to fight with an organization, especially a large one that’s not particularly reputable. And in the end, there is a good chance you’ll get nothing for your work. If you spend 40 hours trying to recoup $200, you’re making less than minimum wage.

The most important reason to fight back is to make the leaders of the organization think twice before creating a culture of ripping off the customer. If the customer is apathetic, there is nothing to stop a company from taking its customers’ money from now until the end of time. And the people who work there understand well that there is not a lot of incentive for the customers to fight (read lawsuit) over relatively small amounts of money. On the other side of the equation there is a lot of incentive to steal a little here and a little there. If you have a lot customers, the volume can quickly add up to millions.

Another reason, though, is that small amounts of money do add up over time. Suppose you pass on an opportunity to recover $1000 per year for 50 years. This isn’t really unreasonable. It’s probably not far off from what I’ve lost in the past few years either due to incompetence, mistakes, or outright fraud. Assuming 8% interest in the stock market after inflation, the present value of that money is about $13,000. The accumulated value 50 years from now is well over $600,000. That’s three Harvard educations! How do you feel about that $1000/year now?

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