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RIPOFFERS    © Port Whitman Times 1998
     Watching the TV correspondents ambush the likes of doctors and appliance repairmen reminds us that we are constantly in danger of being ripped off by those to whom we entrust our prized possessions for repair. Everything today is quite high tech, or at least made to seem so simply by virtue of what it does, and rightly so, so when the repairman/technician tells us that the franistan needs replacement because the diodes have worn down too low for proper contact to the resistors, we non-techies must simply accept the verdict and pay the price. Of course, we can go get another opinion - for another initial "bench charge" of $50, which doesn't guarantee we won't be scammed in the same way again.
     The attitude among those who know a certain field of expertise, no matter how limited, is either that the customer comes in so seldom that the price for the service is irrelevant, or that he's got you by the sensitive part of the anatomy, and you have nowhere else to turn, so it's easy to pad the bill up good. This attitude is rife in our economic society, from the government worker who takes the sinecure job doing virtually nothing because he figures his small paycheck is only a drop in the big budget, to the union that demands featherbed jobs or threatens a strike, to the hospital that charges $25 for two aspirin that it gets free from the pharmaceutical manufacturer, and on and on.
     The answer? - Well, there oughta be a law, and there is, but with little enforcement, which is like having no law at all. Those with the expertise to do the checking up to enforce the law can do better, much better financially, by becoming part of the problem. No, the answer seems to be just what the Prime Timers are doing - exposing, thus educating us to the chances for being ripped off by even the least suspect in our society.
     But then, it's on - once - the exposure seen by those who might be watching channel X instead of Channel Y, and then it's gone. How much good does it do? Well, some, hopefully...  Henry Francisco - Port Whitman Times

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