Broken on Purpose


Rebates fall in the category of things that communicate an intention to try to get one over on people. You have to jump through hoops to eventually get some check or gift card, or whatever…way after the fact. They could be given at the point of purchase. The process is absolutely broken on purpose, and conveys disingenuous intent. (Whether or not it is actually disingenuous isn’t the point. It conveys it.)

Of course many people never bother to collect the money. Or if they try and something goes wrong, many give up quickly. Meanwhile there are those who diligently work to claim them every time. This is all calculated and statistically known up front and designed into the model of profitability.

It sets up a scenario with winners and losers. You get a better deal because the vendor knows about how many will forfeit it, based in part on the mechanics of how each one is implemented.

In the process the vendor mildly irritates the very customers he would probably like to have the loyalty of the most.

Deals and circumstances where someone has to lose for another to win can be destructive. Of course we do it routinely. Take Gambling for example. It’s fun up to a point. There’s some seduction born out of the possibility of a payoff. But most who gamble are willing to lose to be entertained. It’s just a lot less fun when we lose a lot. And when we win we don’t worry about taking from the house because that’s “them” and they can afford it. However, when we take from individuals it feels a little different. We gamble for more than money.

We have competition for jobs, promotions, resources, status, money, mates, etc. Competition is part of our species and in many ways a positive motivating force. Exclusivity, on the other hand, while attainable in some cases, communicates disingenuous intent. The goal is to get the big win mostly through having others lose out, or be excluded, rather than on merits alone. If I am the exclusive distributor of a sought after product I can charge especially high prices. It’s an agreement between me and the manufacturer that leaves customers feeling taken advantage of.

Exclusion limits. Inclusion elevates. If a relationship is contingent upon exclusivity then it makes one wonder what the underlying intent is. Your friend gets married and the friendship suffers, or is cut off because the spouse doesn’t feel it fits within his or her boundaries. It might seem understandable, but it’s fear that begets this type of control. We each want the best tactical advantage we can get, and in some domains more than others we’re willing to be pretty cutthroat about manipulating circumstances in ways that inherently limit. Limiting others, even those we care about, for the sake of our own security.

Exclusivity is designed to trap you. It’s just that you rarely recognize it or don’t care until you’re on the outside looking in.

We break things on purpose…to satisfy greed, status, security, etc. Society accepts and even encourages many of these actions, however, they don’t reflect an ideal of living harmoniously together with each person and organization rising to reach their full potential.

Inclusion is usually more uncomfortable and risky. Dare to take that higher road.


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