For the last few months I have been doing a very occasional podcast which can be found here.
Most episodes end with a brief essay I call “The Final Word.” Beginning today, I will be posting transcripts of these essays here. I should be getting more of them up in the next couple of weeks.
Here’s the first one.
Like many of you, our family has what is now called a flexible savings account. It used to be called a health savings account. And, I think, before that, I have a vague recollection of something just called a savings account. Basically, this flexible savings account lets us save up money to cover medical costs that our health insurance does not.
Whoever it is that runs our flexible savings account sent us a letter recently to announce a whole bunch of fancy new services. They don’t want to send us paper checks any more. Instead, they want to deposit our reimbursements straight into our bank account once we notify them of an expense. The benefit to us of this change is that now we will be able to go online and track everything that is happening with our account.
Of course, what that means is there is now one more thing we have to do. See, the way it used to work was that the flexible savings account people would simply be notified by our insurance people and then send us a check. Now, they are shifting more of the responsibility to us under the guise of giving us lots of features we can use online.
I’ve noticed this trend. In the last several years, there has been more and more emphasis on what you can do for yourself online. Do you need to check your bank balance? You can do it yourself online? Do you need to pay your electric bill? You can do it yourself online! Do you need complicated oral surgery? You can do it yourself online.
The net result of this do it yourself online stuff is that now we are doing ourselves things that used to be part of the service we expected from the people we do business with. It’s sold to us as an opportunity for us, but it’s really just a way of cutting expenses for the businesses involved and increasing the number of things the average person must do for himself.
You can see it at the grocery store. About five years ago, our local grocery store installed self-scanners. Since then they have spread out like a disease. See, used to, you could go into a store and expect that part of what you would get for your money was the service of having someone ring you out. If there was some kind of problem in the process, you could count on the cashier to help. Now, you just have to stand there swiping, swiping, swiping trying to get the thing to beep.
The point here is that I have begun to wonder if it is even possible to live a simple life these days. Is it even possible to live a life where your affairs are more or less in order when you are expected to take care of every tiny detail of life alone. I understand that companies want to make a profit, but I also understand that we rely on each other much more than we realize.
When we break the bonds that smooth over the bumps of life, everyone suffers and the only thing that gets better is the company’s bottom line.
Have you noticed this trend? Is it working for you? Is it still possible to lead a simple life? Leave a comment below and let me know.