Friday, July 28, 2017

More Responsibility Examples

Responsibility is the behavioral trait that distinguishes those who own their actions and admit their mistakes from those who try to find someone or something else to blame.  From sports to politics to everyday experiences the practice of good responsibility seems to be getting more unusual.  The sun got in my eyes, I’m addicted, I’m a victim, the cards are stacked against me, it’s the computer’s fault and a host of other excuses with the full support of “advocates” have become common.

Problems with responsibility have significant drawbacks.  Passing off the cause of the problem onto some outside influence never leads to a solution, just more of the same.  And as I have emphasized many times in the past, when we step away from our responsibilities, someone else, often the government, is happy to step in to force behavior on us – even if that new rule turns out to have unintended consequences.

This is common in corporate America as well where executives claim ignorance of corporate wrongdoing or in everyday customer service.  Here are a couple of strange examples from the world of casino gambling.

At one casino in Illinois a woman was startled by the bells and flashing lights on the slot machine she was playing.  The machine told her she had won $28 million!  She immediately heard the call for a supervisor, who told her not to touch the machine.  She remained calm enough during the ensuing chaos to take a couple of pictures of the machine.

The casino refused to pay her after an internal investigation found a computer error responsible for the jackpot message.  Executives would not comment directly, but continued to blame computer error for the mistake and offered her a free dinner instead.

In another casino a 90 year-old woman from Antioch, IA put her money in the slot and soon found a message on the screen awarding her a 185-credit along with the message, “The reels have rolled your way! Bonus Award $41,797,550.16.”

Again the casino refused to pay, again blaming a computer error, and paid her the $1.85 for the initial credit.  After a couple of years in court, the casino won the case.

The slot machine manufacturer had warned these casinos of a problem, which they were supposed to have fixed.  Perhaps some admission of fault was in order.  A free dinner or $1.85 hardly seems like an adequate settlement for a problem they were supposed to have dealt with.  But even a judge agreed that it wasn’t their fault; it was the computer – as if the computer were some distant third party and not their computer!

The other point is that when individuals fail to take responsibility, institutions take over. For a recent example, we turn to the Nebraska schools.  Apparently some parents couldn’t be relied on to track their children’s health numbers, so the schools have been conducting routine health screenings including a measurement of body-mass index (BMI).  If this ratio of weight to height is too high, the parents are notified of possible diet or exercise issues.

Some parents thought this could cause potential embarrassment for children, affecting their psychological health while trying to look out for their physical health.  Others felt the time would be better spent on traditional school subjects like adding and reading rather than measuring body size.

As of this month, the schools are allowed to decide whether to include that measure in routine health screenings.  In those schools that do not drop it, parents can send a note to school opting their kids out.  Some districts have already announced that they will continue the practice unless they receive the note.

Still, for some reason the state feels it is necessary to screen the health of students.  That reason is surely related to their perception that parents will not or cannot take responsibility for health screenings of their own children.  (BMI calculation can easily be done at home at no cost with a bathroom scale and a tape measure.)

These are just a few of so many examples.  Responsibility failings are easy to spot.  And when institutions spot them in a few citizens, they are quick to take over, imposing rules even on those who are conscientious and capable.

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