"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
February 24, 2014
Company Policy by Dart Board
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Unless you are a hermit who lives in a cave, one facet of daily life is that we deal with different companies on a daily basis. For me, I stick with Amazon and eBay when I can. It’s fun to shop there, and I don’t have to leave home to do it.

But the world is full of utility companies, retail organizations (both online and brick-and-mortar), government organizations, and many others. People who live in civilized nations can’t avoid them.

When you deal with companies, it’s only a matter of time until you run into the dreaded “company policy.” These are those arbitrary rules that organizations establish so that all customers are treated somewhat equally. Although this sounds good in theory, almost everyone can tell horror stories about how organizations mistreated them because of some company policy that seemed to make no sense.

Shortly after our marriage, we saw a piece of future in Sears that we really liked. Okay. We were young, we were poor, and our tastes were two steps above “cardboard box” as far as furniture was concerned.

At that time, most furniture stores had a 30-days-same-as-cash policy, meaning that if you paid your bill in 30 days, there would be no extra charges, and you could still have full use of the furniture for that first month. You would sign an agreement, have the furniture delivered, and then pay your bill. The whole transaction took less than five minutes.

But such a policy would be all too simple for a bureaucracy as big and important as Sears. We were told that the 30-days policy was available, but only if you had a Sears charge account. We’re sure some genius in marketing saw this as a great way to generate future loyalty and sales.

So we spent the next half-hour filling out the required applications. We left some of the questions blank, because they were way too personal for what we wanted. We weren’t after a top secret security clearance; we only wanted to buy a piece of furniture and have a month to pay for it.

A couple of days later we got a call from Sears, telling us that our application had been denied because of some of the missing information. If we wanted the furniture, we would have to try the application again or pay for the furniture before it was delivered.

All our attempts to appeal to common sense were fruitless, as the polite but firm customer service person told us that this was their company policy and could not be changed. With equal firmness, we told them that they could keep their furniture, and we would spend our money with companies that were more concerned with customer satisfaction than company policy.

Although this happened almost 40 years ago, we have been pretty good about avoiding Sears. With the exception of some tools and appliances (Sears has a reputation for tools and appliances that is hard to beat), we have pretty much had a Sears-free marriage. Our one bad experience has cost the mighty corporation a whole lot of money, at least from our family.

Since that time we have mellowed a little, and realized that silly company policies are just part of daily life. Unless they are especially egregious, it is better to just laugh about them.

But sometimes you just come across a policy that is so silly, you just have to scratch your head and wonder. What was the reason behind this policy? Were these rules designed by a committee? Does the CEO just spend his day throwing darts at a dartboard, and use that to set the company policies? Sometimes it seems that way.

Here’s an example.

For Christmas, a kind friend gave us a new TiVo. This new beauty can record up to four television programs simultaneously by means of a cable card. The cable card fits inside the TiVo, replacing the older cable boxes that sit on top the TV or somewhere close by.

This meant that we needed to acquire a new cable card and return the older cable box that we no longer needed. When we called our cable TV provider (name rhymes with “Verizon”), we were told that although cable cards are free, there would be a small handling fee of $19.95 if we wanted a cable card mailed to us. How generous of them!

I don’t know about you, but on Planet Kathy, $19.95 is not a small number when it is preceded by a dollar sign. For old people like us, $19.95 is a whole boatload of money.

The nice lady on the phone told Fluffy we could avoid this charge by visiting one of their local stores, and there was one about 10 miles from home. We were also told we could return the unneeded cable box at the same time. Perfect!

The next day Fluffy packed up the old cable box and headed towards the store. As promised, getting the free cable card was no problem. By appearing at the store in person, he saved the $19.95 processing fee. But when he attempted to return the cable box, he was told there would be a $9.95 processing fee if he gave the cable box back in person.

Here’s the kicker. The nice lady in the store told Fluffy he could avoid the $9.95 processing fee by going to a shipping company and mailing the cable box back to the cable company. She explained that the cable people had an agreement with a national shipping company, and he could just drop off the box at one of their stores. They would provide the packaging and the postage would be paid.

So Fluffy took the box away from the cable company, found a shipping store, packaged up the cable box, and had it mailed back to the same place he had just left. That way he was able to avoid the $9.95 processing fee and all he lost was an hour or so of his time.

All we could do was laugh and wonder about the logic (or lack it) associated with this policy. In order to get our cable card we could save money by avoiding shipping and visiting the business in person. But to get rid of our cable box, the opposite was true; we could save money by using shipping instead of a personal visit.

Somewhere, in the bowels of the corporation, there is an explanation for this. Maybe the two different products are handled by two different divisions, each of which sets its own policies. Or maybe the CEO of the cable company plays golf with the CEO of the shipping company, and they made a deal to send the shipper some business.

In any case, this was just one of those experiences that make life so interesting and amusing.

Life is full of experiences like that. If life were easy — if life were seemingly rational — we would placidly go from one experience to another. Everything would be fair. Goodness would be rewarded. Evil would be punished. There would be no bumps in the road. We would not need faith, because everything in our lives would be abundantly clear.

But life is full of bumps and twists and turns and all sorts of surprises. A lot of those surprises are not happy ones. As we dart from one place to another in this game that we call life, we stretch our muscles. We expand our knowledge. We grow. We fall down. We pick ourselves up again. We lean on each other. We learn compassion.

Sometimes, it seems as though God’s hobby is to send His children on wild goose chases while He sits in His heavenly stadium seat, enjoying the show. But if we think our lives are situation comedies and God is laughing at us, we are wrong.

On the contrary, God is cheering us on. He is the dad in the stands, cheering for His child who is playing the game of a lifetime. He is the father at the chain-link fence, Whose very presence inspires each child to do his best.

At the end of this life, we will see the path that is invisible to us now. We will understand what makes no sense from this earthly perspective. All will be made clear.

We may never understand how the policies are determined by our cable company, but I trust the rules that have been designed for us by God, and I know that eventually all will work out for the best and according to His perfect plan.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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