Irking Ink


You can get away with just about anything as long as you say it’s part of a policy.

You know, that mysterious entity that apparently exists on paper somewhere. Although most of the time you’ve never seen it. It’s usually that page you click through on the website while buying something on eBay. Or it could be that 50 page manual that you trash after opening up the box to a new DVD player.

Something goes wrong. It breaks. You try to get it fixed. But you called when there was a quarter moon on the second Tuesday of the month, ergo your warranty doesn’t apply.

When my cell phone isn’t working and I call to complain, the company tries to make me pay to get it fixed.

“Not fair,” I exclaim. “I’ve already paid $200 for the damn thing. Why can’t you just fix it?”

In a calm voice, the customer service rep tells me why my situation doesn’t fit my warranty agreement. I respond that this is a special circumstance. The rep ain’t buying it.

Inevitably she tones “it’s part of our policy.”

Another exchange:

Me: Why do I have to give you my first born? I just missed one car payment.

Repo man: Sir it’s in the policy

There was once a case of a guy facing the death penalty and his lawyer was running late to file an appeal at a judge’s office. He couldn’t turn in the proper documents because the judge closed down at 5 p.m. The man was eventually executed after the attorney failed to file the appeal.

The judge was reported to a judicial committee but was never admonished. A man’s life vs. a policy? The policy wins.

It’s kind of a shit excuse to me. I know there’s legal liability reasons to have them. To me though, they’re too often used to deny a refund, deny someone medical coverage, deny an insurance claim or to prevent some company from having to do something that should be their responsibility.

People try to make policies carry the force of law and by constantly citing them, they make it inflexible. They end up becoming some faceless entity that a company or government entity can point to when they refuse to do something or when something bad happens. Policies end up becoming a blame sponge. And why not, how are you going to get back at the policy?

So we fall victim to policies.

Yes, we are protected by them and benefit by them.

But yet, when it comes to creating that invisible code, it’s always the enforcers who are in charge. We’re always subject to it.

We can’t participate in creating most policies because, well, it’s not in the policy.


  1. ARG! You are SO right!!! Policy Policy Schmolicy!!! I work in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and believe me, all I hear is, “It doesn’t fall into policy or protocol, sorry.” And always to benefit the higher power, never the ones that need to be protected by policy & procedure/protocol.

    You hit the nail on the head- thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  2. It’s bad. To me, the value that real humans can bring over robots and machines is in applying judgements to raise the customer experience. What’s the point of having (intelligent) humans to just quote policies?!

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