A common refrain among free market proponents, myself included, is that the presence of competition in the marketplace is a benefit to consumers. Many of us have learned to accept as fact the notion that the more choice we have the better off we are in terms of both price and service. I have stumbled upon an outlier in the capitalists theory!

We are in the early stages of planning significant enough changes to our home that moving out for a period of time will be a requirement. With the move comes the necessity of changing our services from one address to another. The first two services, hydro and gas, have what by any measure is a relative monopoly. Free market theory ought to suggest that when competition is removed, service will be slow, and generally not concerned with customer satisfaction. After all, if Guelph Hydro fails to treat me with the respect due a paying customer, where shall I take my business in order to teach them a lesson? Suffice to say that both Guelph Hydro (4 minutes on the phone) and Union Gas (6 minutes) made the process simple. Their telephone representatives were efficient, friendly, and reassuring.

I was feeling buoyant with but one call to make, and that to the only one of the three that operates in an arena with competition – the providers of telephone, internet and television services. Which of the major players I dealt with is probably irrelevant (but in my case, the company name rhymes with hell). A full 30 minutes later, I got off the phone confused, frustrated and without a decision made. Did we want our services bundled? Did I have kids that needed unlimited high speed internet ? Did we want the good, better or best TV package? What struck me most about the experience, is that each time I hesitated even slightly, the deal I was offered somehow got a little better! Oh, I didnt see that promotion, let’s grab that before they take it away …. let me see if I can do something else, oh my, this is great…. because youre a loyal customer…… blah blah blah

Ironically, I was not even trying to negotiate – I am just a slow talker! Add my state of confusion to the mix, and the deals and offers were flying fast and furious each better than the last. Culminating with the granddaddy best deal of all when I unwittingly mentioned that maybe I would be best served if I purchased cable for my television needs! I will eventually make a decision. But I am willing to bet that my deal, through no brilliance of my own, will be a better one than that garnered by a decisive fast talker. And that just doesnt seem quite fair.

The problem with offering a customer a deal is that the customer is left wondering if that is a good deal, or if a better and best deal still lies down the path. Personally, I prefer to be offered a fair deal, with one choice – take it or leave it. In any purchasing decision, I try to boil my choice down to two basic questions: Do I like the product? and Do I trust the seller? If the answer to both is yes, Im an easy mark.


Thanks for reading,

Jeff Neumann