During the 1960s and 1970s, Britain succumbed to what became known world-wide as the British Disease. The symptoms of this disease manifested themselves across Britain’s ‘working’ population, most evidently across those ‘working’ within unionized employment.
The British disease fundamentally was an aversion to work and a particular aversion to working in order to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. So delivery dates were rarely honored, quality standards were regularly disregarded, and holidays and sick days were generously interpreted. Oh those long Christmas and New Year breaks – lasting in some cases from December 23 to January 3 fully to respect Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Well, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put some of that to rest, splendidly wielding her hand bag and her knitting needles against some of the most portly trade union leaders. Suddenly, a sullen work force was back on Iron Lady holiday rations and expected to turn up for work on a regular basis.
Alas! This disease has not been completely eradicated. The virus has moved across the Atlantic Ocean and now thrives on American workers as its host. The one-day Thanksgiving holiday, in some quarters, it appears, has now become quite an extended affair-pretty much a week-long remembrance of Redskin beneficence.
Yesterday evening, my home suffered from an electrical problem – a fuse-box failure that I could not repair. No problem, I rashly thought. I have spent many thousands of dollars over the past several years with my trusty repair company. The company, by the way, is a major repair operation, advertising at least Virginia-wide in the most glowing terms about its speedy and trustworthy service.
‘Sorry, sir’, was the initial reply. ‘It is holiday week and almost all of our engineers are off duty. We are swamped out. A week on Wednesday is the earliest available service-time’.
‘You do know how much I have expended with your company’ I responded ‘and you surely know my reputation is a believer in the capitalist system. Are you happy to lose such a generous customer?’
‘Well sir, you must understand that our employees travel long distances for this holiday. They rely on us to make their family reunions possible.’
‘Do you view your business primarily as customer or employee-oriented?’ I respond.’ If the latter, why not hire them into permanent vacations. Think how good that would make you feel’.
‘In view of your past loyalty to our firm, sir, we are prepared to make a big concession. We shall have someone out to deal with your problem this Tuesday, between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm’
That is a little better than the British disease. But not exactly the dedication to customers that once made the United States the V8 engine of the world economy.