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Stop the steal

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

There is one thing all of us, financially rich or poor, have in equal quantities. That is our time.  

Now, in past tense, one could argue this is not true, for obviously some of us have longer lives than others. Yet, for this point in time with the knowledge we have, we can all say we have the same amount.

Corporations, small businesses and other entities have been stealing time from each of us in a planned and systematic way for many years to enrich themselves. It is time for this to stop.

It started out simply enough. This was with the answering machine. For those of us old enough to remember the nascent introduction of this device, at that time it was novel and cute. And when it was on a one-on-one basis, as it still is on our personal phones, it was convenient.

Then, businesses and other entities decided they could incorporate this to eliminate internal telephone operators, thereby saving them money by wasting our time. It wasn’t long after that the automated attendant was introduced. The automated attendant can throw us into several minutes of searching for the right voice mail box to leave our messages. All wasting our time and saving the party at the other end real money.

Recently, in the last year or so, automated attendants have been introduced which do not accept keyboard inputs, only voice commands. For someone like me, whose voice varies day-to-day due to lingering side effects of past illnesses, such systems can be completely unusable for at times my voice is barely a whisper.

Then, there are the dreaded medical portals. Hospitals, doctors and pharmacies all have them. They don’t talk to each other, and they don’t talk to my phone, although they claim otherwise.  

A pox on them all – nothing but time wasters. I have stopped giving my email address to medical systems so that they cannot put me on their ridiculous systems.

Bottom line, all these situations consume my finite precious time in exchange for the profitability of the service provider.

Then, there is the self-checkout at the store. This is not such a waste of time, but it goes against my principles. You see, the slogan I have adopted in my businesses and uses as a teaching point is “spinning the invoice printer.”  

The “invoice printer” is a figurative concept. It could be a cash register, a collection plate at church or a real invoice.  

The point is the only reason a business or entity exists is to “spin the invoice printer. Or if you prefer to state another way for charitable organizations, the only way they can survive is by “spinning their invoice printer.”  

Again, all figurative, in many places one cannot find an actual invoice, but everyone has some way to take in funds which are vital to their survival.

This leaves me with a question. If my premise is correct, and it is, why would a business whose sole purpose in existing is to “spin the invoice printer” entrust this most important task to “volunteer” clerks (you and me) who are predisposed to spin their invoice printer as slowly as possible? It doesn’t make sense.

In the modern world, thieves don’t necessarily wear a mask and carry a gun. And they don’t necessarily want something from you as trivial as money. They want something far more precious.

Your time.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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