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Views from the Prairie

March 2023

No Undue Burdens.

A passenger caused a ruckus and got banned by the airline. After a diner raised a huge fuss, the manager asks the diner not to come back. Customers can use their judgement when choosing to buy from a business. In a competitive environment, businesses need to be careful about putting an undue burden on their customers. Businesses can ask customers to not come back because of behavior.

Recently, new grocery store opened in a part of Dallas that was being avoided by major chains. Customers are buying, food is flying off the shelves, and the store manager is quoted as having trouble keeping the shelves stocked. There are many places where smart people can make money but the existing businesses are ignoring the opportunities. There are many opportunities out there when we do not place undue burdens on who our customers are or who our employees are. Our competitors might be quick to take those customers and find that those rejected employees give them a competitive edge.

In a free market, customers get to choose which business to frequent and do so based on their own values. Businesses compete for the customer's business.

In a world with Amazon delivering quickly to nearly anywhere, refusing service to a paying customer can be a bad business decision. Bank of America started when a group of people were being discriminated against. Mr. Giannini saw the opportunity, built a bank to serve them, and out competed the over 35 banks in town. Businesses that don't put undue burdens on their customers do better.

There is a huge difference between a customer making the personal choice not to purchase from a company and a business turning away customers. In a "free market" economy, we want the customers to be able to make their own choices when purchasing. Those cumulative choices can bring the community values to force businesses to change for the good of the community.

At the same time, businesses need to be able to turn away certain customers. Stores need to be able to tell customers to go elsewhere after becoming too much of a headache or being clearly unprofitable. Online establishments need to be able to expel those who are harming the establishment or spewing speech that is harming others.

There are a few businesses that choose not to place branches in certain areas or certain towns based on who the people are who live there. Others are pushing court cases to allow themselves to refuse service to certain people based on life styles. Politicians are pushing government mandates and government subsidies to their friends. All of these are not good business decisions. These open opportunities for competitors.

It is proper to put the burden of etiquette on customers: be nice to other customers, be polite to employees, and pay for what you buy or use.

Sorry Boomers

Our country is at a cultural turning point. The "baby boomer" generation is no longer the largest population group in the country. The "boomers" are dying off and the young people are now larger than the boomers. The millennials are now the largest age group and when combined with Generation Z, they are more than 40% of the population. When the boomers first started to affect culture, our country went through the turmoil of the 60's and 70's. The previous generations were not happy about losing control. Perhaps our current turmoil is partly based on the boomers losing power.

The generation that has the most people in it tends to set the tone for the country as a whole. They influence music, religion, film, and business styles. When the boomers came into the workplace, they were described as self-absorbed, unwilling to work hard, and wanting to change the rules of the workplace - all criticisms being leveled at the latest generation. Part of that is simply that people at different ages do work differently. But also, the new generation brings new styles and ideas to both the workplace and to the general market.

Many people worry about our culture changing. Entrepreneurs see the changes and see opportunities in those changes. When things are changing rapidly, the biggest danger comes from governments trying to force stability. Prohibition, drug wars, and other attempts to stabilize society either drive away the needed creative people or drive organized crime.

Our country has gone through many a cultural turning point. Such turning points do not need to be terrifying. We have embraced the changes, learned how to incorporate new ideas, and figured out how to profit from them. We can do so again.

Risky World

The releasing of AI assistance in Bing and Google is allowing hackers plenty of opportunity to show the limits of AI. People have managed to change the personality, get AI to produce harmful materials, and show that AI generated words can be total garbage. This can have profound risks when legal firms start using AI to generate filings.


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