Competition is an Awesome Thing

The next time you wish your competitors weren’t always chasing you down, the next time you wish you had the market to yourself, the next time you despise those that jumped into the marketplace you discovered, the next time you wish you could just stop improving and rake in the cash: take a visit to your neighborhood state department-of-motor-vehicles office and ask yourself if that experience is the alternative you’d prefer.

I lost my drivers’ license. Not “lost” as is flashing lights and sirens and book-em’, but lost as in misplaced. Sitting for 60 minutes in the unforgiving, but conveniently stackable, plastic chairs in the austere Secretary of State’s Drivers’ License Office waiting area; I kept wishing I could go to “the other drivers’ license guys”. But wait, “the other drivers’ license guys” don’t exist. This note is not about privatization of traditionally government run programs. It is about how important free-market competition is to our daily quality of life and how competition makes business better.

These tenants of capitalism are well known and generally agreed upon. And most business owners think they would give their customers an experience worthy of raving fans even without competitors. Yet experiences with offices such as the DMV show this is simply not true. What are some things offices like this could do without spending exponentially more dollars? How about: a welcome sign that spells out what services are and are not offered at this office (and how much each costs) so that the guy who waited an hour only to be told to go to another office would not have wasted his time? How about a self-service kiosk where the most commonly required paper forms are available to fill out while you wait your turn instead of spending everyone’s time while you fill it out at the counter? How about some carpet, comfortable chairs, plants, magazines, better lighting, coffee, and educational activity pages for the kids? All simple, non-revolutionary improvements any office could do; but why do anything when “customers” will show up at the door just the same.

Be thankful that most of us are in a competitive marketplace.

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