On Shame and Guilt

September 16, 2008

In Margaret Visser‘s terrific little book called Beyond Fate, she presents many good ideas.

One of the central ones is that we are falling backwards into the Greek concept that Christianity had freed us from. As this 2002 CBC Massey Series Lecture presents:

People today are often afflicted with a sense that they cannot change things for the better. They feel helpless, constrained, caught — in a word, fatalistic.

Feeling your life was pre-ordained or that you have lost control, lives very little room for free will and forgiveness. While living in Barcelona, Spain Visser came to understand debt collection.

Honour and shame are always waiting in the wings; they can erupt anywhere, at any time. There need not be anything obviously reprehensible about such an eruption; it might even seem vivid and amusing – although not to the person reduced or shamed.

So maybe there is justified or positive shame and unjustified, unhealthy shaming?

For example, in Barcelona today a creditor can engage a collection agency [see Think a Franchisor took your money improperly? posting] that specializes in the haunting, in public, of a debtor: the one owing money is followed about everywhere he goes by a man in a top hat and tails. The tall, powerful stranger (he has to be prepared to defend himself if his quarry loses his temper) never needs to say a word. This picturesque ploy depends entirely on shame, on the fact that every Barcelonan looking on understands that the man in the frock coat is a walking embodiment of a sum of money owed and the fury of the person waiting to be paid.

Let’s repeat that: understand that the man represents a debt and anger at being denied its payment. Lots of that around in franchising these days.

Guilt v. Shame

Visser defines guilt as attaching to an action and can be forgiven or confessed. This is the unique technology that Christianity brought to western civilization. God alone provides absolution.

Shame on the other hand, is a much more ancient idea: It’s about losing face, losing social standing, losing identity, losing honour. No one can absolve you of a shame: you have to revenge to get your face back. Honour is given by others as much as shame requires the other (an audience). The Mafia is a shame-based system.

  • I believe it is a legitimate advocacy means to communicate to the franchise elite in a language that they project outward: In short, it is justified to ridicule, embarrass, shame and dishonour Big Franchising.

In this way, their cowardice and weakness is demonstrated.

PS: Margaret has a new book called The Gift of Thanks that I am looking forward to reading very much.

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Think a Franchisor took your money improperly?

August 22, 2008

Juan Medina/REUTERS

Why not contract with someone to shame them into giving your money back?

The Globe and Mail has as an interesting article called Dressed to embarass: Spanish collection agency sends out men in top hats and tails to humilate debtors into paying up.

It seems a collection agency with over 600 employees in Spain and Portugal called El Cobrador del Frac (English: The Debt Collector in Top Hat and Tails) collects about 70 per cent of the debts they buy at a discount from individuals and businesses

“We send collectors in uniform and collectors without uniform. It depends on how the debtor reacts. If we need to do it to collect a debt, we send a collector wearing top hat and tails, so his debt attracts more attention,” he said.

They first start with a telephone call, a facsimile and only resort to sending someone out when there is a refusal to settle.

The agency swears that they always stay within the limits of the law but that does not stop them from being very creative.

For example:

…seeking to reclaim a large debt for an unpaid wedding banquet, the company even resorted to phoning guests who had attended to demand they pay their share of the bill. The red-faced bride and groom soon coughed up…

My oh My…isn’t his a clever idea for a way to raise funds for a national franchisee association? Or the next big thing as a franchise concept?

  • “Buy” franchisee debt and collect from their franchisors.

Lots of possibilities here, folks:

Q: “Why does that man in the funny hat keep following us?”

A: “Don’t worry, son. He’s just been sent from a loser, m—–f—-r franchisee.”

Q: “Daddy, what’s a m—–f—-r?”

A: …

It seems using shame is a very old Spanish tradition in debt collection. They will simply follow around the president of the company for as long as it takes: as he lines up to catch a coffee at Starbucks, sits next down to him at the cafeteria, at home on the weekend, public events with the family, etc.

Now let’s be fair: Don’t forget to anyone that profits from the status quo in Big Franchising. We don’t want to limit our unfettered capitalism to just these examples:

  • franchise bankers [and their exec VPs] at their Christmas party,
  • alpha male lawyers [and their senior partners] when they show up to Court or sales appointments,
  • media outlets who sponsor franchisors’ trade shows [tip off their competitors, first, maybe?],
  • franchise associations at their golf tournaments/trade shows/annual meetings,
  • picket every Monday a.m. to key politicians at their offices [constituency and other],
  • saying hello to the lapdog regulators on behalf of franchisees who were denied investigations into their complaints,
  • sales consultants when they exhibit at vertical industry trade shows,
  • the list goes on and on.

Of course, everything would be recorded on a digital camera, live streamed and archived on a YouTube channel. To protect the innocent and the initially recalcitrant.

Perfectly legal, Highly effective :: Doable Tomorrow.

Maybe it’d at least slow down crap AU lawsuits heaped on franchisee advocates which are designed drive them into bankruptcy and silence.


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