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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Continuing Decline of Civilization

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things I find annoying as time passes is changes that are good for someone else are not so good for me.

The owners at the apartment complex where I live decided to dispense with mailing rent invoices. This saves them about $0.50 per tenant per month (once you factor in the cost of the envelope). It costs them the value of an employee to go from door to door of the apartments to tape the invoices to the doors (and the minimal cost of the tape), plus that employee's travel (gas). I imagine they also gain a "no, it was not lost in the mail" statement to their tenants. (I have only been late one time in the period I have lived there, and that was literally a result of my check having gone through the slot and flown under a piece of furniture and not being found until that manager moved out and was replaced.)

These are, by the way, the third set of owners in twenty years. I got on very well with the second set, and almost never saw the first set.

The problem is that I have noticed that these invoices taped to doors are "red flags." If it is 0130 hrs, and you walk into the quadrangle of the apartment complex you can look around and see the doors that still have invoices on them, and know with great certainty that the people living in that apartment are "not home." Which tells you which apartments are probably safe to break into.

This has not happened that I am aware of, but the message is there.

Further, I have noted from experience that sometimes someone is not home on the day the invoices go up, and the Texas wind is sometimes strong enough (if your door is facing in the right direction) to tear the invoice from the door. This should not matter as you know your rent is due on the first of the month, but as the rent is not a "fixed amount," but varies based on the use of some utilities nominally paid by the owner of the complex, so without the invoice the only way you can know what you owe is to go to the office and wait for it to open. However, several apartment complexes are owned by a single company, and they have consolidated the management into a single office that is not conveniently co-located with any of the apartment complexes (so at least all of the renters are subject to the inconvenience of traveling to the separate management office that is in a storefront near the movie theater several miles from the apartment complexes).

All of this is convenient to the owners (reduced overhead to pay managers, as there is not one manager per apartment complex but rather two managers for five apartment complexes). And there is the savings of not having to mail the invoices (having the invoices taped to the doors at least lets the owners say the managers "walk around the apartment complex at least monthly").

I keep watching conveniences slip away.

The local book store is closing, the only one in Canyon, Texas, and if I want to shop for a book I can no longer do so locally, but have to go to Amarillo to do so. I am not talking about looking for a specific book, which I know I can do online these days, but the simple pleasure of going into the store to peruse the ranked titles to see if something catches my eye to be a possible good read. Truth to tell, there are not as many authors writing things I wish to read any more. But I will miss the opportunity to discover an interesting book on my own.