It’s everywhere…

I once worked a job during college where the assistant manager would give me a verbal list of things to do at the beginning of my shift. I would go and do those things and then go back to him for more. Invariably he would go back through his list: “Did you do A? Did you do B?” The entire list. It got more than a little annoying–it was insulting. I could never seem to convince the guy that I would do what I was supposed to do.

Then my job changed, and I was assigned to work with some other guys he supervised. I gained a new perspective on why he was the way he was. These guys had to be constantly baby-sat. They’d dink around and waste time rather than doing the things they were told. If their job involved doing something for someone else they wouldn’t do it until that person begged or offered them some favor.

I was flabbergasted. I had always assumed that everyone did what they were supposed to do, the way they were supposed to do it. It hadn’t occurred to me that there was a reason why an assistant manager might have to follow up so closely. The idea that people who show up when they’re supposed to and do what they’re supposed to do were unusual never entered my head.

I’ve since learned more about the world. I still don’t think I’m anything wonderful because I try to be reliable. I just weep for what the rest of the world has become. People who follow through on their commitments are too rare.

Still, I was still take aback a bit by this article:

A New York publisher this week filed lawsuits against several prominent writers who failed to deliver books for which they received hefty contractual advances, records show.

The Penguin Group’s New York State Supreme Court breach of contract/unjust enrichment complaints include copies of book contracts signed by the respective defendants.

The article goes on to list specific contracts the publisher is seeking to recover based on breech of contract. There’s not a contract listed I wouldn’t jump at–and knock myself out trying to make the deadlines. How can people just take money and deliver nothing?

What’s perhaps even more troubling is that this is news. Does this mean it’s rare for publishers to sue contract-breakers? Do they really just beg and cajole writers into meeting their contract, but just walk away if they don’t? That’s crazy!

To quote Yakov Smirnov, though not as he intended it, “What a country!”