An Honest Conversation about Getting what You Pay For

In the U.S. and maybe other places as well, we have become accustomed to paying extremely low prices for what we purchase. Some of this is due to globalization and even more so to new technologies. What I am most concerned with however is what we pay for life safety services and then what we really expect to receive for those payments. I suggest we take a look at where we are and then be honest with ourselves.
The late John Glenn once replied to a question about waiting to launch into space by saying “I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract”. When we decide how much we will spend on policemen, firemen, soldiers, inspectors, consultants and everyone else who serve the public safety in some way, are we making the right decisions? Are we paying enough? If not, why is that? Maybe too many people are not aware of what I consider the simple facts to be.
In my area of expertise (elevator industry) the cost for maintenance and repair services are just now returning to levels of some three decades ago. Shouldn’t those costs be double or triple what they were that long ago? Wages and material costs have risen greatly over that period of time, so what does that mean? Yes, elevator companies were making very good profits in the eighties and before and that is some of the reason, but only some. Technology and training have improved efficiency of services and that is some of the reason as well, but just some.
The elephant in the room that no one seems willing to discuss in public is the same as with other life safety services we all pay for directly or indirectly. At the end of the day, if we are really honest about it, we simply don’t pay enough for the extremely important service of maintaining or inspecting elevator equipment. As a result, in some cases not enough time is spent on actually making sure every elevator is operating safely. Put yourself in John Glenn’s position and just consider these facts when you step onto your next elevator.
These facts go way beyond what the building management company is willing or able to spend on their elevators. Everyone, yes everyone in the entire loop helps make the decision. The people and businesses that decide how much rent they will pay to the management company. The people who decide what they will pay for the services or products from those who pay that rent in that building are producing. Even those of us who vote for tax increases to support elevator inspectors or allow enough funding to adopt new and better safety codes help make the decision.
Some may argue that if more money is provided, waste, profits and greed will simply absorb the increases and actual safety will not improve much at all. Some of this will surely happen, but please consider that all companies have to make at least a small amount of profit to survive. If this means they can only allow their elevator mechanics to provide and average of two hours for maintenance per elevator per month, then they will do it or go out of business. It is the same for government funded elevator inspectors. If there are only enough funds for x amount of inspectors and they are mandated to inspect every unit in their jurisdiction each year, they can only spend the amount of time they have available and not the amount of time that may really be needed.
Consultants can help fill the gaps, but consultants do not get hired to inspect every elevator. If they did, every elevator company would be forced to spend more time on every elevator AND would be required to raise their rates considerably to avoid going out of business. I know of no perfect answer to complex problems such as these, but I strongly encourage everyone to consider how much you value yours or your loved one’s safety. I do advocate tougher codes, more inspectors, hiring consultants and all of us to pick up the bill so that we pay for what we get! If you agree with this article, please share it and help inform those who are unaware.

Leave a Reply