Information is Power and It’s for Sale

“Information is Power.” I know the quote, but I don’t know who said it FIRST, and Google can’t tell me. Neither can three quotation sites. No matter. I’m sure someone will sell me the answer, though.

If you think it’s not true, stand in line at the DMV, or try to live in an office with a strong IT help desk. There is the close fitting corollary, called the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. I’ve walked in desperate circles in city licensing offices, while those who hold information at opposite ends of the hall, give me conflicting information and no answers. It’s a special pre-taste of hell.information is power chart

What’s missing is free, impartial information. Some years ago, I wanted to know how much a deck would cost for our house. I knew how large it needed to be. I’m not a deck builder, and don’t know the deck details, so I phoned a local deck company and said I wanted an estimate. I explained that I was not ready to build yet, but needed to know the cost to create a budget. They understood fully, they said, and sent an estimator. The estimator was a salesperson. He sat me down and explained the different kinds of decks in three-hour detail. I interrupted several times, explaining that I was interested only in a ball-park estimate, for budgeting purposes. He ignored me.

At the end of the three hours, he pulled out a contract, and said, “I can have your deck started on Monday and done in ten days.” When I asked the price, he told me he’d connect me to a finance company. He didn’t know. When I repeated (for the fourth time) that I was looking for a price for budgeting purposes, he said, “I didn’t come out here to waste my time. What do I have to do to get you to sign this contract today?” He left angry.

Maslow’s TriangleA few months ago, we got hit with some unexpected, large bills, and I called a financial adviser. I went to his office, and although I had explained exactly what I needed help with, he pitched me on moving my retirement account to his company, taking some of the newly moved money as a loan, and letting his company manage ALL my retirement income. Distracted, I said that as a former financial writer, I knew that putting all your financial eggs in one basket was a bad idea. Interview over with. I had no idea how to solve the problem I’d made an appointment to solve and he said he had an answer for.

Last week, I received an offer to take a course I’ve often wanted to take. It came via email and was from an organization I belong to. There was no price. I checked the original email. Nope. I went to the website. Nope. The only way to find the price was to register for the course, then cancel the registration.

Is it just me, or is all this salesmanship tiresome? I see it all over–people hiding information to make you listen to the sales pitch. People manipulating their small twist on power to make you do what they want. It’s almost impossible to get good unbiased information anymore.

It gets worse. At my last doctor’s visit, I was told I needed a certain test. Knowing my insurance has a hefty deductible, I asked what the test would cost. The doctor, a young woman, looked at me in scorn, “I have no idea, but you’d better get it. Don’t you have insurance?” I replied that I did, but had a big deductible, and the amount was a factor. She shrugged. “Get better insurance,” was her medical opinion. I asked again at the desk before I left, thinking the staff might know more of the daily information. They did not. Neither did the person who answered the phone at the lab where the test was administered.

Information is power. It’s for sale. And if you aren’t rich, you don’t have a chance to being treated fairly, or impartially. Hang on to your wallets, it’s going to get worse from here.

–Quinn McDonald (c) 2007. All rights reserved. Images from (circle graph) and Maslow’s Triangle from Quinn is a writer and artist. She worries a lot about impartial opinions and who controls health care. She believes that artists and CEOs should have access to equal quality health care. She is beginning to think that we can’t tell the difference between price and value anymore. Her artwork is at her website,