If you were with me in Las Vegas and you saw me working a slot machine and slowly, steadily, but surely losing all my money…including some you KNEW I could not afford to lose….
…what would you advise me to do?
Of course you would. It just makes sense to stop throwing good money down the drain at a slot machine. Over time the machine is programmed to win. It has always been so. It will always be so. And worse yet, everybody rationally knows it…
….except the person sitting at the slot machine.
They are lured in by the occasional big score on these machines. They convince themselves that if they quit now they may be just a couple pulls short of that big score. They want to win and are scared to quit too soon.
But, as rational folks who are not sitting in front of a slot machine right now, we know better….
Maybe yes, maybe no.
I see people make the same mistake in human relations all the time. It can range from arguing with a bank teller about how low the interest rate is on their savings account…to yelling at a waiter because of the price of a steak.
Bank Tellers and Wait people don’t set the interest rates and food prices. So even if they agree with everything you are unhappy about….they would likely be powerless to do anything about it. I suppose the hope would be that they have some unlikely influence on a bank regulator in Washington or a corporate executive somewehere charged with pricing steaks.
It’s not so much the abuse of service people that I’m thinking about at the moment. That’s a topic for another day….and an important one. But rather, the futile expenditure of emotional capital in these situations.
In Vegas you get the thrill of possibility at the expense of dollars and coins. In human relations you get an outlet for frustration on someone who pays for it with unhappiness.
In both cases the end is reliably predictable. You know what else is reliably predictable today?
The slots in Las Vegas will make a lot of money and a slew of waiters and bank tellers will pay the freight for someone else’s frustration about something they can’t fix.
So I try not to invest too many of my coins in slot machines or too much of my emotional capital on customer service people with limited power…
…because some bets are lost before they are made.