Thursday, December 31, 2009

You Have to Understand the Power Centers

Usually when I talk about power centers I am referring to government created power centers. However, there are somewhat similar power centers in the private sector (although in the private sector you can walk away from the game, not with government.)

I bring this up because of a story Bob Murphy relays about a friend who was at a table where someone walked out without paying their tab. Here's the key snippet:
One of the birthday girl's friends accidentally walked out without paying her check. Other than the birthday girl, no one else present knew the friend who walked out, so none of us felt any responsibility.The waiter and restaurant manager kept pushing the concept of "the table" as a single entity by which all persons present are accountable for every item brought to it. I tried to explain basic contract liability (which I presented as methodologically individualistic) but completely gave up when the manager looked at me and said, "Life is gray; nothing is black and white." It wasn't pleasant.
Now what is interesting is there is another way this could have gone down.

Sometime ago I was showing a buddy of mine the ropes and pointed out to him that the key guys to know in clubs are the bouncers. I mean we take care of bouncers. It's good to know the owner or manager, but in clubs most situations are at the bouncer level. In one very hot club my buddy actually put the head bouncer at the club on his payroll for some other type work the bouncer was interested in.

Anyway, one night we are in this hot club and it is the birthday of my buddy's girlfriend. She's kind of a wild nut job, not exactly my style, but he has to deal with her not me. For her birthday party, the girlfriend invites about 10 other nut jobs. Not officially to any party, just to the club.

I am sort of aware of the situation and hang in another section of the club, not really participating with the "birthday celebration."

Comes closing time, my buddy's girlfriend's friends all head for the door, only a few paid their tabs. The remaining tab is thousands. My buddy is refusing to pay. The waitress is there, and a female manager is there. They bring up the "table" concept, even though most of those that skipped were at another table (though clearly all part of the same group). Finally the manager calls for the head of security (Unbeknownst to the manager, this is the guy my buddy has on his payroll).

The security guy comes and starts taking the side of my buddy to the total bewilderment of the manager. The security guard finally tells the manager that he knows one of the guys that skipped out and he will hunt him down and get the bill paid.

Forget trying to "explain basic contract liability". You have to understand power centers, especially when government is creating more and more of them.


  1. Yes, it's often about coercion and who has the bigger "club"...

  2. Interesting..

    I don´t know any bouncers in clubs..but keeping me on the windy side of human resources personnel in companies where you work is a good idea.

    Also, secretaries and personal assistants of the boss.

    And night guards.

  3. "And night guards..." Good point, just ask Gordon Liddy...!

  4. There really isn't much written about power centers and, in a sense, defacto owners. There should be more.