Sunday, March 25, 2012

Congressional hearing

For the record, I'm Congressman Weal, and today's investigative subcommittee hearing is regarding the high cost of marine electronics repairs. There has been an overwhelming number of letters from my constituents complaining about the gross, and flagrant billing costs by marine professionals, and our job is to get down to the nitty gritty of this onerous situation.

I have before me a letter from a Mr. Berlusconi describing exactly this problem, and offering the entire committee the opportunity to spend a week on his boat doing the peoples hard work of reviewing his extensive maintenance records, We took him up on his offer, and frankly we were aghast at the costs the poor man was billed.

I want to assure all Americans that not a single dime of taxpayer's money was spent during this important, and difficult investigative trip. I think it may be time to consider some greater regulation of this obviously out of control industry. We have testifying before us Mr. Installer, a purported expert in the repair of marine electronics. It is unfortunate that we had to subpoena Mr. Installer to appear today, but we felt that his claims about not being able to afford to fly here were spurious to say the least. I would like to turn the first five minute questioning period over to my esteemed, but somewhat misguided colleague Congressman Fester.

Thank you my good, but ideologically deluded friend for the introduction. Just for the record, I don't think that there is any role for gummit regulation in this matter at all, especially for people that own boats, or anyone else period.

I was only on one once, and that was during our investigative trip. If you want to own a floating hotel, that is your business, not the gummit's. Mr. Installer, just to get a feel for the important things here, are you an American, and did you bring your birth certificate with you to prove it? I'm concerned that these claims of over billing might actually be caused by illegal aliens.

Thank you Congressman Fester for the question. Yes I'm an American, no I didn't bring my birth certificate with me, but I was carefully checked out by building security before I could get in here, and I don't think illegal aliens are a problem here.

Thank you, Mr. Installer, we'll take your word for this now, but my staff will be checking on this. Do you think this industry is over regulated by the gummit, and why does the gummit's blatant radical socialized agenda cause over billing?

Thank you Congresman Fester, and my answer is no and what? There is little regulation, if any at all, but there are professional standards we use. 

Thank you for that answer Mr. Installer, but isn't "Standards" really a code word for gummit regulation and interference? My time is now up, but I can see that we are quickly getting down to the core of this matter now. I'd like to now turn the questioning over to my revered, but sadly disinformed compatriot Congressman Carbuncle.

Thank you my most excellent demagogic ally, I'l get right down to business. Mr. Installer, I see on page 629 of your answers to our committee, that it took you seven trips to a boat to repair a black box. It sure sounds like you were milking your customer to death. Can you elaborate on this? 

Yes Congressman Carbuncle, I think I can. The real problem is that it can be very difficult to tell what's really wrong in a lot of cases with a black box device. If you are lucky, there will be an LED to tell you it has power, or not. There may be, software issues, communication glitches, the device that is listening to the black box has become deaf, bad antennas, and possibly cables. You just don't have good tools to tell what is happening.

In this case, communications would intermittently start and stop. The first trip, I saw the problem. Sometimes a software upgrade will fix this problem, and I tried to do an upgrade on the second trip, but it wouldn't work. On the third trip, I used a different version of the software, and the system saw it, but it wouldn't upgrade itself. On the fourth trip, I brought another black box, but it did the same thing, and while I was there I took the box out, and shipped it in for repair.

The manufacturer indeed found that the box had a CPU problem, and a new unit was purchased for a discounted price, and shipped back to me. On the fifth trip, the new box was installed and worked dockside while I was there, but the same problem later reappeared. On the sixth trip, I bypassed a communication box, and connected the black box directly to the chartplotter, and it appeared to work, but I let it run for 24 hours to verify good operation. On the seventh trip it was still working and a cable coupler was installed.

So let me summarize the basic expenses. Seven trips at 1.5 hours per round trip equals 10.5 travel hours. Add to that an hour on the boat each time for another 7 hours. Then add an additional hour to write a letter, go to UPS and have it packed and shipped. That brings the total labor time spent to 18.5 hours @ $70.00 per hour for a total labor bill of $1295.00. Two gallons of gas per trip at $4.00 per gallon equaled another $56.00. UPS packing and freight was 26.00. My final bill to the client was 3 hours labor for a total of $210.00 plus the actual hardware cost with no mark up. Subtract the gas cost of $56.00 from that and you end up with a net of $154.00 Divide that by 18.5 hours, and the effective billing rate was about $8.32 per hour. I could have worked at Wallymart as a greeter for the same wage, and it would have been easier work.

My point Congressman Carbuncle is often there are few diagnostic tools to tell you what's wrong with a black box. A LED that balefully winks, or not at you, your voltmeter telling you that it has Mr. Electricity or not, and maybe the chartplotter can tell you it sees the box are often the only clues you get, if even those. Truth be told, nine times out of ten, I get it right the first time, but that tenth one....  

Thank you Mr. Installer for that answer, I'm not sure I followed all that complex math, but you seem to be forthright to me. With my time more than expired, I would like to pass the baton to my fine old and injudicious companion Congressman Furuncle.

Thank you Mr. Installer, that was a most enlightened explanation of the issues, and I think this is a cry in the dark for installer justice, and a call for greater governmental participation for the better good of all proletarians who are being forced to work for substandard wages for the one percent. Have you considered joining with your comrades and forming a union Mr Installer?

Ah, no Congressman Furuncle, I'm very busy, and generally most times things go well, and I always try to be fair when I bill. Speaking of which, who here gets my bill for two days of travel, air tickets, one day of testimony and my per diem expenses?

As committee chairman I think this is excellent time to conclude this hearing, and to thank Mr. Installer for his time. I would like to remind committee members about meeting together soon to further investigate these critical matters again on Mr. Berlusconi's boat. I think with our new information, we shall be better able to serve the peoples needs. 

The LED photo was taken by Wikipedia user George Shulkin, this is often about the only diagnostic tool you get.

1 comment:

  1. You will be hearing from my attorneys.


    Mr. Berlusconi


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