The other day I went through a drive-through window at a fast food restaurant. I made my order through the crappy intercom set-up, was handed my bag of food by a disinterested teenager at the window, and drove back on to the interstate — only to learn that the restaurant had screwed up my order. Arrgh!
Everyone who has ever bought goods has probably experienced the sensation of being ripped off. It’s an old complaint — in fact, as old as commerce itself.
This point was driven home by a 4000-year-old Babylonian tablet found in the British Museum — a tablet that is, in its entirety, a complaint about bogus business practices. A merchant, Nanni, is upset because Ea-nasir cheated him in a transaction for copper ingots. Ea-nasir, the charlatan, promised high-quality ingots, delivered crappy ones, and kept Nanni’s money nevertheless. Nanni was upset — so upset that he hired a scribe who prepared the complaint tablet. Why did Ea-nasir keep the tablet so that it survived for 4,000 years? Who knows? Maybe conniving bastard got a chuckle out of the sense of utter powerlessness that radiates through poor Nanni’s predicament, even to someone reading the message after the passage of millennia.
What really bothered Nanni is what really bothers those of us who get screwed in our business dealings: he felt that he was being treated with contempt. And he was!