My mother called me a Prince.

But when I go to a car showroom, they treat me like a King! Isn’t that wonderful? In the age of free markets and shareholder rights, Customer is King and Greed is good. If this isn’t Utopia, what is?!?!

Not until after I peeped backstage, to see the very same companies run sweatshops in third world countries. The war cry is ‘Customer is King’ but the strategy could be on how to undercut small mom and pop shops that simply serve the local community. It is to use big money to ‘lobby’ with the government, if you know what I mean, so that they can sell data, upvote hatred and buy environmental degradation….all, of course, to serve the customer who is the King.

It seems to me that the customer is the King, but someone else is the Emperor. Much like the Kings appointed in Colonial India.

In reality the Customer is King slogan serves not the customer but the vendor. And it is very very very very important that as a consumer we learn to differentiate between a vendor and a Fiduciary.

A vendor provides us a service that offers us convenience for a price. The taxi service, the cell phone company, the local barber shop and even the seven-star hotel resort. It has got nothing to do with size or complexity. It is a plain give and take relationship. A Fiduciary, on the other hand, looks after our interest, typically for a price. Our teachers, doctors and trustees are Fiduciaries. They don’t provide convenience. They choose to shoulder a responsibility.

If we treat a fiduciary as a vendor, I would only pray that the Fiduciary doesn’t behave like one. We would treat our Fiduciaries as vendors only to the detriment of our own interest. I would stick my neck out to even say that a Fiduciary who treats us like a King, will behave like a vendor.

The difference between a vendor and a Fiduciary is obvious to the discerning. But to many simple people, including myself, it is very easy to get caught up into believing that being the ‘King’ is the right of the customer.

We know instinctively that our parents shouldered the responsibility of our well being. And fulfilling our wishes and fancies at the cost of our well being? They wouldn't even dream of doing that!! That is the easiest way for me to remember the difference. The difference between being a Prince and a King.

- Devang Shah

March 1, 2022

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