institutional inefficiency

  In economics we learned something called X-inefficiency. I have always marvelled at this phrase. Does X refer to the rating of a movie? Or maybe it’s a variable in a famous stochastic differential equation. Although I do not remember the exact pedantic definition, it roughly refers to inefficiency caused by the desire of the CEO to have vacations now and then. Well that’s perfectly reasonable and matter of fact might generate later efficiency in work. But here in Europe, in particular the lowly land called Netherlands (yes I am posed to deliver a grievance!), such euphoristic and idyllic efficiency does not exist, but is taken place of by something I would call institutional inefficiency. Roughly that is what often happens in america, except there you don’t always run into life-threatening situations.
  I had some intensive three hour lectures this morning, and was about to guzzle down some good ol’ eggs with ham sandwich at the dining hall. So I went straight to the meal ticket dispenser. I tried to buy a ten euro worth of ticket. I must pause to explain this monkey business first. What the Dutch refers to as Chipnick is nothing other than a little magnetic striped card that has 10 or 20 bucks in them. There is nothing advantageous about owning these cards, unlike credit card or debit card, or even library card. It’s a artificial barrier set up to tell you that money cannot always buy you food, especially when you need them. It’s that simple.
  Anyway I inserted my 10 euro bill in (to prevent fraud I pressed the button that says 10 several times before hand to make sure the most insensient machine will understand what I mean by that). Then I bent down to see if any card is coming out. And almost in a Deja Vu moment, I realized my deepest fear has come true. The lesson for not trusting European vending machine is 10 euro this time, as opposed to 1 pound in Heathrow airport when I tried to use the paid internet booth.
  Then I regretted for not paying attention to David’s outspoken fume at the Chipnicks last time we ate at the dining hall. A decent guy like him has even fancied of stealing food. Well he must have been through the same crucible as I did today, except maybe with a 20 euro bill.
  So as usual I resorted to the authority, which happens to be situated next door. The only catch is the authority seems to be run by two nonEnglish speaking Dutch, and I wasn’t even imaginative enough to try Chinese on them. Of course I can understand the difficulty in attaining a basic level of communication, but still I was quite disappointed because I thought an institution this big should at least hire someone who can well receive its more than 30 percent international students. (And I havne’t gotten used to the fact that European call their front desk personel janitors, I suppose they do some cleaning jobs as well).
  Of course, being Dutch, the janitor gave me a void promise saying he will be contacting the person in charge and tell me how to get refund. The most messed up part is that there is absolutely no proof I have inserted the 10 buck bill. It’s possible that the school has generated a good amount of "legal" revenue by putting its customers into this inextricable trap.

About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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