Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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  1. #1 by Chuck Bibbiano on August 12, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    Thanks David

  2. #2 by Ron on August 12, 2014 - 8:28 pm

    There is still way too much talk of “what” Safelite should say or not say… When the real problem is they should not allow to talk to the customer AT ALL here. The conflict of interest is so obvious it is laughable (or else I would only cry as they put me out of business with their steering). ANY script in their hands can be delivered in a way that they successfully put doubt in the mind of the caller. A mere pause at the right moment, ” so, you are picking ____ shop- well, okay if that’s who you are settling on…” Nothing illegal but absolutely damaging to the shop ALREADY chosen…

  3. #3 by Daveycrewcut on August 13, 2014 - 2:44 am

    Other Hobson’s choices in our industry are called Offer & Acceptance Agreements as well as auto attendants advising consumers, “if your claim is for auto glass only, press 1.”

    -“Here is how much you can charge us, either accept it or else we will use our “Truthful” commercial free speech to cast aspersions on the business that you are working so hard to build.”

    “While you may choose -Safelite- any shop Safelite to repair your vehicle, the non-Safelite one you have Safelite chosen Safelite has not endorsed Safelite by signing the Safelite Network Participation Agreement thereby not agreeing to be told by Safelite how much Safelite allows them to charge you for the Safelite manufactured (reverse engineered) glass that Safelite prefers be installed in your vehicle, Safelite, Safelite Safelite. So do you still want to Safelite stay with the non-Safelite shop or can we schedule a Safelite appointment. Would you prefer Safelite to come on over to your house or maybe your place of business?”

  4. #4 by Donald Cotton on August 13, 2014 - 3:37 am

    Anytime Safelite asks your customer , while you are on the phone in a three way call, ” would you like to stay with the glass shop of your choice, or would you like us to find you one that has agreed to our prices”, that’s steering.

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