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Dealing with bureaucracy – covert tactics  RSS feed

 
gardener
Posts: 7505
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Quite often I have found myself at odds with petty bureaucrats. These have been mostly bylaw enforcement officials and others who sought to prevent me from making a living in the recycling business. Although I don't generally lie to everyone I meet, when I'm dealing with these officials I consider mostly what they want to hear rather than the facts of the matter. In my case I'm not doing anything wrong but quite often what I'm doing is illegal. Generally my bureaucratic problems revolve around the fact that I make my living from a giant yard sale where I sell recycled building components that would otherwise go to the dump, so I have the moral high ground.  Quite often there is is a rule against posting handwritten signs advertising yard sales and other events. At other times I've been told by various suits that I shouldn't be recycling anything from the project because it gives me an unfair advantage over other bidders who must pay to dump all of the building components.

    I have a standard procedure which I follow whenever confronted with one of these people. When a bylaw official comes by to tell me that I'm not allowed to place signs I follow this procedure.  1. I make myself unavailable, pretending to be absent and allow my helper to receive the stern warning. Eventually he will return to see why I haven't complied and I claim to have not gotten the message.  2.  After meeting the official I try to negotiate some sort of middle ground where I move the signs further from the roadside etc. If this fails, I feign compliance by nodding and agreeing but then I take my sweet time and never get around to removing all of the signs. Sometimes this results in a return visit and the threat of a fine in which case I take down all of my signs. More often it results in a city crew grabbing all of my signs. They are written and scrap wood and drywall so I simply paint up more to replace them. This saves dumpage cost.  3. In some cases it becomes clear that they are bent on enforcement so I remove all of my signs but by this time I've already established a loyal customer base in that neighborhood. I continue selling product without signs posted. Then on the final weekend of the job I blitz the neighborhood with more signs than I had before but don't get them up until 4 PM on Friday. These signs advertise the end of the project and the fact that there are many deals to be had. I clean them up on Monday morning after all of my junk has been sold and declare myself the winner. I've done this dozens of times and never actually paid a fine for unauthorized signs

    When I first started in the demolition/salvage business a highway bypass was being built around the city of Nanaimo BC. Hundreds of buildings were demolished or removed. A group of three suits from the highways department stopped by to inform me that I was not allowed to recycle and sell products from this project since that would give me an unfair advantage over competitors who munch the houses and pay $100 per ton to dump them. I told him that I was not willing to stop and that if they wanted to this could become a media event. I let them know that I was willing to be arrested or fined or whatever else they had in mind and that only my incarceration would prevent me from continuing. I then told them that if any of that should come to pass I would pay them each back individually tenfold. I'm not a very scary looking guy but they were right to believe me and I never heard from them again.

    I hope my days of battling sissies are over but if they give me trouble while I'm developing my land I will employ various tactics to get them out of my way. Since I only plan to do safe and environmentally sound things to my land my primary tactic will be to publicize any problem brought on by officialdom.

  Tell us what you've done when dealing with unreasonable laws which restrict your activities.
 
Posts: 243
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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dale hodgins wrote:
     When I first started in the demolition/salvage business a highway bypass was being built around the city of Nanaimo BC. Hundreds of buildings were demolished or removed. A group of three suits from the highways department stopped by to inform me that I was not allowed to recycle and sell products from this project since that would give me an unfair advantage over competitors who munch the houses and pay $100 per ton to dump them.



Since when has good business sense ever been an unfair advantage??

Fortunately I've not run up against any real bureaucracy (yet)!
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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My goodness!  You're destroying the economy.  How can the big box store survive selling $100 doors when you are selling used ones for $10?

If everybody did what you are doing, they would probably have to lay off some people at the local landfill.  It wouldn't get filled 'on time', thus ruining their plans on opening a new one elsewhere.

You are providing a good public service though...if the bureaucrats didn't have you to mess with, they'd have to find some other citizen to hassle.  LOL
 
Dale Hodgins
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    Sometimes I do a smokescreen routine. I give them something very obvious to bitch about and while they're busy dealing with that I do the thing that I'm really concerned with behind their backs. This is is a tactic I've used for various inspectors. Leave an obvious hazard or minor violation in plain view and they almost always go for the bait and don't investigate further.
 
pollinator
Posts: 10116
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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dale hodgins wrote:
Tell us what you've done when dealing with unreasonable laws which restrict your activities.




I'm fortunate to be unaware of any unreasonable laws which might restrict my activities.  So I suppose my response is "I ignore them." 

 
gardener
Posts: 854
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Sometimes I love living out in the "boonies"
I've spent the last month making a sunroom out of my porch and building a greenhouse in the front yard- using 90% recycled lumber, windows, doors, etc.

I have no permits nor did I ask for them.
So basically my method for dealing with bureaucrats is don't tell them!.
If I was building a house I couldn't get away with that method even here though...



 
Posts: 113
Location: Hatfield, PA
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dale hodgins wrote:
    Sometimes I do a smokescreen routine. I give them something very obvious to bitch about and while they're busy dealing with that I do the thing that I'm really concerned with behind their backs. This is is a tactic I've used for various inspectors. Leave an obvious hazard or minor violation in plain view and they almost always go for the bait and don't investigate further.



Lol, sounds like you have amateur bureaucrats! Here in "The City", they take the time to find everything you've done wrong. I've got to get out of here.

Keep up the good work!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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CrispyCritter wrote:
If I was building a house I couldn't get away with that method even here though...



You're not far enough out in the boonies, I guess! 
 
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I routinely, and with great relish, ignore idiotic laws. So often what is right/moral or simply reasonable is the exact opposite of what's 'legal'. I have no problem whatsoever tricking or lying to the morons who try to inforce said idiotic laws.

Happily, where I now live there is a minimum of such foolishness and even the local bureacrats have been known to turn a blind eye on stupidness handed down from state or fed clowns.
 
                              
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Because the salaries and promotion prospects of officials working in large bureaucracies seldom depend upon measurable success or efficiency by the organization in achieving its larger goals (which are often especially difficult to measure in government agencies and other non-profit oriented organizations that lack a clear “bottom line”) and because any departure from established routines always requires permission from remote higher levels of the hierarchy, large bureaucratic organizations tend to be very slow and cumbersome in making important policy decisions (the “buck-passing” phenomenon) and are especially dull-witted in recognizing and responding to the consequences of major changes in economic, social and technological conditions and circumstances outside the organization itself.
 
Dale Hodgins
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    I use this lag time /inaction period my advantage. Officials are accustom to seeing people jump when they make some pronouncement. I find when things aren't going their way they often try to pass the problem off on someone else. All of this takes time and on most of my projects I only need a two-week window. By the time they've figured out what to do with me, I'm done.
 
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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I'm fond of talking their ear off, show them a bunch of stuff and ask their advice about the best way to deal with their coworkers or competing departments about it, often I seem to be able to make building inspectors forget about what they came to check up on.
 
John Polk
steward
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"My lawyer told me..." is a phrase that will usually scare off the low-middle level flunkies.
At least it might give you time to re-group.  Most at that level have no concept of the law, nor do they want to get involved with anything that might have a negative impact on their job security.

"If you can't find a lawyer that knows the law...find one that knows the judge."
 
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I Like this topic!

One method that has proven itself effective and valuable with most bureaucrats, police, and any other public servant wanting to poke into my personal affairs is to keep everything in two binders in sheet protectors. One for in my vehicle, one for home. - This is about the one kept in the vehicle...

Perfect example: Once upon a time, my Headlights had a problem where I could only use my high-beams.
Cars would flash me of course, and I could not properly respond, as doing so would actually cause my lights to go black. One of those cars happened to be a Sheriff, who pulled me over.
When he asked for 'my papers' (Registration, etc.) I started leafing through the sheet protector pages of my notebook, which held all kinds of official though mostly unimportant papers, until I came to the pages with my registration, insurance, a photocopy of my title, etc. etc. I make sure those are about in the middle of the pages specifically so the official gets the idea not only that "My papers are in order", but that I am someone who has their act together, knows what they are doing, and is prepared.
The officer started off with an attitude, and I could not blame him, he wanted to tell me off - but seeing  my binder as it was, he immediately changed his demeanor to "Oh crap, I don't want to deal with this..." and instead of telling me off or giving me the expected fix-it ticket (This was in the Bureaucratic Dictatorship of California) He just said "Oh, just get the damned things fixed, ok?"
Yes, sir, I will do - and I was on my way again.

Bureaucrats are used to two main kinds of people: Hostile, who will give them lip and no respect, and mostly helpless, easily intimidated people who can easily be walked all over.
Someone who comes off as intelligent, yet very politely spoken and seemingly, almost deceptively "Understanding", who have their papers in order and on hand, in sheet protectors - that pops them right out of their comfort zone, with no basis to treat them as a 'hostile'.
What really puts the gold crown on it, is if you can convincingly come off as someone who is secretly thinking to themselves "Poor bastard, he doesn't know what he's in for"...



 
John Abacene
Posts: 114
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-Also, one very handy addition to the non-physical arsenal of bureaucratic self-defense is knowing what causes them perceived pain.

#1: Find out what would lead to them having to do a lot of paperwork to deal with you, but which conversely would not really do much about you, making it also a futile and unpleasant waste of their time.  Paperwork is pain and hell to them, it is the cross before a vampire.

#2: Finding questions they should know the answer to, but do not, because you purposely sought out an important sounding issue that they almost never have to deal with.

#3. Finding out about any errors or blunders they have committed in the past, and eloquently causing them to remember them without actually directly bringing it up - or seeming to at least.

#4: If you have to resort to the 'nuclear option', (and this does take a certain amount of skill) You politely say just the right things to really piss them off, without giving them any cause against you.
If you can do so, the procedure is:
(A) Push them and piss them off until they say something stupid.
(B) Then use that against them, push them and piss them off even more, until they say or do something really stupid that can actually get them into serious trouble.
(C) Then use that to either in their own mind effectively blackmail them into just wanting to stay the hell away from you, or leave you alone as much as they possibly can, or to actually get them into a lot of trouble, having the same result, and giving you basis and cause for legal maneuvers.

Not only have I used these tactics effectively time and time again (only when they are intent on causing me problems), but I have also told off Judges in their own Court, and made Policemen actually afraid of me for reasons they, themselves cannot even understand, and I am still around, still have a clean record, and have been sweetly victorious on a number of occasions.

 
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