Recently, I was presented with the prospect of automatic enrollment into binding arbitration. Long, long story short, I was greatly displeased with the prospect. I even took steps to avoid it thinking that was the end of the matter. Things changed last night.
I was out somewhere and ran into someone from the past. A person who I greatly respect and who played an important part in my life a few years ago. I spoke to him about this subject. It was a timely conversation because he faces the same situation. Briefly, we spoke about it and something in his response gave me pause to consider. He had to leave to address a matter. I left the place where we had met and sat in a Taco Bell to eat and think on the encounter.
While I was eating, I was reading through the manual of a mobile hotspot I had picked up. My previous hotspot I really enjoyed but the service was unworkable in the city I found myself in. Reading the manual, the service provider stated that I would be automatically enrolled in binding arbitration per the terms of the service. I was shocked.
Life in the Modern World Implies Arbitration
I pondered this situation. Just the very act of getting cellular service, cellular calling, and cellular Internet removes from you a legal right you had since birth. These communication methods have become fundamental to getting work, contacting folks in an emergency, interacting with government services, and handling a range of matters of importance before we even touch entertainment, social media, and the like. You cannot escape arbitration.
Looking for Another Choice
The automatic arbitration in the mobile service agreement (prepaid, no-contract at that) bothered me. Then, I decided to go back to the store and get a different device that didn’t have this legal feature. Not a single one that I looked at from major providers came without binding arbitration. I then realized that both the previous devices I had used, a mobile hotspot and a flip phone, subjected me to arbitration without my consent. I could not avoid it. I was in it.
Reconsidering Arbitration Avoidance
I was 100% prepared in that other situation I spoke about in the beginning to make a decision to avert waiving rights I had under the US Constitution. Rights that I was born with. Unfortunately, my continued participation in modern life has made that impossible. Now, it would be hypocritical of me to act any different from my peers who decided that being governed under mandatory, binding arbitration was not a big deal.
Arbitration is a Fact of Life
A new realization has taken hold in my mind. I was raised in the Southern US many years ago to see my life as defined by the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution. To view citizenship in the traditional patriotic way of being free, having rights, and a government that ensures they are upheld. Loopholes were discovered in that social contract and the reality of citizenship is shifting in a direction that is not what it was. Those of us raised to see things differently, will simply have to adjust and move forward.
This matter changes people’s relationship with institutions. It changes what it means to be a participant in civil society. The list goes on. No, it doesn’t seem that way at first, but if the US Constitution is truly a guide for society, waiving your rights means that your standing in society does change. One day, that could be very important.