He bought a lemon, but can we squeeze out some “lost time” compensation for him?

By | March 14th, 2016

Nicholas Gerasimatos says he bought a “lemon” from a Jaguar Land Rover dealership recently. I’ll take him at his word.

But it’s not the car he needs help with; it’s the time he’s lost pursuing the claim. Can we help him get some compensation for that?

Gerasimatos’ case is resolved. The Jaguar Land Rover dealership agreed to buy the car back.

“But they are not willing to compensate me for hours lost at work and time spent traveling between dealers,” he says. The dealer also has refused to refund his first month’s vehicle payment.

Gerasimatos values his time at $2,450, which includes about $100 in expenses and 10 hours of his time. He lists his occupation as “cloud evangelist.” I want his job!

But his case raises a question that comes up all too often on this site: Should we be pursuing companies when their product causes someone to lose time?

In Gerasimatos’ case, he didn’t suffer any direct monetary losses, apart from $100 in unspecified expenses. Instead, he lost “employment time” – in other words, he paid an opportunity cost.

Some of you in the comments are probably snickering by now, but stay with me.

That phrase “opportunity costs” has come up on this site before. Airlines love to use it to justify sky-high fees. No, they say, it doesn’t actually cost $200 to change a ticket, but the fee covers our lost revenue opportunity.

Similarly, car rental companies impose a “loss of use” fee when you damage one of their vehicles. That covers the hypothetical revenue it could have earned on the vehicle, had it not been in the garage. No need to prove a customer actually wanted to rent that car – you’ll just have to take the rental company’s word for it.

Related story:   This Carnival cruise refund turned into a real circus

When you think about it, that makes about as much sense as a cloud evangelist charging for missed employment time.

But what if companies had to reimburse us for lost time just as we have to reimburse them? How would that work?

Actually, it might work great. Imagine how Gerasimatos’ Jaguar dealership might have changed its approach if it knew it would have to reimburse him for his lost employment time.

Maybe it would have come to an agreement sooner. Maybe it would have compensated him more generously. At the very least, it would have been more respectful of his time.

If corporate America can say we owe it for lost time, we should be able to say the same. And if we could, it might help more than the cloud evangelists of the world. It could do a world of good for the everyday consumers who have to stay home to wait for a technician to service a broken appliance, or the patients who are left waiting in the doctor’s office for hours while the MD finishes his round of golf.

That might be an interesting world.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to move Gerasimatos’ complaint into my “Case Dismissed” file, not because it’s unworthy, but because in today’s lightly regulated, reflexively pro-business environment littered with dangerous adhesion contracts, he has no case. But I dismiss it with a sense of optimism that someday, that could change.

Should companies compensate their customers for lost time?

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