Unsigned Contracts, Good Luck Collecting

“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.” – Ronald Reagan

About a year ago I had a minor spat with a gym over a membership contract. Nobody in my family was really able to use the membership anymore so I figured I’d cancel it and save some money.

When I tried to cancel, I was informed that I could not. It appeared that the gym had a policy about automatic renewals. They sent a notice out at the renewal month indicating that, unless action was taken to cancel the membership they would renew the contract for another year. Apparently my month had just passed and I was on the hook for another 11 months … or so they thought.

I protested. They indicated that the contract was clear and that I had no basis. At this, I offered a simple proposition.

“If you can produce a contract with my signature on it agreeing to these terms then I’ll gladly pay every penny. If not, I want the membership cancelled.”

A few days later I got a call back. They couldn’t find a contract (I knew they wouldn’t be able to), and my membership was cancelled.

Tricky thing about money you’re owed. When it comes right down to it, if they don’t actually owe you the money by any defensible contractual agreement then you may not be able to collect.

It want seems like perfect timing, the debt-ceiling debate has taken a turn to saber rattling. The president today dropped the Social Security bomb. He indicated that, if the debt-ceiling is not raised, the Social Security checks may not be coming out.

He might be right. Even if he is, the checks will go out at some point. My suspicion is that the limit will be raised at some point and the checks will then go out. But someday they’ll stop …

Question: who owes Social Security recipients their checks?

Retirees will claim that they are owed their checks by virtue of past contributions to the system. That is the deal. You pay in your entire working life and then you get some out when you retire.

But this means that current workers owe you the money. When did they agree to this? Where’s the contract?

OK, I hear you. We live in a representative democracy. We elect leaders who have the right to make agreements (such as this) for us. It’s a legitimate argument, I suppose.

Question: what about those who can’t vote, or weren’t even alive when the deal was made?

Debts are being agreed-to on behalf of people who can’t vote, people who aren’t even born yet. You see where this goes, right? Promises are being made on behalf of those who have no representation, no ability to sign a contract.

Someday, somebody might protest …

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