Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mandated Business Expenses

Here in Texas the Department of Public Safety – Private Security Board (DPS/PSB) has a strangle hold on the Security Industry, which includes the Locksmith industry of which I’ve been an active participant since 1976.   Once the industry became licensed and under the control of the DPS/PSB interesting things started to happen to the once free market system; mandated insurance policies tied to the ability to maintain an active locksmith license, mandated continuing education requirements to maintain the treasured license and other not so minor expenses.

While listening to Pandora Radio on my computer I happened to hear an advertisement for a local security alarm company.  I didn’t mind the intrusions of an advertisement here and there since Pandora is a free application and plays a selection of tunes which, for the most part, fit within the genre I’ve selected. 

But, getting back to the topic of mandated business expenses, this particular advertisement started off with several seconds devoted to expressing the Security Alarm company’s DPS/PSB license number.  While it’s nice to let the public know that your company is reputable, bonded and licensed; is the listening public really interested in the recorded number that’s on file with the State of Texas?

I don’t know how much the company is charged to have their advertisement on Pandora or any other radio station; but you can bet it isn’t free.  Any amount of time spent for air time has to be carefully and strategically plotted to get the most “bang for the buck”; so why would they waste precious air time on a “B” number?

I’ll save you the trouble of figuring it out; the DPS/PSB has mandated that any and all forms of advertising MUST have the security company’s “B” number included.  This mandate applies to work order forms, statements, business cards, service trucks that display the company name and of course, radio or television advertisements. 

When this mandate first came out I had my local printer make a rubber stamp which permitted me to insert my “B” number on all my work orders.  I had to have all new business cards printed anyway so the added expense was already planned for. 

There was a “stutter step” mandate from the DPS/PSB, for lack of a better way of explaining another DPS/PSB mandate which originally stated that ALL service vehicles would be required to display their “B” number on both sides of the service vehicle along with their telephone number.  The mandate was written in such a way as to dictate the size of the numbers and letters.   When I say there was a stutter step; the DPS/PSB issued the mandate and sent it out via the local locksmith association (GHLA and TLA); but then rescinded the mandate almost immediately.

I’d already complied by purchasing two large magnetic signs which would have been placed on the outside panels of my service truck.  I think it cost me about $120; but you do what you have to do to work within the framework provided.  Once the mandate was rescinded I was stuck with two magnetic signs that I didn’t want on the outside of my service truck.  Instead of throwing them in the garage to collect dust I placed them on the inside of the panels so that the only time they’d be visible to the public was when I was stopped and working with the panels opened up.

One reason I don’t like having advertizing on the side of my service vehicle is knowing that there are certain folks who prey on unsuspecting businesses by targeting them for traffic accidents and the related insurance claims for sore backs, whiplash or mental anguish.  The money involved is fairly large and often claims are settled out of court to avoid expensive legal fees.  No thank you, I’ll continue to zip in and out of traffic without placing a target on my service truck.

A fellow locksmith and member of Society of Professional Locksmiths sent me an interesting legal decision regarding the Dental Industry which could easily be applied to the Security or Locksmith Industries.  In essence the 4th Circuit Court ruled that the Board Members of the Dental Industry had created rules and regulations which limited the ability of individual to compete within the industry.  The Federal Trade Commission had filed the brief on behalf of individuals who had been “shut out” of their field of practice through biased board members who also had plenty at stake in cornering the market.

“The FTC focused on the need to assure that such an “entity’s decision-making process was sufficiently independent from the interests of those being regulated.”


‘“We are pleased that the 4th Circuit agreed that a state regulatory board dominated by self-interested private actors cannot shield its anti-competitive conduct from antitrust review using the state-action doctrine,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement.”

If you went back through the history of how the Locksmith Industry got hog tied into being licensed here in Texas you’d find a powerful competitor at the root of it all; the Alarm Services Industry that didn’t want locksmiths cutting in on any of their action.  It was the intent of the Alarm Services Industry to push through a piece of legislation which would place locksmiths under the direct control of the DPS/PSB, which just happened to be controlled entirely by the Alarm Services Industry; imagine that.

To this day there are no locksmiths on the DPS/PSB; but one position has been promised according to the latest legislative news.  The problem with having the DPS/PSB create rules and regulations for any industry is how such rules generally impact the free market system with unintended consequences.  We area being told giving up a little liberty will insure the safety of the buying public; which flies in the face of wisdom shared many years ago.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Ben Franklin

Government involvement in private industry is Always a mistake.  What’s the term in the military; oh I remember now, SNAFU.  I guess I should get back to enjoying my Sunday afternoon music; a little Gershwin should do the trick.

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