Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Triumph; Defined (or: Don't Mess with Greg or it Will Cost You Millions!--this one suggested by the man himself:)

If you don't know about Greg's sense of, and quest for, justice, then that probably means you have never met him. He stands up for the cause of justice all the time. Not just for himself, but for society in general. Like a good wife, I always stand behind him. Sometimes, like a bad wife, I stand way behind him in hopes that no one will know we're together. But almost always I agree with and support him.

A few months ago we were on our way from Katowice to Krakow to go to an important, church related dinner. There is a toll freeway running between these cities that makes it faster to get there (it takes about an hour). You pay about 3 dollars when you get on and 3 dollars when you get off. This particular day there was TONS of construction. There's always construction and the traffic is directed to the other side of the freeway now and again so that it becomes a much slower moving 2 lane highway, which makes us mad that we have to pay for it. But THIS time traffic was crawling at a snail's pace. It took us about 2 HOURS to get across that freeway. It was two hours full of us not believing it. We were listening to the radio and lots of people called in to tell what a scandal it was, the traffic on that stretch of "free"way (and how they were going to miss a wedding or their daughter's birthday party because of it). Greg called in as well and encouraged other drivers to refuse to pay at the exit gate.

When we got the exit gate I was astonished to see people giving MONEY to these thieves (THEY should have been bringing out baked goods and apologizing to all the exasperated drivers)! Greg parked our car at the gate (there are lots of gates) and refused to pay. They wouldn't let us through, of course, so Greg asked to speak to a manager or something. The security that is always there came and talked to Greg for awhile. We were there holding up traffic with people having to try to get out of line behind us etc. for about a half an hour. Some people yelled at us to pay the stupid money and let everyone through. Some people got out of their cars (like Greg) to talk to Greg and the security guards and give them a piece of their minds--agreeing with Greg. Because causing a ruckus was not our only goal, we continued to refuse to pay. That meant that the police would have to come and get Greg's information, since, if he went through without paying he would be breaking the law and he would have to go to court. None of Greg's sympathizers agreed to take out their IDs. In the end they just paid and went through. (I felt like telling everyone--since everyone coming up to that gate was angry about the condition on that freeway--that the freeway owners were making idiots of us all! It seemed that if instead of demanding money of us, they asked us to get up on our cars and jump up and down like monkeys people would do it, just to finally be through).

Just our luck that there happened to be a newspaper reporter going through around this time. He paid, got through the gate, parked somewhere on the other side and came back with his notebook to get some information for an article that he would write. It was an online article about Greg's rebellion and there was a survey along with it, "are drivers justified in not paying the toll" 3500 people answered and 96% of them thought Greg was in the right (I bet if they'd been there they would've paid anyway!).

So the freeway company sued Greg for not paying (all this for 3 dollars!) and Greg filed a counter suit (of course) which was in process until...

Yesterday that same reporter called to tell us that the freeway company was being fined by the government and that they were required to lower the toll until the freeway is actually running as it should with no construction.

Today, we read the article about it and find out that when the local government of Krakow heard about about Greg's rebellion they sued the company. It has been charged with the crime of demanding payment from customers (when they were not providing the service people were expected to pay for)!! They have been fined 1.3 million zlotys (besides having to lower the toll)! This is a direct result of my amazing husband standing up for the cause of justice!

And we made it to our dinner a little late, but VERY hungry!
You may not be able to read the articles but they have pictures of the freeway and exit gates--none of Greg, though.


jonesfamily said...

Maybe Greg is in the wrong profession! Has he ever considered law school or politics? And THIRDLY, how much of that millions goes to Greg for his time and effort?

And CUTE layout!

Jackie said...

Very inspiring! You go Greg! And the wonderful woman who, in this case, stood by his side ;)

Love your blog!

Susan said...

Wow! I know I shouldn't be surprised, since, indeed I do know Greg, but STILL! His name was all over in those articles, if not his picture. Great post, Lisa, and way to change the world, Greg!

Erin said...

I enjoyed the articles and could easily picture Greg in this position: polite, firm, unrelenting. I am not surprised in the least by his stance here.

I must say that on first blush I sided with the 4% who felt that a toll should be paid regardless, because tolls pay for construction to make better roads. I know that this road has to be improved for the European Soccer Championships, and I presumed that this was simply a nuisance to be endured for a better road in the future: obstructed use today would pay for smooth sailing on six lanes tomorrow. But on reading Greg's comments, I understand his perspective: a private firm took out a bid to do a job, continues to charge its users for said service, and is plainly not performing the service adequately for the users. The second article pointed out that the company's improvements are way overdue. In this regard, it seems that the company is patently negligent.

As a final devil's advocate observation, however, I'd at least like to ask: is the company to blame for Poland's woefully inadequate infrastructure, borne of a society rapidly transitioning from one with few cars (under communism) to the conditions today, when car ownership is much higher?


Lisa said...

Nathan-We travel this road very often and have always paid (it's been under contstruction for YEARS--as in 4, probably). We are thankful it exists.

Certainly this company is not to blame for inadequate infrastructure in Poland! The problem is, one would hope that such a company would be part of the solution instead of a) not really being part of the solution b)causing new problems in the meantime and c) making it more likely that as more and more freeways will be built in the future that will run through numerous villages, towns and cities, people who have had a negative experience with this one will more likely be against having a freeway built near them, making it ever harder to get things going here in Poland.

This company has steadily increased the toll over the years. I think it's double what it was a few years ago. I would be very interested to find out how much income they have off the tolls, and what they have spent on construction (but not interested enough to do any real research into it!:)

As far as paying the toll because that's what will finish the construction, imagine eating at your favorite restaurant (and the only place that people could eat at) and being served a pbj sandwich instead of your favorite filet mignon, but paying the price of the filet. This, because there was not enough good food, and they had to buy more. This scenario continues for your next 50 meals, and sometimes you wait 30 minutes for them to bring you your sandwich. Is this okay, because they have o get more food with your money? There's something very wrong there. The freeway had been operating for years previous to this construction. They were making mountains of money on tolls before they started this construction.

You can see (with this last example and the jumping monkey example in the post) that I am very good at providing intelligent and accurate comparisons :)

Greg's quest is to help Poland not only develop in terms of economy and modernization, but to improve the quality of the services provided as well. He makes sure to let store/restaurant managers know about any exceptionally good or poor service by their employees in hopes that one day people will understand that happy customers RETURN! This freeway company could at least have seemed apologetic for the terrible delays on those days that are the very worst. Even if you can't provide the desired service, anybody can find ways to keep the customer satisfied. That's what it's all about.

Anonymous said...

yeah! Same with trams, busses and stuff... they should pay us for sing trams that the drivers smoke in...

Nathan said...

So the construction company, instead of doings its work expeditiously, seems instead to be operating like a medieval lord, collecting the toll as a source of income with little pretext of actually managing the resource. I pictured this upon completing the second article. My already overlong comment above had an observation about their abysmal customer relations skills. I cut it! Greg is essentially calling them out for treating the road as a sinecure rather than a responsibility.

Polandian said...

Cool. My girlfriend was actually telling me about this the other day. Great to hear the inside story!