Are Your Default Choices Costing You More Than You Think?

I just read this article about drivers on the Tobin bridge. There are still 28% of the drivers who do not have the E-ZPass, to pay the automated tolls.

I got my pass at least ten years ago, back when it cost me $20 to buy a transponder. It was worth it. My time, to avoid the toll lines, was worth the money. I chose to automate. In case you are wondering, you can use the E-ZPass all over the toll roads in New England, and—I believe—wherever there is a toll road in the US. Don’t quote me on this, because I haven’t done the research. But in New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York,  these states have reciprocal agreements with the E-ZPass. In this case, it’s worth automating. Your time is literally worth the money.

Not all automation is worth it. For example, I bake my own baked goods. Partly because I low carb, and what I can buy that I am willing to eat is too processed, too expensive, and frankly, what I cook tastes better. The time I invest is worth it. Yes, even with my vertigo. I choose to not automate my baking.

But, I want to consider the value of my time against the value of the end product. Will I receive the value that is worth my time investment?

We think about this a lot when we think about test automation, certainly at the system test level. You have to think hard about when is the right time to automate a test, and where. I say, automate everything underneath the GUI. I know, not all of you will agree with me. So be it.

But what about at a personal level? What is the cost of automating your gutter cleaner? How about your electronic toll paying? How about having your house cleaned for you? That is a form of automation.

I’ve automated part of my backup strategy. I have an automated backup that backs up to a site on the internet whenever I’m connected to the net (Backblaze). I don’t have to think about my backups.

Once you do the hard work of automation, it works for you repeatedly. It’s the decision and setup that’s difficult.

Not making the decision is a decision. And, that is the problem. If you have a default mode of not making a decision, you might never automate.

I wonder about those people who drive the Tobin Bridge, day after day, who don’t have an E-ZPass. Oh, sure, some of them might be from out of town. Maybe some of them are car rentals, where the rental agencies want an arm and two legs, and maybe somebody else’s first born child as a deposit just so you can pay the toll. It might be easier to see if you can skip on not paying the toll. Or see if you can pay cash.

But, I bet a bunch of those people just haven’t made the decision. “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” “Maybe someday.” “I’m kinda busy.”

It’s a default choice to do nothing.

So, I spent $20 a decade ago, to not have to wait in line at the tolls. I have more than made that return by not having to think about cash for the tolls, by not having to think about the problem. I have prevented this problem from occurring.

I have prevented the backup problem from occurring. I have risk insurance if my hard drive dies. I hope I never need it. But if I do? I have it.

When we solve problems, we don’t always solve a problem that occurs right now. Sometimes we solve problems that have not occurred yet. We manage risks that might happen.

When we don’t think ahead—just a little—and make the same default choices, they can cost more than we think. We don’t automate. We don’t manage risks. We don’t give ourselves choices. We just take the same old ways, the same defaults that we always have been.

Gentle readers, this week’s question of the week is: What are your default choices? Have they cost you more than you think?

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