Original concept and co-writing by Techdirt community member Nick Dynice.
This holiday season many lawyers, executives, lobbyists, and politicians will have their relatives, friends, and family members stay in their households. With the economy slumping, some out-of-town visitors can't afford to stay at hotels. When money is tight, these visitors know they can count on the hospitality of family and friends, who will welcome them in with open arms and good cheer.
However, these hosts need to remain vigilant and avoid being swept up in the general goodwill of the holiday season. In the rose-colored fog of the Christmas-to-New Year's festivities, it's easy for these situations to get out of hand. Guests have a tendency to get too
comfortable very quickly and before you realize it, it's nearly February and a variety of house guests have begun to refer to you as "Dad" or "Grandpa" and you're on the hook for video rentals, dry cleaning bills and dental appointments. Your vehicle is now referred to as the "family car" (often by non-family members), your house has become a combination day care/animal shelter and your walk-in closet is now home to a family of Guatemalan refugees.
What starts as selfless "giving" swiftly becomes one-sided "taking." These interlopers are not only stealing the relatively priceless* time of their hosts, but also their unbillable goodwill. While "goodwill" would seem to be in infinite supply during the latter part of December, the available supply dwindles at a rate inversely proportionate to the number of hours the "family car" has been missing.
*Not actually "priceless." Billing for used time runs anywhere from $400/hr. [lawyers] to $55,000/hr. [executives] to $20+ billion/hr. [politicians]
The result of this goodwill "piracy" is nothing short of tragic. As time and goodwill are swiftly "stolen" by house guests, the host's direct family often finds itself having to do without. At best, they can only hope to have a few moments between meals and Immigration raids to angrily discuss efforts to block the rogue infringers, perhaps by seizing the guest bedroom and posting a sternly-worded warning on the door.
Fortunately, someone is doing something about this rampant thievery, and by "something," we mean making concerned noises and crafting acronyms. Harry Herman, chairman of PARFF (People Against Rude Family and Friends) noted that theft of hospitality is causing an estimated $300 million in losses to American families, resulting in fewer presents and lower quality meals.
"And that's just the stuff we can quantify," Herman said. "We have also noticed a distinct decline in the 'quality' of 'quality time' spent with originating family members as overstaying guests continue to erode the remaining goodwill. Did you know that 1 out of 10 'tweens' will be expected to cobble together an understanding of the 'birds and bees' using only 1970s back issues of National Geographic and filtered Cinemax? And that 4 out of 10 children under the age of 10 will spend nearly 400 hours over the holiday season being raised by the internet? It makes you fear for the future of humanity."
Chris Dolt, spokesperson for the AIL (Anti Infringement League) adds:
"The encroachment of friends and family during the holidays is the true Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Some of January. These infringing 'guests' are as much a threat to family harmony as the VCR is to the woman home alone. It starts out with too much bourbon-spiked eggnog and before you know it, Uncle Joe has committed 'goodwill' robbery in broad daylight, briefly aligning himself with the protesters uptown by hanging an '#Occupy The Robertson's' sign on the den wall before passing out under the Christmas tree. Industry estimates have concluded that hosting rarely-seen family members during the holiday season is equivalent to removing two presents from under the Christmas tree and throwing them into the fireplace."
"Not to sound heartless, especially during this joyous time of the year, but when it comes to 'goodwill infringement,' there are no 'innocent' infringers. Uncle Joe may claim that his drunken antics are a 'victimless' crime, but sooner or later, the hosts will find their previously innocent children raiding the liquor cabinet to spice up their Nesquik. The best choice is to take action against the infringer as quickly and harshly as possible. For the well-being of all involved, your best bet is to throw Uncle Joe into the fireplace, thus returning the 'goodwill' back to the long-suffering hosts, who can now observe first-hand that the uncle that is twice as drunk burns half as long. For more handy tips, please see my simple 41-step G.E.T.O.U.T. plan (General Efforts To Oust Unwanted Tenants)."
For suffering hosts whose goodwill, time and energy is in short supply, there is good news. 90% of all goodwill infringement is only temporary, ending by January 3rd at the latest. Both spokesmen caution against hosting mothers-in-law, second cousins, and lazy grandparents, noting that for these risk groups, 'overstaying their welcome' can often occur within minutes of their arrival, resulting in unprecedented amounts of "goodwill theft" with no sure measure of recourse.
The lesson for this holiday season? Good guests don't infringe.