Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dig Through the Trash. We'll Pay You.

My apartment building sent out a "community policies" document with the following edict:
TRASH CHUTES: ... You are not permitted to leave your trash in front of your apartment door or on the floor in the trash room. If this is found, the trash will be inspected and a $25.00 charge will be fined to the resident for improper trash disposal. Trash rooms open at 6:00 am and close at 10:00 pm.
I've encountered a locked trash room more than once. I stay up late, and I once had to throw the trash away early in the morning before a flight. Each time, I have left the trash bag outside the locked room and have yet to be fined.

This is a great example of the principal-agent problem, or a conflict of interest between owners and front-line employees. The owners may want to fine residents who don't observe the policy, but think of the situation facing the concierge (or resident) who finds the rogue trash bag.

Does he put on sanitary gloves, open and dig through the vile-smelling trash bag in search of a discarded envelope addressed to the offending resident, and file a report with the management against the resident, potentially drawing dirty looks from said resident whenever he passes by the concierge desk?

Or does he simply place the trash down the chute and avoid all the drama? It's clear that ignoring the letter of the law is the easier course of action for the agent.

Finally, I'm still mystified about why the trash rooms are locked in the first place. My only theory is that the management doesn't want homeless people to sleep in them overnight, but what are the chances that that would happen anyway?