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13 October 2011Sign the waiver

Martin Ledigo

by Martin Ledigo

We spent our summer holidays in Canada, where my wife is from. Since we were last there a couple of years ago I noticed the emergence of "the waiver", a 1-2 page small-printed-exclusion-of-liability document that you are encouraged to sign and add your initials in a couple of places. 

We spent our first week at a resort in Muskoka north of Toronto. At 8.00 am we were at the sports desk hiring the tennis rackets. "Please sign this waiver". ("Excuse me all I want to do is play tennis; I don't have 15 minutes to read the form and consult my lawyer").

"Paintball for today is fine. $35 each. Please sign the waiver". "Splash pass to go on the beach. $10 for the week. Please sign the waiver". And so it continued. Water skiing for the kids – an even longer waiver. Taking out a golf cart – you guessed it "sign the waiver". When we went to the restaurant I was slightly disappointed that no form arrived with the menu. Clearly they were confident that their food was good enough that there would be no need for me to sue in the event of a dodgy vegetable or because they served some wheat to my gluten intolerant son.

My rantings on nanny states and health and safety obsessions I will save for another day. My point here is that the members of staff asking us to sign the waivers seemed mostly concerned about getting the form signed, not in the safety of their customers. Form over substance; compliance over belief. Wanting to be awkward (surely not) I asked one of the employees what the form said and she was unable to say anything beyond "you agree not to sue us".

The outcome the business and you as customer want is safety and you want that to be the focus of the staff, not just following a process which, I would imagine would be hard to enforce in law anyway. I don't really enjoy doing business with an organisation that seems to want to exclude any responsibility before I even receive their service. But then again I did want to play tennis and the kids were saying "Dad just sign the form".

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Comments (2)

20 December 2011


I atculaly found this more entertaining than James Joyce.

17 August 2011

Mark Iliff

Why not put "I don't accept this" above your signature? They probably don't have a process for that

site developed by Mark Iliff, Talespinner