System modelling and system cheats

I once worked with a system modelling specialist. She created models for different organizations, from public transport to retailers.

From Wikipedia: A system model is the conceptual model that describes and represents a system. A system comprises multiple views such as planning, requirement (analysis), design, implementation, deployment, structure, behavior, input data, and output data views. A system model is required to describe and represent all these multiple views.

My job was to translate all the documentation from Swedish to English. Something that ran like a thread through every model she created was the fact that each model included at least a 10% cheat rate. For every model, it was assumed that at least some of the users would cheat the system.

That meant that things like clothes prices, ticket prices, unemployment benefit rates, tax rates all assumed that 10% of the users would cheat and therefore padded the costs of the system to cover these users. So the price of an item in a shop is designed to cover shoplifting costs. The price of your train ticket was calculated to include those that travel without paying.

In my daily life every day I hear people discussing cheating the system (or as they like to call it, ‘beating’ the system) in some way. Padding an insurance claim because ‘everyone does it’ or ‘the deductible is too high’. Saying your child was sick when it is actually you who was sick (in Sweden you are not paid your first sick day but if you stay home to care for your sick child, you are). Saying your child is younger than they are to get cheaper rates at the movies or on the train. Working and claiming unemployment because ‘everyone does it’. Getting housing benefit even though you really can manage without it – ‘because it’s there’.

Sometimes I resent being the one that indirectly pays because other people are cheating the system. But mostly instead of seething at the 10% who cheat because they can, I marvel at the 90% who could, but don’t. I can’t even bring myself to enter through the exit at the supermarket or taste a grape off a bush on a farm. I wouldn’t be much of a cheat!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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