Ok, hopefully I won’t embarrass the person who most recently inspired this but it happens a lot. Also I completely changed all the details. So, imagine that you replied to a legit check with something like “Not legit! My cat got sick and barfed on everything in my house and I totally ran out of time to hit my do-less goal for junk food!” Maybe it’s something super reasonable that we feel like huge jerks not being sympathetic to.
(Aside: If you reply with simply “not legit” we reply back with something like “oh no, what happened?” The point being that calling not-legit should be super painless but we’re going to at least have an unautomatable interaction with you about it.)
Anyway, here’s an example of what we’d say about the cat-barfing thing!
Hey $USERNAME, we’re always super worried about breaking Beeminder’s incentives in cases like this! Any kind of “just this once” exception is a perilously slippery slope, as you can imagine. Arguably the point of Beeminder is to make sure important goals don’t get crowded out when things get busy. (We’d love to nerd out about the philosophy and behavioral economics of this kind of thing if you have more thoughts!) Can you formulate a general principle that would apply to this and all future similar cases where it would make sense to call such derailments not legit?
It’s common for people to actually decide to feel good about paying us after reading that, like they’re buying the continued credibility of Beeminder’s threat. Once in a while the person will formulate a totally sensible general principle. (A recent one was “if something happens that involves me having to wear a suit, then the derailment isn’t legit”.) And sometimes the person will kind of persist in their weaseliness and if they didn’t weaselproof themselves then we go along with that, maybe guilting them into working off the debt instead by giving us $X worth of feedback about how Beeminder could’ve held their feet to the fire better.