Archive for category Business

Do Gas Prices Have You “Fuming”? Don’t Blame Your Gas Station

Excuse my logic but this post aims to dispel some of the myths concerning gas stations.

For starters it is a prevailing belief among many consumers that individual filling stations “price gouge” and are making huge profits.  The reality of this is that the big profits are made at the wholesale level.  In other words, the big oil companies are reaping tremendous profits – hitting all time high levels as you read this.  I have spoken to several independent gas station owners and they claim that the average retail station makes anywhere from $.10 to $.18 per gallon profit, which given today’s retail prices translates into between 2 and 6 percent.

In fact, many gas stations in recent years have found it absolutely necessary to add convenience stores at their facility.  This is not a measure of greed where the owner is just trying to make more and more money. It is a matter of survival.  How can a business make only 5 or 6 percent profit on gas and cover all the overhead, salaries, property taxes, etc.?

Another misconception which I admittedly believed myself is that the 9/10 of a cent that appears at the end of per gallon prices at most stations is a cheap ploy to make you think you are getting a good deal.  In other words, and I believed this, the thinking goes that gas stations use the 9/10 of a cent ploy to make a typical consumer thinks that he’s getting a good deal if he pays $3.999 per gallon versus $4.00.  I’ve been told by a friend of mine that this practice started long before today’s ballooning gas prices.  Back in the days when gas cost pennies on the gallon this 9/10 of a cent was a big savings and the practice has just been kept as kind of a time honored tradition.

The good ol’ days when 9/10 of a cent mattered


Some cynical people also believe that some gas stations are guilty of selling “watered down” gas.  This is virtually impossible.  Water is heavier than gas so if it were mixed with gas it would sink straight to the bottom of the gas stations underground tank.  Furthermore, since almost all stations never pump gas from all the way at the bottom of the tank, they would never reach that dreaded water.

Many people also believe gas prices aren’t regulated enough.  I don’t know all the ins and outs of this claim however I have been told that ironically enough there are regulations in place for preventing stations from pricing their gas too LOW.    That’s right.  I said regulators want to make sure stations don’t sell their gas below cost!  “Why would anyone do that?” you may ask.  Large gas station chains could theoretically afford to sell gas at a break even level for long periods of time in order to undercut the independents who would be forced to go out of business. Then the large chains would jack their prices back up and have succeeded in eliminating their smaller pesky competitors.

The last myth I get a chuckle out of concerns the reasoning behind gas attendants almost never collecting the money until they have removed the nozzle from your tank and replaced it at the pump.  I always thought it was to guarantee that the attendant doesn’t mistakenly ask you to pay twice.  The real reason is that they are afraid that if you pay before the filling is complete you may drive off with the nozzle still in your gas tank, thereby ripping the hose from the pump and dragging it down the road with you.  As my one friend who owns a gas station remarked, “Hey, those hoses cost a lot to replace.”



Copyright 2012; Greg S.





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Has the Postal Service Lost Its Zip?

Excuse my logic but it’s not surprising that the United States Postal Service has been forced to close many facilities recently.  Don’t misunderstand this blog. I am not gloating.  As a kid I greatly enjoyed collecting plate blocks of commemorative stamps and also First Day covers, which were special editions of new issues mounted on decorative envelopes.  My memories of collecting stamps with my father and grandfather are cherished.

Yes, I think it is sad that just like newspapers, the venerable Postal Service may be put out to pasture.  Yet, in many ways it has only itself to blame.

True, the advent of Email, Pay pal and other electronic methods of transmitting information has greatly dug into the Postal Service business and it can’t be blamed for something it had no control over.

However, there are glaring problems with the Postal Service that it does have control over yet continues to ignore.

It has huge overhead to pay because of gargantuan pensions it must pay former employees.  From the mid 1900s until recent years, everyone wanted a postal job because they knew how lucrative the retirement package was.  These former workers are living longer putting a drain on the already cash strapped agency. 

Second, my own experience with the Postal Service on many occasions has shown me that it is not as reliable as it once was (unless when I was a child all this was going on even then and I just didn’t realize).  People call printed mail “snail mail,” and oft times for good reason. 

Here are some cases in point.

One time I walked out of my side door and past my front lawn and there was a large stack of mail (about 20-30 pieces) lying on my grass.  It wasn’t mine. It didn’t even belong to anyone on my street. It had just been dropped there very carelessly.

I am constantly (I mean at least once every two weeks) getting mail delivered to my house that is not mine.  Sometimes it has a completely different address which makes it ludicrous.  Yet even when it has my address but is for someone other than my name I find it rather curious. You see when I mark this kind of mail “return to Sender” and re-mail it at my post office often times it comes back to me two or three times.  Can’t these people read?! 

Is this eagle an endangered species?


Then I can recall how I lost a great deal of business thanks to USPS.  My Dad and I were under contract with a textiles company to get them government contracts.  We needed to get at least $500,000 worth of business for this company in our first year in order to be renewed.  There was this state government bid we were going after.  It was in one of the southeastern states as I recall.  We put our bid package together and I brought it to the Post Office.  I clearly asked the clerk if using express mail when it would arrive at the bid room.  He guaranteed two days. I only needed it to arrive in three.  It arrived in FOUR.  We were disqualified. The most upsetting thing was when they tallied the bids, our bid would have been the lowest.  It was a $240,000 contract.  Because we lost that contract, we didn’t make our quota with the textile company and it ended what could have been a successful business partnership.

Did I mention that my postman always seems to be talking on a blue tooth when delivering my mail? Shouldn’t his mind be on his work? Maybe that’s why I keep getting other peoples’ mail as mentioned before.

Then there are the lines at many post offices.  This is not the poor postal clerk’s fault. It’s management’s.  Be that as it may, when you make working people wait twenty, or twenty five minutes to be served, they’re going to become disenchanted with your business.  If you ever want to hear a wide array of muttered curses and catcalls, just go to your post office during lunch hour. If it’s one of the crowded ones you’ll get what I mean.

This cranky old blogger’s last gripe concerns something that took place about 15 years ago.  I was driving my relatively new minivan down a side street and suddenly a postal vehicle just pulls out of its parking spot and side swipes me.  I mean the driver couldn’t have possibly looked out her side view mirror for she would have seen me.  I called the police. They came and I said I thought I smelled alcohol on her breath but they refused to issue a breath test.  They acknowledged that it could have been her fault. Here’s the kicker though.  At least at that time, under some provision of Title 19 from the Code of Federal Regulations, the Postal Service vehicle was not liable for damages caused by an accident, even if it was the postal worker’s fault.  So I had to shell out nearly $1,800 for repairs.

Through it all, I hope the Postal Service survives.  However, I hope they get their act together or it may be a short lived encore.


Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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Money and Power – Dollars and Sense

Excuse my logic but I am not crazy about that old adage “money is power.”  I do think that money can produce power, but I don’t think that power is as absolute as some other types of power referred to later. Having money may give someone a modicum of power but the magnitude of that power is sometimes far overstated.

I think money power can be broken down into at least four categories (and probably even more for those who are extremely analytical).  Those categories are Good Money Power, Bad Money Power, Money Power Gone Awry and Money With No Power.  We will briefly examine each of these.

People such as the late Andrew Carnegie and more recently the late New York Society Fashion Mogul Milton Petrie are two shining examples of Philanthropic giants.  In more recent times, Musician and Promoter Bob Geldof, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates also stand out as extremely giving money men. These men are examples of how money can be harnessed into Good Power.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Carnegie poured huge sums of money into libraries, schools and universities in theU.S.,U.K.andCanada.  For his part, Petrie donated much of his wealth to many universities and cultural institutions and also set up lifelong trust funds of $20,000 per year to people such as Marla Hanson, the model who had her face slashed and New York Police Officer Steven McDonald who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty.  Petrie also set up such funds for two widows of slain New York City Detectives killed in action.  Mr. Geldof networked a wide array of big name recording artists and used his own capital to organize the star-studded musical group Band Aid preceding his hugely successful fundraising concerts Live Aid and later Live 8 which gave hope to starving peoples in Africa and elsewhere.  As for Bill Gates well, his generosity in terms of dollars given is practically off the charts.

As for Bad Money Power I do not wish to castigate specific individuals by naming names.  However, I will point out several anonymous examples of what I feel is Bad Money Power.  I know of someone who travels in circles of the affluent and there are two different remarks my acquaintance told me of that were made by people with money.

The first remark came from a multimillionaire who said “If you’re not worth at least $20 million you’re nobody.” Okay. I guess this man thinks that 99.9 percent of the human race is comprised of nobodies.

My acquaintance also related a story about a different man, also wealthy who was confronted by a person advocating that the rich should make greater efforts to spread some of their wealth amongst the poor.  This man reportedly stated quite emphatically “There are rich people and there are poor people. It has always been that way and will always stay that way.”

PerhapsIndonesia’s late President Suharto,Egypt’s deposed leader Mubarak and now Gaddafi, the pariah ofLibyaall felt that way. By now it has become clear that their vast fortunes were no match for the will of the people. 

Which brings us to Money Power Gone Awry.  In recent years we have seen time and time again where grotesquely large sums of money were thrown at a problem with no positive net results.  When George Bush Sr. was president he allocated extraordinary sums of money to his self-proclaimed war on drugs.  The drug problem in this country ebbed slightly for a time but in the long run it spiked dramatically.  More recently, our country has poured hundreds of billions into wars inIraqandAfghanistanand yet both countries continue to be in a state of turmoil. 

So all of this considered, is money really power?  As the above shows, Money can display positive, negative or misguided power. 

Some money has the power and some doesn't


That leaves us with Money that has no power.

Consider that there are remote places on our very planet where money won’t get you anything. In some tribal-controlled regions in Africa, South America or the far reaches of the Sahara Desert, all the money in the world wouldn’t necessarily keep you safe from violent cultures. In fact, an open show of opulence on a rich person’s part could get them killed in these places. 

Many years ago, I was planning to take a cruise down the Amazon River with my then business partner.  The travel agency running the tour told us his secret for successful trading with Amazonian people.  He didn’t tell us to bring a big sack of money.  He told us to bring several cartons of Marlboro Cigarettes and some pairs of Levis Jeans.  He said the natives in the Amazon jungle would give us practically anything we wanted of theirs in exchange for those two commodities.

I also submit to you that the possession of great amounts of money may actually reduce an individual’s power.  Sometimes great wealth weakens amongst other things, an individual’s moral fiber, self control and judgmental powers. My parents once knew a multi-millionaire who came to their Halloween masquerade party.  People were playing the popular Halloween game “bobbing for apples,” the idea of which is to bend your head down into a barrel full of water and grab as many apples out of the barrel as you can using only your mouth. No hands allowed. This rich guy when he thought no one was looking started grabbing the apples with his hands. Unknown to him he was being videotaped at the time.  It became a standing joke in our family that this is how this man got their wealth, namely through ignominious means.

I believe really great power can’t be quantified in the way money can be.  I believe it can take many forms.  There have been documented cases of people seeing a child pinned under a car and lifting the vehicle off the child with their bare hands. Likewise, who hasn’t heard of someone being given six months to live only to confound the experts and live for ten years?   So is money really power? Yes it is. But I wouldn’t trust my life to it.


Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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Bank Shots

Excuse my logic but don’t we live in a day in age where there’s a double standard in banking as it applies to the rich versus the poor? I am fond of saying that we live in a world of the haves and have nots.  If you fall into the latter category, the bank is probably not your friend.

I came across an observation in an email a friend of mine recently sent which went something like this.  It affirms my claim that for the average guy, the bank is not a friend.  “If you owe the bank thousands or hundreds of thousands you are considered a debtor.  If you owe the bank millions or billions, the bank calls you its partner.”

Now let me offer some concrete examples of what I am leading up to.  Take the case of a prominent New Jersey/New York City developer who shall remain nameless because he likes to sue people like me.  Some years back, he defaulted on a bank loan in the tens of millions of dollars with a well established New Jersey bank.  Most of us will never deal in figures like this in our lifetime.  He has defaulted on other large loans too. Yet he’s still in business and going strong as ever.  A foot note to the bank default.  Several months after that occurred, the bank laid off 2,000 workers.  This developer knows how to play the game.  He turns debt into wealth.

This is the injustice of it all.  A wealthy person can stick banks and other creditors for millions and keep right on with business as usual, but your average Joe Blow who sticks a credit card company for $2,000 or $3,000 gets buried in his credit report and is considered worthless.

Unlike our developer friend, I on the other hand flounder about in that no man’s land known as the middle class.  The bankers don’t help me.  On any given day I am lucky if they don’t try to drive another nail in my coffin. 

About five years ago, I refinanced my house and went from a fixed rate mortgage to what is known as a negative amortization mortgage.  In the beginning it sounded great.  We went down from $1,700 per month for a mortgage payment to $950 per month.  This $950 represented the minimum monthly payment and the bank told us that if we only paid that, the principal would not go down on the loan but we would remain in good standing.  I highlighted the four words “would not go down” for a reason.  The bank is very cagey with their words.  They only told us half of the truth.  The reality was that the principal was going up every month instead!

In about two years’ time my principal skyrocketed from $220,000 to $238,000.  I admit to my own incompetence.  During that two years, I just kept writing out my payments and never looking over the monthly statement carefully. I’m busy. Okay?  But my point is, if the banker, in this case World Savings, was my friend they would have been up front and told me about this. 

Then consider this from another personal experience of mine.  In the mid 1980s along with my business partner, I successfully repaid about $600,000 in mortgage debt.  While paying monthly payments I never missed an installment.  Eventually, I sold the properties in question and paid off every penny.  Not one mention of this good deed ever appeared on my credit report.  However, when I stuck Citibank for a mere $3,000 all the buzzers and bells went off.  My credit report in the ensuing years painted a picture of me as a lowlife scumbag devoid of any worth and not to be trusted.  In short, they crucified me.

Maybe you are getting the picture.  I read a book which I highly recommend called “Debt Cures” by Kevin Trudeau.  In it, I recall reading of several rather unscrupulous banking practices which I have personally fallen victim to and maybe you have too.

The first one has to do with the date your credit card payment is posted, if you are lucky enough to get it posted at all. Trudeau maintains that some credit card institutions systematically lie about the date they receive your payment and thus tack on a late payment fee to your next statement.  In some cases, he continues the bankers even have the audacity to actually rip up your check when it comes in and claim they never received it.  The reason I believe Mr. Trudeau is that I have had a credit card where the payment was going to Richmond, Virginia. I live in New Jersey.  I have seen cases where I mailed the check a full ten days prior to due date and the credit card company posted me as a late payment. Excuse my logic, but if we were still in the days of pony express I might believe it takes ten days for my check to travel that far, but c’mon!

Another nefarious practice engaged in by the credit card companies and their cohorts involves the use of scavengers.  Sound scary?  Well they are.  A scavenger buys your credit card debt from the bank for probably 20 cents on the dollar.  It’s a calculated risk on their part.  They figure if they are lucky enough to collect the debt in full, they have increased their investment four fold.  The scavengers tend to be tenacious in their collection practices.  They will hound you at work, at home, and even call at ungodly hours of the night.  But I have an even greater objection to their practice.  What I believe they tend to do, is subtly increase the amount of your debt over the following months by whatever amount they paid to the bank to purchase the debt. 

So if you owed the credit card company say $3,000.  The scavenger pays the bank $600 to buy the debt.  Now they start mailing you monthly statements that show you owe $3,100, $3,200, etc until the total gets up to $3,600.  But you didn’t borrow the money from the scavenger and number two, you didn’t borrow $3,600. You borrowed $3,000.

When I became entangled with a scavenger last year, on one particular day an extremely heated conversation took place.  I explained to the scavenger the following. I had owed the credit card company $2,000. I had offered to pay $100 per month for 20 months. The bank countered asking me to pay $60 per month for 5 years. I said take my offer or no deal. The bank turned it over a collection agency who when they couldn’t collect from me turned it over to the scavenger in question. The scavenger told me I was acting “stupid” and “childish.”  I asked the attorney his name and hung up. I called back the firm and asked for the complaints officer. I explained how this attorney insulted me and how he was verbally abusive. The complaints officer informed me that I would never hear from them again.

You know what? I never did hear from them again.  But they sold the debt off to another scavenger and now that firm is hounding me!

I guess the moral of the story is that in financial affairs,  with credit card companies especially, consider this adage to be true.  “You are either a big player, or a small payer.”

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Money Madness

Excuse my logic, but why do we actually believe people when they say “money doesn’t matter” to them?  Several cases in point are offered to validate this question.

First off, I have seen countless times on our NJ State Highway 17 where one gas station slightly north of another but on the same side of the highway, is offering gas for 2 cents per gallon cheaper than their competitor.  People gravitate to the cheaper one and in many cases are eight or ten cars deep on line.  This translates into about a 20 minute wait.  So it is clear that money does matter to these people.  Yet there is an amazing absurdity to the entire spectacle.  Let’s say that person buys ten gallons of gas.   At the savings rate of 2 cents per gallon they have saved 20 cents.  Is 20 minutes of their time worth only 20 cents to them?  To continue the argument, would they accept a job if it only paid 20 cents per every 20 minutes or 60 cents an hour?

Then there is the matter of what we do to earn a living. I have heard many pundits tout the benefits of working at a job that you like.  We spend about a quarter of the entire hours in a week working and if you add commuting time to that it becomes about a third of our entire week’s hours.  So it stands to reason that if you look forward to going to work each day you will be a much happier and more upbeat person.  Yet how many times have we heard a friend or relative say after switching from a job they loved to one they hate “well you know, there was more money in the new position.”?  Ergo, some people will spend one third of their entire existence working at something they loathe just to make more money.

Back in high school I had a good friend who one day told me he wanted to become a doctor. I asked him “why?” fully expecting him to extol the virtues of a job that focuses on helping people.  NOT.  My friend told me “I want to be comfortably and anonymously wealthy.” Money sure mattered to him. Think about that the next time you are deciding on which surgeon to go with.

Look at today’s professional sports teams.  Players make astronomical sums of money.  In the old days, it was not uncommon for a player to spend his entire career with one team, or maybe two teams at most.  Today, there is no loyalty by the player to the team or vice verse.  A player making $18 million a year at one team will quickly jump ship for an extra $2 million a year offered by another team.  I mean that player is already making enough money to last three lifetimes, yet he will show absolutely no loyalty to the team he is on if he can make more elsewhere. You think money doesn’t matter to him?

I know one woman whose social circle includes a number of wealthy professionals. She once told me that a man she knew one time proclaimed “If you’re not worth at least $20 million, you’re nobody.”  Seems there are a great many of us “nobodies” walking around.  You think money didn’t matter to that guy?

 To digress just slightly but to hammer home the point, there is a story I have told many people about a guy from my high school.  We were standing along the back wall of the church for Sunday mass.  The usher came to each of us and held out the collection plate. The usher came to this guy from my graduating class who had a bad reputation as a troublemaker.  The usher must have already been looking toward the next person he was going to approach because he didn’t see what I clearly saw.  The trouble making kid put his hand in the plate and TOOK OUT $5.  I mean this guy had the audacity to steal from a church!  You think money didn’t matter to him?

Now I am not saying that most people will stoop that low in pursuit of the mighty greenback. There are many people who pursue the higher moral ground in living out their lives. However, I will leave you with several observations.

On the low end of the spectrum, I have seen relatives of mine use the same tea bag three times over.  Likewise the paper towel.  My one grandmother used to hang used paper towel up to dry and use it again. I have seen other people grab cigarette butts that were no more than an inch in length and light them up again just to get a few extra cost-free puffs.

Money mattered to these people.

On the high end of the equation take the actress turned author Suzanne Somers.  She was once asked if she ever got tired of the continuous fame she enjoys.  She summed it up succinctly. It’s all about the money.  She was then asked something to the effect of how much money she needs to live in this life. She tersely replied that you can never have enough money.  Imagine, naïve, childlike Chrissy Snow of television’s “Three’s Company” pushing her get healthy books, the reliability of which have been questioned, to make more and more millions.  You think money doesn’t matter to her?

The last point I would like to raise about people when they say money doesn’t matter concerns the current economic gloom and doom.  An article on Yahoo several weeks ago analyzed the current dilemma.  It pointed out that when most of an economy’s money is concentrated in the hands of a few, an economy is rarely robust.  When people used to ask me why I think the economy is bad I used to tell them to call up Oprah. Or Mayor Bloomberg.  When large amounts of the wealth are in the hands of a few much less money gets spent than if it were in the hands of many.

An example is in order.  You have a single male professional athlete making $15 million per year. When he eats out, most often he eats out alone or if with others he’s only paying for himself.  So he buys one meal per night.  If that same $15 million were in the hands of a man with wife and 4 children, when they eat out 6 meals are purchased.  Fact.  More money is being spent by the family man. The family man has to buy more clothes, cars and other consumer goods than the single athlete. Again, more money will be pumped into the economy.

So as long as we continue to concentrate most of our money in the hands of the super wealthy, the outlook for our economy is bleak.  I am not advocating socialism or communism.  But what I am stating is that for the extremely wealthy, money matters. It is ALWAYS on their minds.

Everyone else should start to wise up.


Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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No Nukes Are Good Nukes

Excuse my logic, but why in God’s name does the United States and Russia each need to have in their possession some 16,000 nuclear warheads apiece? To be quite blunt, the detonation of just let’s say a mere 5 percent of that amount (800 warheads by each country) if spread globally and strategically would destroy most, or all, of the human race.  So why do we each need 16,000?  Do we want to make sure we destroy all the cockroaches too?  And the rats?  Cockroaches and rats are said to be highly resilient and capable of adapting to severe environments.

Some points to consider:

Fifty years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was reported that most vegetation still couldn’t be grown there. 70,000 people died immediately. By year’s end there were an additional 30,000 deaths from fallout. Within five years the total death toll attributable to this event may have stood at 200,000. The yield of the Hiroshima A-bomb was 15 kilotons. Modern nuclear warheads have a yield of 1/ 2 megaton or more. A megaton is 1,000 times the power of a kiloton.

As a result of the Chernobyl Nuclear plant disaster on April 26, 1986, at Reactor #4 more than 350,000 people from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine had to be evacuated.  The city of Pripyat, which is located in the immediate vicinity, stands today as a ghost town.  It had contained a population of 50,000 people prior to the disaster.  However, even more thought provoking is the fact that a plume of radioactive air drifted over the Western Soviet Union and all of Europe except the Iberian Peninsula.  Imagine radioactivity scattering over an entire continent.  From just one nuclear accident! So extrapolate the possible results that would occur if we experienced the equivalent of 1600 Chernobyls (remember 800 nukes being blown by each – the USA and Russia) and you get the picture.

Just as dramatic but a little more than a century earlier in August, 1883, the volcano known as Krakatoa on the island of Krakatau went into its final massive eruption after earlier smaller warning bursts.  Three quarters of that island was wiped off the face of the earth.  At the same time, the event was so cataclysmic as to create entire new islands.  The force of the volcano’s blast was estimated at 200 megatons.  1,600 nuclear bombs being detonated based on an average size of ½ a megaton would yield blasts equaling 800 megatons.   The 200 megaton Krakatoa blast was so loud that it could be heard 3,000 miles away in the island nation of Mauritius and 2,200 miles away in Perth, Western Australia.  In simpler terms, if it had taken place in Los Angeles, CA you would have heard it in New York City.

Tsunamis 100 feet high were widespread and occurred as far away as South Africa.  One tsunami measuring 151 feet high obliterated a town known as Merak in the northwestern tip of Java Indonesia.  Debris resulting from this eruption was scattered as far away as Madagascar completely across the Indian Ocean. Average global temperatures dropped 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit and remained that way for several years. But the most telling phenomenon of all may be what happened to the sky.  The entire planet’s sky was darkened for years afterwards and spectacular surreal sunsets occurred for many months after.

Although it doesn’t concern itself with the industry of building nuclear bombs specifically, a documentary entitled “Why We Fight” available as a download off the internet provides some eerie insight into this quagmire.  It was produced by Eugene Jarecki of the BBC.  It points out that wars make use of expensive equipment and weapons.  Corporations that manufacture these items stand to make huge profits from their sale.  These corporations throw a great deal of support at the politicians who vote on whether or not to make war and the corporations expect the politicians to show them allegiance and vote accordingly.  It’s all related to what Dwight Eisenhower described as the “military industrial complex.”  Nuclear missiles are expensive to produce and maintain.  The cold war which resulted in the production of much of the USA’s and Russia’s nuclear arsenal was a boon to big business in these two countries. You get the picture.

To borrow from Disneyworld, “It’s a small world.”  Massive detonation of nuclear bombs would show us just how small it really is.

When will people worldwide wake up to the deadly potential of nuclear weapons? It is a Damoclean sword that hangs over each and every one of our heads.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Casino Logic

Excuse My Logic but on the subject of gambling casinos isn’t there just a plethora of illogical behavior that can be observed?  Before we get to some juicy examples, I’d like to offer several sweeping observations about this activity.

A great many people who go to the casinos combine drinking with gambling to make the experience complete.  This in itself is illogical and I’ll explain why. As you all know the odds are stacked in favor of the house. Therefore, for someone to even have the slightest ray of hope that they’ll beat the house, they need to bet intelligently.  When you’re completely intoxicated you are the casino’s best friend.  The people who run casinos salivate over people who play while drunk.  This is their bread and butter.

For example, in a game of blackjack, let’s say the dealer is showing a six on his up card and has his other card down. Let’s say you are showing eighteen with your two cards facing up.  A drunk player will sometimes actually be stupid enough to ask the dealer for a third card and this poor sucker has an 11 out of 13 chance of “busting” (going over 21), all the while it was likely that the dealer himself was going to bust meaning the drunk fool could have won simply by “holding” (not taking that deadly third card).

Repeat!  If you want a night of drinking, go to a bar.  Don’t go to a casino. You are bound to lose.

Now for some of the more illogical anecdotes I have heard about casinos.

I knew one man who owned a photo processing store down in South Jersey who told me he had also worked as a dealer in Atlantic City.  He told me that on many occasions, people who had lost their entire wad at his table actually asked him if they could get a refund!  To borrow from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” I’d like to have some of what they’d been drinking.

Another thing I find highly illogical about casino goers are those people who get “comped” to an expensive room.   Sure the room is valued at $300 for the night but if you drop $5,000 at the tables how can you have the naiveté to say that you “got a great deal.” Duh!

Then you have these high roller types who have no concept of the world around them and the massive human suffering that exists on the planet today.  They will think nothing of blowing thousands or even hundreds of thousands at a casino in a year but balk at the idea of giving some money to a worthwhile charity.  Does the name John Daly ring a bell?”  In all fairness to the pro golfer he may be quite philanthropic as well.  How about Gordon Gecko in reverse?  “Wastefulness is Good!”

There is a longstanding rumor that some casinos actually pumped fresh oxygen into the gaming areas to keep gamblers wide awake and at the tables longer.  I have never been able to verify if this has any basis in fact.  However, I have another suggestion for these casino owners. Why not pump in helium instead?  Then when John Q. Public and his irate wife Jane are barreling up the NJ Turnpike having a heated argument about how much money John lost at least they’ll have a good laugh at the fact that they are both talking like Mickey Mouse.

Copyright 2010; Greg S.

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They Call it a Courtesy Call?

Why do telemarketers have the audacity to call their annoying interruptions of our day “courtesy calls” when in fact these calls are quite rude?  These calls are not courteous at all.  The term is used less now than four or five years ago and not a moment too soon.

During the past eight years, I have had the displeasure of working at two different telemarketing jobs.  As such I have been on both the receiving end and the giving end of such phone calls. Most of you have also received these calls so I need not examine the psychology of the recipient.  You are all too familiar with the myriad of visceral reactions generated within oneself when overflowing with rage at the invasive cold caller.

Instead, I will take you on a tour of what I’ve seen go on at several of these call centers.

Most recently I worked at one dedicated to selling shop-at-home food services.  Insidious. Greedy. Pushy. Just some of the adjectives that can be applied.  About the only lighthearted aspect of the whole deal is some of the names that appeared on my call lists.  James Bond.  Barry Bonds. Ying Yang. Bill Clinton. Just to mention a few. However that’s where the humor ends.

Telemarketers are given a series of scripts that they are told must be strictly adhered to.  There is the main sales pitch script.  Then there’s a recommendation script used to call referrals when an unsuspecting customer is trusting enough to have given the telemarketer phone numbers of some of their friends or family.  Then there are “Rebuttals” scripts which contain some two dozen standard excuses people have for not wanting to buy your product and how the telemarketer should reply.  Make no mistake, telemarketing firms are highly organized and out to separate you from your money.  One of the only rebuttals I ever received at the food service job that  our company didn’t have a scripted answer for was when one person I called exclaimed (incredible as it seems) “no one in my family eats solid foods.” Incredibly there were three adults in that family.

The thrust of the main sales pitch script is not as much about actually making a sale as it is in “qualifying” the person on the other end.  The goal is to see if the person is a good prospect financially and from the standpoint of how much potential business they can give us. We were told to ask if they own their own home, how many people they shop for, average weekly food budget, what time they get home from work and what kind of work they do.  We were also instructed that if the person didn’t own their own home, to ask them if they have a major credit card.  Excuse my logic, but isn’t this all just a tad like invasion of privacy?

Inside the room where calls are made is a supervisor who is quite glib and will take over for the telemarketer if there is a hot appointment nearing the closing stage.  Also in this room is a sales manager who is chock full of marketing clichés such as telling the telemarketers to find out if the person being called “is a buyer or a liar.”

There is a chart on one wall that logs all the telemarketers’ progress for that week.  Each of us would be listed as to how many home appointments we booked.  We didn’t actually sell the product over the phone.  We simply got commitments from the people to allow one of our sales reps to visit them in their home. If the sales rep booked a contract then we would be credited on the chart with a sale.  It is dog eat dog inside that room.  While you would clap in glee for the person next to you if they booked an appointment you nevertheless also knew that they were getting ahead of you for that week. As the old adage goes, “you’re only as good as today.”  You may have made five appointments on the previous day but if you had none to show on the present day you were seen as slacking.  On an average day we were told we should perform at least 400 dial ups.

At my other telemarketing job things weren’t quite as gut wrenching.  For in this case, calls were being made to other businesses in the industry, in this case, machined metal parts.   It is not as bad making a cold call from a business to another business as it is to call someone at their home.  However, the pressure to book appointments for visits to other businesses was just as intense.

Having worked these two jobs, I thoroughly believe the one story told about a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman who bragged at a company sales pep rally that he had sold a vacuum to a paraplegic who wouldn’t even be able to use it.  This horror story was caught on video tape by one of the investigative news programs on television some years ago.

My advice to people on the receiving end of a courtesy call or whatever such calls are referred to in the current jargon is to make quick work of the caller.  Or perhaps use a response similar to one I heard years ago.  I was working for one very hardnosed CEO  and when someone began asking me (his chauffeur) about the CEO’s personal business, the CEO advised me to respond as follows – “Tell them to go read the Wall Street Journal.” I never quite knew what he meant by this but it worked for him so it must have been good.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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