Posts Tagged Business

Funny Pharms

Excuse my logic but why is it that a package of three condoms costs between $5 and $6 yet you can buy a bag of 50 balloons at the dollar store for $.99?  Oh I get it, it’s the latex.  Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll get right into the meat of the matter and it does relate to those aforementioned overpriced condoms.

Prescription drug and medical supply prices are forever climbing.  I remember several years back I was prescribed Imitrex for my daily migraine headaches.  When I saw the price my headaches got worse!  $16 per tablet!  My insurance wouldn’t cover this medication and as such I was forced to seek alternate remedies.  Now it is true that you can get lower priced generics for this medication but their overall potency may be called into question.  Furthermore some companies are even selling the generics for $10 a tablet.  Imagine that we’re asked to pay $10 for a little dose of chemicals that doesn’t even weigh a gram. It is sinful.

Just as an aside, I currently take another medication for other issues and it costs a whopping $18 per tablet.  People who rely on year round doses of medication for such conditions as diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, etc. know first hand how expensive medicines can be.

Then pause and consider the actions (or actually lack of action) on the part of the large pharmaceutical companies concerning the “cocktail” they possess that can help AIDS patients to survive.  Some of the larger pharmaceutical companies, given their vast resources have the ability to save millions of Africans and other peoples if they would make the low cost AIDS fighting cocktail available to these people.  It has been proven that AIDS sufferers can extend their lives many years by use of this cocktail.  If the Big Pharm companies were to work with our government they could probably even write off such a gesture as a humanitarian exercise.  However, there’s no actual profit to be realized in such charity so the AIDS drug stays on the shelf and less fortunate people are forgotten and left to suffer a wretched existence.

There are a variety of dynamics at work in the ever changing world of prescription drugs.  For starters I have been told by some people in the business that in this day in age, many doctors get a commission from the pharmaceutical companies for every prescription that they write for a drug that the pharmaceutical company sells.  As such it is prudent for someone suffering from an illness, whatever that illness might be to read up on the recommended course of treatment. In short, when doctors can expect commissions for writing prescriptions they may be trigger happy and start writing you out prescriptions for meds that you don’t even need.  This is not meant to be an indictment of all doctors – many are still caring and honest – but as in any profession, there can be unscrupulous players.  As such you may be spending more and more on drugs that you don’t even need.  The only way to be sure you are not being pumped full of unnecessary drugs is to do your own research.

There seems to be a pill for everything

 

As well, the reason I believe that there are doctors on the pharmacy company payrolls is based on something I witnessed some years ago when I would sit waiting to be seen by my doctor.  I would wait incredibly, sometimes two hours past my appointment time to be seen by him.  During that interval of time, it seemed like a virtual parade of guys in suits would filter through his office.  They were all pharmaceutical sales reps. Judging by the quality of the clothes they wore, they were all getting quite rich.  And samples?  This doctor had the equivalent of a large walk in closet worth of sample doses of hundreds of different medications.  It looked like a Walmart for prescription drugs.

I am also told that many of today’s pharmaceutical company reps are young attractive women.  Would a person go to Hooters if the waitresses weren’t attractive? Same holds true in this biz.  Even analytical well trained doctors can be influenced by a nice pair of legs.   

I’d like to conclude this blog with a theory I have about the pharmaceutical industry. 

We as a society (and I mean the worldwide society, not just the United States) are enamored by the idea that we can pop a pill, gulp down some water and presto-change-o, our symptoms will go away.  Somehow, it is so much easier to pop a pill than it is to do yoga or exercise, plan a healthy diet, or quit drinking and smoking.  If you were to try and calculate just how many pills the human race takes on just a single day, the figure would be off the charts.   The Big Pharmaceutical companies love this. You never read much in the mainstream media about pharmaceutical companies’ earnings.  I think they try to keep it hush-hush. I believe if the public ever knew the staggering profits these companies were reaping there would be a massive outcry for reform of the system as it is now.  I believe some of the big pharmaceutical companies have earnings that would even dwarf those of IBM or Microsoft.

Now that this is all said and done, I think I’ll take a tranquilizer.

 

Copyright 2011; Greg S.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Earth to Government – “Come In!”

Excuse my logic but if other areas of our nation are in as much trouble as mine (Bergen County, New Jersey), our country is in deep doo-doo.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Submitted for your viewing and consideration are the dismal images below, all vacated buildings that once housed thriving businesses in Bergen County.  It is interesting to note that historically, Bergen Countyhas always been considered one of the more affluent counties in the nation.  Some of these businesses probably went belly-up.  Others probably saw that this area just wasn’t as much of a choice location to be in as it once was. Either way, it’s time for our government to take notice, and all parties to put political differences aside.  Businesses are failing at an alarming rate. Foreclosures are soaring.  The percentage of people living in poverty in this country is at an all-time high. It’s time our elected officials start working for all of our peoples.

Hackensack Pathmark

 

Former Best Western Motel, River Edge

 

Staples and Tiger Schulman's, Paramus, NJ

 

The Forum Diner, Paramus, NJ

 

The Computer Learning Center, Paramus, NJ

 Is any business safe? Who’s next?

 

Copyright 2011; Greg S.

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Heroes and Goats and Double Standards

Excuse my logic but don’t some double standards just want to make you open up your living room window and shout out like Howard Beale did in the 1976 Movie Network “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?”

Admittedly this blog will be somewhat anecdotal, but hopefully it will make its point that we need as a people to apply the same standards for conduct and behavior to everyone regardless of their position in society. Otherwise we will continue to have a dichotomous world that allow reckless celebrities to get a couple of hours jail time for something as serious as DUI while average people who have overdue library books get almost the same or more jail time for a much lesser offense.

Some double standards I have seen played out over and over again are as follows:

A rich person who pinches his pennies is called a “frugal genius” while a poor person who does the same thing is just called “cheap.”  I myself was on the losing end of this double standard several years back while working as a factory laborer.  There was this older man who was going to retire and the staff was chipping in to buy him a retirement gift.  I was experiencing extremely hard times.  Also, I had only been working at this job for about a month and didn’t know this retiree all that well.

So when they passed the hat around the suggested donation was $10 but I politely indicated I could only afford $5.  The next day, I was working in the office section of the factory and I hear this machinist telling everyone that I am a cheapskate. This machinist was making almost triple of what I was earning and he only put in $10 himself, so I ask “who was the real cheapskate?”   And guess what? My boss, who was half my age always went around telling people what a genius this machinist was.

Another double standard along the same lines is that one person who is real aggressive at work or school is called “pushy” while another person exhibiting the very same behavior is called “driven.”  Yes, time for another anecdote, but I am happy to report that at least in this story, I was not the victim.  It happened during a practice session of our high school soccer team.  We were scrimmaging, which means we had a game going between two teams of players, all from our varsity squad.  There was this guy who was a starting fullback when we played actual games. The coach loved this guy big time.  Well a forward is dribbling the ball toward this fullback (the coach’s pet player), fakes him out and gets around him.  The fullback turns, grabs the forward’s jersey by the neck area and yanks him down to the ground!

All of us standing on the sidelines yelled out that this was a foul and shouldn’t be allowed.  In the coach’s eyes, his star fullback could never be wrong.  The coach told us to silence our criticism. He labeled the fullback’s cheating as “good aggressive play.”

If some other player, say a second stringer had done the same move, I guarantee this coach would have had him doing 100 pushups or running laps after practice. 

Then, there’s this double standard, maybe you’ve heard it while applying for a job. It is used quite often on inexperienced job seekers who haven’t yet learned the fine art of having quick comebacks ready for difficult questions or statements. The human resources person interviewing you will exclaim “you’re too experienced for the job. If you’ve ever had this happen, you probably shook your head in disbelief and swore your senses were playing tricks on you. It’s standard HR behavior but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. You need a job. He has a job but he tells you you’re overqualified.  After many a disheartening job interview where I heard this line of bull I often would ask myself “how can you ever be too experienced?”  But, you see, your experience will mandate their paying you more and the job search jungle is filled with booby traps such as this.  They’d rather get someone who is maybe not experienced enough but pay him half of what they would have to pay you or me.

Incidentally as most of us know, this same perverse logic is applied over and over again to older workers.  The older worker has years of knowhow and a wealth of on the job experience.  Yet if the company can find some young naïve person who is willing to work for less at the same job, the older worker is shown the door.

As I mentioned, searching for jobs necessitates a jungle warfare attitude.  A relative of mine had graduated from a very expensive school paid for mostly with student loans.  When this relative interviewed for a job that was paying $11 an hour, the manager asked sarcastically “why would a person like you who went to such and such a school costing $45,000 a year” need a job that only pays $11 an hour.  My relative was skilled at interviews and had the comeback right away. “It was all paid for with loans” she said.  I love it when someone can make a human resources person squirm.

And how’s this for human resources savagery?  A neighbor I know had worked more than 12 years for a company.  You would think corporate headhunters would value such employee loyalty. My neighbor explained to me that many corporate interviewers will turn that loyalty against the job seeker and suggest that they are too complacent.  The interviewer will suggest that the job candidate is too passive and as such not their kind of worker.

Does slow and steady always win the race?

The last double standard I would ask you to consider involves college educations. 

Many years ago, recently married, I had been out of work for a good six months. I just couldn’t land a job. I tried every way I could but couldn’t find work.  So my wife asked me to apply for food stamps.   Simple enough procedure I thought.  After several weeks, I finally got a face to face with a social worker.  She goes into a tirade on me exclaiming “you’re a college graduate!  You should have a job!  I can’t offer you any help.”  “Excuse me?” I asked incredulously. She repeated her ridiculous assertions.  I replied that if she had a job to offer I would consider taking it. That kind of shut her up, but in the end I didn’t get any food stamps.

In the end I concluded that there are people who out of fear or envy will try to belittle you for having graduated college.  In the 30 plus years I have been out of college I have seen many instances of people using my college education as ammunition to dis me. It is as if they want to show that they didn’t even have to go to college to be smarter than the guy who did. It has happened to me so many times that I am now familiar with it. Now when I see one of these types of persons leading down the path toward their ambush, I shrug it off and hearken back to the words of Bob Dylan. “Well I would not feel so all alone. Everybody must get stoned.”

Copyright 2009; Greg S.  

, , , , , , ,

3 Comments

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.

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

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.

, , , , , , , ,

2 Comments