Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tacky Telephone Technique

During the afternoons, I am generally on the phone—a lot—drumming up business and guests. If I make 50-calls a day, it’s average. I talk to a lot of receptionists, gate keepers, and in too many cases, pure dolts.
May I share some pet peeves for a moment?

Those of you who run businesses which require personnel to interface with the public…please take note: People who answer your business phone should speak English.
Fluently and plainly.
Ebonics doesn’t count.

And don’t “aks” me for my phone number if you’re not ready to write it down. I got on the phone with some Mensa yesterday who prompted me to give my name, phone number, what I was calling about…went through the entire preamble, and then she said, “An’ what wuz your furst nayme, honey? An’ what wuz your phown numbah, honey…?”

Another pet peeve of mine is people who answer the phone in any language that is spoken too fast to be even remotely intelligible. I am going to pick on one place by name because it’s just too bad—or good—an example to pass up, and frankly, the girl that answered the phone copped an attitude with me, so I really don’t care.

There’s a place in town called “This is It.”
I have no idea what kind of business they run, because when the girl answers the phone, it comes out “Thizzit.”
Is that part of the new rap vernacular, perhaps a conjugation of the interjection, “fo’ shizzle?”

So the phone rings, and she speed-speaks, “Thizzit, how can I hep yew?”
Since I’ve called several times over the past few days, I can now accurately translate her English idioms, but am still peeved that she never offers to take a message.

“He’z not available,” she lies, “ but you’re welcome to try calling back.” Thanks, Jezzebel, I’d rather swallow crushed glass.

That’s the other thing that torques me off about those who have been tasked with answering the main lines of your business phone system
…and lie.
Don’t lie.
Don’t tell me the dude’s “not available” if I can hear his screechy voice in the background.

Don’t tell me she’s in a meeting if she just ducked out of the office when she saw my caller-ID ring up on the display.
That’s chicken shizzizzle.

If you don’t want me to call you, man-up and tell me. Don’t have some minimum-wage robot tell me tales. Because I will be persistent and hunt you down like the coward you are.

Tell me you’re not interested, tell me you can’t afford it.
Tell me you’re in a bad mood and you just don’t want to deal with it. But don’t have some jive-talking flunky try to spread a smoke screen for you.

A final point about tacky telephone techniques: Don’t put a minimum wage novice on your phone board. The person answering your business line creates the very first impression people get about your company.
Don’t blow it.

She or he should be poised, knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. Think of this person as being in a key position in your organization, who can make or break a deal…because they can.

There are some businesses I will never ever call again because I was treated shabbily by the dork on the phone. I don’t care to be treated that way, and I don’t want my customers infected with that kind of venom, either.
True dat?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ecological Irony

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, where wildlife populations in the area have still not returned to normal. Now the U.S. Border Patrol wants to spray herbicide on plants growing along the Rio Grande to help control border crossings.

Ironic, that the government fined Exxon millions for its environmental damage two decades ago, and is embarking upon a plan that will have ecological implications for generations in South Texas.

Wall Street has been cheered by Treasury Sec'y Tim Geithner's plan to scour toxic assets from banks' balance sheets by sellling them to private investors (translatation: large institutions), while backing the bets with tax dollars (translations: the rest of us.) The Dow screamed ahead 500-points as a result.

"This is what the Markets wanted," crowed one analyst.
I suspect so.

I'd be dancing a jig, too, if someone plotted a plan to erase all of my debt, remove any of my risk, and put me back in businesses.
I love this country!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG Angst

The entire country is up in arms over news that AIG on Friday mailed bonus checks to executives totaling over $165-million. This after receiving an cash infusion from taxpayers of $173-billion, and chalking up a $99-billion operating loss last year. AIG says it’s contractually obligated to pay the bonuses.

New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said last week, in effect, "prove it," demanding names and numbers of those who received the bonuses. When AIG failed to meet Cuomo’s deadline on Friday, subpoena’s were issued for the documentation.

Extreme times call for extreme measures, but Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley probably went a little too far, calling for AIG executives to "resign or commit suicide." At this point, many of you might share that sentiment, but such behavior would not solve the issue at hand.

The solution is simple: Now that the American Public owns 80% of AIG through bailout dollars from taxpayers, any bonuses should be placed into escrow for the time being. That gives the Attorneys General time to sort out the legal ramifications, which likely could go to the Supreme Court before the dust settles. The bonuses can be paid after the American Public is repaid in full.

While said bonuses may have been due and payable under terms of agreements in force, AIG must recognize by now the folly of appearing to reward failure at a time when all American’s are struggling financially…brought on by the very shenanigans in which AIG has been involved.

This is not a time for bonuses.

This is also not a time for emotional reactions and blood lust against people who are caught between a subpoena and a lynchmob. A meaningful, public apology from AIG’s top brass would be a good first step. I want to see it on prime-time, national TV. Interrupt the drivel the Networks usually run, and put these clowns on-camera, on their knees.

They should go a step further, however.
Refusing to accept the bonuses 'twould be nobler thing than they have likely ever done before, to twist a quote from Charles Dickens.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cow Economics

There are 21 basic Economic models operating around the world, each trying to survive in the face of global financial meltdown. It is prudent to recognize and understand each:


You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your heard grows and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.


You have two cows.
You sell one, force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

Later you hire a consultant to analyze why the remaining cow has dropped dead.


You have two cows. You give one to your neighbor.


You have two cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.


You have two cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.


You have two cows. The State takes both and shoots you.


You have two cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.


You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publically-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank…then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer, to that you get all four cows back, with a tax-exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet is provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

SURREALISM (Often confused with an Investment Bank)

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.


You have two cows. You go on strike, organize a riot and block the roads, because you want three cows.


You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow, and produce twenty-times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image, called “Cowkimon,” and market it worldwide.


You have to cows. You engineer them so they live for 100-years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You decide to have lunch.


You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again, and learn you have 42-cows.
You count them again, and learn you have two cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of Vodka.


You have 5,000-cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.


You have two cows. You have three hundred people milking them. You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reports the real situation.


You have two cows. You worship them.


You have two cows. Both are mad.


Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them you have none.
No one believes you, so they bomb you back to the stone age and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least no you are part of a Democracy.


You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.


You have two cows. Business seems pretty good, so you close the office and go to a bar to celebrate.

Thanks to Jim Mann for passing this along.
We are cowed.

Monday, March 09, 2009

DST: Bah, Humbug!

"Every morning, in your first view of the day,
you have the choice to say,

'Good morning, God' or 'Good God, morning.' "

--Dr. Wayne Dyer

Here we are, once again, our body clocks constipated by the twice-a-year conversion from the natural circadian rhythms to the un-natural dictates of government, proclaiming the sun will set an hour later today in order to save you energy and light in which to finish the day’s work.

It is a farcical notion , because in the quest for “saving daylight” and energy and being more austere in our expenditures of both, we find we are ourselves spent before the day is out, and whatever momentum we might have achieved is dampened and absorbed by the effort.

What a strange weekend at The Clanton Hacienda, where we were burgled on Thursday, spent Friday taking care of all those loose ends, and then on Saturday the Family Conestoga was vandalized.

Ever try to buy a set of tires on Saturday night—without the vehicle around?

Kudos to our neighbor, A.J., for lending assistance – that’s what neighborhoods are for:
People helping people in life.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Cap and Trade: Smoke and Mirrors

That $400 tax credit you're going to get this year will come at a price someplace else. Probably at the smokestack of your friendly, local power generating station. If the Obamalites have their way, a carbon tax is in the offing.
Talk about smoke and mirrors.

There are two things wrong with this idea:

1.) Companies will have to buy a permit to emit effluents. That's euphemia for "tax." And you know what happens when businesses are taxed? They pass the additional expense down the line, ultimately to you and me.

Don't believe me?
What happened last Summer when fuel prices hit $4/gallon?
Pizza deliveries and UPS shipments magically grew "fuel surcharges" on their invoicing.

Not only did you and I personally pay more for fuel in our cars, we also paid for the additional cost to fill the tanks of the delivery cars and trucks. Double whammy.

It didn't stop there...
Airline tickets added fuel surcharges and baggage fees.

Now that fuel is back down around $1.70/gallon, have those surcharges been relaxed?
Not on your life; and now, the airlines are thinking of charging you extra for blankets, plastic ware, and for needing to bleed your bladder in-flight. A pee tax, basically.

2.) The notion of capping carbon emissions and then being allowed to trade for "credits" to continue to pollute is ludicrous.

On the one hand, the Government is going to tax businesses who pollute, ostensibly as a disincentive to do so, while on the other hand allowing those who must pollute above and beyond their "cap" to trade credits with other, less-fouling businesses.
What ecological hypocrisy!

Cap and Trade does nothing to clean the air. The only thing Cap and Trade is going to clean is the bottoms of our pockets. The spewing of God knows what into the air will continue. We'll just be paying more for the privilege.

And companies in other places on the planet--where the local regimes do not exact a premium for polluting--will continue to blissfully billow smoke from their stacks as they always have.
I love the smell of things burning in Mexico, wafted on the breeze into South Texas in the mornings, don't you?

We the People, the United Chumps of America, get to pay for the same thing. For a lousy $400 tax credit next year.

Wonder if we could cap the crap coming out of Washington, and trade those guys for a batch of fellows with a little more common sense?

Real Reality

Earlier, I posted about some of the mind-numbing garbage that passes for entertainment these days on Network TV. Here is what real life is about:

Merrill Lynch lost $27.6 billion last year. While that ship was sinking, Merrill managed to figure out how to split $10-million in cash bonuses among 11 executives, and another $3 million in bonuses was shared by 149 more.

New York's State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, is now asking questions about $3.6 billion in bonuses Merrill bestowed to its minions in the days before it was taken over by Bank of America.

This was not re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This was ordering new deck chairs from Neiman Marcus for front row seats on the Poop Deck from which to watch the iceberg pass by.

Merrill’s not the only entity that’s counter-productive if you’re on blood-pressure medication: Yesterday Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke professed his level of piss-offedness at AIG:

“If there is a single episode in this entire 18 months that has made me more angry, I can’t think of one other than AIG,” he fumed. (Fuming by Ben is a big reaction, by the way.)

Gentle Ben ranted-on, AIG exploited a huge gap in the regulatory system, there was no oversight of the financial- products division, this was a hedge fund basically that was attached to a large and stable insurance company.”
I am certain Mr. Bernanke was even more livid to learn that AIG still has four PR firms on its payroll. (Of course, if I was in as much doo-doo as these dodo's, I'd need help with my public relations, too.)

Now, let's add insult to injury.
What does Senator Ted Kennedy have in common with former President Ronald Reagan, General Norman Schwarzkopf, and movie meister Steven Spielberg? U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to announce Queen Elizabeth II’s intention to grant Teddy an honorary knighthood during his address to a joint session of Congress today.

Mr. Kennedy is thought to be deserving of the honor for his “services to the U.S.-U.K. relationship and to Northern Ireland.”

This is a big deal, to be sure, because since the Queen took the throne in 1952, only 85 distinguished U.S. citizens have been awarded the honor.
I’m sorry, Mrs. Queen, but I don’t agree.

While Mr. Kennedy’s performance on matters of education have been laudable, the idea of knighting this cousin of Camelot is a bit off-putting.

Knights defend honor.
Knights rescue maidens in distress.
Knights render aid.
Knights do not leave the scene.

Ted Kennedy is many things…but a knight he is not.

It's enough to drive you to primetime Network TV for solace.

The No Bachelor Zone

We are not going to talk about The Bachelor at all this morning.
Don’t call me about it.
I don’t want to talk about it.
We're not going to waste the time of others discussing it.

For all of you who watched that waste of time and electrons last night, you are dumber for the experience; you have had brain cells sucked irretrievably from your skull, and hours removed from your life you will never reclaim.

The Bachelor is the epitome of what is wrong with American Pop Culture, where a television network can script and manipulate the lives and emotions of people on both sides of the screen for the purposes of shilling products for you to buy.

The Bachelor is to dating and relationships what WWE is to professional athletics.
It’s all fakery.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Spending Gazillions

Many public companies who’ve received bailout dollars and which are also using sports sponsorships for marketing are under a lot of scrutiny these days. Bank of America and General Motors are among those businesses now on the public teat that are re-thinking their marketing strategies, and whether or not seeing their name in neon lights sends the right message to the public.

A CNN poll Tuesday morning revealed a 75-25 slant towards Banks NOT being sports sponsors.
I think that’s a little wrong-headed, because that money does trickle down to other things, and creates other jobs.

If the Bank of America/Yankee Stadium is suddenly without its namesake, where are the marketing fees going to come from? Who is going to step up and make up the difference in that stadium operating budget—without which, concessionaires, groundskeepers, office personnel, and a host of other jobs, are suddenly in jeopardy?

Some would say take that money—the money intended for the naming rights of a stadium—and use it to make loans in the community. A noble thought, and if the banks had been making good loans in the beginning, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

We’ve got to be careful about over-thinking these things.
Sports franchises must show a profit…and you can be pretty sure no government bail out is going to be waiting in the wings if the Houston Texans come up short a few million dollars at the end of a season.

If marketing-rights fees generate jobs, which keep the local economy pumping, leave well enough alone.

You know what really torques me?
In a time where we’re having to choke down more tax burden to bail out institutions that are deemed “too big to fail,” and our politicians are strewing billions of dollars willy-nilly like fishes and loaves that miraculously never run out (and they will…) we now have newly-minted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham I-Came-in-Second-Place Clinton wanting to rebuild the Gaza Strip…with your tax dollars.
$300-million, to be precise.

Has someone called the paramedics to check Mrs. Clinton for head trauma?
Has this woman been deprived of oxygen?

Would someone please explain to me why we’re looking down the barrel of a 1.75-Trillion dollar deficit that we’re going to be carrying for the next decade…and how anyone can justify spending a dime to rebuild a God-forsaken patch of 15 X 20-mile land in a part of the world that’s been ripped by strife and violence ever since Joshua led the Hebrews across the Jordan River?
I don’t get it.

There are plenty of Gaza Strips in the United States.
Pick Anytown, USA with a blighted neighborhood that’s 15 X 20, and let’s put our tax dollars to work rebuilding for our own people.
How far could $300-million go in say, Houston’s 4th or 5th Wards?

I realize the U.S. is trying to diffuse a delicate political conundrum in a corner of the world that affects many other dominos on the global table… However…it would seem a better use of American dollars to take care of matters at home for the near term. I am sure the Gaza Strip will be beckoning for a while, should we ever reach a point at which we’ve solved our own problems.

Of course the quickest way to get money to the Middle East: If the Gaza Strip was involved in Credit Swaps and derivatives. Maybe Mrs. Clinton could just establish a Gaza Strip Resolution Trust Corporation.

I know some mortgage wise guys in New York that could probably figure out a way to show Gaza Strip Real Estate is really not as risky as thought, and are willing to guarantee that risk by spreading it around among other friends.

Perhaps they could get the Syrians and the Iranians involved…spending their money on fixing the Gaza instead of lobbing missiles around that part of the world.

What do you call people who live in the Gaza Strip, anyway?
Gazateers…Gazateans...Gaza Strippers?

I know what you’d call the money used to rebuild that country:

Monday, March 02, 2009

Congressional Earmarkers: Champions or Chumps?

Fiscal hypocrisy, by any other name, is known as an earmark in Washington D.C. Consider this dilemma: Republicans, to a man (or woman) have officially disdained the ways and means by which the Obamalites are funding tax cuts for the middle class and bailouts for the banks. Yet, those same men and women, except for two members of the Texas Congressional Delegation, have ponied up $318-billion in earmarks for Federal Money to be spent in Lone Star districts.

It’s a strange situation where principal and practice are competing on opposing ends of a political balance beam.

Here’s the real-life corollary to the age-old question, “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound:”
If Congress allocates funding for projects intended to stimulate the economy, and your Congressperson doesn’t pursue those funds for your district, is he or she really doing the job you sent them to Congress to perform?

At what point do all members of Congress turn off the spigots and say “enough” to spending more money than the government takes in?

One Texas congressman who has drawn his own line in the sand is 10th District Rep. Michael McCaul, who was quoted over the weekend as saying the earmark system "is susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse," and as such he did not seek any earmarks for his district. The unfortunate, alternative reality of that position is that McCaul’s constituents will still be shouldering their share of paying back the dollars Congress will authorize to be spent other districts…and in other states.

Which makes you wonder if McCaul is a champion of the people for taking that stand, or a chump for not claiming for his constituents access to money we’ll all be paying back, along with our children and grandchildren.

I’m just sayin’…