Tag Archives: caste system

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

This is long.  This is a rant about my workplace.  While the story is specific to my employer, it’s actually more of a rant about rampant capitalism, of which my employer is highly adherent to.  It is sort of a difficult post for me to write.  I’ve been wrestling with myself for the last couple of days on the topic because I’ve felt I have no right to complain.  After all, I have a job, I’m paid quite well, the work is easy and in a field I enjoy.  There are people who do not have all, some, or even any of those.  Why should I complain?

Let’s just cut to the situation, then break it apart from there.  Friday morning we got an announcement that because of the pandemic and the resulting slowdown in business at the company, there were going to be some changes implemented.  So far, this sounds like every other company dealing with COVID fallout.  The changes include: pay cuts (15% for managers and up, 10% for everyone else), discontinuation of 401k matching, discontinuing anniversary bonuses, and discontinuation of PTO cashouts.  Earlier in the year, when COVID began, the company announced a wage freeze, so no more raises until things turn around.

How did this affect me personally?  I am considered maxed out on salary, so my raises have been trivial for the last few years.  A wage freeze doesn’t hurt me too bad.  However, a 10% pay cut, wiped out 6 years worth of raises for me.  You can also take out 4% of my salary from the loss of the 401k match.  The anniversary bonus is something nice to look forward to, and since my anniversary is in a couple of weeks, this stings a little more than usual.

I say again, why should I complain?  It’s just money and even with the changes, I’m still probably in the top 10 highest paid people in the company.  My finances are very stable.  But to not complain is to accept and encourage that mentality that is choking and killing America – I got mine. Fuck you.

This is a family-owned company, and a couple of the family members/owners "work" there.  Over the years, their involvement has dwindled as their age has also progressed.  They are all very, very wealthy and surely want to spend their lives and their money in other ways.

As spokespeople for the company, the owners have always stressed how the employees are like extended family.  However, when we have our annual layoffs, the remaining people are reassured that the company is financially strong.  I get it.  A company is not supposed to lose money; it wouldn’t survive like that.  However, when times are lean and there is a choice to reduce profit or reduce headcount, the same decision is always made.

I say again, I get it.  Money can come from a business in three ways: a salary, year-end profits, and the intrinsic value of the company itself.  I would be on board if the decision to preserve profit was because the owners only income was the corporate profit.  But it’s not.  The owners have the intrinsic value, they have the annual profit, and they also all pull a salary from the company.  They are triple-dipping and hoarding all the profits for themselves.  They sacrifice others for their own gain.

Now, here’s the straw that broke my back with this last announcement.  Two things actually.  First was the mention of layoffs.  The announcement rationalized that when volume was down, the company would lay people off.  And why not?  They’ve done it every year for at least four years.  While they didn’t explicitly say we should be happy they didn’t resort to layoffs, mentioning it at all means it was considered.

So why wasn’t that the decision?  Thanks to freedom-loving patriots out there (who I’m sure had to fight valiantly against the current administration), it is in public information that I was able to find out that our company received a PPP loan from the government in the amount of somewhere between 2 and 5 million dollars.  A provision of taking that loan is that you do not lay off any workers.  So layoffs weren’t an option, although it was still considered.  However, there’s no restriction against cutting salary or benefits (research shows that this not uncommon).

If you know the PPP loan program, you know it’s not a loan.  It’s forgivable as long as you abide by its rules.  So, it’s free government money (it’s not socialism when it’s capitalism, right!).  Our company got over 2 million dollars for free to pay for our salaries and our company instead cuts salaries.  That improves the company’s profit, which goes to… the owners, exclusively.  Hypothetically, lets say our business was down enough that we made no profit this year, we just broke even.  With the PPP loan, payroll expenses drop by $2M+, profit becomes $2M+.  And that is not enough for the owners.  Fuck you, I’m getting mine.

I know business.  I know how it can be used to fuck people.  I saw it at my last job and I see it here.  In my last job, there was a "final con" to fuck the employees and enrich the owner on his way out.  While I’m not sure my previous employer actually got to execute his plan before I left, if my prediction for this company’s "final con" is correct, it’s already a done deal.

The owners are old and not involved in the business anymore.  They want out.  Business is down and has been down for quite some time.  That is bad for the owners.  When someone wants to buy a business, they want to see what return on investment they will get from it.  If the company isn’t turning good profits, its value (the sale price) decreases.  While anyone pitching the company is going to point out the glory years as what the company is capable of and will also hype the potential of the business when COVID ends, they still need to prove short-term viability and profit.

I’ve already told you the secret a few paragraphs ago.  Reduce expenses, profit goes up.  By cutting everyone’s salary and the 401k benefits and anniversary bonuses and the cash value of PTO, the company immediately looks better financially to a buyer.  The buyer has no obligation to restore any of those things.  For all they know, it’s always been that way.  Maybe they would see in a prior year financial statement that expenses were much higher, but why should they care?  The current and future financials say they’ll make good money.

Pause for a moment and absorb all that.  Now, because I have to explicitly say this, if the company looks like it will be more profitable to a buyer, the company can be sold for more money.  That money goes to… the owners, exclusively.  The salary and benefit cuts remain.

Now, in closing.  I do get it.  This is business.  Do not ever feel like your employer give one single shit about you or your life.  Are there exceptions to this?  Sure.  But America is greed and selfishness personified.  It’s going to take generations to turn this around if it even can be turned around.  It’s not going to happen in my lifetime for sure.  I really do empathize with the younger generations and what they are facing.

The Modern Apartment Life

I had a dream last night which gave me an idea that was very much in the spirit of the times.  It’s no secret that the world we live in is the most unfair, inequitable, selfish, and greedy in generations.  So, why not capitalize on it?  So here’s my idea.  Obviously, I couldn’t do anything like this for multiple reasons, not the least of which is morals.  But if I was of that exploitive bent, I think this might actually work.

What’s hot right now?  Renting.  Why?  Because no one can afford a house, even though rent is pretty much a house payment anyway, but for lots of other reasons, people can’t get a house.  So, being a landlord is good.  What’s even better is having high-end apartments, because even if people can’t afford to have a house, they still don’t want to have to live in, ugh, an apartment building.  Temporarily displaced millionaires and all.

My design is a high-story building.  Not like 30 stories high, just a moderate 10-12.  It has a multi-level parking garage enough to house 2.5 cars per unit.  2 cars per unit, some overflow guest parking, and renters can pay for additional spaces.  On the top floor of the building is a gym with inspiring views, and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Obviously, there is a resort-style pool and small dog park.  Library, meeting/conference/party rooms, you know.  All the stuff.  So we’ve established this is a luxury apartment complex that’s essentially like living at a vacation resort.  The rent doesn’t have to be outrageous, just in line with the amenities.  The gatekeeping and exclusivity comes from a different source – the deposit.

To have a lease in this complex, you have to make a deposit of $20,000.  Jaw-dropping, yes.  Believable in this day and age, yes as well.  Only the first one to do this will seem weird, then when it works, it will become normal.  It’s happened over and over.  Who would have thought people would be buying $1,500 phones?

Now obviously, this is a deposit, so you’ll get it back when you leave.  I don’t know a lot about the rental industry, but I assume a rental company holds a percentage of the deposits they take in and uses the rest for working capital.  It would be unlikely that there would be a mass outflow of tenants that would result in a "run on the bank", so to say.  But that sort of working methodology just doesn’t sit right with me.  That money is never yours and it’s a one-time boost, unlike the recurring inflow of rent payments.  So in my business, the deposits are always 100% off-limits for business use.

So what do you do with that money?  120 units each with a $20k deposit is almost $2.5 million dollars.  Well, you invest it!  You put it in some safe income-bearing investment and the additional income from that investment is used to operate the business.  Investing 2.4M with a 4% return will provide almost $100k a year, without compounding.  Let’s consider what rent could be for such a high-end apartment.  $1,500/mo?  That would be $180k/mo in rental income, then an extra $8k/mo in investment income.  That’s like having an extra 5 units paying rent.

And you know, the $20k deposit is still perfectly on point with the times.  It keeps the "undesirables" out.  So you’d have to have impeccable credit as well as a large hoard of cash to get into this building.  And the exploitation of the tenants, even beyond what’s normal for rentals, is that the business gets to use the tenant’s capital for their own use.  Shit, they could even sell it as a benefit to their renters, saying, "your deposit will be held securely so when you are ready to graduate to homeownership from renting, you’ll have a great source for your house’s down payment."  Obviously ignoring the fact that the deposit is locked in a zero-interest account, while the apartment business is collecting the interest.

That just modern life in these dystopian times.

Is Being Old A Liability?

I’m not actually talking about people getting old and the risk that comes with that.  You know there’s plenty of risks for old people, health, financial, mental, and on and on.  Everything is dangerous.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I am talking about corporations.  Is it now a liability to be old?

Traditionally, it has been a great thing to have a business that’s been running for 50+ years.  Some running for over 100.  Amazing, isn’t it?  To be that ingrained the fabric of America, to have that sort of name recognition, to have seen it all and weathered everything that came along.  That last point: to have seen it all and weathered it.  That is the liability – to have been there.

This train of thought is fairly new for me and is obviously based on current events, but the idea I’m basing it on was actually born quite a while ago.  I was at a Dairy Queen, eating lunch one weekend.  Dairy Queen is one of those long-standing institutions I’m referring to.  I believe them to be generally well-loved, but every business has its detractors for some reason or another.  That’s not important for the moment.  What is important is having a history and being proud of it.

Yes, so Dairy Queen is an old company.  They are quite proud of their early beginnings and how they’ve grown to a massive corporation that is, if not the leader, then the most recognizable company in their field.  So, they want to highlight the humble beginnings of their company to, I don’t know, inspire others?  And I’m sitting there at lunch eating, and on the wall are old black and white photos of early Dairy Queens with the old cars and crowds of people lining up for ice cream.

And as I studied the pictures, my thought was, "That’s a whole lot of white people, there."

Now at the time, things weren’t as crazy as they are now, but race relations were growing tense.  They must have been for me to focus in on that aspect of the pictures.  And further studying showed, yes, no black people present.

Let’s not jump to conclusions here.  There’s lots of reasons why a bunch of photos just all happened to not show a single black person getting ice cream from an old Dairy Queen.  Local demographics is a perfectly valid reason.  BUT.  Racial tensions are not about reason, they are about emotion.  And anything that reinforces a perception… well, it’s not good, regardless of whether the perception can be explained or not.

To cut to the chase, I am wondering if it is worthy of consideration for a company that existed in the less-than-ideal era for black people to simply drop their company, drop their history, and start fresh with a new company.  Radical?  Yes.  Beneficial?  Maybe.  Harmful if not done?  Well, it is leaving an avenue of attack open.

I can foresee the arguments.  Attack?  That’s not fair.  This company did nothing to foster divide or hatred back then and that nonwithstanding, this company is a diverse, fresh, modern company that is committed to blah, blah, blah.  Right.  And you can see how effective a defense that is.  Compare that to:  This company was formed and created in 2020, the year of social change, established right from the beginning with equality, inclusiveness, and equal representation in every level of management and policy.  Blah blah blah.  Both are corporate non-speak, but one has the distinct advantage of no historical baggage.

A company that was around in the 50’s, even if they weren’t actively employing racist policies, was still operating in the norms of the time, which is to say, likely racist.  You would have to be considered extremely progressive, even radical, to have a company back then like companies are today.  If you want a real eye-opener, watch the old movie 9 to 5, from 1980.  At the climax of the movie, the old boss returns to the office and sees handicapped people working there and learns of many employee benefits that have been implemented in his absence.  He’s furious, of course, insisting he will undo everything right away.  Watching the movie now, those major advancements are like the bare minimum today.

So, if you were operating in the 50’s, you were a part of the problem.  Your only excuse is that the social norms at the time didn’t consider it a problem.  And that’s a problem for your company.  You can say how committed you are and how changed and all that happy stuff your company is, but your company has old bones.  And an old brain.  And memories, posted in black and white photos on your walls.  You can’t escape that past, without completely starting over.

Ok, Boomer

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-11-04/millennials-should-be-happy-they-are-stuck-renting

“Millennials spend a lot of time bemoaning their inability to buy a home, forcing them to keep renting. They should want to stay renters, if they know what’s good for them financially.”

You son of a bitch.

This fucking article, written by an economist, is trying to sell the idea that people are better off renting than owning a house.  And specifically, millennials are better off doing it.  You wonder why young people hate the boomer generation?  Well, this is a pretty good piece of evidence.  Take away the condescending tone and you actually are left with malicious advice.

It’s amazing to me the slight of hand that is performed in order to make the pitch in this article.  The author actually says that buying a house is a losing proposition.  “…it has cost the homeowner 3% per year to own a house before taxes, maintenance, utilities and insurance.  That’s a real negative return.”  A goddamn economist, who manages investing funds, is selling this shit.

Then this paragraph:

“Some millennials were caught up in the subprime mortgage boom and collapse, and remain scarred by it. They believed they could buy houses with no money down and never shell out a dime because continuing rapid appreciation would allow for continual refinancings. So the bursting of the subprime mortgage bubble and subsequent one-third decline in house prices was a rude awakening, especially since it was the first nationwide drop in values since the 1930s.”

This needs some unpacking.  First, not just millennials were caught up in this shit.  Everyone was.  But who was most vulnerable to it?  And that snark about what millennials believed?  You fuckers sold them that belief.  You convinced them.  They had no prior experience in real estate investing and falsely trusted you.  So then we get the first housing crash since the 1930’s.  Thanks for that.

Look, I’m no economist.  I’m just a former renter who became a homeowner.  When I went to purchase my new house, my simple criteria was, “is the same cost as what I’m paying in rent?”  That was my budget and that’s where I went.  I completely understand the issue of house prices being insane, but I also see what rent costs and it’s not much better.  So, I encourage anyone to buy when they can.  If you have to start small, do that.  Don’t hold out and wait until you can afford big.  And don’t listen to this bullshit that you shouldn’t buy at all.

Here’s the truth that the author is not telling you.  It’s very simple.  When you rent, you get nothing for your money.  You get lodging and that’s it.  When you own, you keep what you spend.  People want to argue that housing doesn’t have a high rate of return on investment?  Fuck them.  It’s not supposed to.  They say, what if you own a house for 10 years and sell it for what you paid for it, not gaining a cent?  You fucking assholes, you gain all the equity in the property.  All the money you paid into the loan (minus interest of course) is equity.  You get that back.  If you’re renting, what happens when you end your lease?  What equity do you get from that? That’s “not gaining a cent”.

Then they can argue that property values can fall.  Yes, this has happened once.  Do I think it will happen again?  Probably, but not as extreme as last time.  But here’s the thing.  You don’t lose money until you sell.  I was underwater over $30k at one point.  I kept making my mortgage payments and the property value eventually came back.  And all the payments I made while it was underwater?  Guess what?  They still counted!  Just like every other payment.  It’s all equity.  Stay the course!

So, you want to know why this fucking boomer wants you to keep renting?  He’ll tell you right at the end of the article.

“The trend toward renting over owning should persist and may even increase. I continue to favor investments in rental apartments—assuming, of course, they meet the location, location, location test.”

So you better keep renting, if you know what’s good for you.  And what’s good for you is very good for me.

Judged By The Company You Keep

In my state, you just cannot live without having tinted windows on your car.  Unless you actually want sunburn or cancer, that is.  When I got my MX5 nine years ago, I was dying during the few days between when I bought the car and I had my appointment for window tinting.  I had to keep a towel in the car to cover my forearm from the sun blasting through the glass.

Almost a decade later, I have a new car, a much bigger car, and this one also needs the tinting treatment for my own comfort and safety.  Maybe a bit surprisingly to me, the same shop that did the windows on my other car is still there.  Well, maybe it is.  It has a new name, but the logo is mostly the same, and the original name is now used by another shop elsewhere in the city.  Partnership gone sour, maybe?  Diversification?  Whatever.  They did a great job the first time, so I’ll go back there and generally hope for the best.

With services like window tinting, isn’t hoping for the best all you can do?  It’s not like it’s a service you utilize on a regular basis, so you build a level of trust in a company.  It’s highly likely you’ll use the service once before they go out of business (or change their name).  And it’s not even really about the business, it’s the quality and skill of their installers.  I doubt the same installers are there that did my first car.  So, it’s always going to be a crapshoot as to what you get.

Tint shops are sort of paradoxical. It’s kind of hard to find one that isn’t ghetto in some way.  I mean, window tint shouldn’t be anything illicit, but you know, it can be.  And those shops usually augment their business with stereo installs, which again, are not illicit, but stereotypically…  And that’s terrible that such a perception exists and that they seem to actively exploit it in their marketing and image.

But the paradox is that this is just the place you want to go.  Quality work comes from practice, so you want a shop that has done a lot of jobs, even if they are on ‘76 Malibus and Cadillacs.  Sigh, more stereotypes.  It’s kind of like certain dive restaurants that have incredible food for really cheap not only because they are more focused on the food than their image, but because they’re so busy with their cheap regulars that they are masters at cooking that food.

Back to my statement about not using window tint services often enough to build a relationship.  That statement was a little short-sighted.  Maybe you do utilize that service frequently if you’re in the cycle of buying $1000 cars and burning them out every 6 months.  I mean, that sounds horrible, but it’s the same as having a $200/mo car payment, right?  Seems almost legit.  Except you would have to get your new car retinted twice a year.  And those customers keep the installers well experienced.

So when I go in with my 2019 model car, the quality I receive could be built off the backs of people who don’t have the credit or ability to buy a car less than 10 years old and are in a constant cycle of upgrades.  Maybe not, but maybe.  What’s the alternative?  Find a high-end shop where they, for whatever reason, would not service those repeat customers?  Which is the greater evil?  Why did this post get so heavy?  I just want to not roast in my car.

Better Than Nothing?

I keep some notes of ideas for potential blog posts and when I happened across the list today, this item stuck out at me – “T-shirt sweatshop interview”.  Oh yeah, I remember that event.  And maybe it stuck out to me a little harder today, since I am actively looking for a new job (shhh!).  But it also gave me some other thoughts about the current job market, and a bit about those that are unfortunate.

So here’s the story.  I had been fired from my first job after I sliced my finger open, because I didn’t follow safety protocols.  I went jobless for quite some time.  One of my friends gave me a lead for a T-shirt printing business that was looking for help.  In fact, he worked there, so I had an “in”.  So, one day, I made my way out to the company, which was located way off the beaten path, which is saying a lot when you’re already living in sticksville.  It was the kind of place where deaths go unreported.

And I showed up and said I wanted to apply for a job.  I filled out a paper application (how quaint) and then I was ready for my interview.  The “interview” was nothing involving talking or getting to know me or what my background was.  It involved taking me onto the floor, giving me about a minute of instruction of how to use a manual screen-printing machine, then seeing how productive I could be in 30 minutes.

Of course, I didn’t know any better at the time, but I’m sure no one would get away with this today, with liabilities and unpaid labor laws, and on and on.  But I was a teenager in a rural shop in the heat of summer with no AC, and I worked that machine for my 30 minutes.  At the end of my time, I was told I would hear from them soon.

Soon came and went, and I drove back out to find out what the holdup was.  The person at the office asked if I did my test.  I said I didn’t know there was a test.  So, she took me back onto the floor and showed me the screen printing machine.  Guess who got an extra 30 minutes of free labor?  Now, guess who didn’t get a job after all that?

Now, after that experience, I did eventually get a job in fast food and I went to school, and began my professional career based on some connections I had made along the way.  But, what might have happened if I did get that miserable job, sweating for hours at a job that would probably destroy my fingers from CTS?  I had a job.  Would it be good enough?  More importantly, would it keep me from being able to find something better?

To expand on that last point.  There are times I see panhandlers on the roadside, and on days when my cynicism is low, I would like to offer to take them to a restaurant for a dinner.  Most of the time, I would expect that they would just ask for money instead.  Being cynical, yeah, they just want alcohol.  But, not being cynical, what if the reason is that they can’t afford to leave for a meal because every minute they are not begging is a minute that they could miss a dollar.  Although the meal would be free for them, they could lose more in cash by taking the time to eat.

So, what if the time I was spending making a little bit of money was holding me back from being able to get a job that makes more money?  How many others are in that same trap right now?  You can’t get ahead because you’re just getting by.  That’s a reality that so many people don’t see.

I’m not exactly advocating quitting your job to focus on finding a better job, but… sometimes you have to make a drastic change to have a dramatic change happen for you.

Be Quick Or Be Rich

I was browsing some classifieds and was noticing that some items wouldn’t sell quickly, so the poster would post a reply stating the price was dropped.  And sometimes this would go on for a few replies.  It made me think about the multitude of ways we humans have devised for transactional commerce.

Every single thing has a value, but that value is different for every single potential consumer.  That is a simple concept that can be overwhelming to consider if you dwell on it.  The consideration on the other side of the counter is that everything has a cost, so how long can you sustain the cost?

This could be a whole post on the nuances of what constitutes a sellers costs and how that can factor into how much or how little they charge for items.  But the real thing I was thinking of was a memory a couple decades ago of a travel auction site that appeared to be a perpetual source of frustration.  I’ve forgotten the name of the site and can’t be bothered to research it right now.

The idea of the site is they would put up vacation packages for really cheap, then let people bid them up.  The twist on the auction was that the listings were for multiple tickets and they could be bid up independently.  I just did a quick search for what this type of auction is called and amazingly, I can’t find it.  I know I had found it once in the past.  So here’s the concept.  The company lists a package with 30 tickets starting at $50/ticket.  The first 30 bidders are in at $50.  Then the bid price rises to $60.  The next bidders start knocking out the previous bidders at $50 and now are in line to win at $60.  The price rises again and the bumping continues until no one wants to pay the current bid price.

Here’s the memorable part for me.  When you bid, you can add a comment to your bid that shows up in the leading bids screen.  Without fail, every one of the early bidders who got in early and cheap is using their comment to plead for other people to wait for the next auction to be listed, so they won’t get bumped.  And without fail, they get bumped.  It’s a perfect example of human behavior, especially when it comes to money and privilege.  Being early doesn’t matter when you have the money to make the line disappear.  Those with the money to make things happen for them don’t particularly care about the ones whose only chance of success is early opportunity.

I used the site one time, and I do remember a small sense of “fuck off, whiner” when I outbid one of the earlier people.  But after that one win, I never really got back into it.  Maybe there were too many people outbidding me, or it just got too popular and expensive.  Maybe I was harboring suspicions there were shills driving up the prices.  Whatever it was, the site faded from memory, but the idea stuck with me.

“If we work together we can all win.”  Completely untrue.  You mean, if we work together and you let me win, then you can win next time.  There’s no guarantees on that future and everyone knows it.  What a wondrous world we live in.

The Flippers

You know what really grinds my gears?  Family Guy.  And other things, too.  One of the things that really gets my goat (Whatever the hell that means… actually the all-knowing Internet says that goat used to be a slang term for anger.  So, there you go.)  Yeah, so anyway… You know what really makes me angry?  Flippers.  Middlemen. Value-adders.  Brokers.  Leeches.

The most obvious case of this is in real estate.  HGTV should be ashamed at what they have wrought upon the world.  The glorification of gentrification.  And while the rest of the country is freaking the hell out about wage gap and the unaffordability of housing, these shows are the most popular AGAIN.  I mean it’s not like one “Flip or Flop” is enough, now there has to be regionalized versions so we can see how fucked up things are getting in multiple places.

I shouldn’t have to explain the problem but I will, because otherwise the post will be too short.  In brief, someone buys a house that is distressed (a polite term for shitty) and fixes it up so it can be purchased by people who could not do the repair work themselves or who could not afford to buy the house outright at all.

As a brief aside, let me explain a case where I tried buying a foreclosure.  I was in a bind in my personal life and wanted to get a separate residence.  I found a foreclosure for cheap and scoped it out.  The problem was, the house had no kitchen and no water heater.  It was gutted.  Because it was gutted, I was unable to secure a loan to buy the property.  Despite all my financial plans for affording the place easily, I just couldn’t get it because I didn’t have $50k in cash sitting around.  So I lost the property and everything worked out fine for me in the end, but it irks me that I missed out on that place to an investor.

So anyway, these investors/flippers/whatever.  It should be a noble thing they are doing – cleaning up a property and making it habitable for normal people.  But it isn’t.  Because, gotta get paid.  And there’s no money in selling to normal people.  You need to sell to richer people who can give you a bigger profit.  The problem is, richer people are fewer people.  And as more of these houses get improved on, the fewer the number of buyers are.

But I’m sure you know all of that.  I wanted to point out that this flipping situation is not exclusive to real estate.  On a forum I frequent for music collectors, there is a regular bitchfest about “Record Store Day”, which was supposed to be an event to drive customers to small-town record stores.  The incentive for this is that a collection of albums are released that are extremely limited edition or have been out of print for a long time.  For music lovers, that’s pretty cool.  But, the flippers smell a buck, here.

Inevitably, the flippers mob the store and buy up all the limited editions, then within the same day, resell them on EBay for huge profits.  So, regular people just avoid the crush and Record Store Day is just another disappointment.  Did the record store make any money?  Ironically, not as much as the flippers do.  One has price controls, for the other, the sky’s the limit.

Did you know this also happens with beer?  A co-worker of mine flips craft beers and makes decent money at it.  The investment for him is time – standing in line at small breweries, waiting to buy a single bottle of beer.  Sometimes he will bring the girlfriend along so he can get two.  And wouldn’t you know it?  He’s reported that sometimes a flipper will “hire” a bunch of homeless people to wait in line to buy a bottle of beer each.  It’s absolutely disgusting.

And at the root of all of these cases is the great American dream of “something for nothing”.  Inject yourself into the middle of a process and take a little off the top.  You add no value, you only add cost.  Some may argue that the value they add is the knowledge of the source and the skill at marketing it to a broader market.  That’s bullshit.  It’s one thing to market a product to a larger audience.  It’s quite another to scoop up everything of a limited quantity and sell it because you can’t get it anywhere else.  It’s a self-made monopoly.

And here’s something that I’m currently fighting with myself about.  I have two very valuable CDs that I was fortunate enough to find for very cheap.  I am sure there is a collector out there that would prize them for their rarity much more than I do.  I don’t need to make a 100x profit on my purchase if it would make someone happy.  But how would I be sure that the buyer wasn’t a flipper?

And that is the problem with everything.  Let’s go back to real estate.  Let’s say you were altruistic and rehabbed a house and sold it for a fair dollar.  Who’s to say the buyer isn’t a flipper who would add a single upgrade and sell it for a profit?  All you’ve done is made someone else’s job easier.

Simple, Unhealthy Pleasures, Made More Expensive

I read a recent announcement that a new burger place was going to be opening in my town.  You would think I would be excited about something like that because I like burgers.  But unfortunately, the burgers of my era don’t really exist anymore.  They have been improved, upcycled, and gentrified.  They are now Gourmet Burgers.  And I fucking hate them.

Remember a time when you would go and have a beer?  Well, I don’t personally, because I don’t drink.  But I remember the reputation of people who would go and have a beer and it was, well, hmmm…. blue-collar.  But then, craft beers came along and drinking beer was hip and trendy and super cool.  And they also got super expensive, and there were so many variants it seemed impossible to keep track of what you might like, if anything.  And drinking craft beers gave you a way to serious discuss the various ways you get yourself drunk, with organic hops and brew cycles and fermentation in only the highest quality drums and ABV or drunkerness-value.

Remember when cupcakes were a simple treat?  You’d buy a half-dozen from the grocery store and eat them at a party or over a week or something?  Then came along a concept of gourmet cupcakes, where you buy one super-expensive cupcake and savor the fuck out of it to get your money’s worth.  But no one just eats one cupcake, so in the end, you’re just spending a hell of a lot more money.  But you justify it because the cupcake is of a much higher quality.  And the cupcakes aren’t just something simple, it’s a mishmash of crazy ingredients and flavors just to prove to yourself and everyone else that you have such a refined palate.

Remember burgers?  A chunk of mashed beef on a bun?  Well, that’s just too simple for the hip, modern person.  A burger can be anything according to these assholes.  Sure, you can put ground beef on a sesame seed bun, but where’s the challenge in that?  What if you want chicken?  Or fish?  Or vegetables?  Or… What if you want a wheat bun?  What if you want lettuce as your bun?  Those are all burgers!  A bunch of vegetables wrapped in lettuce – look at my fucking BURGER!  Bullshit!  Sacrilege!

Oh, and toppings?  Well, let’s just go right off the rails on this.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I suppose you could potentially get a ground beef patty as a topping for your chicken burger.  Why not?  There’s no damn rules anymore!

You know the people that don’t go to Starbucks because they feel they’d be laughed out of the shop for ordering a coffee?  “Get out of here, peasant!  Go to Dunkin Donuts for your… coffee!”  Well, that’s pretty much how I feel going to these places and asking for a plain cheeseburger.  I’m offending them.  And in a way, they’re offending me, too.  I don’t see it as a place that has to elevate something simple to the point of eliminating the basics, I see it more like, we can’t do the basics well, so we’ll hide behind fancy buns and toppings and other ingredients to make up for that shortcoming.  And people eat that shit up, literally.

This problem is everywhere.  Remember when you could buy a candy bar?  Now you can’t buy one.  You have to buy two.  They call it King Size, or Sharing Size, or whatever.  Pretty soon, they’re going to start mixing different candy bars and saying it’s the new hip thing to do to when you get say, a Mounds and a Peppermint Patty together and eat them together like a fucking BURGER.

Remember when you just went and bought ice cream?  Cold Stone Creamery took care of that.  Remember when you bought a fountain drink?  Coca Cola Freestyle machines to the rescue.  Remember when you smoked cigarettes?  Vaping gives you 50,000 different flavors and buzz levels.  Remember casino slot machines with three reels?  They got SO complex they couldn’t even be mechanical anymore.  They had to be virtual reels on a touch screen.

I’m old.  There, I said it.

The Business Life

Recently, I was given the opportunity to go on a business trip for my employer.  The event required a technical person for the upcoming work and this was supposed to be training and exposure.  I had done business trips in the past, but this gave me a whole different perspective on “the life”.

Another aspect of this meeting was that the host of the event wanted to show off their brand new building.  I didn’t really give it much thought.  An office building is like any other, right?  Nope.  And that all played into the discomfort I felt.  So let’s start at the beginning.

When I was told about the trip, I was also told that the company travel coordinator would handle everything.  So, right off the bat, I’m a little out of my comfort zone.  You know, if I was tasked to go somewhere, I would be looking for the cheapest flight anywhere.  Well, that’s not how business travel works.  I end up on a top-tier airline in what I assume is a decent seat.  As you know, you don’t get decent seats for cheap.  They cost extra.  I don’t know, my airfare was around $500.  That’s more than I would be willing to spend.  And also, there’s six of us going.  Yeah, six.

So we all get to the destination and we Uber to the hotel.  I’m not really a fan of Uber, but that’s for another post, and it’s not my decision to make anyway.  And the hotel is a Staybridge Suites hotel.  Everyone gets a suite!  Now, I don’t expect us to bunk together, but I don’t need lodgings this fancy.  No way.  It’s our first night and we all go out to dinner.  Company expense, of course.  Steakhouse?  Sure.  Longhorn?  Outback?  Fuck, no.  It’s not our money, let’s go to Perry’s.  You can’t eat there for less than $60/plate.  And of course, everyone drinks.  It was easily a $600 bill, I’m certain of it.

Day one at our host’s new office building.  This is not an office building, it is a goddamn resort.  It has a cafeteria, an exercise room, a balcony garden, another café with barista on the upper floor, a game room, and technology that would make most humans gawk in amazement.  Maybe it’s the new modern standard for a national company, but like Perry’s, it’s way out of my league.

The conference goes all day.  We get catered lunch and we get a tour of the building.  They’re quite proud of it.  At the conclusion of the tour, there is a social gathering with beer and wine and snacks too fancy and weird for me to even eat.  I’m watching all these people chatting and mingling, and the cute girls in the short skirts sitting on the bar counter with their wine, and I’m wondering, this is business?  In what world is this business?  This one, apparently.

Our group got dinner reservations for Del Friscos, another $60/plate steakhouse.  I man up and say, fuck all y’all, I’m staying in my room (no, my fucking SUITE) and ordering pizza.  It was a great pizza and only put the company out $25.  I was ordered to save the receipt for reimbursement.  It would have been fine, guys.  You know, you pay me pretty well already.

My point of this rant, which I’ve done before, is that there is this executive life that is not available to normal folk.  I’m kind of in it, right on the cusp, but I don’t agree with it.  I don’t like it.  It’s living in a fantasy, where you get to feel like you’re super rich, but you’re not.  And you only get to act and feel that way because of your employer.  The employer that is putting out gobs of money disproportionately for a select few, when it could be spent on others in the company who are nowhere near that sort of lifestyle.  And who would appreciate it more?