Tag Archives: caste system

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?

As Usual, All About Me

I have regrets delving into potentially politically topics, but then again, I have had posts about libertarianism and extreme ideologies before, so I’ll give it another attempt.  My regret is that it’s so easy to bitch about hot-button topics.

I follow a “news” site that sort of straddles the line between hard-right and anarchistic.  I think it’s a good idea to at least read opposing viewpoints, despite how much it might piss you off or baffle you.  This site could be considered a news aggregator, although they do have some original authors on there.  A lot of times, what you get is an opinion piece with quotes from news articles.  And this one was no different.

Typically, the postings on this site are using news articles and other sources to promote their ideology, which is free-market capitalism and very anti-government – essentially extreme libertarianism.  This particular article I found was on health care costs and how it is cheaper to go to Mexico for surgery, on the order of ten times cheaper.

Naturally, the article invokes the trigger word, “socialism” as in “socialized healthcare” and their applied synonym, “ObamaCare”.  The belief is that if we stop the subsidies, the prices will come down to reasonable levels.  And to bolster that argument, the article compares a $30k procedure in the US to the same procedure in Mexico, which cost $3k.

Let’s pause for a moment here and realize there are quite a few Americans who do not have $3,000 readily available for an emergency.

Now, let’s also consider that the exchange rate.  Today, $1 is nearly 19 pesos.  Another potential cost of living metric is that bread in the US costs $1.40, which in Mexico it costs 15 pesos.  So then, sure, things in Mexico are typically ten times less expensive and our American dollars get us much more in Mexico.  So, you could just as easily have a Mexican version of this article wondering why a medical procedure costs 57,000 pesos.

So, let’s play along and embrace the libertarian dream.  Now, there is no insurance and health care is a cash-only option.  Because the health industry can’t exploit insurance, prices drop to $3,000 for a particular procedure.  So, who’s going to have trouble paying for this?  Hint: It’s the same ones that couldn’t pay $3,000 before.

As usual, this just reinforces the standard position of not caring about anyone but yourself.

The Haves And The Have-Nots

There’s something I want to bitch about.  It’s nothing new or profound or even really interesting.  It’s the issue with income inequality in America.

The people in charge of America recently made a change to the taxes applied to corporations.  They lowered the top tier from 35% to 21%.  This was promised intended to save a lot of money for businesses and help save jobs and keep business strong and profitable.  Then, recent news says that the corporation Kimberly-Clark is going to eliminate 5k jobs.  And even more recent news say that they are using the money saved from taxes to pay for the costs of downsizing their business, including the layoffs.  That doesn’t sound like the expected result that was sold to us.

For all the bitching that could be done on that specific case, what I want to focus on is the fact that when KC announced they were cutting jobs, their stock price went up.  This is a double-insult to the working class.  I am fortunate to have a 401k plan, but I am acutely aware that many do not.  And those people are not reaping any – ANY – of the growth that has been going on in the last decade.  And that really pisses me off.

Some people, who are oblivious to the pains of the working class, would ignorantly say, “All you have to do is put some money in the stock market and you’ll get the benefits.”  Sure, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 401k, Roth IRA, or simple mutual fund.  They are correct.  But the part they ignore is “What money?!”

Wages aren’t going up for the working class.  Expenses are going up, though.  Think about that for a minute.  If there was some available money, that money could be growing.  But because there is none, there is no growth.  It has to be the most painful thing ever to see someone making only slightly more than you pull away in net worth because they have that small bit of extra income.  You either have money to invest or you do not.  And there is a world of difference between the two.

That’s my biggest sticking point is that corporations are holding back prosperity from their employees.  They are making changes that only enrich the already-established instead of considering how to enrich everyone. 

Somehow, we need to increase access for everyone to be able to take advantage of growth opportunities.  Increasing pay is the easiest, most direct way for that.  “But, the company will suffer because it’s an additional cost!  The stock price will drop!  My monies!”  But, with more people being able to put money into investments, the stock price will rise from the additional demand.  There is a common aphorism for this: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

It’s not difficult.  All it takes is is a little less greed.

How To Close

It’s in the news that Walmart has closed a bunch of Sam’s Club locations.  Just for the record, I despise Walmart for many reasons, so don’t be surprised at the stance I’m taking with this most recent news.

A while ago, a regional Walmart closed down unexpectedly for “plumbing maintenance”.  It was part of a series of closures as well.  At the time, there was a massive conspiracy swirling around that the store was shut down to quell a union organizing.  And, on schedule, the store reopened, with an all-new crew and no union considerations among them.  Who’s to say what the real reason was?  Maybe it was plumbing?

In both that case and this new case with Sam’s Club, the closures were done with no warning for either employees or customers.  This is the part that really bothers me.  It reminds me of a time when I was working for a pizza chain and there was a coordinated closing of a bunch of neighboring stores.  The manager would show up in the morning and the district manager was already there to inform him the store was closing immediately.  The other employees would find out eventually, whenever or however.  It’s a shitty way to do business.

That Walmart is operating this way says a lot.  However, I’m not sure if they are making a commentary on their customers, their employees, or both.  In all cases, including my own near-closing experience, it’s all about a lack of trust.  It’s a disdain for people and an assumption of the worst in people.  The owners believe that if a closing date was scheduled, their assets would be at risk for theft or damage.  So, to mitigate that possibility, they surprise everyone with the closure.

I say that this really bothers me, but I really do understand it.  I can easily see an employee pocketing some merchandise, because, “Why not?  I’m only here another week anyway.  What will they do, fire me?”  I can see an employee turning a blind eye to shoplifters, because “Why should I care?”  Hell, I can see this happening at Walmarts that aren’t even closing.  And that’s what makes me think differently.

Walmart has built an entire culture on worthlessness.  All their products are cheap and disposable.  They’ve created a culture of customers that think this same way.  The customers have no pride for shopping there.  The employees clearly aren’t trained to actually care about their store and take pride in their jobs.  How can they when the chain has the reputation it does and the customers reinforce that belief every day?

Is it possible to create a culture where employees will be loyal to the end?  Maybe if given a fair severance?  Maybe if treated well during their entire career?  Maybe if the corporation was respected?  Maybe if the employees and customers took a little pride in their store.

Here’s a little factoid about me.  Sometimes when I’m shopping somewhere, I’ll clean the place up.  I’ll rehang a shirt from the floor or straighten a display.  I’ll organize things (especially CDs) as best I can.  I leave the place better than I found it.  But, sometimes, I don’t.  And in the cases I don’t, it’s a gut feeling that it’s of no use, that it would never be appreciated.  And, in the extremely rare instance I’m in a Walmart, my only desire is to leave, not to try and make things better.

Because, when I’m in a store I enjoy, I want to be comfortable there.  I want it to look nice.  I want other customers to enjoy it as much as I do.  Yes, that’s a role for the employees to fulfill, but there’s no reason there can’t be a family-type feeling in the place.  And if I remove one source of disarray and the result makes another customer more cheerful at how non-disheveled the place is, then the store will succeed and I’ll get to keep coming there.

And I would hope, that on the day my favorite stores have to close, there is a nice structured ending.  Kind of a farewell parade – a little bit sad, but dignified.  And nothing like the shotgun finalities of any of Walmart’s closures.