Communication Is Over-rated

May 18, 2011 at 8:29 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I just got a phone the other day–I’d been without one for almost a month.  I’m working only one job, and that is not enough to pay the bills, bro.  I need to be looking for a new part time job.
And ye cannah do that without a phone.  Because what if you successfully lie to someone enough that they’re willing to hire you?  They’ll want to call me.
That’s…really all I have on that.
Meanwhile, my day job has been a bit of a drag.  It’s complicated and I’m not sure wherein the blame lies; however, I do know that I am working more and making less money.
I’m making less in two ways:  first, my “bonus”–my incentive–is not what it was before.  I’ve tracked it for the last few years, and it’s been averaging between three and four hundred clams per month.  Since I’ve been doing actual shipping in the shipping department, my incentive be different and I’ve made a (very) little over a hundred.  That’s *one* hundred.
Not only that, but I’ve been working harder–I’ve been actually working, compared with what I had been doing the past six years.  Look, before, my job was essentially this:  I get stacks of paper, I put them in the scanner, I click a button.  I enter some data in the appropriate fields.  Repeat.
Endlessly repeat.
Now Bunny is my boss again, and she promised me–no, she told me…no, maybe she vaguely hinted at the possibility of more money doing this other thing.
Let me explain briefly (if I can do it briefly):
I work in the mortgage division.  There are distinct sections, departments, that handle various phases of the loan process that always go like clockwork.  Origination, underwriting, processing, and closing.  Then there is the post-closing area, of which I am a part.  After closing loans go to pre-shipping–I still don’t know what the hell that is–and then shipping.  Me.  Well, me and a few others.  We ship the loans.
Why?  And where?  Well, the way we make money is we originate the loans with the intention of selling them to other investors.  The big ones are Bank of America, Chase, Wells, and BB&T.  After the loan closes, the clock is ticking.  Hell, after the loan LOCKS, the clock is ticking.  After it is closed and funded and the deal is done and people have their keys and they are moving into their dream home–we have work to do.  We have to get the loan to the investor and we have a limited amount of time to do it.
First we take the loan apart, pretty much page by page, and re-assemble it in a more astheticallly pleasing manner, called the stacking order.  And each investor has their own particular stacking order.
And there are other things along the way–check things off, verify information, print out certain docs, fill out paperwork.  Then we send them to the investor.  For the smaller outlets, we re-stack it, scan it into our file system, re-hole punch it, and ship via overnight UPS the entire loan package.  The others–most of them–we scan in, convert to PDF, and send electronically.  Of course, we still physically ship the live note overnight to them.
By the way, the average size of a file is almost 400 pages.  Most are in the 300+ range, and some are 600 pages.
So how many can one person do in a day?  That’s the crux of the situation, the heart of the matter.  How many can I do in an 8-hour day?
How many can I do in an 8-hour day when I’m busting my ass, and taking care of my other side jobs, such as ordering supplies and maintaining equipment?
When people say they work in a fast-paced office environment, what they mean is what I do.  I am quite literally working at a dead run for most of the day.
And I’m new to this.  Not new here, but new in this job.  When I first started, I was lucky to finish four or five loans in a day.  I’ve gotten faster–I had to get faster–but yesterday, for instance, we three that do the regular loans had ten each.  Me, Blair, and Kimmy.  (Serena is now in shipping also, and she does complex packages like Rurals and MHDCs, so she can do no more than five a day because they take so long.)  So we each had ten.  We have to really hump.  Kimmy is faster than both Blair and I; she’s been doing this for five years, and Blair for one year.  Me, three months now.
Long about noon Melissa, our direct manager, comes by with some good news:  We are each getting two more loans.  As an added bonus, it’s going to be like this for the rest of the month–shipping as much as we can–and no, no overtime is allowed.  As a collective, the wind just came out of sails.
There is a certain time of day when you want to be done stacking, and hopefully be done scanning and on your way to importing and PDFing (yeah, we made up that word.  That time is about 3pm.  It takes time to import them, and it takes time to convert the docs to PDF, and it takes time to ship them electronically.  We have a hella fast internet connection, but uploading takes longer than downloading.  And these files are large.  Converting it to PDF takes the longest amount of time, because, again, these files are large.

I have already put in a lot of hours for free.  Overtime was cancelled because we are “slow.”  We don’t seem that slow to me.  Other departments are slow, but they haven’t really lost a lot of people.  Our department lost people–all of our temps–and they throw more work on us.
My good friend Bunny is the boss, but she has pressure from her BOSS.  We need to perform, and do it cheaply.  They have us do all these extra things as they change operations.  Each time they say, “Oh, well that doesn’t really add much time to what you’re doing.”
But it does.
And–they remember all the things they’ve done to make our job easier and quicker (and I have no idea what those things are), and they exaggerate their estimation of how much time that saves us.
No overtime.
Last night, we were all at work until after seven pm.  For Kimmy, a ten-hour day.  For Blair and Serena, 11 hours.  For me, 12 hours.  I came in at 7, knowing I had ten files and I wanted to get a jump on it.
If things go smoothly, you can stack and prep a file in…20 to 30 minutes.
It hardly ever goes smoothly.  If something is missing or wrong or odd, you have to find someone, contact someone, fix it, figure it out, make adjustments.  Contrary to what managers think, this shit takes time.
This stuff has to go by a certain date.  But also, each day the loan stays is worth money, depending on many variables and beyond my knowledge at this point.  Every day  a loan stays in our house means money, but sometimes it is for us rather than against us.  Still, they want them out as fast as they–we–can get them right now.  Bunny’s boss has put unrealistic expectations on her because–she says–he wants her to fail.
So she pushes those unrealistic expectations on us, with a no-excuses attitude.

Here’s my problem:  She’s my friend.
I feel that they–management–have created an adversarial relationship between us and them.  They feel that we aren’t working hard enough, we are slacking, and every one us is a lazy pathetic slug looking to rip the company off.  Therefore they have to retaliate and defend themselves and make us work harder to offset the ridiculous amounts of money they pay us just to break even.
They haven’t–they won’t listen to us about what we are dealing with.  No excuses, get it done.  What if we can’t get it done without going into overtime?  Work faster.
But what if we already are?  What then?  No answer.
I’m going to work 50 hours this week, and get paid for 40.  And get ripped off on my incentive, because it is also tied to mistakes.  If we work faster, we’ll make mistakes.  What is the point of working harder?  And right now especially, I could use the money overtime would bring.  I’m dying over here.
I’d like to know that they at least appreciate what we’re doing–but I don’t see that happening.
Bunny is my friend.  I love her dearly.  But right now I don’t like her very much.  I wish I could tell her.

Lookin Out My Backdoor

April 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I haven’t done that in a while–I haven’t looked “out my back door” lately.  But I have had my head up my ass, does that count?

The last time I looked out there, though, I noticed that where the grass is really green and getting higher, the dog has dug some impressive holes, the mother-fucker.  Meanwhile, the grass around the shed is still brown, because he killed it from pissing in it.  Can I just, maybe…spraypaint it?  I don’t know.

The ramblings, the musings, the incoherent babblings of a man with focus, a man on a mission.  You see, I know I haven’t written in a while, and it had been a while before that as well.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Well, dude, we just don’t know.

I do know this:  I did quit my job at Pizza Hut.  Now what?  Well, I need to find another part time job.  I thought about what it would be like to be reading this in the future.  Two scenarios:

1) I pop in the quaint, antiquated flash drive and read with amusement how I was concerned about this low period in my life.   Which, this, too, shall pass and things will get better.  As I view it from my utopian future one hundred and 30 years from now on my retirement farm on Mars, I ponder that all the adversity gave me strength and wisdom, and–

Blah-blah blah.

2) Uncovered from the rubble, this strange device magically plugs into the talking machine, and it tells a wonderous tale of the past, which the feral children of the village no longer believe.  Technology?  Civilization?  Cell phones?  (Not the same thing.)  As we skin and carve the deer that will make our meals for the next several days, the elders (like myself) quietly reflect that these days, these simpler, harder times–are actually better.  Better for all of us.  Except for the sickly, the old, and the infirm.  Soon, I will be left as an offering to the wolves.

But all of that is neither here nor there.  I have to deal with the here and now.  Right now.  Yesterday–Friday–I didn’t take my ADD medication.  I got through work just fine without it.  But also–

I’ve been worrying (some might say obsessing) over the money situation.  With my new ADD medication, I have focus.  So I was able to really focus on my worrying.  Christ.  I needed a break.  It was good to have a relatively worry-free day.  Of course, last night we got a helluva storm.  It didn’t damage us much, but just a few miles to the south, tornadoes did some serious damage.  As always, God is reminding me that things could be worse.

Have I Said This Before?

April 6, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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It never rains, but it pours.

I got a call from Detroit on my office phone.  “Did you get my text?”

Well, no, obviously I didn’t.  Because if I did, I would have called right away, or left, or something.  She’s in the hospital.  Stomach pains and eventually some vomiting.

My fear–aside from the most obvious of things–is that they’ll need to do surgery at some point.  My other fear is that she’ll just have to live with it, and be increasingly debilitated as time goes by.

But she said not to worry about leaving right away and coming to the hospital just yet.  She’s familiar with the routine.  I think she feels if she acts like it’s not a big deal, then it won’t be, and she’ll be okay.

Then I get a call from the ex-wife.  Did I get her message the other day about Mitchell?  He cut his hair really short, pierced his tongue, and wants to put gauges in his ears.  Christ in a side car.  Yes, I got that message.  Yes, I’m going to have a talk with him.

Well, never mind that.  My daughter Miranda fell at school.  She’s been having problems with her knee post-surgery.  It seems like she can feel a pin coming loose.  Her knees are giving out on occasion.

Linda can’t leave to pick her up, because she obviously wants to dump all this on me.  I barely have gas money to get home, much less–

“I’ll take care of it.”

I check my bank accounts.  One has 9 dollars, one has 8.  I’m driving the big truck, which gets phenomenally bad gas mileage.  I have a shitty check waiting for me at Pizza Hut, and a check for 9 dollars from ATT, God love em.  For what, I have no idea.

Between a dozen phone calls on my ride home–I left work early–I get someone to get her a ride home and leave a message for the doctor to call me back for an appointment.

Once I’m at home, I am informed that the gas is turned off.   Outside, the sky is blue and clear; it’s a gorgeous spring day.

The doctor’s office calls back finally, and I make an appointment for Saturday.  I did not know they Saturday appointments, but this is a good thing.  I can pick her up Friday night, have her spend the night, take her to the doctor in the morning, and then take her home.  And then go finish this project at Bunny’s house that she already paid me for.

A few minutes later, the big bad bill collector from the doctor’s office calls me.  I owe some money.  They had been billing the wrong insurance company–their fault, I’m sure–and I owe 330 dollars.  They want me to make a payment on it when I come in.  I’ll try.  I’ll really, really try.

It’s starting to hail.

Nice, Round Numbers

April 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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After last night, I needed to do the math to see if what I felt intuitively (meaning I didn’t pay attention) was real.  It feels like I’m not making any money at the Hut.  Worse than that, it seems like it is costing me money to go to work.  Unless I get a job at a strip club, I’m not really interested in paying for the privilege.
But how much is it costing, and how much am I making, really?  Get the calculator out, kids.

Let’s use nice round numbers to make this easy:
Let’s call it 20 miles to Pizza Hut, one way.  So that is a 40 mile round trip.
Let’s say the van gets 16 miles per gallon.
Let’s call gas 3.50 per gallon.  As I sit here, it’s about 3.549 per gallon.
I’ve gone back and forth on this other number, trying to determine how far I drive per delivery, on average.  Some are longer than others, and if you get a double you cut the distance in half.  But as an educated guess, I’m going to say the average round trip for a delivery is 6 miles.
Pizza Hut gives drivers 1.10 per run.  Yeah, they bumped it up when gas went up.  When gas was around 3.50, they gave us…a dollar.  There’s a 2.50 delivery charge, and the driver gets a dollar of it.  From my understanding of the corporate mentality, I’m surprised that they didn’t raise the delivery charge to 3 bucks.  And then give us 1.10.
Another “experiment” they tried is fucking with our hourly pay.  We should be getting tips, so logically, they shouldn’t have to pay us as much when we are driving.  So they cut our pay when we’re delivering from 7.25 to 5.25.  It’s a complicated scale, so when we come back from a run and cash in, we are at the higher 7.25 rate.  That’s minimum, by the way.  Let’s say, if we’re lucky, we spend our time 2/3 to 1/3 driving to in-store.
In that time, we’re going to take 8 deliveries.
Call the average tip 3 bucks.
Salary is going to be 7.25*1 for our time in the store, plus 5.25*2 for our time driving, for a three-hour shift.  That’s 17.75.
Then, with tips, we’re going to make 24 bucks.  Add our 1.10 per run.  Fifty dollars and 55 cents.  Rock on!
50.55.  That is 16.85 an hour.  That’s purty good.  Two shifts like that is the 100 bucks extra I need every week.  Sometimes I make more.  Sometimes I make WAY less.  Oh, and I forgot about taxes and so forth.
Lately they schedule more drivers than we need, so we end up tripping over ourselves and waiting for deliveries.  In a perfect world, in that same three hours I would take 12 to 16 deliveries and never be in the store for more than a minute at a time.  More runs equals more tips, but also more miles and more gas used.  Pizza Hut operates under the erroneous suggestion that customers want their pizza incredibly fast.  This is, of course, a completely inaccurate and miscalculated parameter, but they have to have something measurable for which they can dock managers’ bonuses.  The truth is that they don’t necessarily want it fast, they just want an accurate estimate of the time it will take.  This is not an imaginary numeric.  This is based on my 25+ years in food deliver, so I know what the hell I’m talking about.
But wait.  How much does it cost to go to work—and then drive once I get there?
Okay, first, the round trip is 40 miles.  Then for the deliveries, six times 8 runs is 48 miles.  Forty and forty-eight is eighty-eight miles.  Eighty-eight divided by sixteen per gallon is 5.5 gallons.  Five-fifty times three-fifty is 19.25 for gas.
That seems about right because I throw a twenty dollar bill in the tank every time I drive, just enough to keep it off empty.
Now that 50 bucks per shift doesn’t seem so impressive.  Minus gas, and that leaves me with a crumpled up 30 dollar bill.  Divided by 3, and that’s 10 bucks an hour.
More importantly, it’s 30 bucks for four hours out of my life, including travel time.  And after taxes, it’s going to be less.  They don’t take out much, but it isn’t much to begin with.  I can make more money by sitting still and not spending any money.  I can break even by taking a nap instead of going in to work.

This realization stings a bit, because it’s like I’m stupid all over again, and had to figure this out.  But—
I’m not going to work there anymore.  Not another shift.  I can’t.  I can’t afford to work there.

The Year Of Living Dangerously

December 20, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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2010 has a been a rough, rough year on us here at the homestead.  I’m not complaining, I’m just going to enumerate them.  I’m not blaming anyone–whose fault would it be?  And I’m not looking for sympathy, either.  Not for this devil, anyway.
We started off in January–New Year’s weekend, in fact.  That was when our beloved dog Mac died.  That was hard.  The first dog I ever really liked, the one that showed me what it was to have a dog.
Shortly after that–and this ran all the way through the spring–Kim was having a problem with her shoulder.  She went to physical therapy, which didn’t work.  So she had shoulder surgery, and then more physical therapy after that.
I’d like to say it was an uneventful summer…oh, except I got my car repossessed.
One of my good friends had a death–her fiance committed suicide.  Worse for her, I know.  But it was a tragedy, and it continues to touch our lives, as I help her cope, give her a ride to work, and hear people talk behind her back about what a whore she is.
In the fall, we were going to go to a memorial service for one of her uncles up in Michigan.  However, that was Kim’s first Crohn’s flare-up and her first time in the hospital.
A few weeks later, she was in the hospital again.  This time it seemed worse, the flare-up.  This was all September-October.
In November, Kim’s boss died in a car accident.
In December, the same night she went into the hospital again, my Aunt Gloria died.
And now this.
Kim fell on the ice yesterday and broker her hip.  She had surgery, and she’ll be off her legs for 6-8 weeks.
Of course some little things–I started a part time job and quit, and started another one.  Always a little stress there.  My oldest  granddaughter moved to Texas.  At first she thought she was pregnant, but she’s not.  She’s still getting married.  My oldest grandson is in drug rehab.  Another grandson broke his jaw in September.
My daughter was having anxiety problems, and chipped a couple of teeth–we just got those fixed at the dentist.
I have some financial problems and some tax problems–the usual–  Hell, I had to make the decision to let the car get repo’d in order to keep the house.  I’m trying to get some answers for my sister about a judgment against her and filing for bankruptcy.  Et cetera, ad nauseaum, ad infinitum…

On the one hand, there’s not much else that can go wrong this year.  On the other hand, there’s still time left…

Cage Match

December 13, 2010 at 10:42 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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With all this going on–

The Title Company was having a silent auction, with the benefits going to Lynn, one of their employees.
Lynn is a nice lady; I’ve worked with her and for her.  She generally goes to the City and County Government offices to take care of the recording, and I went with her a few times to learn how. I covered for her earlier this year when she was out sick briefly.
But she’s been out for a while and I didn’t know it–they got someone else to do the recording.  Lynn has cancer.  I don’t know the details but she is not working right now because of it.
Having spent some time with her, I know she has a boyfriend (which is odd to say when you’re in your fifties) that is in jail.  He is serving time for a DUI, or repeat offenses of that nature.  Maybe he is a good guy, with a bad turn of luck.  I’m not judging.
He’s supposed to get out of jail in January, after serving something like two or three years.
Because she gots no man around, I worked on her car this summer, doing her brakes for cheap.
So with all that going on, and then with the cancer, she’s been in a tough financial situation–hence the charity auction.
I’m not the most charitable person.  In fact, I’m kind of selfish.  But this is for Lynn, someone I know and someone who genuinely needs help.  I go check out the goods.
Some are decent but most don’t appeal to me.  But there is one basket I like.  It has a gift certificate to the theater, a DVD I’d like to have, popcorn, and various theater-style candy.
Opening bid, 25 bones.
I saw it up to thirty-five.  I want to help out Lynn, and be a good guy.  I write down fifty.  That was around noon.  I figured my chances were pretty good, but then again I don’t really know how these things work.
The auction ends at 2pm, so about 130 I make a circle and check it out.  It’s up to 75 bucks.  Shit.  Man, I can’t afford much more than that.  The last two names on there, of course, are Loan Officers.
If you don’t understand how this works, I’m not going to start at the beginning and explain it all to you.  Just understand this:  LOs have all the money.  They are super-salesmen and they sell loans.  In addition to making an ass-load of cash for themselves, they keep all the rest of us working.  LOs are gods.  They are The Rainmakers.
Several different LOs have the highest bid on most of the items.  Crap.  This is how it always–
I leave, and come back with about 6 minutes left.  I hover and check it out.  The movie package I want is up to 100 dollars.  Fuck.  I’m in over my head.  I could barely afford the fifty.  I was going to wait it out and raise it from 75 to 80.  I *was*, anyway–but that ship has sailed.
One hundred dollars.  The clock is ticking away.  How much is this about me not wanting to lose?  Most of it?  Does it matter what the motivation is if the money goes to a good cause?
That right there is a riddle for the ages.
A couple of other LOs are rolling around, checking things out.  Expensively dressed and perfectly coiffed–this is the office-wear of an LO.  I hung back against the wall in the small conference room near the movie package.  Four minutes.  At two minutes till I look for my opportunity–two male LOs are brandishing their penises in a mock power play of homoeroticism.  I casually grab the pen and take a breath.  I write down “105.”  We just got paid today, and I get some cash, and kind of tighten up over the next week.  I might be all right.  And I might eat ramen noodles for a while.
Just then Carol comes in, the manager of the title company and the one running the auction.  She says, “One minute left, guys.”
Upon hearing that, the latest LO to enter the room went over to the bid sheet for the movie package.  He looked at it and let out a condescending, dismissive chuckle and wrote down his name and his bid. “150.”
He’s laughing and joking with his compatriots, all made of money.  At six-three and well over 300 pounds, I don’t see how I could be invisible to them, but I was.
I just walked out.  At the reception desk, there was a fishbowl with about 7 dollars worth of ones in it for the small candy and banana-nut bread someone had brought in to sell for the event.  I just took the money out of my pocket–ALL the money I had in my pocket–what I had left from tips from the previous night, and tossed it in the bowl.  It was probably forty bucks.

What is a hundred dollars?  What is a hundred dollars to you?  I’ll tell you what a hundred dollars to me is:  I would have to work harder, pick up an extra shift or two, and smile and hustle more on my second job for a hundred dollars.  I have to work a second job for there to even be a goddamn hundred dollars that I can’t afford to give.
What is a hundred dollars to a loan officer?
“Oh, crap.  I accidentally tipped the valet with a hundred dollar bill instead of a ten.  Oh, well.”
That’s what a hundred dollars is to a loan officer.  That goddamn 105 that I was going to give sure as shit meant a lot more to me than the 150 does to him.  I was making a sacrifice.  He was making a selfish “I want it” decision, knowing his name was going to be on the list showing what a great guy he is.
I threw my forty bucks in there anonymously–and I’m telling you because I’m not sure who I’m telling so it is more or less anonymous.  I’m not bragging.  But basically I’m pissed because I didn’t win, and because of how I lost.  I was just swept aside and my paltry bid was just laughed off.  And maybe it doesn’t make me a good person to be upset about it.  Hell, I’m over it now.
What does a hundred dollars mean to you?

Show Me The Money

November 9, 2010 at 10:38 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I had been so focused on the actual event–this thing I had to deal with–that I was surprised when this thought crossed my mind:  “I am SO going to blog about this.”
I don’t go looking for shit.  Shit comes looking for me.

We finally got the money from this insurance policy of my dad’s, three and a half years late.  A little bit.  My sister and I each received half, but we split the total three ways, with our brother.  Still, what was left was a hefty chunk.  And after all that time, it had accrued interest.
That part didn’t surprise me.  What surprised me was that *we got the interest.*  So each of us got almost 2 grand more than we were going to get originally.  I believe the correct phrase here is “Boo-yah!”
I’m not sure what my brother is doing with his chunk of money, but I think my sister is going to have herself committed.  Here’s hoping.  As for Detroit and I, we’ve been planning for a long time to remodel the kitchen.  Of course this money, even with the added interest, is not enough to out-right have our kitchen done.  Besides that, I had to pay a couple of bills.
And we were hoping to get new computers.
But the plan for the kitchen involves us doing the work ourselves, and we had been shopping around to get an idea of what we wanted and what it would cost.  The previous week we found the floor we like.  Boom.  Done.
We had an idea of what we wanted for the back splash, but we weren’t finding it.  We know what we want to do for cabinets–I’m going to make them.         Appliances?  We’ve been looking, but–
Detroit said that the Maytag warehouse store is having a clearance sale.  Okay, let’s go.  Actually, we went to a Sears outlet store in the mall first, and came away unimpressed.  Off to Maytag.
Well, the bottom line there is that we changed our color choice from black to white, for a couple of reasons.  First, our refrigerator is fine, and it’s white.  Second, we found a stove that was really damn cheap, and it was white.  Essentially, for the price of a stove, we got the stove, the dishwasher, and the OTR microwave/convection oven.  That’s a good deal right there, I don’t care who you are.

First Pass
After making that purchase, we wanted to check out the computers.  I had previously seen a sale at Wally World for this weekend, an early Black Friday sale.  The laptop I wanted was 398, and the one Detroit wanted 288, on sale from 398.
Now, why didn’t I want the 288 one also?  Personal preference, Jack.  So back off.
We selected our items, plus picked up an All-In-One printer for 32 dollars.  We rounded it off with two laptop cooler/support trays, and a USB mouse for me because I don’t like the mouse pad on the laptop.
Why yes, we would like the service plan for each of the laptops!  But no, not on the printer.  For 32 bucks, if I have a problem–hell, if I run out of ink–I’ll just buy a new printer.  Thank God for US commercialism and waste.
The card was declined.
This was my debit card, attached to the account with all the money in it.  It should not have been declined.  We ran it as credit first, then tried again as a debit.  No go.  We surmised that maybe I had a daily spending cap on my card.  Okay, we could try again the next day–Sunday.
My idea was that all of this is on the card, not necessarily the account.  I could write a check.  I told Detroit to go back and gather the stuff again, and I would run out to the van and get my check book from my bag.
Except I didn’t have my checkbook.  I then remembered I took it out and put it in a a drawer, because I so rarely needed it that I didn’t want to always be carrying it around.  I called Detroit, and told her I would meet her at the door, and we high-tailed it out of there.
Total time, including drive: an hour and half

Sunday, we go out and try again.  But first, I got online and tried to find some information.  I looked on the back of my debit card for a customer service number, and there isn’t one.  THERE ISN’T ONE.  Everyone else has a number to call on the back of their card.  What the fuck?
I go to the bank’s website to search, and there’s no information.  None.  Nowhere.  There’s a number to call if your card is lost or stolen, but my card was neither lost nor stolen; I had it right there in my hand.  Since it was a VISA debit card, I went to VISA’s website and looked.
It took several layers of clicking to get to a page with a phone number.  When I called an explained, a very nice woman with an Indian accent said that my bank serviced its card through Wells Fargo.  She gave me the number, and then also connected me.
I sat on hold for about 15 minutes before I realized that I wasn’t on hold, I was disconnected.  I called the number.
Now I had actual hold music, which is proof that I’m on hold.  When I finally talk to someone and explain, she says, “No.  No, that is not–No.  We don’t do that.  We only service Wells Fargo NA.  Not this other bank you speak of.  Only Wells Fargo NA.”  Shit, I had been lied to.  So the question remains:  Who did service it?
And why was there no phone number on the back of the card?
Total time:  half an hour

Second Pass, Third Pass
Undaunted, we drove out again.  This time, I have my checkbook with me.  As a way of checking, I stopped to buy a couple of sodas–the card did not go through.  Dammit.  Ever the optimist, I reasoned we were still good because I had the checkbook.
And also ever optimistically, we had all the items rung up again–both laptops, the service plans, the mouse, the printer, and the two laptop coolers.  Oh, and a pack of socks.
You’d think there would be no problem writing a check for 963 dollars, but it didn’t go through.  They use TeleCheck or something like that, so there is instant verification–or in this case, instant denial.
Stupidly, I thought, “Well, if there is a 24-hour limit, it hasn’t been 24 hours yet from yesterday.  Why don’t we go to lunch and come back later?”
Well, it was worth a shot.  In the meantime, however, we drove around, we found a tile store that was going out of business, and after we ate we went there.  We found our back splash tile.  Not exactly our choice, but damn close.  And for the price, we were on it.  We expected to pay three or four hundred for the tile, and we got it for ninety bucks.  We needed a win that day, so go us.  Life’s tribulations make the small victories ever so sweet.
Or, in other words, if you set your sights low enough, and you’ll be happy just to be breathing.
Total time just for this: about an hour and half again.

Bright Lights
Monday, I am resolved to talk to people here at the bank.  What’s this?  When I come in there is a message on my desk phone.  I never get calls.
So, there is a fraud department, I guess.  Not direct employees of the bank, but someone we farm out the service to.  They called, left a message with a callback number and a code.  I returned the call and went through the process of verifying who I was, but not without a little uncertainty–I mean, who can be sure anymore?
They called, of course, on a Sunday and left a message on my office phone.  My office is at a bank, if you recall, and generally not open on Sunday.  They didn’t have any other number for me, apparently–I guess that’s my fault.  However, again, I repeat and maintain:  IF they had a goddamn fucking number on their fucking shit fuck debit fucking card, I could have and fucking would have fucking called them to straighten this fucking bullshit out.
The lady was very nice, and explained that the bank pays them for the service of monitoring for fraud, I’m sure set up according to some computer algorithms, because I doubt that a person is watching the transactions slide by on the screen.  So when thousand-dollar purchase shows up at a Maytag store and then an hour later there is not one but two attempts at a Wal-Mart for almost a thousand, alarms go off.
Actually, alarms went off for the first attempt, and that’s why there was a second attempt.  And then an attempt that night at a gas station for ten bucks.  “Yeah, I was trying to get gas.  To get home.  I was almost stranded.”
So while their may be a daily spending cap or something like that, all of that was superceded by the fraud alert, which stays on until they verify from me that it is not fraud, or a stolen card.  Yeah, it’s me.  Yeah, I meant to make that purchase, and yeah, I have the goddamn card in my fucking hand as we speak.
Okay, then.  They will authorize the release of the lockdown on my account.  That means I can get my money?  My money, that belongs to me?  I can have it now?  Thanks ever so much.
Time spent, about half an hour, for this part and the next.

Polite and Cordial
I still needed to talk to someone at the bank, but I wasn’t sure who.  I wrote an angry letter, then a more calm and professional one.  I actually talked to Bunny, because I had called her Sunday night a few times.  I had hoped that she could loan me the cash to at least get the laptop that was on sale.  I called her about 3 times and texted her, all around 7 pm.
She texted me back about midnight.  “I’m home if your still up call me.”  Terrific.  I had been asleep for two hours at that point.  But in the morning she called me, and I told her the story.  She gave me a line on who I should talk to.
I sent Jordan my highly edited, less angry email.  Shortly thereafter, he called.  He expressed his concern and condolences, and for the most part made me feel better.  He acknowledged that the whole thing about not being able to contact someone was a problem that they would definitely look into.  But there should be no problem today.  Everything is cleared up.  You are good to go.  Like a chalupa.
At that point my exasperation began to wane.  It was over now, anyway.  The weekend was over, I could access my account–it was all good.

The Second Battle of Bull Run
Except I didn’t get that laptop–the one Detroit had picked out–for the sale price.  That’s 110 dollars, that’s a lot of cabbage.  But I’m not done yet.  Before I left work, I looked up the number to the Wal-Mart.  I left work early, because I wanted to make sure I had time.
Now, this Wal-Mart is near the Pizzarama that I work at.  I headed to Pizzarama, basically, and called Wal-Mart while I was in the car.  I know from experience that if you call a Wal-Mart, they don’t want to answer the phone.  If they do answer and you ask for a manager, you could conceivably be on hold for days on end.
I was actually on hold for a solid 20 minutes before a manager picked up.  I had to check on occasion to make sure I was still connected, because there was no hold music–and you know how a cell phone goes dark after a short time?  Was I waiting for nothingness?  I pressed the volume button and it lit back up–and showed me I was still on hold.
Kristin finally took my call.  I told my sad story, and she sympathized.  I asked her if there was any way I get that sale price today, that I had missed over the weekend?
She agreed to allow it, and said she would let the grunts in Electronics know.  Of course, by this time, I was pulling into a parking spot.  Happily I went in, grabbed a cart, and began to gather my items again.
The clerk remembers me, and knew where to go to retrieve the laptops.  Up to the checkout we go, he rings the stuff up, I run my card, and–
Not so fast, there, Bastardi.  It’s about 4pm, on a weekday, and the bank is still open.  I make a call.  Jordan isn’t in but I get connected to…Candy?  Candy.  After telling my tale so many times, I get pretty good at getting to the point.  She puts me on hold to look into it.  She comes back on and tells me she needs to talk to someone “downstairs,” in the Retail Department.  I hold.
They think they have it cleared up.  I run it.  Nope.  I hold again.  She comes back, says, try just the one thing, because that amount is tripping the system.  We do just the one laptop.  Nope.  “You’re kidding.”
No.  No, dear, I am not fucking kidding.  As much as I am usually filled with laughter and joy, you’ve pretty much managed to suck the mirth right out of me.  And not in a good way.
She comes back, says they have it figured out.  Give us about ten minutes, then try it.  And call us back, let us know how it went.  I told the clerk, and he suspended the transaction so that he could move on to bigger and better things.  I browsed for a while, watching the clock.  After about fifteen minutes, we were ready to try it again.
How pissed, exactly, do you think I am?  How embarrassing is it, to continually try to run your card and have it denied?  She said, “Hold on.”  In a few minutes, she came back, and said, “Try it again, and keep me on, because I want to know what’s going on.”
Yeah, you and me both, sista.
“You’re kidding.”  She said it again.  No, still not kidding.  Still not fucking happy.  Still not going through.  She started to say, “You know, we need to–”
I interrupted her.  “Listen…I need to go to my other job.  It’s about a quarter to five.  You do what you have to do to make it work.  When I get off work, about 8, I’ll come back by and try it, one more time.”  I paused.  “And if it doesn’t work, tomorrow morning I’m coming in and taking my four grand out of the bank.”
She said, “Well, obviously, you have to do what you feel is necessary–”
“I do.  It’s my money, and it’s being held hostage.  I want my money.  It’s mine.”
From the phone call to Wal-Mart, to when I left? About an hour and a half.

A Musical Interlude
I went into work at Pizzarama with a pissed attitude.  As I briefly told my story to Rob the manager, a thought occurred to me.  I’m bringing this up with these people tomorrow.  “You know, I’ve been in restaurant management for 20 years.  I’ve given away several thousand dollars’ worth of free food to customers, to make them happy.  What are they going to do for me?  What are they going to do for me to keep me as a customer?”
Rob’s reply, and my thought was the same:  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

Outside the Box
I called Bunny, and this time she called me back before midnight.  As we have occasionally done in the past, I asked her if I could get cash from her tonight and pay her back when they give me access to my money.  Sure.  I want to at least get the one laptop that is on sale–the one for Detroit.  At this point, I’ve already invested so much time and effort and stress into this that it’s almost not worth it anymore, except I don’t want to lose and I don’t want this to be wasted time.  I can’t give up now.
We communicate (sort of) about when and where to meet up.  She fails to grasp that I am in St Charles, that I am talking about St Charles, and the Wal-Mart in question is here in St Charles as well.
“I don’t even know if the one on West Florissant has it, much less will they give me the sale price.  I know the one in St Ann doesn’t have it.”
“Oh.”  The gears in her head are spinning, as are mine.  Because of her busy schedule doing God knows what, we agree that the best thing is for me to come to her, grab cash that she will take out at the ATM, and then go and do what I have to do, or fuck off, or whatever.  I’m going to meet her at her catholic church/school gym where she is a coach for the girl’s volleyball team, between 8 and 930.
Of course I get off at 7, an hour early.  I drive back to town, calling Bunny.  No answer.  I’m early, can I find her early?  No.  You know, she has kids, you’d think she’d be more responsive to the phone.  Damn caller ID.
I drive around, I drive to her house.  Dark.  I drive to the school–there are cars in the lot, but not hers.  I park.  I wait.  She said 8, but I know how her clock is.  Still, by 815, there’s no sign of Bunny.  I take off, and drive towards her house.  About halfway there, I get a call.
I bet I passed right by her.  She’s at the school.  Instead of 300, she has 280, which is the max she could take out.  Okay.  I do the math on the long drive back.  the laptop is 288.  What’s tax?  I find one of the declined receipts, and the info is on the bottom.  7.5%  Shit!  It just keeps going higher and higher, doesn’t it?
Seven and a half percent on 288.  Well, 7.5 times three is…15, plus 7…22 and a half.  That’s 310.50 as a total.  But–it’s 12 bucks less than that–not quite a buck less in tax.  So I need 310.
I can use my card–my other card–if I have to.  But I have some cash.  Not much from tonight, but it helps.  With the other cash from the previous night, I’m good.

Mission Accomplished
It’s about nine when I get there.  I’ve been running all over, it feels like.  When I get there, the clerk I had been dealing with was gone.  Darn it, I wanted to offer him some closure.
Instead, it was this other freak…
Bob.  Bob was about 30, and obviously single and probably a virgin.  Bob was nice, but Bob shouldn’t talk.  I bought the laptop with cash.  Done.  I have 90 days to get the extended warranty, so give me a couple of days on that.
But I told Candy I was going to try it, so let me try it.  I grabbed one item, the mouse, and rang it up.
The fucker went through.
Well, okay then.  Let me try to get the other laptop.  By itself, with no warranty, it would be under 500, something that they had indicated was a trigger.
It was during this exercise that Bob decided that we had bonded.  We talked (he talked) about politics, GW and his father, and their father, Prescott Bush, and JP Morgan, and Rockefeller, and how, adjusted for inflation, some 1st century BC king was the richest man who ever lived.  Terrific.  I’m interested, really, but he’s spouting these facts with a goofy smile and some spittle, so he’s hard to take seriously.
Meanwhile, the card is denied.
It went through for the 10 dollar item.  But not this.  Hmmm.  Okay, I’m done.
Bob said, “Did you want to try it again?”
“Nope,” I said, grabbing my two items out of the cart.
“I can call a manager and do–”
“Not necessary,” I said, as I made sure I had both receipts.
“But we–”
I said, “Just let it be.  I did what I was here to do.”  I left.

I Believe the Word You’re Looking For
I said, as I came in the door with Detroit’s laptop, “Is ‘tenacious.'”
She was very happy, and I’d like to think she was impressed as well.  I never gave up.

All’s Well That
It’s not over yet, however.
Tuesday, I came in to work, still pissed about the card.  I had a couple of points that I wanted to make to someone–anyone:
*I’ve given away a lot of pizza to customers over the years.  What are they prepared to do for me?  Anything?
*Is it because I’m an employee that I won’t get treated as well as a regular customer?  What would they do for a regular customer?
That might be it.  I talked to Jordan in person.  Candy was busy, interviewing people I guess.  And anyway, I needed to talk to this other person whose name I can’t remember that handles employee accounts.  Jordan said he would have her call me or come over and talk to me or set up an appointment.
That was about 930 this morning.  It’s almost 2, and I’m getting ready to leave.  And I haven’t heard from anyone.  I feel like I’m getting shit on because I’m an employee.
When I leave, I’m going over there and taking my money out.

I walked over to the main building, and went in the lobby.  I snuck a peak around the corner–Jordan was gone, and Candy was in her office talking with someone with the door closed.  I guess that’s it then.
I went up to the teller and asked if Jaime was there–she’s the lead teller.  I wanted to tell someone…But she’s not in.
But what does it matter?  “Can I help you?”
Yes.  Yes you can.  We made the transaction–I didn’t take out everything, but I took out everything to the nearest hundred dollar.  I asked her, “Can you send an email to Jordan for me?”
Tell him what, exactly?  “Tell him that I got my money, and no has contacted me, and I’m *still* not very happy.”
I had my cash.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.

The Case For Tipping: A Rebuttal

May 7, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
Tags: , ,
  Because, you see–Tipping is not a city in China.
  I have worked in food service since 1986–24 years.  About half of that time has been in management, and the other half has been as a delivery driver.  Therefore, I have seen this world from all sides, including from the point of view of a customer.
  Now, pizza delivery is a little different from being a waiter, but there is a relation.  As far as the customer is concerned, there is no difference.  All the differences are "inside" and fairly transparent to them:  They both bring you your food.  The rest is details.
  My brethren in pizza delivery will say that driving is just as hard as being a waiter.  However, I have done both, and being a waiter is harder–for a few reasons.
  Waiting (serving) is physically more demanding.  More running back and forth, more time on your feet, and generally more time spent cleaning and prepping.  Also, you have more face time with the customer.  Any time you can minimize that, it is a good thing.  With pizza delivery, if you have to talk to the customer for more than twenty seconds, something is wrong.
  That doesn’t mean driving doesn’t have its own difficulties.  While you do get to ride around in your car and listen to your stereo, driving is treacherous.  Delivering pizza is lumped in with other driving jobs such as truck driving and taxi driving, but it is one of the most dangerous jobs.
  Waiters seldom get robbed at gunpoint at the table they are serving.
  A waiter will not die in a car accident on the way to a table.
  A waiter won’t have to walk a quarter mile in the dark in the snow to bring your food to you.
  A waiter typically knows where you are, and doesn’t have to try to find you.
  I have been robbed.  I have been beaten.  I have had a gun in my chest.  I have also seen everything you can imagine–and things you can’t possibly.  I have drudged through snow and ice and mud. I’ve been attacked by dogs.  Fallen on ice?  You bet.  Soaked to the bone in the rain?  All the time.  I’ve delivered during tornadoes.
  I’ve also been tipped with things other than money.  Further I shall not say on this topic.
  Drivers still have some prep and cleaning to do, but typically servers work in restaurants that are not fast food, so there is more prep, prep of practically everything.  So, while serving is more physically demanding, there are other aspects to delivery that make it difficult.  
  Delivery, like serving, is not for everyone.  To drive, you don’t have to be a genius, but idiots don’t last long.  You have to be able to get around, find your way, improvise, and think on your feet.
  I worked at Domino’s Pizza.  When we had the thirty minute guarantee, you had to do all of that fast.
  There are two different ways drivers are paid.  In the big places, like Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut, the drivers are paid by the hour–generally minimum–plus a per-delivery stipend to cover gas usage (it was fifty cents, but with gas prices it’s around a dollar now), and then they are tipped.
  The other method, popular among smaller chains and mom-and-pop operations, is to pay the driver a cash bank at the beginning of the night, usually fifteen to twenty dollars, which they get to keep.  Then they get a higher per-delivery fee (2 or 3 bucks), and also tips.  Essentially these are non-employed, sub-contracted individuals.  
  The second group is more dependent on tips–similar to servers making 2.13 per hour and then making the rest up in tips.  But the first group still needs them; that small fee for gas doesn’t always quite cover the actual gas used, not to mention wear and tear on the vehicle.  Plus–does anyone want to make JUST minimum wage?  So for all of these tipped positions, tips are important.
  For instance, right now, I drive two nights per week, averaging eight hours per shift.  Sometimes it’s busy, and sometimes it’s slow.  On a slow night, I made 30 bucks in cash, including my mileage.  That’s 3.75 per hour; with my hourly it’s 9.25.  Not great, but not bad considering the job.  My worst night recently I made 14 dollars.  Divide that by the five hours I worked, it’s 2.80, or 8.30 with my hourly.  On my best night so far, I made 90 bucks in cash.  That’s 11.25 per hour, with my hourly, 16.75.  Not bad.  More than the job is worth?  What’s it worth to you to not have to put clothes on, start your car, clean it off, warm it up, drive through the ice and snow in the dark…to get a pizza?  What is avoiding a DUI worth by not having to go out when you’re drunk?  What is the convenience worth?
  (And I just had a flash of insight; my own ADD moment:  Whenever I order concert tickets, my 40 dollar tickets always end up costing me 52.75.  Why is that?  Convenience charge?  Doesn’t seem terribly convenient to me.  It’s like they are not giving me a choice and forcing me to tip them.  That’s fascist.)
  But that’s the high end.  Let’s go with the average.  I average 50 bucks in cash.  That’s 6.25, with my hourly, 11.75.  That makes it a decent job in fast food.  Plus, that’s mostly cash, so the equivalent is probably a job making 15 bucks per hour.  Not too shabby.  But this is all dependent on tips.
  Some people have intimated that (because they don’t understand how this part of the economy works–and hey, there’s no shame in that unless you spout off a bunch of ridiculous ideas about it) maybe…. maybe employers should just PAY their employees more, and eliminate tipping.  And then charge more for the food.
  But you are wrong about this, for several reasons, which I will explain in excruciating detail, and I might even include charts and graphs.
  Eliminating tipping is anti-American, anti-Capitalist, and stupid. And socialists.  "Let’s eliminate all competition and pay everyone the same, no matter what."  I think that’s a quote from Stalin.
  Let’s examine what would happen if we raise wages.  Let’s take a. . .Let’s take a Steak n Shake, because I worked there also.  This Steak n Shake does 40,000 in sales per week.  It has about 60 hourly employees.  Twenty of them are back kitchen, making roughly 8 bucks an hour.  The other 40 are servers, making 2.13 per hour.  To make things equitable, they are ALL going to make 8 bucks an hour.  How much do you have to raise the prices?
  This where my experience as a manager comes in:  Food and labor are the big numbers.  You want food to be around 25% of costs, and labor to be around 20%.  So 20% of 40k is. . .8 thousand dollars.  That’s with 2/3 of your staff at tipping wage.  So let’s bump that up.  My complicated formula for that is:

(Well, 2/3 of the staff is making 1/4 of what 1/3 of the staff makes, and this is your hourly people)

    40*2*x + 20*8*x=8000
    240x= 8000
    x= 33 hours average each works.  This lets me calculate the new formula.

So now it’s (40*8*33)+(20*8*33) which equals 15840

That makes more sense than my original calculation.  Originally my number tripled the labor dollars.  That was silly.  This only doubles it.  So–In order to keep the labor percentage the same, what do we have to do in sales?

15840/20%=79200.  That’s almost double.  So–
  You know, Steak n Shake is already really expensive.  It’s three dollars for a tiny cheeseburger; four dollars for a double.  Six bucks for a platter, two bucks for a drink.  I can’t afford to eat there much.  But if I did, my fiancé and I would get two platters and two drinks.  6, 12, plus 4–16 bucks?  I seem to recall it being closer to 20.  We’ll go with 16.  I’m going to throw down a twenty-dollar bill, because I’m a good tipper–most people who have worked in food are, while doctors and lawyers and professional people tend to be bad tippers.  There is research and anecdotal evidence to back that up.  But that’s a 25% tip.
  But in the new world where no one tips, prices had to go up to compensate.  This 16- dollar meal now costs 32 bucks.  But I feel better, because I didn’t have to tip, everyone is treated equally, and no one’s feelings are hurt.
  The reality is, if everyone is making more money, then fewer of those "everyone" will have a job.  As owner or manager, if I can cut my staff, I will.  Service will suffer.  You won’t get a refill as often as you like–If ever.  But that’s the reality of business.
  Maybe some of you can pay 32 bucks for a dinner for two at a glorified fast food restaurant masquerading as a crappy diner . . . but the rest of us can’t.  And what will then happen to that business?
  So the economy will suffer a bit–Quite a lot, actually.  It will hurt people on the lower end.  These are the people typically working these jobs.  It’s not all high school and college students.  It’s mothers and fathers trying to make ends meet.  People who have fallen on hard times because their job was shipped over seas or downsized.  So they did what they had to do–adjusted.  Moved to the service industry.  Instead of good benefits and decent hours, they are working all hours of the day and night, and weekends.  Missing their kids’ games and homework to put food on the table and keep the lights on.
  Oh, sorry…I got all emotional.  I figured it would appeal to you, since you want to essentially socialize the hospitality industry.  And we know how much liberals are long on "feelings," and short on substance.
  Yes, of course, no one “has” to work there.  But the tips make the job a draw; without them, it just might be another job Americans won’t do.  Not everyone can have a union job.  And if everyone did, America would burn to the ground from the inflation.  For those of us who actually live in the real world, our choices are limited.  Go back to school, get re-educated?  Sounds a little like Nazi re-education camps to me.  Not only that, but listen—really:  Not everyone is smart enough.  Hell, not everyone is even smart, period.   Situations and circumstances are different for everyone.  Your sweet, cute waitress may also be dumb as a box of rocks, or just have an LD.  She’s not going back to school.  This is the job where her strengths—being cute and friendly—work for her.  She doesn’t have to know math beyond counting cash.  She’s saving up her money to leave an abusive boyfriend—and you want to take that away from her?
  There we go with the emotions again.  I’m not stupid, either.  I have a ridiculously high IQ, and wasted my education in my youth with a drug problem.  I’m clean now, but my life is a product of my mistakes.  But—never mind.  My point is this:  for everyone to have some level of success (and success is defined differently by everyone) tipping is a real, tangible measure of that success.
  There are groups who want to unionize the pizza delivery industry.  Without even knowing the details, I’m sure you can guess that it’s a bad idea.
  And one thing they want to do is what you suggest—raise prices and eliminate tipping.  This is because it’s hard to get union dues from cash.  And it’s always for everyone’s own good, isn’t it?   
  (Another of my own ADD moments:  This won’t work for all industries.  Just how do you expect a stripper to get paid if there is no more tipping?  Those tattoos and piercings and waxings aren’t free, brotha!  Do you know what high heels go for these days?  Not to mention crotchless—anything . . .)
  At least one good thing will come out of it:  Currently, employees who make tips declare them as income.  Of course, they declare as little as possible, hitting the threshold of barely acceptable.  The employers appreciate this, because they have to match Social Security and some other things, like unemployment tax.  So a server making 2.13 declares enough in tips to make it 5.50 or 6, when in fact he’s probably making 9 or 10 bucks an hour . . . or more.
  Why, that is cheating the government out of valuable tax dollars that they need to give to Africa to piss away.  So, businesses will probably both raise their prices AND cut people, to avoid paying as much in taxes.  Plus, having more sales dollars affects the taxes they pay as well.  It’s a win for everyone–because the government wins and gets more tax revenue.  This will go to government programs to help those who lost their jobs when employers cut their labor.
  This is a rough estimate, but a server who makes 10 bucks an hour in tips makes more versus someone who makes 10 bucks an hour on a check.  Obviously, they aren’t paying taxes on all of that money, or FICA, or SUTA, or SS.  Maybe that’s wrong, and they should—
  Or maybe people being paid some of their wages in cash is a way for them to stick it to The Man.  Don’t worry; they still pay taxes on a portion of it.
  On a personal note, back in 1992 the company I worked for got audited.  The owner rolled over on the drivers as part of his plea, so we got audited.  I felt that you should be as honest with the government as they are with you, so I declared nothing in tips for that year.  Including late fees and penalties, I had to pay back 2600 dollars, which became over four grand before I was through because the fees and penalties don’t stop accruing.  
  They had a formula for figuring out what my tips were, basically amounting to one dollar per hour.  It looked like a substantial amount. My wife at the time said, "There’s no way you made that much–"
  I said, "Remember how during most of your pregnancy you weren’t working?  We always had money, we always had food, and we paid our bills.  Just from what I made from tips.  You have no idea how much I made.  None.  My tips kept us afloat."
  Lastly, this is about our culture.  May I remind you that the commie pinko socialists in Canada don’t tip either?  Yeah, they don’t tip in a lot of other communist, totalitarian countries also.
  Tipping is a pillar of our culture and economy.  It is a trademark of capitalism.  Of course there are good and bad parts to this; no system is perfect.  Tipping the guy who hails me a cab because that’s the rule?  Not bloody likely.  Tipping the cute waitress who was cheerful and kept my drink full?  Absolutely.  There is also survival of the fittest involved here.
  Good, quality people who work hard, have a good attitude, know how to hustle and take care of the customer–they are going to be rewarded with cash, and better opportunities for jobs where the tips are even better.  The surly, slothful, and lazy will still get tipped…but not as much.  The good jobs will weed them out, and they will get sifted to the bottom and end up working at crappy ghetto diners.
  Sure, sometimes you tip when you don’t feel it’s necessary.  Sometimes you can see the larceny in their hearts.  Capitalism isn’t a perfect system.  I personally don’t like what WalMart has done to the economy; while conservatives continue to sing its praises and worship at the altar of their cash register, I search for signs of the Number of the Beast there.
  But I still shop there.
  Like I said, tipping isn’t a perfect system.  Neither is capitalism.  But it’s still the BEST system–and by that I mean both capitalism, and the tiny artery of capitalism called tipping.  It allows people on the lower rungs to compete among themselves and get a leg up.  If you, on the other end as a customer, see disparity, try living on my end.  Do your job for tips, and see how it works out.  
  For the longest time now, I’ve been in management, and there’s been some disconnect between me and the customer.  But recently I had to return to delivery, part time.  Who says the economy is tanking?  I have three jobs!
  But since I work for tips now, my attitude is better.  I used to be bitter, jaded, and resentful.  But now I pour it on thick.  I flirt with everyone, even the men.  It’s professional flirting.  I’m nice, I joke, I compliment, and I’m prompt and friendly.  It’s purely pragmatic, but it’s made me a better person because friendly equals cash, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Tipping isn’t required.  It’s customary, that’s all.  However, I do recommend that you tip the Pizza Guy.  He knows where you live.

Oh, It Is So On

April 14, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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  So, yeah, as it turned out, I was ripped off bigger than shit.  Saturday morning I approached my car with the gleeful anticipation usually reserved for Christmas or blow job night.  As I rubbed the compound off of the car, it was beginning to resemble blow job night:  This really sucked.
  The major portion of the dent was gone, but now it looked like several minor ripples.  And the guy–let’s call him Guido–had indeed put some small screw holes in the door skin to pull out the dent…about five of them, I think.
  The scuff marks were still there–maybe some of them were gone–and the dent was still there, just different.  The only thing new was the screw holes and what was left of the compound residue that I couldn’t get off.
  The car looks like I have been the victim of a very ineffective drive-by shooting.

  I’m supposed to be getting my laptop back today.  Jim the laptop guy said he swears this is it, no delays, blah blah blah.  At least he had a reason–or reasons–for the delay and it all sounded legitimate.  I do believe him, I do.
  Of course, the last time I talked to him, he did say that this is just a temporary fix, and it will go out on me again.  Seriously, dude?  After all this, it’s not even going to last?  What the fuck?  But I know he did his best and he’s not trying to rip me off.  I think.

  I know that I am too trusting and a bit naive.  Maybe you guys don’t know it, but I know it.  I talk a good game, and I talk shit about how cynical and jaded I am, but the truth is, I *want* to believe in the goodness of all mankind…
  Despite all the evidence to the contrary.
  I have been a sucker before.  Man oh man, have I ever.  I can’t even…

  Well, I’ve been ripped off on drug deals, back when I did that, but that’s natural.  Oregano really *looks* like pot.
  Back with my old girlfriend (and she is old, too!) we got high-pressured into joining some whacked out sales thing.  You pay a high-dollar *membership* to shop at their exclusive *showroom* where you get tremendous *deals*.
  Car salesmen get the best of me, every time.  I’m too timid to negotiate…I’m too timid?  ReallY?  Man, it’s something about their delivery that makes everything seem final.  I need to get up and walk away from the deal next time.  Seriously.  Get up, and walk away.  I know I paid too much for this fucking Mercedes.
  If somebody comes around selling something door to door, watch out!–and hide my checkbook.
  If my credit wasn’t shitty, I would own a dozen timeshares right now…
  If I can read people so well, as I claim, why do I keep getting taken?  I think I know–and I know that it’s happening when it happens, and I let it.  My ex-wife used to get really mad at me about this.  "Stand up for yourself!" she would say.  Or scream.  Of course, when I stood up for myself against *her*, she would say, "That’s not what I meant."

  I really want to believe that the world is a wonderful, idyllic place.  Everyone is nice, and honest, and looks out for their neighbor.  Everyone is friendly and caring.  Everyone has a friendly wave for the passers-by in the street, as they walk from the breakfast diner on the corner to the dime store right there in the town square.  Children ride their bikes in the street without fear of molestation, and everyone works hard to earn their keep.  In the evening, people sit on the porch with a glass of lemonade and gossip.  At night, they all say goodnight to each other as the lights go out.  In the morning, an actual rooster crows at dawn, and the world awakens fresh and anew to the new day, with dew fresh on the lawns and a young boy on a bike tosses the paper in yards, filled with good news and hope for the future.
  I imagine the world to be much like the world of The Andy Griffith Show–except in color, and with wi-fi.

International Trade In The Parking Lot

April 9, 2010 at 10:14 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,
  My day at The Three Jakes started off rough as soon as I walked in the door.  Things weren’t going well here and I had other problems on my mind.  Like most people nowadays, I guess, I had the dark ominous cloud of job insecurity looming over me.  Were they still trying to get rid of me here at the sammich shop?  Was my job in danger at the bank?  When I was coming to work and got off the highway, at the light there were some homeless people that had staked out that area for begging.
  And behind them was the highway overpass under which they lived, I’m sure.  I looked at the squalid conditions and crumbling location with envy; I hope I can find a prime location like that when *I’m* homeless.
  However, after I took a couple of deliveries, things were looking better.  I had willed myself to look past the problems and get a better attitude.  Go me!  About that time I had pulled back into the store’s parking lot.  Another car pulled up next to me with a young couple in it.  It looked like the guy was talking to me, but we all know I can’t hear shit.  I got out and walked over.
  A cute but bored and jaded white trash chick was in the passenger seat, so I leaned in to get a better look at her cleavage.  The driver was a young Hispanic-looking dude of indeterminate origin.  The first couple of times he said whatever he said I did not underfuckingstand him.  I thought he was trying to sell me something.  Cologne, maybe?  How could he tell from *his* car that I smelled bad in *mine*?
  I listened, hoping for comprehension.  No habla…
  Finally I started to piece together what he was trying to communicate.  He spoke with an accent and he was a young thug, but nonetheless he had some salesman in him.  "Listen to me, Gentleman, I tell you what I can do for you.  That is a nice car you have.  I see you have some body damage.  That is a shame, you want take good care of luxury car, yes?  Gentleman, for 200 dollars I can fix that right here, ten or fifteen minutes.  No problem.  What do you say, Gentleman?"
  Si.  Now I get it.  He was trying to sell me something.  It sounded like a reasonable deal.  And the body damage was bothering me.  I never turned it into the insurance.  If you recall, der Kaiser was the victim of a hit and run over a year ago on the driver’s side, both doors.  Not major, but enough to be noticed.  Two hundred bucks?
  "Okay, I see.  Look, my brother-man, I don’t have any cash right now.  You got maybe a bidness card or something?  We could do this next week."
  He was willing to negotiate, but he did want money now and do the job now.  "Listen, Gentleman, I see we can make a deal.  I can fix your car no problem.  I can do it right here in the lot.  How much money can you get?"
  I needed to go low.  "I know I have a hundred bucks.  That’s all I have right now."
  He nodded.  "Gentleman, I tell you what I can do.  I fix your car right here.  You go get a hundred dollars, I fix it, Gentleman, professional.  You know a body shop charge maybe 5, 6 hundred dollar for this."
  Okay.  I can do this.  I’m at work and delivering, however.  I go in the store and there’s a run to Walgreens.  They have an ATM, and I come back with 100 bucks.  I had to pay 3 extra to get my money because it was a foreign ATM.  It didn’t seem like it to me–I mean, it spoke English.  I didn’t realize it was fucking currency exchange.  Those things just piss me off, how they openly rip me off.  I like it to be more discreet.
  I came back and told him I had the money, and he was already pulling the equipment out of the trunk of his car.  His bored white trash girl friend stayed in the car.  He was obviously doing this because he needed money right away–drug habit, or to pay off her pimp?  Who knows?  I’m a little more cynical now, but at the time it was going on I was thinking happy, optimistic thoughts, like he wanted to take her out to a nice dinner and propose, because she just found out she was pregnant.  He was a real go-getter, willing to work hard to make it.  Just two young kids, trying to make it in this crazy world…
  I went back in the store and started to finish some jobs.  In about ten minutes I would go check on him.  Sooner than that, he came to the drive up window.  "You all set, Gentleman.  Car is done.  See?"  Or maybe he said, "Si?"
  We walk out and have a look.  The car was dented on the driver door, below the trim line.  On the back door, it may have been dented, but it was scratched up.  He had it covered with some kind of compound.  A rubbing compound?  Whiskey Tango–
  "Let me show you something, Gentleman."  He took a rag while he talked and rubbed at the bottom edge of the back door at some marks.  "See?  this part, it will come right out when you rub.  Make sure you do that."
  Now came the hard sell.  "Let me tell you Gentleman, the work involved.  I took the dent out, you see.  The braces behind it were broken.  I had to fix those braces.  I couldn’t let that go and have you call me later and tell my I did not do my job.  I had to fix those, sir.  I tell you what, a body shop, they charge so much for that work.  But I have a deal here.  You go ahead and make it 210 for doing this, and we’re all set."
  "Brother-man, I don’t have that.  All I took out was the hundred."
  "Well, we need to make a deal, Gentleman.  This is quality work here.  It’s going to look good.  This is a luxury car, Gentleman.  I tell you it can work out.  How much can you get?  One-sixty?"
  Now I’m starting to wonder if I’m being taken for a ride or not.  All I wanted was cheap body work from an unknown guy driving by in a car.  How can that possibly go bad?  I said, "Listen, Brother-man.  I work two jobs to pay my bills, brother.  I don’t have so much.  I’m working now, but it’s slow so I don’t have too much.  You know?  I can do…120."
  He pressed a bit more.  I want to get my money’s worth, but I also don’t want to give up too much money.  And I don’t want to get ripped off, either?  What if this is still a big scam?  The body work is covered in the compound still, and I have seen no true "finished product" as of yet.
  I said, "I have no more than 130, brother.  This is money I haven’t made yet tonight.  This is all I have.  130."
  "Okay, Gentleman.  This is what we do.  We gonna do this for 130 then.  This is quality work we have here, and I want you to be happy sir.  We take the 130."
  I pulled the 100 bucks from the ATM from one pocket and counted it out.  Then I pulled the other pocket, my Three Jakes money.  I said, "This is not all my money, brother.  This is other people’s money."  I gave him thirty, and my happiness about the whole affair decreased about 30%.
  "Okay, Gentleman, we’re good.  This is what you do, sir, this is important, okay?  You don’t let no little kids touch this, it’s not good for skin.  Leave it on for 48 hours, then wash it off.  Okay, Gentleman?"  We shook hands, and he was gone.
  I stood there, looking at my car.  "Uhm…"
  I thought he was going to take that off.  So I have no idea what it looks like, underneath.  I did look up close at it, and the dent is gone.  But I know he screwed some holes in it to pop it out.  Those are filled?  That could be a problem.
  Also…the paint job is a delicate thing.  Is it going to damage my paint to leave it on there that long?  And what is the purpose of leaving it on there that long?  So he can have a two-day head start to get away?  In a way, it’s exciting–the anticipation.  I think I got ripped off, but I won’t know for sure until Saturday.

  On my way to work that day, I had called Jim, the laptop guy.  He’s had my laptop for nigh on about six weeks now, I think.  There was a delay ordering parts originally, and then another delay that he said was his fault–one of the things he said he could fix was causing it to overheat, and he needed to figure that out.  He had it for about three weeks when I called him again, and he said it’s done, and he has it…but he’s out of town.  He got a promotion that called for some training, and he was in Boston.  Okay.  But why would you take it with you?  Why couldn’t I just go get it from your fat girlfriend?
  The next week, he was still in Boston, but sick.  He had traveled with a cold, and it turned to pneumonia.  Bummer.  Plus, he’s going to be stuck because he can’t travel when sick.  The doctor and the airline but the ixnay on that.  He sounded horrible, and I said, "Well, don’t die on me, because I want to get my laptop back."
  He laughed.  "Ha.  No promises.  Not for a P3.  Maybe if it was a better computer."
  Finally, last Friday, I talked to him and he sounded better.  He said he should be good to travel and he would be home Tuesday or Wednesday.  I didn’t hear from him Tuesday or Wednesday, so this is where we are. I called him Thursday–last night.  No answer.  I left a message full of hope and not at all cynical.
  He has my laptop and the money I paid him up front.  Is he trying to rip me off?  The only reason I think that he’s on the up and up and this is just a series of unfortunate events is that…the alternative is that this is an overly elaborate ruse to go through to steal 120 bucks and an eight year old crappy P3 laptop. 
  Jim the laptop guy is obviously smart and definitely a computer guy–I could tell by the way he talked.  He knew his shit and he talked about shit that was just a touch over my head on occasion, and he talked really, really fast, and he spit a little…all signs of a true techno geek.
  So he’s not a criminal mastermind.  A criminal mastermind would have squeezed me for 120 bucks in the parking lot in a matter of minutes and made me feel good about it, and not leave me any way to find him.

  Oh, shit…

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