Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Math Challenged Car Dealers

If you work in an industry that regularly deals with financing and interest rates, don’t you think you should have a basic understanding of the concepts? During the course of negotiations while car shopping this weekend, I had a clueless salesman tell me that with 0.0% financing it wasn’t as simple as just dividing the amount financed by the number of months. My wife later told me that she could barely contain her laughter when she saw the look on my face after he said this. I’m sure he detected the condescension in my voice as I explained to him that yes, it actually was that simple. He refused to back down until his manager came over and said the payment he wrote down was at 2.9% interest.

One of the things that angered me was he kept saying “This is what the computer said.” Being a software developer, it makes me mad when people blindly accept what the computer says and they don’t actually think about it for themselves. I’ve spent about half my career writing financial software; include commercial mortgage software, so I’m pretty familiar with calculating payments and interest. This guy just took what the computer told him without thinking. Even when confronted with facts, he wouldn’t listen. Because his manager made a mistake entering the data, he looked like a fool. Well, he was a fool anyway; he just looked like a bigger one. I wouldn’t have bought a glass of water from this guy if my hair was on fire. I am happy to say that I went to one of their competitors and bought a GMC Envoy XL

Friday, November 19, 2004

Converting them one at a time...

How I Learned to Love Firearms at Slate, no less.

I propose a "Take a Liberal Shooting" day. Look around you and I'm sure you'll find someone you know that is anti-gun. Invite them to spend a day at the range. Then you can help them pick out their first gun when they fall in love with the sport.

Government Healthcare

Yes, that is an oxymoron.

Toothache Boy Almost Dies

Yea, sign me up for government healthcare. I guess it's some consolation that his tracheotomy will be free.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Fast food, slow minds

This is a free customer service idea for any managers in the fast food restaurant industry. Train your order taking staff to NOT say the words "The [insert food item here] doesn't come with [insert condiment here]" unless the customer asks to have that item.

A little background information...

I don't like the Terrible Threesome of condiments: ketchup, mustard and mayonaisse. I don't understand why someone would want to take a perfectly good hamburger or chicken sandwich and lather it in one, two or (yeck!) all three of these unholy "sauces". I realize that I am in the minority here, but I can't stand them. Since different restaurants put different combinations on different sandwiches, it is a little difficult to keep track of when ordering. For example, Jack in the Box puts mustard and ketchup on their burgers, while BK puts ketchup and mayo. Chicken is usually pretty easy, because most places only put mayo on chicken. But you do have to be careful, sometimes they will sneak a honey mustard or some-other-mustard in on you. So I have developed an ordering system that usually works pretty well. I just order the sandwich and say "no mustard, mayo or ketchup." This is a perfect way to avoid any mixups on my part (like the time I had to throw away an Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box because I forgot they put mustard on it.)

Here's my complaint (you are still with me aren't you?)...

I go through the drive through and order: "Whopper meal, no mayo, mustard or ketchup, onion rings instead of fries, Coke to drink." I try not to be one of those clueless people who pull up to the speaker and act like they've never heard of McDonald's, much less ordered food by talking to a big plastic menu. I get the "So you want a Whopper meal with no mayo, onion or ketchup?" So I clarified. She responds (you may recognize this from above), "The Whopper doesn't come with mustard." Like I'm a total moron for suggesting they might sink to such a level and actually put mustard on their burgers. One of these days, I'm going to say what I'm actually thinking, which is "well, that's one less button you have to push on your cash register." This is not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

If anyone from BK is reading this, I have one question. Why, oh why, did you make the Spicy Tendercrisp sandwich just a regular Tendercrisp with a spicy sauce? I was ready to try one the other day when I discovered the spicy part is in the sauce. I don't like crap like that on my sandwiches. I had the regular Tendercrisp and it is very good, it would be even better spicy. Take Wendy's example and put the spice in the breading, not the sauce.

Brotherhood of Pepperoni

Pizza drivers seek national union

Let me start by saying I do not agree with unions. I don't agree with collective bargaining. I believe an individual should stand on his own merit and be rewarded (raises, bonuses, promotions) or punished (demotions, firings, etc) based on his or her job performance. The idea of collective bargaining destroys individual merit. If I have a co-worker who does 20% less work than I do, they shouldn't be paid the same amount as me. This whole "brotherhood" thing sets up an "us versus them" environment that is not conducive to a successful business. The union advocates like to talk about the fact that without the workers, there would be no business. That is true. What they don't mention is that without the owners and managers (more to come on that), there would be no business either and they would be out of a job.

I don't want to turn this into a rant about unions in general, so I will go back to the pizza story. I've had many different jobs in the 17 years I've been working. In high school, I worked at a grocery store, a pizza place (non-delivery) and a movie theater. I remember looking forward to being 18 so I could deliver pizzas. The idea of getting paid to drive around all night listening to the radio sounded awesome. Sure you had the occasional interruption where you had to get out and go to someone's door, but if you were listening to a cassette (insert age joke here), you stop it and pick up right where you left off.

Three months after I turned 18, I moved into my own apartment and got a job at Pizza Hut as a driver. They paid me $4 an hour, plus tips, plus $.50 a delivery (it was 1990). I also got a free meal while working. On a Friday or Saturday night, I could make $50-$75 in tips and deliveries. Wednesday and Sunday nights were close to that(church nights). Other nights, I'd make $30 maybe. Still pretty good money for an easy job. That job would have gotten me through college, but it turned out that Pizza Hut's policy was all drivers had to be 19 and the manager had overlooked my age on the application. Once he found out I was only 18, he had me answering phones. $4 an hour without tips and trip fees does not pay the rent, so I had to quit and go elsewhere. A few years later, I managed the delivery operations for Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Side note: everyone looks at me funny when I say that KFC had a delivery service. It was a test in several areas and then went away completely. I'm proud to say that my store and 1 other in the Nashville area were profitable. All others failed miserably.) I also worked at Domino's as a driver. I'm sharing this to let you know that I am familiar with pizza delivery.

and are reimbursed 50 to 75 cents per delivery — no matter how far it is.
That is true. No matter how far it is. If the delivery is next door, they still get the same amount. It balances out over a night. Also, on busy nights, you generally take several orders that are in the same area. During my delivery days, I had 3 deliveries on the same street on many occasions.

to pay drivers a mileage reimbursement of 30 cents to 40 cents per mile
Paying mileage isn't really fair to the restaurants. Not all drivers are created equal and sometimes they get lost. Should the store pay for them to wander around town? Also, drivers would lose out on those times when you have multiple deliveries in one area.

Pizza drivers do not need a union. It is an afterschool job for college students, not a skilled position. If this guy has so much time on his hands that he can organize a union, why doesn't he go to school and find a career instead of a job*.

*By this I mean certain types of work are just "jobs", and others are "careers." They are not necessarily based on education, so don't think I'm putting down careers that do not involve going to school. Managing fast food restaurants is a career, delivering pizza is a job.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

"Assault" weapons...

Just a quick link to a fellow blogger and friend. An informative, well written piece on the assault weapons ban.

"Assault Weapon" Education

TennCare A.K.A. HillaryCare

Advocates' concessions keep TennCare on table

I actually believed our state was going to take a step in the right direction by getting rid of this albatross known as TennCare off the taxpayers' necks. But getting people off the government teat isn't as easy as weaning a puppy. The article also mentions things like...

''All we're saying is you've got to comply with the Constitution,'' he (attorney Gorden Bonnyman) said.

Now, I've read the U.S. Constitution (the state Constitution also) and I can't recall running across anything about health care. They didn't clarify what he meant by this quote, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

For any readers in a state other than Tennessee who are wanting Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2008, you can look at TennCare to see what her health care plan looks like. It is based on her National Healthcare Plan from when Bill was in office. Our gov at the time, Ned McWorthless McWhorter, instituted her plan to replace Medicaid in Tennessee. It is now a $7.8 billion, yes that's a B, sinkhole in our budget. It was supposed to be managed care, but all the management companies do is write checks for any claim made. Even when generic drugs are available, they (TennCare recipients) still get the name brands. Why not? They're not paying for it. I am trying to find a source I saw a couple years ago that compared the average number of prescriptions for non-TennCare Tennesseans and TennCare recipients. It was a staggering difference. I will post it when I find it. There is also a lot of waste due to TennCare recipients going to emergency rooms, which is much more expensive than a doctor's office visit. Once again, why not? It doesn't cost them anything.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Minimum Wage = False Economy

I ran across an editorial in The Tennessean (colorfully known

to us non-liberal Tennessee residents as "Pravda on the
Cumberland") by Molly Secours. The Tennessean wants me to
buy an archive of the article now that it has been a few weeks,
but being an enterprising Googler, I have found it on another
site. This story struck me on several levels. Being a dad,
I know kids sometimes don't understand the prices of things
and can ask for a lot more than is financially possible to
give them. I have also been at the extreme low end of the
earning spectrum. I worked my way through college after
having my first child. I was making $5.00/hour when minimum
wage was $4.25/hour, so I have been in this father's shoes.
Except for one thing, this father is in his late thirties,
not early 20's. I recognized my situation as being untenable
and did something about it. Anyway, I'm sharing both the link
and a copy of the email I sent to Ms. Secours (below the link).
I have not received a response from her.


[My email to her]
Ms. Secours,

I read you editorial about the overworked father in "The
Tennessean". It is strange to me that you felt sorry
for the father in this situation. I cannot imagine speaking to
my children in that way. Two years ago, I was out of work
for 3 months. To make matter worse, I worked the entire
month of November 2002 before the lay off and didn't get paid
for it because the company I worked for ran out of money.
My two boys still came over every weekend and most of the time,
I didn't have the money to rent a movie, much less take them
to the theater. But I never spoke to them the way this father
did. We played a lot of board games, went to the library and,
weather permitting, the park. I just can't imagine telling one
of my children I don't have time for them.

I imagine this father (I just can't call him a "dad") is very
frustrated. I can imagine being in my late 30's and only
making $6.85 an hour would make me angry at the world. But
it is not the world's fault that he is in that situation. He
has had 20 years to obtain and develop a more valuable skill
than changing the oil in a car, something which a lot of us
do ourselves at home. I know several auto mechanics who earn
a very nice living. Perhaps if he expanded his automotive
skills his paycheck would increase.

The point of the article was to support an increase in the
minimum wage. Your argument was this father makes $6.85 per
hour and can't afford to take his son to the movies. Minimum
wage is now $5.15 per hour, so he makes $1.70 over minimum
wage. Let us assume that if the minimu wage is increased,
his pay will remain the same amount over the minimum, which
would be $8.70 per hour. He would only have to work 47 hours
to make the same amount. So he has an extra day to take his
son to the movies. That sounds wonderful. And it would be for
about 6 months, then the cost of the movies would rise because
the theater workers make minimum wage. Also, the family's
grocery costs are going to rise because all those grocery store
employees just got more expensive. In fact, all prices will go
up, completely negating his increase. The goods and services
purchased by the lower income families are provided by minimum
or close to minimum wage employees. He will be back working 7
days a week within a year. Minimum wage isn't the answer to
this man's problems, a skilled job is. Historically, prices
increase after minimum wage increases. Minimum wage only
creates a false economy.

Another thing that would help lower income workers would be
to reduce or completely repeal the FICA taxes. This takes
7.5% of their pay, plus the employer has to pay 7.5% also.
An extra 15% of his paycheck would go a long way, and it
wouldn't increase prices, because it doesn't cost the employer

It is easy to appeal to people's emotions and try to sell a
minimum wage increase, but it is not an emotional issue, it
is an economic one. A minimum wage does not improve a
worker's financial position, except in the short term. But
our society only looks at the short term.

Thank you,



This isn't an editorial post, but an informative one. Since I have had to clean several computers of adware thanks to two children who like to look up cheat codes for video games, I abhor the "talent" of these malcontents who like to infect other's property with their little packages of joy. I ran across a series of articles where a techie used an "out of the box" machine to track how these guys work. It's a very informative article and very in depth. It is 3 parts so far, and there will be a 4th installment soon.


OK Guns

OK law Allows Guns on Company Property

I don't live in OK, but this is an interesting story. The two sides of it conflict with my personal ideology. On one side, we have a company making rules on their private property and for their employees. On the other side, the people (employees) have a right to be armed. If they had a "disgruntled" employee, and that employee is bent on doing violence. The proximity of a gun isn't going to change that.

This is very similiar to the conundrum faced by those with state issued carry permits. It is against federal law to carry a handgun on federal property. If a person who is legally carrying a handgun needs to go to the post office, even if they leave the weapon in the car, they are still breaking federal law. If I were a Whirlpool employee, I would have to go with the philosophy a law enforcement officer told me when I posed the above "post office puzzle": "If no one sees it, is it really there?"

Friday, November 12, 2004

Word Not So Perfect

Novell Sues Microsoft

Novell sues Microsoft because they lost market share during the brief time they owned WordPerfect and Quattro Pro. Hey, Novell, I used WP 5.1 for DOS and loved it. I used 6.0 for Windows while you owned it and it sucked. That's why you lost market share. After Corel bought WP and released 7.0 for Windows, it was actually competitive with MS Word and I loved it. But Word got better and WP went nowhere.

Novell, you once made a great network operating system. You jumped in a market you had no business being in with a product that was not ready for prime time. Quit whining about what happened 10 years ago and either write some good software or shut your doors and go home.

Saving Private Fines...

While my wife and I were flipping through the channels last night, we stopped on WKRN (our local ABC affiliate). On the digital cable guide, it said "Saving Private Ryan". However, that's not what was on the screen. Our local affiliate was one of those that chickened out and didn't show a wonderful movie showing the sacrifice of our World War II veterans on the day that the nation chooses to honor those veterans. I have a question for the television broadcasters; remember the First Amendment? You know the one about freedom of speech and of the press? Somehow we've succumbed to the notion that the government owns the airwaves. We are the government. Instead of allowing us to make a choice on what we watch or allow our children to watch, the networks are treating us like morons who can't make our own decisions. It is just further indications that we are heading for a nanny-state.

So what did they choose to replace this work of art that honored our WWII veterans? We watched about 10 minutes of this "show". It was about a woman who discovers her husband was having an affair with her sister and her sister killed her husband (I don't know why, I didn't watch all of it). They showed the murder from the husband's point of view (with blood splattering on the sister) and the wife said things like "You slept with my husband." Great moral decision there, WKRN. Let's not show the people a historic film about the horrors of war, because that might damage someone. Instead let's show a movie with a plot that could come from a Jerry Springer show.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Come on in and have a seat...

I have a habit of emailing news links to friends and co-workers along with my commentary. I'm egotistical enough to believe that people who don't know me will be interested in what I have to say also. I will post items and commentary as the mood strikes me.