On survival guilt

I was spared. Today. Who knows about tomorrow. But for the moment, I still have a job.

Things happened today I did not expect. There were people who lost their jobs today who I would never have worried about. There were people who lost their jobs today who I worried about, and who really needed their jobs.

Today was a day of crying, of worrying, of comforting friends. Today was a day of wondering why, worrying how we’ll muddle through if we’re on the wrong side of 1,400, and whether we’ll be on the wrong side of 5,000 over the next eighteen months.

Today was also a day where I read about a former coworker who lost her job. She’d been at the company a few years longer than me, and she was chosen by a local paper as a representative of those of us going through everything above. No, she was a represententative of those who, in addition to everything above, was on the wrong side of 1,400.

Microsoft is a huge company, and the veriety of experiences and life situations is enormous. There are people like I was just a few years ago–single, without loans, a renter, early in their careers. There are people like I am now–married, with car loans, mortgages, responsibilities, and not nearly the resources to shrug off a sudden paycheck cut. There are people like many coworkers–responsible for a family, not only for a mortgage, but also the care and feeding of children, saving for their future, and the health insurance that helps ensure they will have a future. And there are people in so many other situations–100,000 or so, all unique.

Today, the Seattle PI covered the story of a woman who lost her job at Microsoft. She is not a millionaire, nor is she much different than the rest of us, though of course she has her own circumstances that none of us who are not in her position can understand. It was a human interest story, attemtping to bring a face to what was happening. Those of us watching coworkers and friends lose their jobs felt the immediacy of her story. Cathy’s story was supposed to help others empathize. She expressed hope at her prospects of finding fulfilling new work. But the response by PI readers was to ridicule her hope, excoriate those of who worry about what will happen to us if we lose our jobs, make fun of people who don’t know what to do next, and generally add to the misery of what was otherwise a miserable crap-ass motherfucker of a sonofabitch day.

I know this is a handful of people making these comments on the PI blog, and an unfortunate face of the Web’s ability to allow every Tom, Dick and Asshole to make his opinion broadcast news. I know, too, that these are just a handful of petty little people who have no idea that other people suffer, too; but their words really added to the terror of this day. People who lose their jobs because of the economy, people who have to worry about paying for mortgages and food for their families and their futures are not spoiled brats for being upset about what’s going on. People who do lose their jobs and try to express hope and put on a brave public face do not need ridicule for trying to maintain a sense of dignity.

Today was a bad day. Those who enjoyed laughing at us for it shoud be ashamed of themselves.

Alan Greenspan is an idiot

So Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman and arguably one of the chief architects of the financial crisis we find ourselves in today, finally acknowledges that he “made a mistake” in rebuffing all attempts to regulate the derivatives market. He said today:

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”

Mr Greenspan — may I call you Al? — I have a little bit of news for you. Banks are not people. They don’t have brains, or consciences, or any sense of self-interest.  As it turns out, banks are actually run by people.  Collections of individual people, in fact, each whom often have a very well-developed sense of self interest. As in, an interest in themselves, not the bank as a whole. And unsurprisingly, Al, many of them saw an opportunity to do well by themselves, even if it conflicted with the long-term goals of the bank, or even the economy as a whole. As an S&P employee said to a coworker in 2006:

“Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

So let’s not anthropomorphize any more financial institutions, eh Al?

Jesus saves his money at the Chase Manhattan Bank

(As goes the terribly blasphemous rugby song that I can’t seem to find a link to)… and now so do we. Like David, I’m wistful… I opened a WaMu account on my second or third day in town when I moved to Seattle back in 1999 and have always been 100% pleased with the customer service. Sad that it failed on the very date of its 119th anniversary. But the FDIC appears to have managed an awfully smooth transition… a run on the bank would have been really scary and much more damaging to the health and sanity of the market. We do have a lot of friends who work for WaMu and hope that their jobs are secure for as long as possible.

I suppose JP Morgan Chase is about as strong a bank as exists in these uncertain times, but I would have preferred Citi to have bought WaMu out… our Australian bank account is with Citi and at the rate things are going we might just need to make a transfer and cut our losses. Only, of course, if America goes all battered wife on us and re-elects the party that has given her 8 years of black eyes, red ink and moral bankruptcy. Here’s hoping Barack wins decisively against Grandpa Simpson tonight!

Lurni your furni

Secrets of The IKEA Naming System revealed. I cannot express how much I love knowing things like this:

Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames (for example: Klippan)
Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian place names

Dining tables and chairs: Finnish place names

Bookcase ranges: Occupations

Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays

You have to read the whole list. Quite a nice blog on naming and branding overall.

(Sorry, by the way, for the radio silence. And happy new year.)

Interview by Riddle

I would so hire the person that answered as follows to this brain-teaser question during an interview:

During a screening interview, I was asked how I would design a bike fit for someone visually impaired. I responded something to the effect of, “What, like, for blind people?”, and she answered yes.

I thought for a moment and then I responded, “Well.. a blind person riding a bike doesn’t sound like a very safe idea, so I would make the bike stationary, maybe with a fan blowing in the person’s face. He probably wouldn’t even know the difference.”

She was speechless.

I think it’s a great answer. It avoids anything impractical, and it’s entertaining to boot!

I agree with the general thrust of the article: as much as I love riddles, I don’t think they’re much help in finding a good candidate. Maybe early on when the concept was novel it was a good way to see into a candidates thinking processes, but when the candidate studies possible questions and when the interviewer is interested in the answer, not the thought process, it’s nothing more than a silly memory test.

Gambling no longer a game of chance

“..a Pennsylvania man is now crying foul after he got the short end of the stick in an unfortunate “mishap.” The retired carpenter, who had visited the Philadelphia Park casino before, dropped his two quarters into a Wheel of Fortune slot machine only to win $102,000 — or so he thought. The machine proudly conveyed his winnings right alongside his actual name, sending his emotions into a jovial whirlwind, but apparently the machine wasn’t exactly supposed to, you know, let people hit the jackpot, and now he’s fighting just to get his due reward. A spokesperson for the venue stated that it “was just an error in the communication system,” but added the mistake seems to have originated in the in-house computing system, not within the machine itself. The man was offered “two tickets to the buffet” (saywha?) and advised to read the disclaimer on the machine, nullifying any awards if the machine malfunctions, but he still feels that this “fault” is illegitimate.”  stolen from engadget.

if i’m reading this correctly, this begs the question: if a central computer is dictating which machines win and how much they pay out, is it any longer a game of chance?  does it then become a game of controlled loss? i mean odds are odds but is it still considered chance when a computer decides that it only pays out once every 3,409,403 times played and only 10% of what it takes in because that’s what statistics COULD dictate? if so, i’m in the wrong business.


Why do I have to yell and throw a “hissy fit” when I need a corporate customer service organization to do the right thing?  Is it really that customer service is dead or is it something more sinister – is their CRM system telling the service rep on the other end of the line that I am not one their most valuable customers and therefore I can be f*cked with mercilessly?

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough already knows that I skirt the edge of professional paranoid.  However, I think I may have hit upon the true reason that I never receive good (or even halfway decent) customer service – I have a low “lifetime value” as a customer.  In fact, I probably cause most of my vendors to lose money in maintaining me as a customer.

As a professional marketer, I almost never respond to direct mail or other advertisements in a vendor’s attempt to upsell me to a more expensive item or service.  Rather, I spend a few minutes dissecting the piece for its relative merits and faults before I toss it away.  But this Lifetime Customer Value thing is big business and I think it is undermining the very thing it was originally designed to support – personalized service.  When 1-to-1 marketing was first promoted, it focused on how to increase the value of your customer base by serving or anticipating their needs better.  Now it is about culling the fattest calves from the herd and sh*tting on the rest.

The vendors that provide me with truly personal service I reward with not only my loyalty but with referrals and testimonials.  The ones that treat me like a number and a set of behaviors I ditch at the first opportunity and steer people away from every chance I get.  I realize that it is unfashionable to have customer service agents that actually care about resolving a customer’s issue or speak English as a first language.  And until we as consumers rise up as one and slay the evil market whores vote with our dollars on a large scale we will have to yell and throw stupendous verbal fits in order to get our lifetime value returned.

TiVo Announces iPod/PSP compatibility

The American digital video recording pioneer TiVo promised yesterday that subscribers would soon be able to watch recorded TV programmes on their video iPods or portable Sony PlayStations. TiVo expects to release software in the new year which will enable iPod and PSP users to download their favourite shows

The American digital video recording pioneer TiVo promised yesterday that subscribers would soon be able to watch recorded TV programmes on their video iPods or portable Sony PlayStations. TiVo expects to release software in the new year which will enable iPod and PSP users to download their favourite shows

You may even get an autosync feature…
Thank you TiVo, I can now watch all the Military and HG Channel shows I want on my iPod. This raises the question, do I download from iTunes for $1.99 a show or pay $45 and get all I have time to convert? I guess this depends on the amount of free time you have. I see a battle brewing.

Here’s another…