Tag Archives: unemployed

Pillow Fight!

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Around these parts, we have a new tradition for the holiday, we beat the heck out of each other with pillows; it’s so fun. The news is cycling through what is now the same old stories – Republican jockeying for position, Obama trying to please the majority, and a tangled ball of religion, birth control, women’s issues, and gay rights.  It does seem like control over women and traditional family roles are central to much of the discussions. One side wants to fight to preserve a traditional nuclear family where the man of the house calls the shots, the other wants to live in the present where the head of household can be of any gender and is free to make choices for themselves. It is easy to understand why we all sometimes want to lash out or beat our head against the wall. Sometimes the other side seems so far away that talking to them is impossible. I call for a national pillow fight. Continue reading

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The Right Entitlement

The New York Times published an article over the weekend titled “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It“, which profiles several families and folks that describe themselves as conservative, the area recently helped sweep out a Democrat in favor of a tea party candidate. It is especially interesting because it strips individuals away from rhetoric or group think and confronts them on inconsistencies. This might be considered a “gotcha” style of report, only it’s not. It’s tone, sensitivity, and questions offer a personal glimpse into these folks lives (the individual vignette videos under the introduction). Everyone interviewed either used some of the government safety net or had someone in their immediate family who did, plus one guy who was adamant that he would not accept money from the government.

“Plan ahead! I don’t expect the rich to cough up the money that they work hard for, to give to to the people that are too foolish or too lazy to provide for themselves”, says Matt Anderson. This is pretty typical of a libertarian/republican line of rhetoric, perhaps it is more than a talking point for this guy. The only problem with this logic is that it assumes that the rich have worked hard and those that cannot provide for themselves are foolish and/or lazy or don’t plan. This is the essential crux of the “entitlement issue”; do people “deserve” benefits? If so, what is the criteria for deserving those benefits? Continue reading

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“Get a Job” and Other Cruel Jokes

“Get a Job”, is a common thing to hear when you are demonstrating against anything. If you protest the high level of unemployment, there will still be oblivious hecklers that scream “get a job”, as they tear by in their gas guzzlers. I guess the irony is lost on them. The meme is a common one, many conservatives believe that if there are any jobs available, there should not be unemployment. They paint a picture of entitlement where the job seeker is lazy. Speaking from experience, being unemployed is one of the more exhausting occupations I’ve ever had. Continue reading

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The Best Buy – Consumers Activate!

Customer service todayPolitics are not just about candidates and elections, political impact reaches into the fabric of our lives – into our jobs, homes, bedrooms, relationships, consumer choices, even our uteruses. Sometime it can be difficult to see the link between a decision in Washington and the way it manifests in our lives. Using a figurative zoom lens – like the one described yesterday – can help. Here is a personal, real world experience in which I draw a parallel to the current business/political climate and get good results. It’s a bit of self advocacy.

I have had a few recent unpleasant experiences with large corporations that perhaps you can relate to. It goes like this: I research a product, make a choice and fork over my dollars to purchase said product. There is some issue with the product and so, to resolve that issue I attempt to get assistance with the company. At this point in my customer experience, customer service is only a myth of yesteryear; I only get phone trees, online customer forums, and multiple automated messages assuring me of how much the corporation appreciates and cares about me. I am only rarely able to speak to a human at all and if I do find a human, that human has no power or interest in helping me with my product issue.  Meanwhile I spend hours on the phone growing more and more frustrated, wondering what has happened to the motto, “the customer is always right”. Mention that to any financially successful business in the U.S. and it will probably be followed by gales of laughter.  Humans and humanity have been subtracted from the world of business; profits over people rule the day.

In my most recent case of making a purchase from Best Buy, I purchased a laptop online. Though I was told dozens of times how important my business and calls were to them – by a recorded voice – I was only able to find a human that could actually help me after a month of trying. They did not send the laptop and gave no indications that they would send the laptop.  Am I wrong to assume that a transaction still means an exchange of goods and services? Is it presumptuous of me to want to receive a product that I have paid for? Is it selfish in this age to want to interact with a human that can actually address the situation and provide me any indication that a resolution is forthcoming? Do I really need to traverse the phone tree equivalent of Dante’s inferno just to indeed receive what I’ve paid for?  I don’t think so.

It seems to be commonplace right now that many businesses – corporations – simply take money from customers and say to hell with the rest. I for one am sick of it; I am guessing that I’m not alone. The lack of customer service attention paid to me is not due to my rude behavior – I kept a civil tongue – it’s due to our business climate. In order for a company to get ahead they have to “run lean” (translation: lay a bunch of people off and forget the value they added to the business), they have to “oursource” (translation: make the customers do work for you), they have to “work smart” (translation: scare the crap out of the remaining workforce so that they will put in lots of free overtime work and take on more responsibility without additional pay). If a corporation does not employ these tactics the chances are that they will be forced to via an investor or shareholder. No value is placed on the humans involved; our work force is getting cheaper by the minute and we humans are treated accordingly.

I’m guessing that thousands or even millions of others have experienced the very same frustrating run around in regards to customer service. If corporations can outsource research (customer forums), management (phone trees), and follow ups (“hello?…..hello?…”) to us customers, maybe I can outsource some of my problem issues to them, you know kind of an exchange. Here is how I might do this; I welcome everyone’s creativity to find your own ways of upping the ante when it comes to dealing with these bullies of (corporate)personhood.

I have two children grade school age, somewhat hyperactive. I will give my local branch of Best Buy one more chance to be civilized and help me, their customer,  and then I will take action. I will purchase jelly filled, sugar sprinkled doughnuts and allow my two boys to keep them in their pockets. We will calmly enter the store and I will occupy my usual place in line with the customer service. I will only instruct my boys to find something to do while I wait in line, and allow them to eat when hungry. They love video games, computers, phones, and cameras and thoroughly enjoy the floor models in stores. If I have to wait long, I might need to offer them some juice boxes. If it is a very long time it may call for a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos on the floor near customer service. For this special occasion – and since my wait is likely to be quite long to get any true help –  I may even allow them to bring some of their electronic toys that sing, beep, and buzz loudly. The youngest sometimes keeps a whistle in his pocket and enjoys blowing that at times. Keeping kids busy while we consumers do the work that corporations have outsourced to us, is difficult. It’s time that those corporations feel the crunch.

We must stop taking this insult to our daily lives. Obviously customer service is a casualty of downsizing and rethinking corporate profits. Yes, some customer service lines reroute to India where we cannot understand the heavily accented “Justin” on the other end, but much of the work seems to be outsourced…to us!  We spend our precious hours trying to help ourselves, hamper our bodies with additional stress, our livelihoods suffer due to lack of equipment or attention (I went a month with no computer!!!). They continually ask us – through a recorded voice – to chase our own tails then insult us by using that same recorded voice to thank us for our business. I’ve met more considerate schoolyard bullies. Please join me in putting pressure –by any non-violent, legal means necessary – on customer service.  I do feel sorry for those behind the counters making barely over minimum wage, but we must make the company feel the inconvenience like we feel it. The old school motto of “the customer is always right”, has been replaced with a new unspoken one, “the customer is always too busy and weary to make a fuss”.

This lack of attention on the part of Best Buy and its corporate ilk are yet another reason to buy local. I did have a happy ending to my issue in that I finally got the attention of a local manager and ended up with a laptop for a seventh of the price. Civil disobedience- even when legal – can be effective if we take the time. Activate in all the areas of your life, that is what the “Occupy” trend is really about. Wake up and see how the political policy really does trickle down on you. In the meantime, if you are planning a visit to Best Buy in the near future, perhaps you should bring some handiwipes – just in case.

Thanks to Andrew Toos for the political cartoon.

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Zoom, zoom, Newt’s in space

Newt Gingrich is at it again, you can’t really blame him, he is trying to win in Florida and needs a hook. It’s time to get out the zoom lens. The “zoom lens” is a mental exercise and visual trick that helps to see both a progressive and conservative point of view; it’s another way to see the multiple causes that form a progressive opinion vs. the few causes that form conservative ones. While the lens is trained on Newt you see a candidate that needs votes and needs to tell the electorate something that will make him more desirable and set him apart from the field. Newt knows that he must cut through the media chatter – people don’t want to get bogged down in policy talk or quibbling. Newt wants to be seen as a big, bold idea man. He’s put forth an edgy idea and he’s channeling Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy at the same time. He’s calculated his position and is taking a gamble on the desperate needs of the unemployed; especially the Florida unemployed.

Like lot’s of Americans, Newt is a space fan and has been for a long time. He was a youth when JFK made the press to go to the moon and I’m sure moon-talk was the uber-cool, cutting edge, techno geekspeak of the day. JFK – the still wildly popular Democratic president- created a bold challenge for Americans and gave it a deadline. Newt really needs a fresh idea to jump start the economy so he is dusting the cobwebs off of the idea of space exploration and is trying to do what Kennedy did – it just so happens that he’s pushing it in a state that has lost thousands of jobs to the shuttering of the space programs. Gingrich is channeling one of the most popular Democratic presidents in history and one of the most popular Republican presidents in history too – Ronald Reagan. Both of these presidents had big ideas that saved their butts. Reagan’s ideas were big because he crafted our current economic down turn with his deregulation plans, rejection of “do-gooders” (empathetic/altruistic people), and desire for “morning in America”. It is almost irrelevant what either president was talking about, what was really important is how they made Americans feel.

Feeling is more important than thinking when we make decisions. Continue reading

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