Money

April 15, 2011

And that’s all* I have to say about money.

This post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

* Well, unless you’re willing to pay me to talk about money :)


Because a mime is a terrible thing to waste

May 27, 2009

So the headline on the BBC News website‘s RSS feed read:

Marcel Marceau debt auction ends

And the first thing that popped into my head was: I wonder if it was a silent auction?


Just how untransparent can they be?

March 24, 2009

In the snailmail today was a notice from Bell Canada:

We’re going green.

Dear R LEE

We are writing to notify you about an important change to our eBill program.

You are currently receiving a paper invoice, along with a monthly email notification advising you that your online bill can be viewed by logging in at the Bell Web site.  Following your next bill, we will be discontinuing your paper invoice to help reduce paper waste and protect our forests.

If you would prefer to continue receiving a paper bill in the mail, you have the option of keeping this arrangement now and in the future.  Simply log in to bell.ca/staypaper and click on “I wish to keep receiving paper bills”.

Thank you for choosing Bell.

Sincerely,
Jim Myers
Senior Vice-President, Customer Experience

OK, let’s start with “We’re going green.” — this has become the “ISO 9000″ of the 21st century IMHO.

What I mean by that is back when the ISO 9000-series standards were first developed, they were initally the business equivalent of cod-liver oil — they were told it was good for them, but implementing the requirements for certification wasn’t always terribly palatable.

For companies that already had good quality and documentation practices in place, it wasn’t that difficult, but for many it was a real sea-change — and when they came out the other side, they probably really were better companies, with more consistent quality in their products and services (note: I didn’t say better quality, since implementing any of the ISO 9000-series requirements doesn’t guarantee that quality will improve, just that you will have documented the quality — good or poor — of what you do.)

But as more and more large companies insisted on their vendors being ISO certified, an industry of consultants sprang up around certification (and training to go with it) to make it cheaper, easier and more palatable, with the result being that getting ISO certification became a part of the price of entry into the game.  I won’t go so far as to say it became meaningless, but it certainly has lost some of its value as a differentiator between a supplier you want to deal with and one you don’t.

So, what I mean is that being green in the noughties is something companies have to do just to stay in the game, and which any good profit-seeking company will want to spend the least amount of money on to acheive the appearance of.

Which for me means that they may as well have said “We’re still here to make as much profit off you as we can.”  Fair enough, that’s what they’re in business for — I just object to the lack of transparency in cloaking it with green.

Next: I don’t particularly enjoy having them shout out my name in the salutation, I mean really, how hard is it to automate putting it into proper upper and lower case letters…

Then, the use of the Royal “We” — alright, so that’s a stylistic letter writing formula that I’m quibbling about, but the letter is written over the name of one individual, the Vice-President of Customer Experience.  Why not say “I am writing you…” — it’s certainly not as if the whole company was in on writing the letter…

OK, on to the part that really gets up my nose:

Following your next bill, we will be discontinuing your paper invoice to help reduce paper waste and protect our forests.

Now, as an individual concerned with the environment, I will certainly choose ways that I can “reduce paper waste and protect our forests”, but their statement says that they will be doing it for that reason.

Which is a load of crap: they’re doing it to reduce their costs and maximize profit.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with a company wanting to make a profit and reducing costs can certainly be a legitimate way to do that — I just take issue with it when there’s a attendant increase in the cost to society as a result (but that’s a rant for another day…)

So if they would not be so untransparent and just admit that they’re eliminating the paper bill using a “negative option” strategy (something which got the Rogers Cable company into hot water some time ago…) I would happily elect to not receive the bill in the mail.

Maybe if enough of Bell’s customers insisted the same thing, that they come clean and say the reason for eliminating the paper bill is to cut their costs and increase their profit, before allowing them to discontinue sending it, then maybe they’d do it.

Well, I don’t plan on holding my breath waiting for Mr. Myers to ‘fess up and admit that Bell is just trying to squeeze a few more pennies of profit out of each customer this way, but if you are a customer of Bell Canada and feel the way I do about this, then why not let them know how you feel and just perhaps we can get him to do it — particularly if we all threaten to click on “I wish to keep receiving paper bills” if they don’t.

And thank you for choosing Unconventional Wisdom.


Make them REALLY earn those bonuses

January 31, 2009

When I heard about President Obama’s stern rebuke to Wall Street bankers over the bonuses paid to their employees in the wake of the collapse of the financial sector and the subsequent bailout of those same banks under the Bush administration, I marvelled at his political courage in calling them out on this.

And then it got me to thinking, what would be an appropriate way to make them really earn those bonuses — after the fact.  Here’s what I came up with:

To earn their bonus, they each need to visit — in person, so as to give names and faces to the victims of their moral, ethical and professional failings; and at their own expense, so as not to divert any more of the bailout funds — all the people who have lost their homes, lost their jobs, lost their savings as a result of the fiscal irresponsibility of the people earning those obscene bonuses.

And when they are face to face with them, they need to justify to each and every one of them why they deserve their bonus.

But how to make this happen?  Maybe by implementing an income tax provision that would provide a penalty to anyone employed by a financial institution that benefitted from the bailout, and who received a bonus, if they did not participate in the scheme.  Set a target number of affected families to be visited, based on the size of the bailout the company received and the bonus paid, then pro-rate the tax penalty on the bonus based on how closely they “make their numbers” (just to inject a little irony…).

To be effective, the maximum tax penalty applicable should be sufficiently high to make it painful enough even for these high-rollers to think twice about letting it slide — let’s say the penalty for 0% compliance were set at 1,000% of (10 time s) the bonus amount.  As well, the number of visits required needs to be non-trivial — a minimum of one per week, or perhaps even more.

At 50% compliance, that is if they completed 1/2 of the required visits, the penalty would drop to 500% (5 times the bonus amount) and at full compliance there would be no penalty at all — they would still have to declare the bonus as income and pay the usual tax on it, of course, although I’m sure they all have well-paid tax lawyers or accountants to make sure they don’t pay much.

And the penalties paid should then be directed back to all the people who suffered as a result of the bankers fiscal irresponsibility.

So, let me know what you think about my idea for some social justice.  And if you think it’s a good idea, spread the word — as a Canadian, I have no influence on US policy, but if you are a US citizen and think this is a good idea, let your elected representatives know how you feel.


The Non-Coalition of Canadians For The Prorogation Of Damn Near Everything

December 4, 2008

Since hearing the sad news today that Her Excellency Governor General Michaëlle Jean has accepted the request of the Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper to prorogue the 40th Canadian Parliament, I have reflected on my post of yesterday declaiming exactly this undemocratic maneuvre of requesting the prorogation of Parliament for the, to my eyes at least, fairly venal purpose of saving the Prime Minister’s job and dodging his accountability for the government’s fiscally irresponsible actions (Canada had already been running a deficit earlier this year, and then when the economic crisis hit full force, the PM announced that he was prepared to do so even more vigourously in an attempt to stimulate the economy…  let’s see, the economy was already tanking whilst running a deficit, so we’ll keep trying that until it works.  Riiiiight!  You know what they say about insanity: it’s when you do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.)

Yes, I am recanting (OK, maybe not so much… read on) my position — rather than see purely the negative in the PM’s self-serving actions, why not learn and profit from them?  Why not, indeed?

So, to that end lets take a positive look at his actions and see how we can all apply the same sort of logic (erm, well, if you can call it that…) to the lives of ordinary, everyday Canadians like you and me.

And having thought about how the PM’s actions can serve as a lesson to us all, it came to me in a flash of inspiration: The Non-Coalition of Canadians For The Prorogation Of Damn Near Everything (or TNCOCFTPODNE — really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?)

So just what does the TNCOCFTPODNE think we should all do in a show of solidarity with the poor, beleaguered PM?  Here’s the FAQ:

Afraid of losing your job due to a layoff, downsizing, rightsizing, off-shoring or just plain old greedy profit taking?  Request the GG to prorogue job losses!

Mortgage payments are too high?  Request the GG to prorogue your mortgage!

Can’t afford your car loan?  Request the GG to prorogue that too!

Credit card companies are hounding you?  Easy — get the GG to prorogue those pesky statements!

I have started a Facebook group for TNCOCFTPODNE, which is open to one and all.  Join now and start enjoying the freedom from stress that the prorogation of damn near everything will bring you!


Headlines That Make You Smile and Smile Again

February 1, 2008

OK, just had to post about this headline that made me smile I found on the BBC News website today — seems that Microsoft aren’t content with just being a bunch of yahoos, they want to buy the eponymous company.


I’ve got two words for you…

October 15, 2007

Softwood lumber.

Ah, well… hope springs eternal, according to this article on the BBC News website about the WTO ruling that the US has illegally subsidized cotton farmers.

Best of luck, of course, to the Brazilian and West African cotton farmers who are among those harmed by the US subsidies.  Things will be looking up for you Real Soon Now.


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