Tipping is Not a City in China

housevsaptHouseowners deal with many issues that are foreign to apartment and condo dwellers.  Beyond the seemingly endless (and often expensive) hassles associated with purchasing and moving into a home, one then has to deal with some combination of tasks which include: trash disposal, lawn maintenance, appliance repair and maintenance, outdoor holiday decoration placement and removal, basement flooding, HVAC maintenance, “Mischief Night” soaping and eggings, neighbors’ rogue pets, and on and on.  But this is the time of year where you “make some of that back.”
The "Where's my tip?" hand
The “Where’s my tip?” hand

The holiday season for apartment and condo dwellers might as well be renamed the “Tipping Season.”  Every person that works in and services the entire building (and parking garage if you have one), expects a hefty tip this time of year.  A reward for a job well done (or perhaps some insurance for good service in the year to come).  Many of these people are relatively invisible for 11 months of the year but like clockwork they’ll appear in your vicinity several times between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.  You’ll get a hearty “Hello!” and smile and even a handshake with eye contact from some of them as they happen to be there vacuuming in front of your door, getting to that old maintenance request, tidying up the lobby or offering to help with a package.  Wonderful, friendly busy staff as far as the eye can see.  Much like waiters and waitresses, the tip is essentially an expected part of their compensation so you’re a heel if you stiff them.

 

But how much to tip?  When?  Who?  How do you appropriately “slip them the cash?”  Despite literally hundreds of years of doorman buildings and other apartment complexes with staffers on the books, there has been no progress on exactly how to do this “tip drill” well.  Does each one get the same or do the people that know your name get more?  Is there a “class system” in which doormen get the big dough and maintenance gets 50% less?  Can you send a big check or bag of cash to some management flunky and trust them to divvy it up fairly?  What’s this year’s “rate?”  $100 each?  $200?  $50 due to Obama and the recession?  Does the Super really deserve $500 (after all, he already makes more than everybody else, right?)?  Do I slip a $20 to the weekend substitute parking guy?
Will "Schneider" fix your overflowing toilet in a jiffy next year?
Will “Schneider” fix your overflowing toilet in a jiffy next year?

 

It’s crazy!  Don’t you already pay a “maintenance” fee each year for these services?  Even if you want to do the right thing, there’s no way to know what “the right thing” is.  Ask most doormen and they’ll shrug and say, “Whatever you think is fair sir.”  That’s no help.  You may spend thousands of dollars tipping different people and still miss the guy that fixed your toilet during your Superbowl party because you forgot what he looked like (note: you’ll know if that happened the next time you desperately need his services and he’s conveniently unavailable btw).

 

So to all you house-owners out there, be happy this holiday season knowing that this is your time… a time where you can relax in your home and enjoy the holidays while your apartment-dwelling counterparts are struggling with the all that goes with the “Tipping Season.”

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“Gate”-gate: A Travesty Analyzed – Breaking News

I think there is an emerging scandal that needs attention.  The “Gate-ing” of non-“Gate”-worthy scandals is a growing epidemic and it’s making me angry.  It is an insult to former President Richard Milhous Nixon, G. Gordon Liddy, and the rest of the Watergate gang to try to “-Gate” these minor scandals/dust-ups and put them on the level of the the G-Men’s “work” back in the 70s.  It’s the 40th Anniversary of the original “Gate” for crying out loud, so it’s time to act… and I intend to!

The one and only original “gate”

So which scandals qualify for “-Gate” status?  Let’s evaluate a small sampling (10), of the “best” of the many contenders:

Travelgate at the White House began in May 1993 and really got the “-Gate” business going when seven employees of the White House Travel Office were fired and replaced with friends of the Clintons.  During multiple investigations the discovery of reportedly false statements made by the first lady drove the Clintons to reinstate most of the employees and remove the Clinton associates from the travel office.  A 7-year+ investigation involving the White House, FBI, multiple Special Counsels, and the Attorney General = YES, it’s “-Gate”-worthy.

Bill & Hillary Clinton were at the center of the new “-Gating” craze

Troopergate began with the allegations by two Arkansas state troopers that they arranged sexual liaisons for then-governor Bill Clinton and the scandal escalated to include salacious and serious accusations regarding Paula Jones (who was paid $850K by the President), Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, and White House intern Monica Lewinsky (leading to his impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998.  YES

Spygate was born when with the New England Patriots were found to be secretly taping NY Jets (and likely other teams), signals to gain an unfair advantage.  I would have originally voted NO to “-Gate” status for this but upon further review the facts do show an amazing pattern: 3-0 in Super Bowls while spying and cheating, 0-2 in Super Bowls since caught cheating.  That’s a YES.

Bagelgate occurred at a Fortune 500 company’s Annual Meeting in New York when the regular practice of serving breakfast at the stockholder meeting was changed by the incoming CEO, angering long-time stockholders who typically would make a day of it by eating at the meeting, voting their shares (or single share of stock in some cases), and catching a matinee at the theater.  The Q&A was dominated by elderly stockholders asking the new CEO why there were no bagels or other breakfast items provided for them at this year’s meeting.  Hilarious, but not a “-Gate” – NO

Nipplegate – Singer Justin Timberlake revealed Janet Jackson’s right breast to 89.8 million viewers in a staged “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII causing an uproar and national debate about decency in modern culture as well as FCC fines for CBS.  The most viewed breast and nipple in recorded history = YES

Editgate – NBC TV edited a 911 recording in a way that made the motivation for the shooting of Trayvon Martin appear racial.  Powerful case but not “-Gate-worthy”-NO

Nannygate – A 1993 political controversy over nomination of Zoë Baird and near-nomination of Kimba Wood for U.S. Attorney General were withdrawn due to their hiring of illegal aliens as nannies or the failure to pay taxes for them. The soon-to-be chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. government and head of the United States Department of Justice breaking the law?… YES

Paterno/Spanier-gate at Penn State (hey, that rhymes!) – too soon to say but the coverup to hide the actions of a pedophile coach looks extensive and linked to the highest levels of power.  TBD

Camillagate was a Royal affair

Camillagate – Scandal which resulted from a tape of a telephone conversation between the married Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles in 1993; the tabloids leaked the details of an intimate recording in which Prince Charles told Camilla that he longed to be her tampon.  I’m still speechless about the content but not quite a “-Gate” – NO

Weinergate – U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account linked to a picture of a bulging penis (in underwear).  Weiner said his account had been hacked, but later admitted he sent the tweet; numerous other lewd photographs from the married congressman were later “revealed.”  All-time great NY Post tabloid headline (“HIDE THE WEINER”), but not a “-Gate” –so… NO

OK, so our analysis of these 10 media-anointed “-Gate” scandals shows that only half of them met the standard set by “all the President’s men.”  And these are only a handful of the dozens and dozens that people dare to bestow with the vaunted “-Gate” suffix.  This is Watergate we’re talking here… the biggest coverup in american government history; to besmirch it with Weinergates and other inferiors is tantamount to insulting the constitution itself.  It’s not right.   It will not stand.  Why?  I’ll tell you why… Because I’m here, I’m angry and I’m not gonna take it anymore!

“Gate”-ing is only for the worthy.

UPDATE: Since the publishing of this entry several new unworthy “gates” have emerged (which I won’t detail here), and a new “one-to watch” – namely, “Deflate-gate.”  It seems a ballboy at the mighty USC Trojans football program deflated half the footballs (the ones USC QB Matt Barkley would throw), for the recent USC-Oregon football game.  You see, a football slightly deflated below official specs is easier to grip, throw and catch than a typical new game ball.  Results?  Already considered a top QB prospect USC’s Barkley exploded for 303 passing yards and 3 TD passes… in the 1st half!  At half-time, officials discovered the cheating and the seeds of “Deflate-gate” were born.  USC coach Lane Kiffin and everyone else with the program claim the ballboy was a “lone pin-man” who inserted that pin and masterminded the deflatement.  We should all follow this carefully to see if this one becomes worthy of the “Gate” suffix.

USC’s Coach Lane Kiffin: Innocent preppy leader or Nixon 2?

 

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The Bradley Fighting Stroller (and Reinforcements)

When did baby carriages and strollers start to come outfitted like Bradley Fighting Vehicles being reinforced for DMZ combat?   Do we really need strollers with, “coil spring and elastomer core shock absorbers and pneumatic tires with schrader valves?”

This 2-turret model enables 360 degree viewing coverage by a pair of driver/occupants

These tricked out behemoths are taking over our sidewalks (which are already made smaller because every bar, deli and diner now has a Frenchie style “sidewalk café” table or two in front).  The last time I checked they were still called sideWALKs, not sideSITs and they certainly weren’t designed for NASCAR-style stroller racing by Manhattan mommies in their sparkling Skechers Shape-ups.

I thought I had seen it all in the strollers as monster trucks category but I was wrong.  I’ve now also seen a triple decker model as well… that’s right, a double stroller with a 3rd crow’s nest seat bolted on above the double (I would assume that the kid that gets that “pole position” spot earned it at potty training time-trial qualifying).

What’s next?  Motorized baby cycles with sidecars à la Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes?  I sincerely hope that just by saying that I haven’t inspired Vespa or BMW to enter the fray.

An urban “tiny tank” factory has opened in my once-safe neighborhood

Update:  Since my first battles with these combat-ready baby and toddler tanks that were imported from NJ or Long Island a new menace has been added to the war zone – it is called “Giggle” and it produces all manner of sidewalk carnage-causing machines in my own freaking neighborhood!

This cannot stand!  We must rise up and take back our sidewalks or who knows what is next!  Who’s with me?

 

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Angry About Retirement Parties

I’m angry about retirement parties.

“Happy Retirement” keg stands in your future?

The University of Connecticut (and pretty much the state of Connecticut), just threw a retirement party for longtime head basketball coach Jim Calhoun.  He worked hard for them and stayed loyal and they stayed loyal to him during some rough times as well.  He had a hugely successful career that included 3 national championships over his 26 years as head coach at UConn.  He helped generate much success and revenue at UConn and he’ll collect a hefty pension to retire on; no one feels guilty or cheated.

My father had a retirement party when he left his employer of 45 years.  He worked relentlessly for all of those years and drove achievement of ever higher sales goals year after year.  Nights, weekends and even while officially “on vacation” for 2 weeks per year he was dedicated and “on the job” for his company and his customers.  He loved the challenge and beating the competition and overall he was well compensated enough to raise a large family and send them all to college.  The party was great and included old photos and stories about his dedication and drive as well as humorous anecdotes from co-workers, bosses, employees and his customers.  He made them a lot of money and they were grateful for his contributions, happy he would get to travel and relax, and sad he wasn’t coming in to work next week (or ever again).

My father-in-law is retiring in November and will no doubt get a similar, well-deserved send-off too.  He’s very smart (Mensa smart), hard working and dedicated, like almost all of my friends and relatives who will be forced one way or another to change jobs every 5-10 years or so in the name of “maximizing shareholder value,” “management restructuring” or something similar to make a fiscal quarter or two smell better.  My generation and those which follow it will follow a different path than the “company” men and women that preceded us in the workplace, a much more wasteful one for all involved in my opinion.

Yes, I’m angry about retirement parties.  More specifically I’m angry about the lack of real retirement parties (like Dad got) to look forward to for the rest of us.  An impromptu happy hour drink or trip to the nudie bar with a few co-workers on your last day before taking your next job doesn’t cut it.  I want a cake, a keg, bourbon, embarrassing stories and perhaps even a stripper or two in the office when I “retire” after a long career in a good firm that understands the irreplaceable value of institutional knowledge possessed by its smart, loyal workers.  Too much to ask?  Probably- (11)

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When Scandal = Opportunity

The latest scandal related to “the royals” in jolly old England has plenty of important people hopping mad and many more annoyed that telephoto photography technology isn’t better than it is.  It seems the newest princess (Princess Kate), was photographed sunbathing topless at a Chateau in the South of France last week and the grainy photos have been published in magazines in at least 3 Euro countries.

The attractive and extremely popular young princess and her family are angry and trying to fight back and contain the damage caused by this invasion of privacy perpetrated from over a half mile away by a magazine photographer (reportedly from a French magazine!), on assignment.

How is this latest scandal an opportunity?  Well, my Brit friends and colleagues have been complaining for years that adopting the Euro as their currency would be a huge mistake for Great Britain and would saddle (or is that “straddle” Joe? 😉 ), their economy with the negative effects of unstable and careless Euro countries (Greece, France, etc.), who economies are tanking (and/or are on the edge of doing so).   Perhaps this Euro-scandal plus the promise of a better, more artful British currency will be enough to ensure (for good), that the powerful government and other forces pushing the UK toward the Euro never succeed and that Brits everywhere can always savor their beloved pound notes.   For those who love tradition (and art), I believe the choice is obvious.

The “New” Old Currency in England?

 

 

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European Vacation: A National Lampoon?

What’s with Europeans (even many former Europeans), taking the month of August off?  The entire month?!!!  How is this possible in the 24x7x365 global economy?

Maybe they’ve set up a scenario in which a “backup” employee covers their ongoing projects and keeps work moving – ummmmm, no.  No backup, no manager filling in, no efficient and pleasant intern… nothing.  Just an automated message with something about enjoying being “on holiday” and a desire to follow-up sometime in September (I’m assuming 2012).

“The Wedding” drove an extra 4 Million visitors and £2 Billion in tourism revenue

European economies in the toilet, sloth-like growth compared to China, massive debt and/or trade deficits everywhere, moving toward becoming tourism-based economies, etc.  A coincidence that these things are happening where entire countries take the month off?  Doesn’t seem like it.

But is there another side to this?  Of course there is.  We deserve real time off and if we want it during the brutally hot month of August, we should get it.  And what if a great euro-friend gets an awesome place for a month in an awesome European “holiday” spot AND invites you to come stay for a week?  You do it, that’s what!  And when you do, you notice how relaxed and happy they all are compared to Americans who are afraid to use all of 2 weeks vacation all year.

The wines and wineries of Provence, France are the world’s best

So, am I angry and puzzled about Europeans taking August off or just jealous and angry because I’ve never taken more than a week off at a time… ever?  What do you think? (61)

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Does Your Hiring Criteria Include Diapers and Landmines

Hiring philosophies run the gamut from “We always hire grads from these Top 5 schools and train them to be like us” to “We need people that are fully trained and already had a similar job and therefore know the job” and everything in between.

Do you want an “untouchable” employee?

One hiring philosophy that I find interesting comes from The Untouchables’ Malone who told Eliot Ness, “If you’re afraid of getting a rotten apple, don’t go to the barrel. Get it off the tree.”

So, what characteristics are you really looking for when your firm needs to hire?  Of course they need to be smart enough to handle the role but beyond that, what is most valued?  Is it where they went to school or where they most recently worked?  Is it their current skill set/s or their aptitude to learn?

I would think desire and dedication in the form of being willing to work harder and longer than others would be high on the list.  Also, candidates that will listen to their bosses and follow instructions would be very high on my list.  Finally, I believe you want people that can handle surprises and adapt on the fly.   If you agree with me on these points, then I have 2 pools of candidates that may have flown under your radar:  Military Veterans and Retail Veterans (especially those who’ve worked seasonal retail for 2 or more seasons).

You can work them slide sled dogs and they won’t complain (they’re thrilled to actually get a weekend off and work less than an 11 hour day).  They’re clearly not motivated by getting rich quick (or they never would have worked in retail or the military in the first place), and I’d wager they’ll be more thankful and loyal to your firm.

Few things nastier than a steaming one of these…

They’ve already learned to deal with surprises on the job and to deal with very irrational, rigid and unpleasant people; they also can handle landmine-type obstacles and traps (the retail equivalent of which would be dealing with a discarded “loaded” diaper I guess), because they’ve done it before.  Frankly, anyone who can adeptly handle a life-or-death situation or an angry housewife with screaming kids is a plus for my team.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention what school the candidates went to or where exactly they worked before – that’s because I don’t think it is as important as the characteristics I did mention.  I guess I could use the school as a tie-breaker for two otherwise equal prospects but I would want to know what they did for their summer and Christmas break jobs… And if it was ROTC or toy retail (with loaded diaper parking lot patrol), they’d get the edge. (29)

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“Donations” and Other Former “Free”-bies

Has anyone else had enough of secret fees, extra charges for things that were free last year (or last week), and “mandatory donations?”

Having to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for the right to pay full price for season sports tickets???  e.g.: Duke basketball fans can buy 4 season tickets at full price with a yearly donation of $15,000-$58,500.  That sure is a nice reward for your best customers, isn’t it?

A delivery charge from Domino’s Pizza accompanied by a reminder to tip the delivery guy???  Where does the delivery charge go Mr. Pizza Boss? – New laces for the sneakers he wears when he walks 2 blocks to deliver my pie perhaps???

Coming to your next flight?

My bank (ironically billed as “America’s Most Convenient Bank”), charged me 50 cents to check the balance on one of my other accounts at their in-bank ATM this week.  Really?  Yes, really-

And don’t get me started on the airlines – I fully expect pay toilets and an extra charge to recline my seat any f#%*ing day now!!!

This kind of bait and switch crap is really pissing me off and I’m putting all the young Harvard MBAs who thought this crap up on notice: Clean up your act and trade in your “Carny Scams” manual for “The Essential Peter Drucker” or I’ll find you and make you wish you had!

The Carny/Harvard MBA: “Princes Among Men” ?

Gotta run now, I see a young man in a suit taking notes at the “Pop the Balloon, Win Big Prize!” carnival booth-

Note: Museums with a specific “suggested donation” aren’t any better than these Harvard carnies’ and their scams… A “$5 Suggested Donation” sign in front of some old battle axe woman who gives you the stink-eye until you pony up is extortion, not a gentle suggestion. (23)

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Major League March in DC

Dateline: Washington, DC (on a brutally hot August Saturday)

Prior to the Washington Nationals home baseball game this past weekend there was a “breast-feeders’ rights” protest march/gathering in the city to bring awareness to the fact that women are being forced to cover their exposed breast/s and stop nursing their children in ballparks, restaurants and other public venues in our nation’s Capitol and elsewhere (including other Major League Baseball (MLB) cities).

It’s been a while since I was an infant but I believe I do recall being hungry every hour or so for most of my life so I’m going to agree when told the little guys need to eat that often as well.  And if “mom” provides the best, healthiest and most cost-efficient meals, then I’m on board for that too.

While observers said that this “Million Mammary March” may have come up a little short on total numbers (that would be 500,000 women for you non-math majors), the expressions on the faces of male and female onlookers showed that these proud women protesting with their glistening, naked  breasts in the 100 degree heat had a major league impact on them.  And I can see why it did.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig

I can just see MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appearing visibly moved by the sight and even briefly joining the busty babes as they completed a memorable march from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to Half St. and into Nationals Park.   He of course would be reportedly, “…later treated for heat exhaustion and potential retina damage in both eyes – but of course planning to participate next year.”

Keep up the fight ladies, there are baseball fans and many other men and women that are with you!

 

 

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Angry About the “Sandwich”

Sometimes in business the proverbial “shit sandwich” ends up on your plate.  It sucks that it does, but that is reality in the workplace.  When a shitty, no-win project or scenario does end up on your work plate, your options only really include: a. Eat it, b. Starve and look for work at a better restaurant/place,  or c. Send it back to the asshole chef who has the power to cripple and end your career (and then see what happens).

Unless you own your own business you should consider in advance what you’ll do if and when the sandwich comes your way (because it most likely will).   If you anticipate (and/or have already been served) shit sandwiches at your current restaurant and option b. is the most palatable option, I suggest start looking at alternative “restaurants” now (not all places are as bad as most, so reducing your chances of getting the foul meal is at least possible).

Unfortunately the asshole quotient in the management ranks of most organizations has never been higher, despite the great works of Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Stephen Covey and especially Robert Sutton (author of the brilliant book, “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t”), which all speak to how to treat, motivate and empower employees and managers to enable success.

“Secret Santa” gift for your boss?

Many managers are bullies, cowards, political animals, idiots, and/or overall ass-clowns so the recommendation is to be ready, to anticipate if and when those kind of no-win projects/scenarios (aka “shit sandwiches”), are likely to come your way, and to take action BEFORE the waiter comes to your table.

Thanks for listening and have a good lunch-

 

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