I've also been told I have little tact, so if this offends you simply ride on.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Under Armor Nightmare

Working in retail I see a lot of people and, as a result, get to see what apparel is trendy among specific groups.  Camo, for example, used to be worn by all types: rich and poor, college graduate and high school dropout.  Its fashion days have peaked, however, and the people who are wearing it now are doing so not because it's cool but because they have reached the creative limits in the wardrobe department.  The trendy name brand which seems to have taken it's place, at least in this area of the country, is Under Armor.  I see their little logo everywhere: shirts, T-shirts, hats, coats, jackets, shorts... You name it, if it can legally be worn as outer apparel, there's a good likelihood you will see an Under Armor monogram.  There's only one little problem.  Well, it's not that little.  You see there are a lot of people out there who don't seem to comprehend Under Armor is athletic apparel.  If you go to the gym three, or four, or maybe five times a week and actually work out when you're there, a good possibility exists where you can wear this clothing and look damn good.  If you avoid physical exercise like it was the plague, you should also avoid these shirts, and shorts, and shoes and caps because they will make you look foolish.  You are not an athlete.  An Under Armor T is not going to make you look slim.  If you're 40 years old and have man boobs, one of these shirts is not going to make them disappear, they are made to enhance, not conceal.

Under Armor is not going to make you look like this

if you look like this

Yet every day I see 5 to 10 people coming into my department wearing clothing which bears that ubiquitous Under Armor logo.  These flaboids haven't been to a gym since high school.  Seriously, what am I supposed to do when I see a guy's belly creeping out from under the waistline of his Under Armor T-shirt?  I don't think the thought even crosses their minds that they look like porkos in spandex.  They think because it's popular and everybody else is wearing it, they might as well, too, even if their BMI tops 35.  And, unfortunately, being in retail, I need to deal with these people.  I need to keep a civil tongue in my head, be polite, pleasant, and courteous.  I need to provide good customer service.  There is no way in hell I could point at them and shriek "Under Armor Nightmare!"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Duck Dynasty - Crackers from Hell

There is a lot of controversy right now about the A&E show Duck Dynasty because one of the characters said some stuff a number of people believed to be inflammatory.  I've read what he said and it's not the kindest thing he could have said, but there are other people out there who've had worse turds fall out of their mouths.  This is the United States and we are guaranteed freedom of speech.  This means even a Judgmental, Crazy Christian can spout shit.  Now that the frenzy seems to have reached its peak, I have to wonder just how much of this PR extravaganza was orchestrated by the A&E Television network.

I have to say I have never seen the show for two reason:  I don't like reality TV, and I despise reality TV which makes celebrities out of white trash.  Just because the Robertson family has a million dollar duck call business doesn't mean they're not white trash.  Money has nothing to do with it.  An associate of mine has told me the show is so popular because the Robertson's are so stupid.  Her comment to me was "you don't even need to watch it, just listen to them talk to find yourself laughing hysterically."  Which brings me back to the PR extravaganza thing.  From what I've read, the executives at A&E television knew that Phil (?) Robertson was a Judgmental, Crazy Christian simply from his conversations on the set.  So why would they arrange for him to have an interview with GQ unless they were hoping he would open his mouth and shit would fly out.  Evidently, there was a representative from A&E present, most likely to see which juicy tidbits could be blown up out of proportion.

Crackers from Hell

Instead of merely putting out a disclaimer about this cracker's opinions, A&E made a big, public announcement that he would not be back on the show, ever.  He was fired because of his opinions.  At this point the bait was set, all they had to do was wait for the media and "socially conscious" America to jump into the trap...and they did.  Ratings went through the roof.  This little PR stunt went global as everybody now wanted to watch Duck Dynasty.  Was this extravaganza minutely detailed by A&E?  I don't think so, however I do believe there was some hopeful anticipation going into the interview.  All they needed was one little nugget and this Cracker from Hell gave it to them and because of it a lot of people are going to the bank.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Keurigs - pretentious as hell

Like many people all around the world, I like my coffee.  My daily regime starts with brewing 6 cups in my Bunn coffee maker which, I might add, brews a damn good cup of coffee.  Let me qualify this buy noting those 6 cups equal 2.5 mugs which I drink over a period of about 2 hours and that most coffee manufacturers denote the size of a cup as 6 ounces.  This is a lot of caffeine.  Let me also point out this is the only time of day when I drink coffee, I'm not like those people who feel the need to have a coffee break two and a half hours after they've been on the clock.  Those people drink a lot of coffee and coffee can be expensive.  While I am not what I would consider frugal, I am what I like to consider dollar smart: I know how much I'm spending it when I spend it and on what I'm spending it, and the value I'm getting for the money I'm spending.  This is why I don't own a Keurig.  I have disposable income, but not money I'm going to end up pissing away.  Personally I believe Keurigs are synonymous with pretension.

I am always amazed when I hear people who complain about money, and their lack there of, bragging about what a deal they're getting on the K-cups they're buying.  Give me a break!  At my local Giant grocery store I can buy 14 ounces of Maxwell House for around $9.  That's about 220 six ounce cups at about 4cents a cup.  When was the last time these people paid that little for a K-cup?  Never.  The average cost per K-cup is 50 cents per cup for the cheap stuff.  So why are they so popular?  What started off as a nifty thing for the trendy set managed to hook itself into the public conscious in a "keeping up with Jones'" kind of way.  And the little one cup coffee maker became pretentious.

Keurigs - pretentious as hell

This past summer a friend of mine who was going down to the shore, posted a picture of his Keurig snuggled neatly into his backpack.  He was taking it along because there might not be one in the house he had rented.  Sadly, people liked that picture.  I couldn't help but think of how severe his addiction to caffeine must be; it was either that or he was simply blinded by pretentiousness.  To even consider someone not being able to live a week without his Keurig, and going through the hell of having to use a regular coffee maker, simple boggles my mind. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Aetna - sucks the money from your wallet

I was more then a little surprised yesterday to get a bill in the mail from Pinnacle Health for a partial payment on some blood work I'd had done this summer as part of my annual physical.  Why surprised?  Because I have Aetna Insurance through my employer and according to the plan I have they are supposed to cover physicals 100%.  So, of course, I called Aetna.  The representative I talked to asked if I had any pre-existing issues and I told her I did not.  Her response was that my health provider had billed the blood work as Lipidemia blood work, rather then routine blood work, the kind of work they always do to check cholesterol and glucose.  She asked if I had any pre-existing conditions and I said "nope, I'm very healthy."  At her suggestion, I called my health provider to get to the source of the problem.  I was not very happy with the information I received.  You see back in 2011, during a routine physical, my triglycerides were 2 points higher then what is considered normal.  My doctor felt that I should have the blood work run again in 6 months just to make sure everything was normal, which I did, and it was.  Except for that one blip my triglycerides have been fine ever since.  However, that one blip gave me pre-existing status, at least as far as Aetna was concerned.

When I asked my provider why the last blood work was billed to Aetna as a Lipidemia test I was informed that to do so would be considered fraud.  You have no idea how stunned I was to discover that a 2 point blip in my triglyceride lever in 2011 is going to stick with me for life.  From now on, no matter how good my blood work is, Aetna is going to say I have a pre-existing condition.  As a result, rather then pay 100% of the routine physical costs, Aetna is only going to pay a percentage.  Excuse me, Aetna, don't shit on people just to feed your bottom line!  What is really sad was my provider informed me that I was like a lot of other people.  One little blip and you have a pre-exiting condition.  It may never show up again, but Aetna doesn't care.  What they do care about is saving themselves $23 bucks on a blood test that is no different from the standard blood test given as part of a routine physical.  My provider told me Highmark Blue Cross does the same thing, shit on their customers (that's not exactly how she put it, but it's what she meant).  Their idea of fair coverage is to nitpick and nickel and dime you so there's as little expense to their bank account as possible.  They're in the business of making money, not defining fair.  Do they care what your out of pocket expense is?  Hell no.  They see you as either a good investment or a bad investment.  A good investment is an individual who pays more while they pay less.  A bad investment is one with no pre-existing conditions.  A good investment has regular payroll deductions with out any costs.  A bad investment gets sick.  Because of their inherent preference to greed rather then fair coverage, Aetna sucks.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beyonce - golden egg or turd?

Last week, to almost every body's surprise, Beyoncé dropped a new, self-titled album/ video compilation on ITunes.  Target was not happy and will not sell the CD when it is released.  I went to the Rolling Stone website and discovered there was some weird battle going on between the Beyoncé fans and the Taylor Swift fans.  This made me laugh since I don't listen to either one of those lady's music, it's Pop, here today and gone tomorrow.  I got another big laugh from some guy named Steve Stoute who published something on Linkdin.  Evidently Led Zeppelin is finally releasing their body of work on Spotify.  He figures Beyoncé was smarter by using ITunes, you know, making more money.  I think he's wrong.  Led Zeppelin wrote their music about 50 years ago and it's still popular, and it wasn't Pop.  You don't need a studio filled with electronics to duplicate their music.  They have created not only music, but durability.  While she may make oodles of money from this album, she minimized the possibility of a long term effect.  Down loadable music becomes forgettable music because something new is going to be available next week and it only takes a very short time to download it.

One of the things I found interesting about Beyoncé's surprise was that evidently you needed to buy the whole package at one time.  Single song sales usually tend to build album sales since most of a musician's fans will buy the album, but a hell of a lot more people will buy single songs, you know, the hits.  Like your great aunt Mabel in Oshkosh who hears one song and falls in love with it.  Chances are she's not going to buy the entire album.  Why should she waste the money when she only really likes one song?  This whole package deals sounds to me a lot like a bad Hollywood movie.  You know what I'm talking about.  Those films that don't have a leg to stand on, let alone legs to walk.  They make all of their money in that first weekend and then disappear.  From a marketing standpoint, I'd say forcing your audience to buy the entire album up front is bad business sense.  In order for that to work every song needs to be a diamond and all of those diamonds need to make up one hell of a crown of jewels.  Historically speaking there are only a handful of albums which have actually succeeded in pulling that off.

I'm sure someone, somewhere, thought this idea was going to go off like gangbusters and it did sell over 600,000 copies right off the bat, however it's the long term sales which are important.  If, down the road, listeners find they can begin purchasing the album a song at a time, people are going to ask "what's this shit about?"  Especially if they paid full price for something which only has five or six songs on it that they like.  Good move or bad move?  Who's going to really make out in the end?  I'd say probably Led Zeppelin.  Only time will tell us if Beyoncé dropped a golden egg or a turd.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ethan Couch - Breeder's Spawn

Every now and then there are things that happen which rile the nation as a whole, he smack on the wrist Ethan Couch received after killing 4 people while driving drunk is one of them.  How do I know?  Well there is all of the hate flooding the airwaves and the Internet directed at the Couch family for one.  Then there is the fact that not only was his name released to the press, so were pictures of he and his parents, normally criminals his age are classified as 'juveniles' for public record.  But then this isn't your normal drunken juvenile case, he murdered four people while driving drunk and under age; and he got a smack on the wrist.  Not only were videos of he and his parents released, do a simple search and you're going to find out exactly where they live.  Guess who isn't going to be home tonight? 

There are those out there who say he got away with murder, and technically he did, but thanks to the media storm surrounding his sentence his life is pretty much over.  He was raised to be a loser and will remain so till the end of his days.  I don't know if his parents comprehend how much hate is being directed at them.  Hopefully some of their wealthy friends have pulled them aside and bluntly said "you make us all look rotten." Slowly, but surely, they will find themselves being ostracized, believe me, the rich have done it before.  Face it, who will want the Couch's showing up at a party with all of their bodyguards?  And you can bet they'll be traveling with bodyguards, very expensive and highly trained individuals paid to protect the Couch's from the masses so eager to have their heads on spikes.

It's tragic four people had to die because neither Fred nor Tonya Couch realized that when he knocked her up they were actually creating a responsibility.  Because of this they went from being parents to mere breeders.  You know who I'm talking about, those people who make babies and then shit on the life they create.  The Couch's spent a lot of money on Ethan's successful defense and as a result the world knows they're shallow and self-centered individuals.  They've made people with money look terrible.  They have a sixteen year old son whom rehab is not going to help because, to put it simply, they are failures as human beings.  Hell, they're not even really good breeders.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

China leaves us behind

Something other then a snowstorm blustering up the eastern seaboard is happening today.  What can that be?  China is landing a rover on the moon.  From what I can tell this has not been getting a lot of press, not because the news isn't covering the momentous occasion, they are, but just skimming over the importance.  There was a time when an announcement like this would have received screaming headlines, not any more.  Why the lack of coverage?  Not so much because it's a Chinese venture, but rather out political landscape has made us a dispassionate people when it comes to exploration.  The richest country in the world doesn't want to spend the money, we want to let private industry take over.  While we wait for this to happen, the Chinese are going to surge ahead.  They will be landing men on the moon and SpaceX will be shuttling supplies back and forth to an aging space station.  They will begin mining operations, India will be landing exploratory rovers on Mars, and we will be stuck in the back seat watching out a smudgy window.  This means we will not even be able to clearly see all of the wonderful things that are happening everywhere but here in the good old USA.

A year doesn't go by without us seeing some report reminding us how our students are falling behind other countries.  What do our political parties do?  Well, one kind of wants to do something, and the other just wants to dictate.  One wants to be liked and the other wants to give orders. Because of this all they do is fight with each other, like little kids.  This inability to get along, to understand their political philosophies need to be secondary in order to move the country forward, is failure at it's prime.  One of them has knotted itself so tightly with special interest groups it has become a useless anchor.  Whether they want to admit it or not, both parties kiss the asses of American Capitalists.  It is all about making as much money as possible.  And for a vast majority of Americans it's about spending money they don't have now, nor will they ever have, because they want immediate gratification.  It's as if we're in a car with a broken transmission, unless we can change gear, we are going to be left puttering down the road to tomorrow being left farther and farther behind. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Carrie Underwood, going down with the ship

As one of the 18 plus people who watched the Sound of Music, I feel I am entitled to add my 2 cents to all the hub-bub about the show.  First of all, I enjoyed it, except for all of those damn Walmart commercials.  For a 'live broadcast' that cast had more breaks then any in the history of theater.  In fact, it was all those interruptions which came closest to ruining the production completely.  Live is not defined as 7 minutes of entertainment followed by 2.5 minutes of taped advertising.  If Walmart wants to buy that much time then they should be forced to do 'live commercials.'
As for Carrie Underwood's performance, it wasn't the greatest, she has a pop voice and no acting experience.  She knew that when the producers offered her the job.  I don't know if she took any acting lessons or not prior to or during the rehearsals - she should have.  Too many of her scenes just fell flat.  In fact I laughed out loud twice because her dialogue was so bad.  Most of the reviews I've read have been honest, but not mean spirited, not that there aren't any out there.  Hand handlers should have warned her - this was to be expected when a non-actor attempts an iconic roll in an iconic musical.  I did see her Tweet, I think everybody, everywhere, posted it, and while it might have pleased her Christian fans, any type of response demonstrates a lack of maturity.  She should have proven that she's tough enough to take it and let the matter drop.

I was very glad they stayed true to the musical version rather then attempt some wacko version of the movie, which most likely didn't sit too well with a majority of the film's fans.  What an unpleasant surprise it must have been for them to discover that not only the Captain, but the Baroness and Max have songs -  they can sing as well. 
As for Steven Moyer, I thought he did a good job in the roll of the Captain, despite of the handicap of his Co-star, one actor can not provide the chemistry of two.  One reviewer criticized him for losing his accent now and then - so what, I didn't notice it.
The costuming was, perhaps, one of the oddest I've seen.  Shorts on Rolf?  Didn't he worry about brush burns on his roll down the hill?  And that blue dress Carrie Underwood wore?  Holy Crap, she looked like she just stepped out of an old Doris Day movie.
All in all, it wasn't a bad production, except for those freaking Walmart commercials.  It was live - we rarely get to see live television except for sporting events and the news.  I doubt very much if it will become a Christmas standard, as some others do, there were too many errors in judgment.  The music wasn't that bad, but the rest of the show somehow went down with the ship.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Self-checkout hell - not for everybody

As someone who works in retail I get to see a lot of customers, some are happy and some are not, some have valid complaints and others are trying to rook the system for as much as they can get out of it.  Because I have cashier training I get to work the register now and then, and also self-checkout.  The latter is far more enlightening when it comes to observing customers.  There are those who have absolutely no problem going through the self-checkout lanes, others skirt around them as if they were radioactive.  I, personally, prefer them over cashiers who always seem to be a little too slow, even though they're moving at a brisk pace.  I don't need time to connect with the person who's going to be taking my money because, well, they're taking my money.  If, now and then, a cashier might say "hey, everything you're buying today is free," I might change my mind, but that's never going to happen.

One of the excuses you hear from people who want to avoid self-checkout is "it's taking some body's job."  Sure, retailers could eliminate self-checkout and hire a lot more cashiers, but then prices would have to go up, and these same people would complain about that.  Payroll is the largest expense for any business, the more employees you hire the less money you make, this is a fact.  There is also a lot of down time for cashiers, not that they get to take breaks, they just have to wait for the next customer.  Nobody wants to pay an associate to stand around and bullshit, but it happens.  Remember, it's all about dollars, those you can bank and those you can't.

The demon self-checkout

In my opinion, most of those who complain about self-checkout do so because they're either unfamiliar or dis-like the technology (even those who piss and moan about the lost jobs).  You see this a lot when there is a line at the cashier, or there is some one going through line with a large order, and the customer has to either use the self-checkout or wait.  Believe me, there are a lot of people out there who really don't know what the hell they're doing.  Scanning a bar code is fairly simple, it's not brain surgery, yet I've seen people wave items, and shake items, zoom them past the scanner and right into the bag and... the item hasn't been scanned.  And then they stand there, and wait, and wait, even though nothings been scanned.  And then they call the attendant because there's something wrong with the scanner.  Or, they scan an item multiple times.  This is fairly common.  Then they complain, "this scanned it twice."  Last night I saw a woman scan a flashlight three times, and then she complained.  Of course it has to be the scanner's problem, the customer never does anything wrong. This, I think, is the main reason those who hate self-check out hate it.  If a cashier makes a mistake they can yell at the cashier, if they do it at self-checkout it's their fault, so they always opt for the cashier.  For these people self-checkout will always be hell and they will never get used to it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Comcast - optioning failure

With my FIOS contract at an end, I've been looking around for a better deal for my TV / Internet.  Since Comcast is prominent in my area I decided to give them a call.  For years the company has been struggling with a bad customer service image, though in recent years it seems to have improved somewhat.  While the agent I spoke to on the phone was very polite, I realized something there was something even worse going on with the company - they are failing to be competitive.  How so?  Well, after asking me several questions about my viewing habits (sparse), and the type of television I owned, (fairly large flat screen, HD) he announced that the best deal for me was only going to cost me $146 a month.  I was more then a little stunned as that was about $50 more then FIOS wants to charge me.  Then he explained that cost included their phone service.  Now, I'm a nice guy, so I didn't call him a stupid idiot.  Doesn't Comcast realize land lines are on their way out?  Every year they are in fewer and fewer households.  There must be some really bad disconnect at Comcast Corporate Headquarters for them to still keep pushing that dinosaur.  When I explained to the agent that I haven't had a land line in over 8 years he recalculated my cost with out their phone service.  Wow!  Without a phone my cost dropped $40 bucks, but still $10 higher then what FIOS wanted to charge me.

Fossilizing customer by customer

Now I'm in retail and I can tell you when someone walks in our front door with a competitor's price, we do a little thing called 'meet and beat.'  That's right, we take dollars off and sell at less then our competitor because we love our customers, we want them to keep coming back, and back, and back.  I guess Comcast hasn't heard of that policy.  FIOS, which is already charging less then Comcast's best deal will never have to worry about this problem. since they're already meeting and beating the higher price.  Personally, I think this is pretty much of a tar pit for Comcast, one they're stuck in and slowly sinking.  If you can't pull customers away from your competitor you're a failure in the business world.  This is a real customer service issue.  Face it, both offer products which are fairly similar, and if you want to win the battle you're going to have to do it anyway you can.  Someone should have told the Comcast executives that failure is not an option.