Archive for October 2011
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a professional baseball team – allegedly. They have fallen on hard times since the 1992 season. Since that season, which ended with Sid Bream sliding safely into home for the Atlanta Braves for a walk off win, they have not had a winning season. I will do the math for you, that adds up to 19 years. I grew up a Pirate fan and in the 70’s they were actually a very good team with World Championships in 1971 and 1979 and numerous division titles. I have a very deep scar that has been lying open and festering as those years of futility approach 20. Many things can aggravate that scar and the worst is when baseball is not on my mind. The wound does not affect me much, even when watching a Pirate game. I am able to contain it in a hidden place and watch and enjoy the game – even if they lose. When I really have a stabbing pain from the trauma of the past 19 years is when I have to embrace it unexpectedly. That just happened before I wrote this. As any blogger will tell you, we are always looking for a topic to add to a blog post.
What happened? A few weeks ago, I was minding my business preparing to take a self-study continuing education course for my CPA license and it happened. The scar was opened up and salt was poured into it. Actually, it was coffee. I was working at my desk and I spilled a full cup of coffee all over my desk. I scrambled to contain the spill as it slowly rolled over my desk onto papers and anything in its way like the waves down on the beach. (Listen to the song Cars Hiss By My Window by the Doors by clicking here) As I began my clean-up effort, I realized my prize possession was in danger of becoming soiled by the toxic coffee. In its path was my Richie Hebner Bobblehead! When I saw what was about to happen, the years of losing and the pain of the last 19 years boiled up as I screamed loudly; “No, not Richie!” I was too late. The defiling had taken place and I was dealing with the pain and complete hopelessness all over again. Before I go any further let me explain that Richie Hebner was my favorite Pirate during my formative baseball years. His playing days are a memory I have of the glory days. Click here to see Richie’s modest stats.
The damage was done; papers were turned brown and were sopping wet. A magazine I had already read was in its path and was luckily serving as a levee against the flood of coffee. My picture of my wife took a hit. But worst of all (yes, worst of all and I know what you are thinking) the Hebner Bobblehead was swimming in the mess. As I re-lived the horror of the past 19 years in my mind I also was berating myself for treating the Bobblehead so carelessly. I got a towel and soaked up the worst of it and then got paper towels and cleaned everything up. I took special care when cleaning up the soiled Hebner. He took it like a man and kept smiling as he stood at attention with his bat in hand.
There is usually some good that comes from a disaster of this magnitude and I must say this was no different. My desk was really dusty and needed a good cleaning plus I got a blog post out of it. After I took a few moments to survey my cleaned up desk I realized things were going to be OK. The pain from my wound has lessened as I write this and I think the rest of the day will go well. I need to get back to my Continuing Education.
Have a great week.
Have the credit card companies killed the goose that laid the golden egg? Credit card fees have crept up and I have seen some as high as 3.5% that pay 30 days after the transaction date! That is heinous. Credit card fees vary by industry, volume of transactions, average swipe amount and other factors. I think it is time that some small businesses take radical action. Stop accepting credit cards. This will not be possible at every establishment but I think there are some that this could work. In my personal dining experiences, I have noticed that in the restaurant industry this has become a more frequent practice. Let’s examine this idea closer. Maybe it makes sense in certain situations.
As a hypothetical example let’s assume we have a restaurant that has $1.5 million in annual sales with credit cards. Let also assume that the fee they pay is 1.5%. That means for the year they will pay fees of $22,500. If this restaurant is a middle of the road establishment with a mostly middle class customer base, doesn’t it make sense for them to do a little work and convert the credit card (and debit card) customers to a check or cash paying customer? There would be a small, initial education effort and some administrative work at the outset to create their own a check cashing card program but once it had been rolled out the work would be minimal. Occasionally, there would be a need to convert a few credit card users. If the program was done right, the savings would be substantial and the cost would be minimal. Of course there would be bad checks but even if there were 20 bad checks per month that totaled $1,000 each month or $12,000 per year the restaurant would still be better off by $10,500. This may seem extreme but as I mentioned earlier, I have seen this happening on an ever more frequent basis and I am sure that the fees have driven business owners to taking this cash or check approach.
An example of how out of hand credit card fees have become can be seen below in the highlighted text or by clicking on this link to read the entire article. (Credit card fees exceeded the entire profit of the entire convenience store industry for the 5th year in a row. That is a nice piece of the action!)
Swipe fees are the convenience and fuel retailing industry’s top pain point and second largest expense item — behind only labor costs. Credit and debit card fees at convenience stores jumped a staggering 21.6 percent to hit a record $9.0 billion in 2010, surpassing overall convenience store industry profits for the fifth straight year. As a percentage of overall sales, credit and debit card fees increased from 1.45 percent to 1.56 percent of total industry sales dollars, factoring in all forms of payment, including cash and check. Just looking at motor fuels sales, credit and debit card fees added 4.7 cents to every gallon of gasoline sold at convenience stores in 2010
It is now time to take a stand to keep more of your profits and Turn Things On End To Achieve Results! In some industries there is no choice but to fight back. Have a great week.
I grew up listening to FM radio in what was probably its golden age – the 1970’s. Who can forget Wolfman Jack? The Guess Who even wrote a song about him. Today, I don’t recognize what is on the radio if I even bother to turn it on. I’ll admit that this has a lot to do with getting older and no longer being on the cutting edge of anything except maybe a surgeon’s blade.
Many things have contributed to radio’s decline. Two things that played a large role in my opinion are the MP3 file and the digital music players that play them. In addition, the smart phone with internet access play tunes from web sites and the phone itself can hold countless hours of music on memory cards with players that come standard with the phone. Cars, which served as a great venue for listening to the latest release, now have inputs for MP3 players which further contributes to the erosion of the terrestrial (versus satellite) radio audience. The digitizing of music has done to radio what 8 tracks, cassettes and CD’s couldn’t – it has made it possible to take your entire library of music with you in a device the size of a deck of cards. If you tried that with your 8 tracks you would need a small U-Haul trailer filled to capacity to carry them all. You don’t need radio, you now have a month’s worth of music in your pocket and you can sort it and shuffle it and not worry about commercials for Oxy 5 acne medication! Does anyone else remember those obnoxious commercials?
Perhaps it is already too late but I am going to mourn the loss of FM radio, my friend from a bygone era. For its eulogy I will recount some classics that rocked the airwaves that are favorites of mine for one reason or another.
In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry – Quirky and a great anthem for the lazy crazy days of summer and what the heck kind of name is Mungo Jerry?
Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin – Probably the most played song ever
A Horse With No Name by America – I liked the imagery
Brother Louie by Stories – a one hit wonder as far as I know but this song grabbed my attention mostly for the screeching vocals than anything else
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen – I had never heard anything like this song before
Satisfaction by Devo – I still like their version of this Rolling Stones tune better than the original but they are almost completely different.
Freebird by Lynyrd Skynryd – This song was on almost as much as “Stairway” the live version was particularly nice
Coconut by Harry Nilsson – another quirky early 70’song this one with a calypso feel
Radar Love by Golden Earring – cool syncopated drum beat and awesome horn section
My eulogy is done but I leave you with this:
Now that it is no longer In The Summertime, my Brother Louie and I are going to ride off into the distance on A Horse With No Name or perhaps fly away like a Freebird looking for a Stairway to Heaven. If we don’t reach our destination it will be with the Satisfaction of knowing that we drank the sweet milk from the Coconut and danced in Bohemian Rhapsody as a tribute to the protection provided by the Radar Love contained in the mysterious light-wave absorbing materials of our stealthy nameless steed.
This is your daddy-o on the rad-e-o saying so long and have a great week cool cats!
On October 5th, 2011, Steve Jobs, the founder and driving force behind Apple died. I am not a fan of Apple nor was I a fan of Steve Jobs. By not being a fan I do not mean I was a foe either. I never gave the Apple/Steve Jobs “story” much thought. I really didn’t know much about him other than the headline stuff. However, it is undeniable that this man had something special and we should take notice.
1) He thrived in the hi-tech world on the international business stage with “only” a high school education. I guess it goes to show that you can still reach the pinnacle of your field with hard work, innovation and creativity. Maybe there is some hope for the rest of us.
2) He was able to think two steps ahead of the competition. He created the iPhone that made its chief rival, the Blackberry, essentially obsolete in less than 4 years. Today the Blackberry is a dying brand as the company rested on their laurels and watched as competitors ate their lunch. Now, no one wants the Blackberry. It is a phone that can get email and surf the web – poorly. The iPhone is many levels beyond that – a much more rewarding user experience.
3) He was smart enough to see a good thing and capitalize on it. When he created the iPhone he really created the first iPad. All he had to do was figure out how to spread the message and create the need. A need that did not exist before, and now the iPad is turning the personal computer world upside down. There is talk that the PC as we know it has been changed forever as the development of the iPad or “tablet” will eventually replace the PC. That day is probably closer than we realize. Read my August 2010 review of the iPad here.
Steve Jobs, a man who believed in Turning Things On End To Achieve Results! Have a great week.
I read recently that Twister, the game that ties you up in knots was nominated for the Toy Hall of Fame. I did not know that there was such a thing but now I know better. My first reaction was to think of some toys that I would consider for enshrinement.
Before I give my list let me give you some of the Toys already elected or enshrined. See the complete list here.
- Star Wars action figures
- Hot Wheels
- Simon (memory game)
- The Pogo Stick
- Rubik’s cube
- Crayola Crayons (1998)
- Silly Putty(2001)
- Cardboard box - I am not kidding (2005)
- The Stick – I am not making this up either (2008)
- Mr. Potato Head(2000)
- Easy Bake Oven(2006)
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Radio Controlled Vehicles
I am fine with most of those but I did not know that Dungeons and Dragons was a toy since I never played it. I never played Jenga either but I have seen advertisements for it. How is a crayon a toy? I will share a funny story about the easy bake oven with you. When I was 4 or 5 I wanted an easy bake oven for Christmas and Santa brought me one. I guess you can say that the power of advertising over young minds is very strong. I did not have it for very long as my dad was not too keen on his son having one. My mom ended up giving it to one of my female cousins.
Below is a list of a few toys that I believe should be nominated:
- The walkie-talkie (read the Blog I posted called Two Rock Star Uncles to see how that toy affected my childhood)
- Matchbox cars
- The chemistry set
- Games like Horseshoes, Lawn Darts and Bocce
- Pick-up sticks – does anyone else remember this?
I would like to hear some of your nominations for the Toy Hall of Fame. Post a comment on your favorite toy that has not made it to the Hall of Fame yet. Have a great week.