Friday, May 20, 2016

I need to make a call, someplace quiet...

It was a luncheon in the conference room. Sandwiches, beef, turkey, ham. You know the kind. Shrimp on ice, big cheese tray. Typical catered lunch to kick off a promotional event for the fall television season. A welcoming talk, responses by the guests.

I was seated across from a guy, one of the guests, he was wearing muted plaid sport coat, looked like silk. His shirt was a tattersall button down, he wore a knit tie. The tie picked up the color of his jacket and the shirt. He was telling stories and asking questions while we ate.

When the luncheon finished, the talks given. He said to me, "I have to make a phone call, someplace quiet." There was another conference room, a small one. He motioned to one of his co-workers and I led them both to the small room. He said this won't take long."  The three of us went in to the room. He took a folded piece of paper out of his inside coat pocket. "How do I get an outside line?" I told him the 3 digit code. He dialed and spent 4 minutes on the phone. I know how long the call lasted. I was facing a wall clock. He finished his call and the other man took the phone and read off his sheet of paper to whoever was on the other end.

The three of us talked about many things for the next 20 minutes, then it was time to go. We shook hands and they left.

The men were betting football, the call was to a bookie in New York. The tall, dark man was Ed Bradley. The man who sat across from me at lunch was Morely Safer.

Now they are both in the cosmos.

Friday, May 13, 2016


Helping my wife with a project for her  start-up"All American Fair" ecommerce business. I found some interesting things doing my research...I sent her this an hour ago.

“American Made” or “Manufactured in America” what do those little flag labels really mean?

Not as much as one may think. Our focus at All American Fair is the 100 billion dollar furniture and accessories business.

Is a lounge chair with the flag label on the underside of the cushion an American chair? Not really, chances are the fabric was woven in Asia. Other parts of the chair, the framing, the foam stuffing are in many, if not all foreign sourced. It’s cheaper to manufacture and in many cases in the medium and high furniture market the pricing is no lower than a piece of furniture or an accessory that is 100% sourced and manufactured in the USA. There are American designer furniture brands selling sofas in the $10,000 price range, their pieces are either manufactured in Asia or almost completely sourced there.  

Why is the American Made or Manufactured label valuable?

The reason is marketing. “American Made” makes the consumer feel good about themselves and their purchase. “American Made” also makes them feel safe.

“American Made” is a strong selling point. The label has so much value that manufacturers and retailers are turning themselves inside out to attain the “American Made” cachet, without their products actually being made in the USA.

What are the Dangers of “off-shore” manufacturing and sourcing?

To start with, formaldehyde is used in paint, varnish and stain used by foreign manufacturers. Many importers offer “off gas” services to their customers.
The controls on lead based paints and other finishes are non-existent.

Another problem is mold. Molds of all kinds arrive in the fabric of pieces shipped in containers from Asia to the US. Here’s, a none too rare example, an entire container of silk pillows manufactured in China arrived at a US retailer’s warehouse, put into stock and over 80% were returned, because of the “moldy smell”. The retailer’s cost on the pillows was so low, they still made a profit.

Insects of all shapes and sizes often infest the furniture and the containers. Some are immediately noticed and the container is sprayed with powerful insecticides. The insecticide adds another layer to existing problems. Other insects slip by unnoticed and make it into the store and then into the consumer’s home.

The US standards are not followed and the rules American manufacturers are required to follow are not enforced on imported furniture and accessories. This covers the manufacture and importing of kitchen ware, dishes and utensils. Ask yourself this question, “are you comfortable eating a meal off a plate, glazed with a lead based glaze or boiling water in a teapot or cooking in a pan with a high lead content?” If you buy any of these items that are foreign made, you’re ingesting lead.

Foreign manufacturing has devastated the US furniture business, less than 15% of the 100 billion dollar furniture and accessory market in the US is made in the USA. Surveys of consumers on the direct retail level show that Americans want to buy product that are made and manufactured here. That’s the biggest reason for all the subterfuge on the labeling issue. One of the largest US retailers has a line of “America Manufactured” appliances. The appliances are made in Mexico, shipped here and one essential piece of the operating system is installed in the US. On the label of these ‘American” appliances a small notification is printed, “Assembled in the USA”. One part out of hundreds, installed after import, qualifies the appliance as “assembled” in the USA.

What are Dangers?

In addition of the danger of chemical and lead poisoning, bug infestation and mold there is also the economic danger.

The biggest and most harmful is the loss of good paying jobs with benefits on every level. A dollar earned in the local economy, circulates throughout the community and eventually has a huge effect on the national economy, depending on the level each one of those dollars multiplies over and over.

Buy American, just make sure it is really American made.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Free Air for politicans

When Scott Brown was running for the balance of Ted Kennedy's senate term in Massachusetts in 2010. I was in Boston on business. I arrived on the red eye from LA early on Sunday morning, killed some time, checked into my hotel and caught a nap. I went out had a nice dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, ran into a few people I knew, had a nice time.

Monday morning the day before the election I had to drive out of the city for 35 or 40 minutes for a meeting. I turned on WEEI Sports radio. Scott Brown was on the Dennis and Callaghan Morning Show, for my entire drive, the morning show on a sports talk radio station was all politics. I mentioned it to the guy I was meeting with and he said, "He's on WEEI almost everyday and has been for months, if he's not live, he's on the phone."

The meeting wrapped up and I got in the car to head for my next meeting, WEEI was on, there was Scott Brown on the phone with the hosts, I had to drive for 45 minutes, he was on when I got in the car and he was still on when I parked for my next meeting.

The second meeting was longer and included a nice lunch at an old line steak house (I had Boston Scrod) by the time everything wrapped up it was after 3. I got in the car to head back to the city and WEEI was talking about the Pats. I hadn't been in the car for 10 minutes and guess who showed up live in the studio? Scott Brown.

WEEI at the time was the number one station in 25-54 year old male listeners in Boston.

Brown nipped Martha Coakley in that special election by less than a 100,000 votes. Brown's winning percentage of 3% came from white suburban males, 25-54 years old. Or the WEEI listener.

Coakley spent more money than Brown, but Brown had all that free radio time, for months. He got it not just on sports radio, he was on WRKO the conservative talk station in Boston virtually everyday as well.

The same scenario unfolded in Brown's reelection campaign against Elizabeth Warren, Brown raised more money, had all that free air time but lost by 6.7 percentage points.

My point? It has been calculated that Donald J. Trump has gotten close to a BILLION dollars in free TV and cable coverage since announcing his campaign last year, that's not counting his endless hours of chat time with conservative local and national radio talk hosts. Many of those radio hosts have larger audiences than the political cable shows.

Just sayin...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Shared Experience...old guys at the table....

I attended a group session yesterday afternoon. 6 retired business guys ranging in age from 65 to 73. All married and half of us have wives that are still working.

We all have common problems, first and foremost is a profound loss of self worth. All of us have spent our working lives defined by our work. Now with the work gone, we are all wondering, who the hell am I?

One of the group, the oldest at 73, was a guy who ran a large manufacturing operation in LA. Bored, he decided to get a job at Home Depot. He knows tools, he know how things work and he knows how to work with his hands. He lasted two shifts, at the end of his 2nd shift, he walked out and didn't bother collect his pay check. The moderator asked him why he quit. His answer, "I knew within an hour of working there, I knew more about the department I was assigned to than my supervisor did. I pointed out several ways we could save time, effort and not inconvenience our customers by blocking off aisles to restock or move displays during prime shopping hours. He said the supervisor looked at him like he was crazy.

We've all been to big stores like Home Depot in the middle of the day and seen an aisle blocked off with signs and a fork lift moving around in the aisle. When I was buying stain for my porch project at Lowes, the paint counter was blocked for a half hour while they restocked a paint display at 2 in the afternoon.

Here's the story I told the group:

When we got our Volt a couple of years ago, I spent time on line and on the owner forums before we ever physically looked at the car. We decided what we wanted and off we went to a local dealer to talk to the "Volt Specialist". I knew more about the car than he did. It was a miserable experience.

With this in mind I arranged a meeting last year with the GM of a big auto group, I've done business with him in the past and know him slightly on a social level. I pitched him on becoming his Electric Car Guy. Both Chevy and Cadillac sell hybrid electrics, the stores are next door to each other, the technology in both cars is exactly the same. I wanted to field all inquiries of the electrics for both brands, I'd make appointments with the prospective customers, meet them, demonstrate the car, answer their questions and close the deals.

I told him I'd work on straight commission, I didn't require any benefits and I'd work whenever I was needed. I mentioned that as a former Corvette owner, I might be a big help in that department as well. I'd researched the business enough at that point and learned salesmen don't like to sell low volume models like Volts, ELRs and Corvettes. All those cars take a lot of time to sell and the customers are usually well informed and more difficult to deal with. It takes well over three hours to sell a Volt and the money the salesman gets is rather short compared to a standard car, pickup,an SUV or a used car.

The Corporate car guy thought my concept was a very good idea, he said he'd bring it up in the management meeting the following week. He did. The sales managers and the Caddy and Chevy GMs turned it down. Why? They didn't want a guy they couldn't have sitting at a desk 6 days a week and a 'lack of control".

There were plenty of stories in the room yesterday, different in some respects, but in many ways the same story. I'm going back next week for another 55 minute meeting.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Late Evening thoughts...

Personal notes...

My wife told me tonight that I should get out more, talk to people, interact, etc. I told her I didn't want to, I know enough people and most of the new ones I meet bore the hell out of me. I don't want any more friends than the ones I have. She's worried about me. Hell I'm worried about me. What ever problems I have aren't going to be solved by meeting new people.

I worry about myself a lot until I encounter someone like I ran into the other morning at the convenience store down the road from our house. The guy in front of me was around my age, long, messy, gray hair, no ass. Jeans, work shirt, Wolverine boots. It's 8 in the morning and he's got a 6 pack and a plastic jug of Vodka under his arm. He's talking to the Syrian kid whose old man owns the store about lottery tickets, mulling over whether to buy the California or the national. This gray haired, old bastard with no ass, turns to me and says, "What do you think?' I wasn't paying attention so I just said, "Dunno."

He bought the Powerball. After he paid, he said, "You ever been to that fucking Bingo parlor down the road in the valley? Christ I walked in the other night and those god damned old ladies in there about shit, I couldn't believe those old ladies, man I don't get it at all." With that he walked out the door. I wish my wife would have been with me. By comparison I'm George fucking Clooney.

Getting old, aging, is not easy. I find I'm more forgetful, I'm crabby about shit I don't mean to be crabby about. I know I'm mean from time to time. Little things piss me off, things that never used to bother me irritate the hell out of me.

I worked in broadcasting from the time I was 22 until I was 65, then started another business. I worked hard until two years ago when turned 68. I seldom worked less than 50 hours a week, most of the time a lot more than that. Could I do it again? Sure, but it would have to be interesting, because for me it always has to be interesting. That's where I found the fun in my work, in my career. That's where I found the joy in my life. I haven't had that joy for the last two years and the lack of that joy has turned me into kind of an asshole. I don't like being an asshole, I really don't.

I spend a lot of time reading, I always have. I get lost in a good book, the genre doesn't matter, I simply like good writing. Which leads me to this...

I'm trying to write, I've been trying for a couple of years. I've been part of a couple of writer's groups, I've gotten decent feedback.

Writing is the hardest thing I've ever done. You write, you get up the next morning and there it is. You read it and think, "What the hell?" You edit, you rewrite, sometimes you delete it. A lot. You try different styles, first person, third person narratives, you try everything. so far, I've written, in the last couple of years, around 50,000-75,000 words, maybe more. I'm too lazy to pull up all the files and do a word count.

It has taken me all of those words to just get a glimpse of my possibilities. To maybe find my "voice". It's painful and it's hard. I go to bed at night and think, "This is bullshit, it isn't going anywhere." And then, something appears like this.

When Lars looked up from his Wall Street Journal, he saw Caroline examining her right leg in the Florida morning sun. She held it high, turned it from side to side. She dropped it and did the same with her left. Lars noticed two things immediately, the first was for a girl her age, Sheila has a pair of great legs and secondly she didn’t have any underwear on.
Sheila brushed back her long, dark hair and put her pink painted fingers on her temples, “I have a little bit of a hangover this morning, Lars.”
“Gee, I can’t imagine why.”
“I only had three.”
“Three martinis is one martini too many, sweetheart. The fact that you crawled on my lap on the drive home was kind of a tip off. We’re lucky the cop had a sense of humor.” Lars said.
“What cop?”
“The cop who pulled up alongside of us at the light by the shopping center.”
 “I missed all of that.”
“Well, there you go."

I'm going to continue to write and work on my demeanor, I hate being an asshole, know what I mean?