Thursday, April 30, 2009

Azzariti Posts First!

Mike Azziriti, longtime friend and fellow biker has done me a great service by being the first to make a post on The Gristmill. He has begun the necessary threads to begin other's interest in my new blog. You can learn more about Mike at
Thanks to Mike, signing up for the Gristmill blog is now a lot easier. All you need to do is scroll down to the comments link of the Free Fries story and click on it to open up Mike's comment. Another comment box where you can enter your text directly and post instantly should appear below. In fact, any comments link on this blog should open a text box for you. You could be a bonafide web author without hardly doing anything! There's also a quick subscribe link in the lower right corner to look for. Scroll down all the way to the bottom if you don't see it. I'm keeping this post short because I'm going to hit you with another one soon. Until then, happy blogging and welcome aboard to Anne, and everyone else as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Welcome to America - Free Fries with Every Sandwich!

An old boss of mine once asked me " Mike, what’s the most powerful word in the English language? " I thought it was an odd question to be asking a new salesperson so I wasn't sure how to reply. After thinking about it for a moment I decided to be straight with him and said " I don’t know " His response? "Free"
At the time, I dismissed it as the thoughts of a jaded businessman, but now I see the beauty of his logic. Because we are going through some very tough times right now and everybody is looking for ways to get the biggest bang for their buck, companies are constantly using words like "free" and "unlimited" in their advertising pitches. Whether it’s trips to the salad bar or cell phone minutes, they are trying to suck people in and make them think they are really getting something valuable, when in truth, they are giving away only the things that cost them little or nothing. And nothing illustrates this better than the idea of "Free Fries with Every Sandwich", hence the title of this post. For those of you who have been around the block a few times, you probably know where I’m going with this. For the rest of you, bear with me and I’ll explain. You see, as Americans, we have grown accustomed to getting something "thrown in" to close the sale or make a deal. Whether we want it or even need it is secondary at this point, in fact, we feel ripped off if we don’t get to take a doggie bag home from the restaurant. But back to the fries. When you take a moment to do the math, you’ll see what I’m talking about. OK, here we go. Let’s say you go to a fast food joint for lunch and want a burger. You’re really not that hungry and you could do just fine with only the burger and maybe a drink, but when you approach the counter or pull up to the drive thru, they pitch you the "value meal". Because it includes fries and a drink and has the word "value" attached to it, it seems like a good deal. A quick calculation of the meal if purchased a la Carte confirms your smart shopper instincts, so you go ahead and order the number four combo. Congratulations! You’ve just been had. In sales speak it’s called up selling. Here’s how it works: The burger costs them maybe a buck and a half to make. If they sell it to you for two bucks, they make only fifty cents profit, less operating expenses, wages, insurance and blah, blah, blah. Now their margin is down to maybe a quarter. Not acceptable. So they price the items in a way that makes ordering the drink separately cost you almost as much as the burger itself, same thing with the fries. They know that you will need something to wash down all that salty food with and that you probably don’t have the time or inclination to go elsewhere. The combo meal costs you four bucks, but the fries and drink only cost them maybe another fifty cents to deliver. They’ve just increased their profit margin by a whopping 700% and you just got fatter and poorer. Nice work if you can get it. The cable TV companies and cellular providers do the exact same thing and call it a "bundle". Five hundred channels of crap when all you really want is one or two good ones. Unlimited texting? What the hell do I need that for? All I want to do is make a call when I need help or tell my wife that I already picked up the milk. No can do my friend. The "basic" package is priced just like the drink at the fast food place. So, if you buy it ala Carte, you might as well get the "bundle" whether you need eight thousand minutes a month or not. And so it goes, so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, and where it’s going nobody knows. Hey, aren’t those the lyrics to a song? But I digress. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little rant today and hope you will log on for the next one. Until then, skip the fries and turn your cell phone off. Try talking with an old friend face to face if that’s still possible, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll all be a little happier, healthier, and have a little more coin left in our pockets.

Friday, April 10, 2009

So Long Old Friend

They let Hank go yesterday, after nearly thirty years of service to the company. So what did he get for his efforts? Some Dunkin Donuts and coffee that he had to share with the few remaining employees. No severance pay, no retirement package, no gold watch. It’s a good thing I got him a happy retirement card because no-one else did. Still, I passed it around to them so they could all sign it. At least he could leave with a little dignity. I felt bad for Hank not only because he is a widower with bad legs and a weak ticker, but that after so many years of service to the company, they barely acknowledged his departure. But then, the management’s commitment to their employee’s well being at our company has never existed. In fact, after cutting back his hours and reducing his hourly rate, they finally laid him off after trying to force him to retire. You see, that’s what they do where I work. Because my boss is too cheap to pay the unemployment, he harasses people until they get so fed up that they quit. Often this works, but some people can tolerate a lot more BS than others, so those who can hang on to their jobs usually do.
Hank had a lot at stake, and he needed the unemployment benefits due him to help with the soaring costs of his medication and doctors bills. Medicare alone wouldn’t cover it, even with the supplemental insurance he had to get. I felt that it was shameful of the owners to do what they did to him, but he was able to hold them off long enough to cover his ass. In this economy, nobody is walking just because their boss treats them badly. So, so long old buddy, I will miss our time spent around the water cooler even though there wasn’t one.
It is Good Friday and the plant is now closed. In fact, it's now close every Friday. It is like a ghost town around here. Most of the lights are off, the factory is completely shut-down, and only a dozen or so office and key people are still here. I guess I’m one of the lucky few. When I started here 2 years ago, we had seventy five employees. We are on a 4 day week and as I sit here and ponder my future, I know that it’s only a matter of time before I get laid off or we go under. While I don’t relish the idea of joining the ranks of the unemployed, it does, at this point seem inevitable. Even though my boss is a totally incompetent megalomaniac, he has managed to keep things afloat. While I don’t want to go down with a sinking ship, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can hang on until the next rescue ship passes by, even a dinghy would work. If not, I guess I’ll just have to swim my way back into the mainstream. No problem, I’m comfortable in the water and I’ve still got a life jacket.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Aarons Family Adopts Runaway Puppy
Weighing in at 13 pounds and chock full of energy and sweetness, the newest addition to the Aarons family comes in the form of an adorable Australian Cattle Dog and Brittany Spaniel mix. Either lost or abandoned by her owner, the dog was put up for adoption after a week when no-one came forward to claim her. Found running loose on the streets of Waukegan, IL, the dog was rescued by Orphans of the Storm, one of the nation’s oldest and largest animal shelters and pet adoption agencies. Check them out at . It only took one look for Sally to fall in love with this critter, and within a matter of days, we took her home with us. Although no pooch could ever replace our first dog, Jackson, who we had to put down last summer, this canine cutie is quickly wining us over with her spunk and playfulness. Deciding on a name was a family affair with Sam, Sally and myself all tossing around different names for consideration. Some of the names we thought of were; Betsy, Sydney, Daisy. Although any of those would have been fine, I was looking for something else. I suggested Rosie and Sally and Sam both liked that, so that’s what we went with. Apparently it was the right choice because after only a few days with us, she responds to her name when called. Just 4 months old, she isn’t house broken yet but does obey the "sit" command already. This makes us think that she probably wasn’t abused or abandoned, but somehow escaped from her previous owner and for some unknown reason was not recovered. The shelter puts out a notice and a description of the stray dogs they find and if no-one comes forward within a week, the dog is then put up for adoption by the agency. Since she is by nature a herding dog and needs to run a lot, we will probably have to make some kind of dog run for her so she can stay outside while we are at work or school. No problem, we have plenty of room between our house and our neighbors. I’d love to include a picture for you but unfortunately, my camera crapped out on me yesterday. Instead, I’ve downloaded the closet looking dog I could find on Google so you can get an idea of what she looks like. Well, at least the face is right. That’s all for now, check back soon for more.