Category Archives: Business

Adventure In Marketing

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Adventure In Marketing

As many of you know, I often do work for other websites, usually satirical, and often hare-brained. Most of it I do without credit, which works out favorably for all concerned.

Recently, I had the chance to apply for an unpaid ‘think tank’ for an unnamed major U.S. pizza chain. When I first interviewed, I was certain I wouldn’t be chosen – as one of the hurdles was an IQ test. Since anyone who knows me knows that I find these things to be ridiculous and without merit, I finished mine in less than 4 minutes, using a system I call ‘random.’

When I slid it back across the oak table to the person conducting the IQ tests, she said, “Sir, you have 25 minutes to complete it all.” Without missing a beat, I replied that I already knew my IQ score.

“Really? What’s your score?” she sneered.

“Low oxygen level,” I replied, without daring to crack a smile.

I went home and almost forgot about the application process. Three weeks later, a welcome packet arrived in the mail, along with a website login and a credentialing packet. I had been accepted despite my interview antics.

By sheer coincidence, I had recently tried to treat myself by ordering home delivery pizza. I had eaten healthy for a week and thought that a celebration was needed to keep my motivation.

It was a disaster. The cardboard box tasted better than the pizza. I was hoping to throw up, just to get the taste of that pizza out of my mouth.

The next day, I logged in to the marketing website to start an assignment. Lo and behold, the subject was the very same company which had reminded me how low the bar could be set for edibles.

I weighed the pros and cons of each option: submit great work and possibly be rewarded OR write the best food review possible.

This is the result: the new logo and motto for Pizza Hurt. Look for it at a location hopefully very far from where you are.

And Now, A Word About Complaints

Among those frustrations we share in common as humans, perhaps none is as deeply pernicious as the specter of inaction in the face of a pattern of misbehavior. Each time the feeble question of “what could we have done” cuts deeper. It is difficult enough for an intelligent person to come forward at his or her own risk when silence is the easiest choice among glib options. In part, this is the major justification for pausing to listen attentively when someone steps forward with a complaint – even if no one else does. Silence, as we know, is just as likely to signify fear and distrust of the process as it is the absence of truth in the allegations. In the face of being ignored when speaking the truth, I am more surprised the table is not only pounded on with greater ferocity and frequency but also that the table is not overturned. Ignored complaints fester and make all of us lesser people.

While my post is personal and not born of any specific or recent event, I think it applies to current events as well. (P.S. Don’t ascribe motives or scenarios.)

Someone I am close to reluctantly got dragged into a lawsuit decades ago, one in which allegations against a prominent public figure were labeled as ridiculous. Those who came forward suffered a barrage of insults and distrust. As a result, the wrong side won and we will never know how much damage was done to other people.

Imagine the spectacle of that first person daring to come forward, knowing that her word was going to be questioned. Every scandal starts with an unsubstantiated allegation. Every truth starts as a heresy.

Springdale & Brinkley Hold Lessons

This post evolved from a simple comparison of my geographical past. It grew to encompass parts of me and as such, is very personal. If you will pardon my generalizations and laziness toward exact writing, you might find something interesting.

I didn’t come to Springdale until the early 70s. My dad dragged our recently reconstituted family up here for the promise of a steady job, away from the geography which took the blame for so much of my dad’s heartache. His time in prison in Indiana and his involvement in the death of one of my cousins (unrelated to prison) had broken him of some of his desperate need to remain in his hometown. My dad had a brother here, my Uncle Buck, as well as a few cousins. Our move was prior to the miracle of the interstate reaching its tentacles up to Northwest Arkansas, so all trips to NWA were long, winding escapades. It seemed like we drove for days to reach the mountains of Springdale. I didn’t understand what a ‘hillbilly’ was. All I knew were the fields of Monroe County and the places my grandma and grandpa called home. Being with my dad was the last thing on my wish list.

Years take on a different meaning when I stop to consider that soon enough I will be exactly halfway between 1970 and 2070. Springdale and I both have changed immeasurably since I was young. The area of the Delta from which I came has continued a generally languid, shuffled march toward annihilation while NWA has become a beacon for commerce and lifestyle. It was sheer luck that my dad’s terrible fortune planted my feet here. And while the Delta was once the powerhouse of agriculture but found no clear footing to advance, Springdale and surrounding areas used agriculture as a springboard from which to dive into a diversified future. So many of us here live in houses situated on plots once adorned with grapes, apples, strawberries and all manner of other foods.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that the interstate running through Brinkley wasn’t always there, a fact which should have been immediately obvious. In Brinkley’s case, though, the interstate seems to have provided a convenient escape for the younger generation, as they ventured out and realized that the state had more to offer in other places. In Arkansas’ early history, roads were intensely local, often built to connect small town agricultural markets. For the affluent parts of the state, the interstate gave people and commerce alike the way to merge interests. While lifelong residents of Brinkley might wish to disagree, it is obvious that good roads shone a beacon toward better opportunities in other parts of the state. Brinkley could have been one of the jewels of this state, given its location. Even as I sometimes forget that I once loved the flatlands there, I will admit to its austere beauty.

I also forget that many parts of my early life are inexplicably entwined with those people who I deeply loved and those who were violent caricatures of real people. Geography mixes in my head and sometimes paints an unfair picture of those places, simply because the people walking across my stage were broken people. As we all do, I carry pieces of these broken people in my head, as such slivers are difficult to excise. I can hold the image of standing near a rice field near Brinkley, up to my ankles in mud, laughing; I can also imagine walking alongside a pungent Tontitown grape vine in August, my fingers cleverly stealing unwashed grapes and eating them like candies. I’m not sure which place or memory is more valid, but I do know that being surrounded by people with love in their hearts can make any geography welcoming, while immersion in the minds of lesser people will reduce the world’s brilliance regardless of where one’s feet might be. It’s how City View might have been a place of low resort for many, and a welcome mat for others.

Because of the reduced crucible I survived as a kid, on the one hand, there was so much about this town which remained unknown to me. My life was incredibly small. I could sense that it was an interesting place, though. My family moved over twenty times by the time I had reached adulthood. So many places around Springdale became familiar to me. In many ways, I feel as if this was advantageous to me, giving me a different perspective than someone who was lucky enough to remain fairly rooted in the same place growing up. In my family’s case, our ongoing moves concealed the array of abuse and violence camouflaged inside each respective new residence.

When I was in 2nd grade, I remember asking Mom what it was like attending school with black children in Monroe County. She looked at me like I had been hit with a shovel and said, “I didn’t. We were segregated.” (It was probably a lucky thing for them, though.) I wondered why Springdale was segregated, too, given that there were no black kids in class with me. How was I supposed to know that there were so few minorities living here? I was so naive. Even trying to understand that one of schoolyard buddies Danny was actually from Chile was beyond my comprehension. That’s how reduced my life was without education. Had I been born 100 years ago and remained in Monroe County, I could easily see myself in the role of unapologetic racist. My family would have raised me to believe that it was a certainty.

It’s funny now, my ignorance. In my early youth, I had never heard the word “segregated” except as a muttered curse. For most of the whites in the Delta, segregation was a word equated with government distrust. When I started learning history, it astonished me that there was such a short jump between our Civil War and WWII.

My dad took us back to Brinkley for my 3rd-grade year, to attempt to run a gas station in the no-man’s land on Highway 49 outside of Brinkley. While my home life was a slow-moving mess, school was fascinating. Just as I got acclimated to flat lands again, Dad’s failed business drove us back to Northwest Arkansas.

I remember my Uncle ___ saying that he was jealous of my dad, Bobby Dean because Springdale didn’t have ‘the plague’ of so many blacks. Other family members said the same and I only share this memory reluctantly. Perhaps it’s not wise or fair to generalize about my recollections of prejudice. On the other hand, they are my stories and as a sage once reminded us, perhaps people would behave more appropriately if they knew an observant writer was living amongst them. Truth be told, racism took a back seat when contrasted to the casual violence of my dad. I had a couple of god-fearing aunts and uncles who remind me that we should never be surprised by the sheer hatred some racists harbor in their hearts. One of the prevailing lessons they taught me was that religion could easily be twisted to justify and condone all manner of hate, all the while sitting behind a pearly-white smile and opened Bible. When I was young, I endured many a comment from them regarding my views on homosexuality, race, and language. When I grew up and realized that they were simply unadorned racists, their arguments dried up. The revisionists in life will insist they were great people and in many ways, they were the product of their times; in another way, though, they deliberately refused to change their minds, even as they paid pretense to the societal demands that they keep their boring and unimaginative racism mostly closeted.

Even though so much became second-hand to me, Springdale itself began to break away from its parochial roots; languages and color slowly entered and once inside sufficiently, kicked the door in and changed the fundamental nature of everything here. Even as I learned the town’s geography, it was already changing rapidly around me. In 1970, Springdale’s population was around 17,000. In 2015, it was on the high end of 77,000. (My hometown lost 1/2 of its population in the same time period, by comparison.) No road escaped the necessity of bulging outside of its small borders, and many signs became incomprehensible to the earlier residents. I was lucky enough to be present during many fits and tirades from Springdale residents insisting that hating the presence of another language wasn’t a sign of prejudice. They seem ignorant to almost everyone now, but the angry spew of their spittle was a sight to behold back in the day.

Springdale was akin to a debutante sent away to school in some exotic location; upon her return, she was unrecognizable as the same person. But almost everyone could look upon her and admire the changes. It’s almost impossible to turn back once someone or somewhere has caught a glimpse of the vastness of the world.

I’ve heard many people refer to Springdale as once being a Sundown Town. I don’t remember seeing such signage. On the other hand, I didn’t need to. My family provided all the exclusionary language anyone would ever need. Their distrust for minorities was amplified by our move to a white community. As strange as it is, I remember when my mom started working for Southwestern Bell (AT&T) in Fayetteville as an operator. She often came home, angrily ranting about blacks in her workplace. It was the same language she used in Monroe County except now she had a home base to retreat to, one which seemed to encourage her racism. Mom was an angry person most of her life, so the language was a symptom of her defect more than any commentary on her surroundings. Both my mom and dad fled back to Monroe County in the late 80s, after a long succession of disappointments.

Before I forget to mention it, my mom’s last job was as a custodian for Brinkley schools. The person who treated her the most kindly there was one of the black teachers there, proving that truth is stranger than fiction. Like so many racists, Mom’s racism tended to intensely situational. She couldn’t understand why I, as a white person, would ever stoop so low as to learn another language, much less love its differences. Her life was reduced by her prejudices.

The differences between the racism of Springdale and Brinkley were striking. It wasn’t until I was much older I surmised that Springdale didn’t need to be overtly racist. The whiteness of the faces walking the streets communicated a clear message as to the population. Springdale was a town waiting to be changed both monumentally and one person at a time, whether it saw the tidal wave approaching or not. It confused me how two places in the same state could be so markedly different, yet both have residents generally fixated on differences based on skin color. I’m generalizing of course, but I know that you understand the distinction I’m drawing. Most of Springdale’s residents weren’t prejudiced, of course, just unsure as to how to accommodate the changes to their towns. Racism tends to discolor a disproportionate number of people around it, giving it a larger circle than reality warrants. This circle of influence sometimes gives the wrong impression of tolerance toward prejudice and many of those practicing it become adept at hiding under its umbrella.

It’s strange to me that both Springdale and Brinkley had so much to build upon. Frankly, Brinkley had the advantage when I was young, and if a few visionaries had the temerity to act upon it, it would be flourishing now. Instead, Northwest Arkansas seized these opportunities.

Against the backdrop of economy and money, Springdale acquired deep populations of Latinos, Marshallese, and other minorities. Most of us who were paying attention and curious were amazed at the changes brought to us by different cultures. Since I’m naturally curious, I loved the overlap of cultures and couldn’t wait for it to become entrenched. Others, though, peered at it through narrowly-turned blinds, wondering if the small town they grew up in was gone forever. Thankfully, the answer was ‘yes.’ Change brought a greater viability to our town. The overlaps of other culture became so large that in many cases people felt conflicted about which culture was their primary one. That is the ‘melting’ we claim to honor as a country. The melting works much better when it is in both directions, with those who were here first welcoming the inevitable changes brought by new faces.

The same didn’t happen for Brinkley, despite it attempting a few rebrandings. The remaining base shifted out from under when it lost its Wal-Mart. People continued to flee, even if meant they’d be exposed to a greater variety of cultures elsewhere. For those who left, many have an idealized memory of what it once was. The truth, though, is that it was never really that place. People voted with their feet and the results are the only conclusion which needs no clarification. One day, hopefully, Brinkley will discern a path toward revitalization but all such paths are dead ends without new faces and new opportunities.

Springdale, albeit with a few hiccups still to come, is a place which can be a foundation for everyone to look back upon and feel a sense of community. It defies an easy definition, precisely because other groups came here to stay.

 

 

 

 

Vindicated…

Long personal story…. Please read knowing that all businesses, no matter their reputations, have countless great employees who don’t misbehave and/or don’t appreciate how their employers conduct business. It’s a conundrum we all face with businesses. Unless my issue is with a specific person, I in no way wish for people reading my words to think I’m painting all employees of any business with a broad brush of accusation.

A couple of years ago, I shared a story with you about Arvest mistreating my wife. An ATM failed to give her $400. She reported it immediately and Arvest fixed the error. Months later, without notice, they reached into her checking account without permission and without telling her and took the same $400 back out. There was no appeal. They had waited months, after all video evidence was gone, and without following up. Dawn politely worked to get the error fixed. Not only did she not get the error fixed, but a couple of the people working at the bank had an attitude which was dismissive, as if Dawn somehow had lied about what happened. Dawn’s feelings were hurt, to say the least. She’s polite and was certain that logic and patience would fix the problem. No one at the bank cared.

Dawn responded by deciding to leave Arvest, after many years of doing business with them. She took all of her accounts and later we got another mortgage to get away from their shenanigans.

Just because I can, I have also frequently picked on Arvest on social media. I’ve been polite, but I’ve satirically jabbed at them a few hundred times and made several memes to poke fun at the bank.

Yesterday, before coming home, we stopped at our community mailbox and checked the mail. I handed the mail to Dawn, who was seated in the passenger seat. I told her, “Look, you got a big check from Arvest,” and laughed. We joked that it was one of those fake mailers, especially since it didn’t have postage. Also, we had never given Arvest our new address, having wiped them off our feet before we ever decided to move.

I told Dawn to open the Arvest envelope. Lucky for us, she did, instead of discarding it. Inside was a check addressed to Dawn, in the amount of $400. In read, in part: “…during a review… we determined one of more disputes was denied in error. Due to this error, we are enclosing a check…” It was an unsigned form letter with no explanation as to how they got Dawn’s address, nor did it contain any sort of apology.

The look on Dawn’s face was priceless.

More than the $400 Dawn got in the mail, the admission that Arvest screwed up a couple of years ago when we said they did is worth much, much more than that. It should have never happened, because Dawn would have stayed with the bank for the rest of her life, if possible. Now we have the magical words in writing and those words all this time later prove that we weren’t lying or crazy: Arvest took $400 of Dawn’s money without cause and worsened the problem by strangling us with bureaucracy and apathy.

It’s easy to get a customer, but very difficult to get one back after you’ve mistreated them. You should never let a customer walk all over you, but you should also remember that customers are people. The $400 is nice, but nicer still would have been for one person at Arvest a couple of years ago willing to stand up and say, “Enough. We can’t do this to a customer. It is our error.”

PS: You should always address customer service issues or old business before taking any steps toward acquiring new business. The disgruntled folks are going to eat your lunch telling their stories.

Your Right To Discuss Pay

I wrote this specific post about 8 months ago. It made some people nervous, as employers tend to have the balance of power and when people are told something over and over, it becomes difficult to openly learn about the issue and discuss it. It’s empowering for both employer and employee to know the law and learn how to keep a business healthy.

I’m not talking about my employer  and also not talking about anyone I know personally. This is a PSA-style something-most-people-don’t-understand post. Yes, this is a Right-To-Work state, which doesn’t affect the content of what I am posting. Anyone can be fired legally or illegally, for reasons both legal and illegal, which is also not the focus of this post. And one more: it is almost never worth it to irritate your employer, even if you are ‘right.’

How much do you earn at your job? Interestingly, I’m finding that many people aren’t aware that their employers generally *can’t prohibit them from talking about their benefits, including wages.

I know that many of you are saying “But my employer has a policy that says I can’t.” It’s likely not legal, and hasn’t been for a long time. You can investigate it, if you want.

There are exceptions, of course, and you should be aware of how you fall in the category. In general, if you work a traditional job for a private employer, aren’t a contract employee, aren’t a supervisor, and don’t work for the government, you can talk about how much you’re paid until your jaw gets sore.

That’s the majority of us.

You can go to the National Labor Relations Board website at: NLRB Website 

(The NLRB is an independent federal agency that is often overlooked, especially in states where unions don’t tend to have much influence.)

If you’ve been warned, fired, or told you can’t discuss your wages with others, call the NLRB and use their website to get educated. Most of us have the right to discuss our wages if we choose to do so. Much of the problem arises when employers or their managers fail to understand the law, even with good intentions.

If you are a good employee, you will of course not waste your employer’s time talking instead of working. Modern companies know better than to pay less for any reason other than value and merit. At least I think they do. You choose to work for the wage your employer offers. Likewise, what your employer chooses to pay you is for you to decide to disclose to another person. Just as your employer is free to determine prevailing wage, you are free to talk about it. Your employer is paying you a combination of what you are worth, what it can afford, and according to its own policies. Assuming other variables aren’t present, employees generally are being compensated in a similar manner within the same company, based on common criteria. It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Your employer has the right to determine your wage and you have the right to decline that wage or not. Discussion of wages is a different topic and unrelated to that employer’s right to determine pay under the law.

While all of the above is true, I don’t recommend you run around with a banner with a picture of yourself shouting how much you make while giving the finger. It’s not smart. Many of our problems with our employers stem from the inability to honestly bring questions to them and see that they are addressed – and that no one punishes the messenger for voicing concerns or questions.

Hillary Clinton got some attention for getting the law wrong. Here’s a link to the Politifact article detailing what happened: Clinton Gets Pay Discussion Law Wrong

Studies have shown that discussion of pay helps a company for long-term stability. It helps avoid allegations of unfairness, eliminates accusations of unequal pay or glass ceilings, and demonstrates openness from employers toward employees. It builds trust among employees and with the employer.

A good employer knows that all of the above is true and works actively to build trust with employees. A cornerstone of this kind of trust is centered on both compliance and embracing employee involvement, even when the traditional view is one of prohibition. One myth employers tend to believe is that employees who know what their counterparts earn are less flexible and efficient. Great employers don’t even worry themselves with these considerations: they don’t discriminate unlawfully and do their best to have consistent policies. That’s why you don’t have innumerable news stories each week about employees filing complaints. Most employers are too busy running their businesses without worrying about needless arguments about pay.

I generally don’t talk about where I work on social media and I don’t complain about what I earn – because for requiring only a HS education, I have good pay and benefits as an employee. I choose to work for the wage I’m given and it’s a fair wage for my job and hours. I’m not concerned that my employer is going to see this and be upset with me. (And not just because an ‘employer’ is only a collective of people.) I don’t run the halls challenging people with how much I earn or flaunting my knowledge or chanting ‘nana nana boo-boo.’ I would like everyone I work with to make at least as much as me if they are doing the same job, even those with less seniority. I’m weird like that. Qualifications and merit rule.

If your employer has a policy against pay discussion, be human about it. Ask someone you trust at your company if they are sure it is legal. Give them a chance to investigate. All of the people doing jobs have a massive number of laws and rules to juggle. Some of the most obvious ones are most often overlooked. Don’t jump to the conclusion that your employer is inhibiting pay discussion out of a nefarious motive – it might be simple ignorance. If your employer gets angry at you for even asking about the law, chances are that you are working for an employer who isn’t interested in complying with the law, which is another discussion entirely.

You’ll be surprised how often many employers tell their workers they can’t discuss wages – even though it is illegal for most of them to do so.

In my years working, I’ve encountered many people who simply don’t understand the law.

 

Multi-Level Marketing Oopsortunities

oopsortunities

 

For another outlet, I wrote an insightful piece enumerating the warning signs of multi-level marketing “opportunities,” some of which are pyramid schemes. (Of course, they should be called “oopsortunities,” because most people come to realize that they should not have attempted to be a part of the “miracle” of whatever nonsense is being sold.) The only real miracle here is that companies can still devise methods to separate people from their money with such banal marketing techniques.

If a product is such a great deal or does such great things, trust me, it would be marketed for much, much less by the big players in the market. If you are shaking your head “No” to my comments, congratulations, you are one of those gullible people that some MLM companies love to indoctrinate. (Or that certain cults would invite to visit their compound in rural Nebraska, to get to know them, no obligation required.) And, if you are interested, I will be glad to sell you a membership to my new course, “Don’t Be a Dumbass” for $19.95. (Also available via a 12-month payment plan of $13 for 17 months. Or vice versa. Don’t focus on the math, focus on “you get out what you put in,” the most successful stupid way ever stated to place the blame for a bad company or bad product on the salesperson.)

We all have friends who start posting mysteriously worded posts about whatever snake oil they are using to become an instant thousandaire. Usually, it is health or beauty related. You’ve seen the posts: they have more adjectives than a bad poet’s dictionary. They depict calm, interesting scenery, instead of the more accurate hair-on-fire scenes that depict people after they’ve failed at selling this stuff. Most of the time, they spend more time recruiting people than selling. (PS: This is a major warning sign of impending failure.) Also, friends are hard to come by and they will become invisible like Batman if you keep pressuring them to buy or sell things from you. Or angry like the Incredible Hulk if you successfully lure them in.

Incidentally, the easiest way to tell how doubtful a product is begins with googling it. If you can’t find a lot of negative reviews, it might be a nonsense product. If you go to the company’s social media page and all criticism has been scrubbed, it is a warning sign to reconsider whether you should just hide your cash in a cereal box in the pantry. In this sense, the internet troll factor is a bona fide method to determine legitimacy: all products have a set amount of critics on the internet. The absence of criticism is itself a huge red flag, or at least a lightly-tinged yellow one.

So, save us the goofiness about being more healthy, losing weight, living better or having longer toes if we buy your product. If we can’t buy it at Wal-Greens or Wal-Mart, it most likely isn’t a good deal and we apologize if that isn’t obvious to you. As for recruiting me to sell your product, I might change my tune if McDonald’s creates a “Make Your Own Cheeseburger & Fries” just-add-water product.

Obviously, I haven’t mentioned any oopsortunity by name, as I fear that the horde of vengeful naysayers will descend upon me with pitchfork and scythe. There are a few legitimate MLM companies that do good work. Unfortunately for us, it seems like we tend to be subjected to the ones which would be better served with advertising in the late-night TV market of Argentina.

But if the shoe fits, wear it. Or sell me an “amazing” shoe insert that only one company in the world is allowed to sell, due to an “incredible” marketing opportunity. Yes, I am interested in becoming a Tier-16 Pioneer in your business. Sounds legit. Please let me know whether I need to recruit an army of sales zombies for my team or if I can just start printing money on my HP printer.

Don’t Put Me On Your Email List…

I’m getting more frequent and accidental calls for someone at Tyson. The urge to start helping these people is almost overwhelming. It’s like free entertainment.

A few years ago, Dawn and I bought decorative window film for a door glass. Due to a problem, I e-mailed the company, after carefully investigating and finding an email instead of a phone number. Through some accident of their own, I started getting included in their very private internal email chains. After writing them a couple of times (to inform them what was going on and telling them there was some sort of mix-up), I started participating in the emails, providing specifics that I created from thin air. And a couple of them started answering ME, even though the email was clearly under my real name and in no way resembled theirs. In one scenario, I gave them advice on endcap displays in a large home improvement chain; during another, my input involved some sort of scanner implementation that I knew nothing about – but nevertheless offered some solidly imagined solutions. In the last, email, I also recommended that Bob be left out of the display design, given the mess he had created before. Naturally, I didn’t even know whether the company I was getting emails from even employed someone named Bob. If they did, I giggled at the idea that a nonexistent employee like me might have made his coworkers wonder whether he might be doing a bad job.

 

 

Pictures below not related to above post.

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GOOGLY EYED DEER

 

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Oxfam Report: Give Us A Break

Oxfam Poultry Practices Report

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I am putting the link to the Oxfam report on practices in the poultry industry in the comment section, as well as a couple of others. It’s a comprehensive report across several states and companies. This isn’t a hatchet job from a single source– it is a serious reminder that many people are treated with inhumanity in some industries. I challenge anyone with an opinion to read the report in the link in the comments. For anyone who has worked a production poultry line, I am certain that you will be nodding your head in agreement while saying, “No Sh*%, Sherlock.” If you are in poultry management, it will piss you off because you either agree that it is inhumane or you will disagree because you will claim the issue doesn’t exist or, at least, isn’t as bad as some would have us believe. If you believe the latter, cash your check and ignore me.

For those working production lines, especially poultry, this report highlights the ongoing substandard practices found in many poultry plants. I’ve written about it many times.

I don’t want to hear blanket objections such as “But it doesn’t happen at my plant.” If it doesn’t, that is great news – and I mean that. In your case, the bad managers or companies are harming other companies in your field.

I’ve witnessed the type of inhumanity described in the Oxfam report. People were denied convenient access to the bathroom or were arbitrarily delayed. Production speed and cost vs. efficiency factors directly affected the staffing levels needed to give safe and necessary bathroom access. Did people suffer and sometimes urinate themselves? Yes. It may be going on right under your noses, even at your plant, where you think it doesn’t happen. In line production jobs, the odds are greater that people are made to feel bad for needing to go to the bathroom. “Hold it or else” can still be heard echoing the plant’s lines, in various languages.

The lower on the socioeconomic rung you or your job falls, the greater the chance that you are faced with the need to go to the bathroom but don’t have permission. If you’ve never worked in such a position, you are lucky. For politeness, I refer to ‘peeing,’ when in reality, who among us has not intestinal cramps so bad we couldn’t stand up, only to run for the bathroom before defecating ourselves? All of us – because we are human. That’s how people end up standing in production spots with urine or worse trailing down their leg. Of course they are ashamed and afraid to talk about it.

Being bilingual gave me a much better insight into how systemic and pervasive the problem was. Most of the poultry industry is minority-staffed and this reality distances the owners and managers from those doing the work, both in economic overlap and language.

I often give companies the benefit of the doubt, despite continuing to hear bathroom horror stories from many people. I still hear stories of people being denied bathroom breaks or being made to wait. The same factors from my past still affect human beings working in the poultry industry. Reports such as this one remind me that companies will all too often lose sight of the humanity of those doing the work.

Again – I am not saying ALL poultry plants operate this way, nor any specific one, local or distant. I am saying that it is still widespread. Further, I knew some great administrators and poultry managers who would say they never condone denying people access to bathrooms. Likewise, I knew that bathroom abuse was happening at their plants, on their watch. They would never believe it, even today. The people they trusted to run their plants felt like making people feel like they were not entitled to bathroom access was saving them money and that it was the right thing to do to perpetuate a system that humiliated or denied people the right to bathroom access; a necessary evil, if you would like to call it that. Regardless of whether the corporate offices or plant management know about unsafe and inhuman practices, the truth is that the entire company culture is their responsibility. These types of practices don’t become common unless cost is stressed at the expense of intangible considerations, including the human impact. If you can’t make a profit without doing things like those described in the report, find another business.

It costs money to operate production lines. Staffing to allow a human being to step off and go urinate, take their medications or do necessary bodily functions of course has an economic impact. We all know that if companies could engineer a way to mechanize all the production elements without people that they would do so. Until they do, however, it is an ethical and moral obligation for the company to honor people’s humanity and not only condone bathroom access, but to acknowledge and embrace it. Avoid the reputation of behaving like monsters and encourage training so that everyone from the production workers to the plant managers must structure their processes in such a way as to ensure that people aren’t standing in a line peeing themselves or being made to feel less-than-human because they need to step off their production spot to relieve themselves. One story of a grandmother peeing herself because she couldn’t get permission to leave her spot is one story too many.

It is such an obvious thing to say that I get angry writing it. If your mom worked at a poultry company and she said that her line supervisor laughed at her for asking (or begging) to go to the bathroom, I am sure that your first impulse might be to remind them via knuckle sandwich that your mom is a human being who needs to go to the bathroom when she asks. Would you be surprised to know that some production keep track of how many bathroom breaks you need – and would reprimand you for violating their arbitrary number? Is once a week too much? Once a day? If you’ve had nothing except jobs which honor your humanity, this will sound like a bad movie script to you.

Imagine all the times you went to the bathroom during the last work day you had. Imagine this: no matter how bad your need, imagine that you worked with hundreds of people and that you had to wait for someone to give your permission and replace you when you needed to go. Now imagine that instead of seeing someone walk up to you and allow you to go, that they called you ‘lazy’ and told you that you had to hold it an hour until the next line break. Or that you had to beg and provide intimate details of why you needed to go. Or decide whether to go without permission and risk losing your job. Now imagine that your mom, wife, or sister had to hear that kind of horrific inhumane response. That scenario is reality for a lot of people.

Kudos to those companies which don’t denigrate people like this. Shame to those which still do. I don’t doubt a single word of the Oxfam report.

When asked about the Oxfam report, many of the CEOs and marketing departments of some of the poultry companies were “outraged,” and “will be checking on the veracity of these reports.” Dear millionaires, can I save you some time? Call me. Of course this craziness is still going on. Not because some report says so. It’s because the people working on the line jobs at your companies say so, day in and day out. The reputation of line positions isn’t accidental. You’ve created it one bad incident at a time.

I put it out of my mind as I’ve moved on to jobs which aren’t monstrous in this regard. I still hear stories, though. And I read reports such as the one I mentioned. I hear it in English and Spanish.

Countless times people have asked me, “How do I find out if these things are true?” It’s strikingly simple, even for management. Find the lower-end employees, the ones working sanitation and production jobs, the ones with mops and knives, the ones speaking Spanish or other languages. Stand around them, listen, and ask questions. Listen again. Then ask them a question like this: “Is it common to be denied access to the bathroom?” All of them will tell you, “Of course.” That’s a problem. It’s a human problem aggravated by a profit motive.

Those doing the work experience the reality and consequences of cost control over humanity more directly than anyone else. If you can get them to talk, listen. And treat them with respect. They are doing jobs that we won’t, all so that we can eat the things we want to.

My food tastes like garbage when I think that people were treated this way in the United State while they were making my food. Raise the price of your product if you need to, if it allows people the right to behave and be treated like human beings worthy of respect for their biology, if not their humanity.

Lives on The Line Link

 

Lives On The Line Full Report

Humanity aside, if a company perpetuates an environment wherein treating people like this happens, what do you imagine is ‘really’ going on in the production and food safety side of the equation?” – X

PS: I started writing this yesterday, after seeing it on a “Southern Poverty Law Center” comment. Within 60 seconds of me posting this, someone who knows me well had tagged me on social media on another site to draw my attention to it. That’s how much this issue bothers me.

 

A Friday Barrage of Pictures

 

adam ruins everything

I only wish there were 2,652 episodes of the show. There is so much misinformation in the world. I guess I should stop making it up?

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alligator friend

I wrote this for someone who lives in California, aka “The Polka State.”
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arm of leg

 

bette davis font

This joke is potentially completely off the charts for the young whippersnappers crowd.
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can you find

 

dr oz

 

fame thrower

 

handyman

 

landing

This one was during a conversation with an actual boss.

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logic meets bureaucracy

Because no matter how great your idea, there is inevitably a manager who will strangle either you, or the implementation of the idea.

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look away from a sunset

 

no news fox news

If you are a Fox News fan, no offense is intended, although I did send this one to the RNC headquarters for pre-approval. They laughed, so you should too.

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springdeal


Because honestly, those marketing geniuses are creating ideas faster than I can mock them. Just shuffle a few letters around and we have something to work with here. You’re welcome, Springdale.

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sunset b

 

the mirror hyprocrisy


This above statement is so true that I almost went back in time when I created it.

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z elegeanteee


I made this for a friend because she loves “Sons of Anarchy.” Plus, rumor has it she can’t ride a bicycle without smacking her head into the low branches of a tree.

The Abilene Paradox Is Alive And Well

abilene paradox.jpg

 

Abilene Paradox Wikipedia

An explanatory video of the Abilene Paradox

It seems like I’ve seen this in action more in the last few months than I had in the last few years combined. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older or perhaps I’m just over-thinking things.

I listen to people interact at work or when discussing their personal lives and see the Abilene Paradox in their words and actions. Quite often I am the voice of dissent or ‘pull,’ trying to get others to stop and honestly walk themselves through decisions.

It’s fascinating.

At first glance, many people feel it is just a clever turn of phrase, not realizing that it accurately expresses a common problem we tend to experience.

 

When I posted the picture below a couple of years ago, people didn’t take a second to understand it and thought I was being clever or had just made it up.

Everyone Has A Choice