Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tweet, Tweet. No time for a full blown Pink Slip, 2nd edition.

Another Bloomberg Headline:’

Why People Will Spend $120,000 for a Chair

Because they have nothing better to do with their money?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tweet, tweet. (No time for a full blown Pink Slip…)

Tweet inspired by Bloomberg headline:

Would You Pay $550,000 for a Tintin Cartoon? Non, non, a thousand times non. (Under 140 characters.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

All reno’d out

Yesterday, after two and a half months living at my sister’s, I moved back into chez moi.

My sister and her husband could not be more generous and gracious hosts. Kath is a fabulous cook, Rick has a fabulous wine cellar, they have a beautiful home, they’re terrific company. What’s not to like?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Other than that I was beginning to feel like Sheridan Whiteside, The Man Who Came to Dinner. And never left. (That Sheridan Whiteside.)

So yesterday, with what I believe is the end in sight, I returned home.

With Kath’s help, we have my bedroom pretty much knocked into shape. Sure, my clothing is either in suitcases or Fibber McGee’d into my closets. I left home in summer weather, I’m returning past the date when I would have done the closet and dresser swap on summer-winter clothing. I’ll get to it at some point. Meanwhile, clothing is pretty much haphazardly stuffed wherever.

I’m good on the bathroom end, if you consider no shower doors, partial lighting, no vanity (main bath), no mirror (guest bath) “good”. Still, the toilets flush and the water runs hot and cold.

My den is in relatively good shape. Now I just have to figure out how to figure out the TV situation. Buying one would, I suppose. This was my husband’s department. Where’s Diggy when I need him? (As if I needed another reason to miss him. Oh, boo-hoo.)

The downstairs hall has way too much construction junk in it.

The light fixture in my office is dangling.:

The living room is a full blown disaster. New and old furniture remains shrouded. Construction gear too much in evidence.

No registers on the heating vents. Yet.

And then there’s the track lighting in the kitchen.

It was looking great. Then it flickered. Then it died.

This was Saturday evening.

I texted my GC. He told me to make sure the light switch was off.

He called the electrician, who texted me to call him. Which I did. He told me to make sure the light switch was off.

Now that is something you don’t have to tell me twice.

The electric crisis should be resolved today.

Most of what needs doing is small stuff and clean up.

So far, I’m loving it. Looking forward to settling in.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned plenty, including that olive oil and salt removed scratches from furniture. (Thanks, Kath.)

In another couple of weeks, everything on the punch list should be punched out. My old painted bookcases will have received yet another coat of paint. I’ll have gotten a couple of pots and pans to use on my new induction cooktop.

Reno, sweet reno. Home, sweet home.

Feeling a bit mixed-emotional.

Yes, everything is beautiful. But it’s going to be a lot different than the place where Jim and I lived for more than 20 years. (Did I all ready say Oh, boo-hoo? Life really does go one.. Just a bit sadly…)

Meanwhile, Pink Slip is taking a mini break. The posts for Tuesday and Wednesday will be my version of tweets. (I.e., posts under 140 characters.)

Back by Thursday. That’s assuming I can get the cable hooked up…

God, this is exhausting. You’d think I was the one swinging the hammer.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ya gotta spend money to make money

Last year, at a family wedding, the bride was toasted by one of her bridesmaids, a classmate of hers from Harvard Business School. Her speech was larded with you-have-to-have-been-there references to trips they’d been on together while at HBS. Stranded by a canceled flight at Mumbai Airport. A ghastly headache while visiting Dubai.

An awful lot of time during business school was spent in places other than Harvard’s pristine campus on the banks of the river Charles. (Pristine is not even the word for it. I’ve been to a couple of functions there in the last couple of years. The grounds are so manicured, I nearly gave in to the temptation to toss a kleenex on one of the velvety green lawns, just because. The janitors’ closets all seem to be made of hand-rubbed cherry wood. In the “cafeteria” they use china plates. No wonder these folks end up acting like they own the universe: they do.)

In fact, spending on the extras – travel, entertainment, travel and entertainment – has become a reasonably big chunk of the budget for students at elite business schools.

When I was in business school, at MIT-Sloan, way back in the last century, there were no such expenses.

This was, of course, before the concept of networking was invented.

We went to class, bitched with each other between classes, worked on projects together, graduated, got jobs. Socializing – which was what, I guess, would be today’s networking -  meant going out to some dumpy eatery in Kendall Square (which was all there was then), having a beer at the week-ending Consumption Function - (Consumption Function! Get it? Haha. You know, Keynes and the relationship between income and consumption. Only we had no income and our consumption was a beer…), or going to a party at someone’s not-so-great apartment.

But my talking about being in business school back in the day is like my parents telling Depression stories. That was then, this is now. Yawn…

Today’s elite b-schoolers have better things to do than sit around bitching or quaffing a glass of Bud at the weekly Consumption Function. (Yawn.)

They’ve got places to go, people to see – and that means money to spend.

If you’re at Harvard, on top of the annual $98K it will set you back for tuition, fees, books, room and board, you best be prepared to keep an extra $16K for extras.  (MIT, on the other hand, has more modest requirements. Never the high-livers like our brethren at HBS, the median extra spending for Sloanies is a relatively meager $10K.)

bschool extras

Sloan, of course, has always attracted more geeks than high flyers, so this is not exactly a surprise.

Columbia students who join the wine club or the gourmet club go to the priciest New York City eateries, said [Columbia MBA student Victor] Eng. Professional clubs, of which Eng is a member of five, offer valuable networking opportunities with companies and typically charge a few hundred dollars in annual membership fees, plus the price of ticketed events, he said. (Source: Bloomberg)

And then there are the “study” tours to spots like Mumbai and Dubai, or networking “treks” where you never know what might happen (or who you might meet). These are opportunities where you get to take a break from the rigors of the wine club and the gourmet club to “travel the world.”

It’s worth it, however. Business schools where the students require the most walking around money are also the B-schools where the graduates demand the highest starting salaries. (Could there be a correlation? Such a Sloan question to ask…)

At the University of Chicago, where, on average, students spend $12K over-and-above each year, Austin Fang maintains that the spending is purposeful, not frivolous:

"There are definitely a lot of people who come from finance backgrounds and from affluent families, but no one's going out every night and buying bottle service," said Fang. "It seems that everyone is cognizant that we're not making money right now."

I for one am relieved that today’s B-school students aren’t going out every night buying bottle service.

And I’d also like to go on record as saying that, one of the great pleasures of getting older is comparing the relative rigors, wisdom, and practicalities of our youth with what’s going on with today’s young whippersnappers.

Ah, imagine what we would have said at a Consumption Function – when we were most likely talking about the problem set for Operations Research – if someone had told us that we should be spending an additional $10K+ per year on the wine club and treks.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I get that you want feedback, but please just leave me alone

Customer engagement is all the rage these days, and it doesn’t matter what you’re a customer of, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they’ll want to engage. A big part of customer engagement is, apparently, eliciting feedback.

Thus, last summer, after I was a customer, that is to say, patient, of Dr. I, who was the surgeon for my eyelift (non-cosmetic, I hasten to point out; I have hereditary ptosis, or drooping eyelids – thanks, Nanny! – which was causing me all sorts of problems), I received 3 or 4 requests for me to complete a survey on my “experience.” If I thought that anything I had to say could help improve things for other patients, I would have filled in the survey. But I didn’t have anything to say, and didn’t feel compelled to fill out a five-point-scale rating just so that Dr. I’s office could use the ratings to sell someone on what is, in many cases, elective/vanity surgery. (The good news if it’s not elective/vanity surgery: insurance pays for it.)

Anyway, the one thing that stood out on surgery day was that two of the nurses working in the eye surgery assembly line center were named Maureen. Not something I needed to report back on a survey. Keep up the good work! Never enough Maureens! Just say Moe!

For some reason, I find physician surveys particularly annoying. If they were just open-ended – is there anything we could do to make things better? – I’d be just fine with them. But that wouldn’t supply the coveted (and often meaningless) metrics that everyone craves these days.

I did fill in one MD survey – for my PCP, someone I particularly like. But mostly I’ll be taking a pass on these, once they start to come along with regularity as my journey to geezerhood progresses.

Medical practices are not alone when it comes to reaching out to their customers for feedback.

Open Table wants to know how I liked Toscano’s. Just great! Which is why it’s been one of my go-to neighborhood spots for years, thank you very much.

British Airways wants me to help shape the future. Here’s my advice to BA: if you want me to fly to the UK, do something about the fact that, even when you use frequent flyer miles, it still costs $800 to land.

WGBH wants to know what I think of their programming. Here you go: as long as you keep running old folkie specials and ask for money, I’ll watch your old folkie specials and send you money. I’ll also keep sending money to your radio station because I listen to the Celtic Sojourn.

Yale Appliance wants me to review my recent purchases. Well, they’re mostly installed, but I haven’t actually used any of them yet. But I can tell you that the fridge smells really awful and the box of baking soda I put in it doesn’t seem to be dissipating the plastic-chemical odor. Maybe once it’s plugged in and I actually use it, the odor will go away. I hope so. A fridge that costs this much should absolutely NOT smell. As for the rest, the only question I have is why is there a metal rack in the Bosch microwave. (For some reason, this feature only serves to remind me of the urban legend of the old lady who accidentally microwaved her toy poodle.)

Armstrong Flooring. MIT’s Credit Union. Zappo’s. The place I bought the cool dress. And these aren’t even all of the outfits that have tried to engage me in the last week or so.

Everyone – or at least everyone I don’t actually know - wants to know what I think. (Zappo’s appeal: Help Others! by writing a review…Ah, the old Help Others! gimmick.)

I did review the Task Rabbit guy who moved the leather couch over to my brother’s. And I do press the Great button for my Uber drivers. But those are people that, however fleeting, I actually had an engagement with. (Okay, I also had an up close and personal engagement with Dr. I. I guess I just hate MD surveys.)

And sometimes I answer phone surveys, especially the political ones (especially, I must admit, if they’re from the Party I Do Not Belong To; I do answer honestly, and I’m sure they must be scratching their heads over how I got on their call list).

Hey, I’m a marketing person, so I understand the value of getting feedback, and the value of engaging your customers.

But when you’re asking for feedback, you’re asking for my time and I get nothing in return. Let me tell you, I’m a lot more apt to answer your survey if I get put in a drawing for the iTunes card or whatever. Even if my odds of winning are infinitesimally small, at least you’re acknowledging that my time is worth something. (Some companies do use this approach. Costs little, and I suspect the yield is pretty substantial. But perhaps marketers don’t want to sully their surveying by bribing their respondents.)

Mostly, I just don’t want to be engaged, thank you. Mostly, I just want you to leave me the hell alone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

As if the NFL doesn’t have enough to worry about

I’m a sports fan, but as I have said in the past and will no doubt say again, watching professional football is like eating veal: if I thought about it, I wouldn’t do it.

But I occasionally do both, even though there are countless reasons why veal-eating is nasty and the National Football League is just plain god-awful.

Where to even begin with the god-awfulness of the NF?

Might as well start with the brain damage thang. For years, the NFL denied that its players experienced instances of substantial brain damage, and of both Alzheimer’s and ALS, that are well above the norm. Forget ALS as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS should be named after a footballer, not a baseballer.

Turns out that the souped up gear – supposedly designed to improve safety – actually makes players more likely to engage in dangerous maneuvers like spearing someone with your head. And we used to say that playing without a helmet was a bad thing…

So after years of denying there was a problem, the NFL kinda-sorta acknowledged it, and put a paltry amount of money aside to take care of retired players who were pretty much out of it.

One could, of course, argue that those playing professional football are grown men, making an informed decision to accept the trade off between getting paid a lot of money to play a violent sport in the now and going gaga in the then. But it would, nonetheless, be wise for the NFL to take better care of its own cadre of brain damaged former players than it’s been doing.

Then there are all those mamas who won’t let their babies grow up to be Cowboys. Or Seahawks. Or Packers. Or Patriots. Or even Pop Warner or high school footballers. Who wants to see her baby boy get his brains bashed in?

On top of the brain damage issues, there’s the inordinate number of players who’ve been involved in truly dreadful off the field behavior, generally (but not always) having to do with the abuse of women. And the fact that, despite an occasional slap-on-the-wrist suspension meted out, the NFL is cable of tolerating anything off the field as long as someone’s performing off the field. Admittedly, they do have modest standards. Once the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez was arrested for killing the fiancĂ© of his girlfriend’s sister – he’s now serving life, and early next year will be tried for an additional two murders (that of strangers who managed to somehow diss Hernandez in a nightclub) – the Patriots dumped him.

The NFL ends up with an oversupply of bad actors because, as long as they can run, block, tackle,and score, teams (and fans) are perfectly capable of overlooking college predictors of bad behavior and criminality. And once the players are in the NFL, well, they have to do something really egregious to get booted out. Like murder three people.

And don’t get me going on the “defend the integrity of the ‘shield’” brouhaha that is Deflategate.

So the NFL has plenty enough to worry about, without the add on of ColorBlindGate.

Here’s what happened with last week’s Thursday Night Football game between the NY Jets and the Buffalo Bills.

For some reason, no doubt to do with hawking even more merchandise to their fans (with the NFL, it’s almost always about the money), both teams wore monotone uniforms, something called “Color Rush,” in which both the pants and shirts were the same color. Matchy-tatchy, as my mother would say. So there were the Jets in solid green and the Bills in solid red. (Generally, the home team wears a colored shirt and contrasting pants, while the visiting team wears a white shirt and contrasting pants.)

Unfortunately, when they went monotone, the NFL neglected to factor in the 8 percent of the male population (and the 0.5 percent of women) who are colorblind.

So rather than see Christmas-y red and green on the field, colorblind fans saw this:


Forget ‘you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.’ If you’re colorblind, on long shots where you couldn’t see the logo on the helmet, you couldn’t tell the Bills from the Jets.

The NFL will be reconsidering its upcoming Color Rush shirt days.

Meanwhile, this little bit of silliness couldn’t happen to a more deserving sports league.

Source for Color Rush info: Huffington Post

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slip Siding Away

Every once in a while, there’s a local business story that truly captures my interest. This one hits on all cylinders: it’s more than a bit preposterous while at the same time being more than a bit sad and heart-strings tugging. And, to my way of thinking, it involves more than a bit of wishful thinking on the part of the business owner, and some addle-pated decisions on the part of the loan officers he was working with.

Anyway, i
n 2008, one Kevin Dumont of Candia, New Hampshire, decided to open a water park, Liquid Planet.

From the get-go, it was a tough go.

The first couple of seasons were inordinately rainy ones. And, as one can imagine, the season for a water park in northern New England is inordinately short.

Dumont and Liquid Planet soldiered on, adding, over time a zipline and a summer day camp. The business developed a loyal following of patrons. (Just not enough of them…)

But running a short-season enterprise in New England is going to be chancy, and Liquid Planet is running out of chances.

The park has a $1.6 Million (!) bank loan that’s coming due, and Dumont is in no position to pay it off. When it goes, he’ll lose his business, as well as his home, which is also on the property. But Dumont is not going down without a fight.

Kevin Dumont says he’s “not crazy,” but the Liquid Planet Water Park founder has taken an unconventional strategy to save his floundering business.

Faced with foreclosure, Dumont has chained himself to the top of the Candia, New Hampshire park’s 30-foot water slide.

“I am doing this in a last ditch effort to save all that I have created,” Dumont announced Monday on Facebook. “The bank has foreclosed on me and is auctioning the property on December 2nd so I am staying up here to try and save it.” (Source:

Dumont plans to stay chained until the cash miraculously appears, or he’s “forced off his property” once auction time comes around. Meanwhile, he’s trying to raise some coin via GoFundMe. Unfortunately, keeping a NH water-slide business afloat can’t compete in terms of heart-string tugs with the kids who’ve lost their parents, or the dog that’s lost its hind legs, or the family that can’t afford to bury their dead child. When last I look, Dumont had raised a whopping $1,495 of the $1,000,000 he’s hoping to raise. (He’s quite an optimist, however. He puts the odds of his saving his business at 50/50. Me, I’d put them at 1,000,000/1,495, or maybe even a million-to-one. But I guess I’m just the half-empty type.)

Wherever his business acumen is lodged, Dumont’s heart appears to be in the right place. He wanted to build a locally-owned and run business that would provide jobs to his community. He’s tried to be environmentally conscious.

“I just wanted to have a little business,” Dumont said Tuesday evening. “I took the money I made and put it to something I thought would be an asset to the community, that would bring jobs, and create memories. That’s why I started a water park—not a car wash or something.”

Easy for me to say, but at least with a car wash you get 12 months worth of business. That said, my husband and I had an older friend – now long deceased – who’d lost his investing shirt in a Connecticut car wash business years ago.

Meanwhile, Kevin Dumont, the poor guy, has recently lost both of his parents. (Other than the heart-string tugging element, this info is really neither here nor there.)

What I’m really thinking about is what was going on in the mind of the loan officer who okayed a $1.6M loan for a NH water park business to begin with.

Was this all an upfront loan for the initial capital investment? Did it include credit lines that got tapped? Was the business “breaking even” (ahem) if you didn’t take into account any loan repayments?

I just can’t imagine what the business plan looked like that would get someone to sign off on this sort of $$$ for this sort of business, especially one being run by a seemingly inexperienced business owner.

Plus Liquid Planet came to life in 2008. Wasn’t that the year we became an illiquid planet?

I hope Kevin Dumont doesn’t freeze up there when his water slide turns to an ice slide. I hope he finds a way out of the mess he’s in. I hope he has good rest of his life.

But I think it would be a hope against hope to believe that he’s going to raise the money he needs to salvage its business.

I could be wrong, but I suspect this business is going to be slip sliding away.