Category Archives: Economy

Closing Equal Employment Opportunity Loopholes

Mr. President, if you want to help fix unemployment in this country, and get good people that want to work back in jobs, how about we fix bullshit discrimination loopholes.

Under Equal Employment Opportunity laws, employers currently cannot discriminate based on:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Equal compensation
  • Genetic Information
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Religion
  • Retaliation
  • Sex
  • Sexual Harassment

Lets add a few more to the list like lack of Facebook / online presence and credit history.

Apparently businesses have been asking potential job candidates to show them their Facebook pages that are password protected, or even going as far as to ask them for their password so they can log in as you and snoop on their own. This is a huge privacy issue… but employers get away with it. It’s akin to giving them the keys to your house and allowing them to snoop around. The job market is tough, if you tell them no, they’ll just find someone else who will gladly give up their privacy in an attempt to get a job.

On top of that, apparently they’re now determining eligibility based on whether you even have social accounts like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. If you don’t the assumption is that you have something to hide or are antisocial and you’re therefore a liability. This is ridiculously absurd and should never be a factor for general employment. Obviously if you’re going for a marketing job, showing knowledge of how to use Facebook, etc is likely a job requirement, but that’s where the line should be drawn.

I personally don’t have a Facebook account. Some people think that’s crazy which is fine– that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. I have no need for Facebook. For me I see it as a huge time waste. I’m on Twitter and that’s enough of a time drain as it is. I get out, go to WordCamps and other conferences, hang with friends, have large BBQs in my back yard. That’s quite far from being antisocial if you ask most people. And I lead quite a happy life without the drama of Facebook.

Credit is another touchy area and this one hits a bit closer to home. One of my neighbors has been unemployed for 2 years. Finally almost got hired last week– passed background checks, drug screening, and even had a start date. Then he was informed he failed a credit check. No job.

Credit is usually used as a measure of risk because someone with a lower score could be more desperate and could potentially steal from the company. While this is ok in some cases, it’s hard to not discriminiate. In the case of my neighbor, his credit was fine while previously employed, but being out of work takes its toll on not paying debts. That should be expected, especially in this economy, but should it be used as a factor in his eligibility? Probably not.

There are good job candidates all over that can’t get jobs because of how employers still find ways to discriminate against them. If we want to fix unemployment, here’s a good place to start. Help people that want to work be more likely to get jobs and get their lives back on track.

The US Postal Service is killing itself

I just stumbled across a Reuters article that said the US Postal Service was failing due to the internet. People sending emails instead of mailing cards and letters was what killed the postal service. There are a few problems with this argument.

Its been well documented that the the problems with the US Postal Service stem from the out of control pension system as well as the congressional mandate to provide service to every single household is what’s causing the problem. Also, the fact they USPS is trying to deliver packages is ridiculous.

If the US Postal Service thinks that a higher volume of mail would save them from disaster, they’d be crazy. Volume of mail (income) is going down, while costs are going up. Anybody with a business background would tell you that’s a recipe for disaster. Even if you marginally increase your income, you still need to reduce your costs.

My grandfather is a retired postal inspector. He retired in his 50’s… he’s nearing 90 years old now… retired for 30+ years. Last I heard his government pension was about $80,000/year. Yes, you heard me right, $80,000/year. Must be nice… but it sure as hell isn’t sustainable for the USPS to keep paying pensions like that.

This whole debacle reminds me of other industries failing to adapt. The RIAA and MPAA have fought tooth and nail to avoid the digital era… instead of adjusting their business model, they cling to the old and dig their hole deeper by attacking people. Remember when they fought VCRs? Now they’re delaying movie rentals longer in hopes of people giving up and buying the movie instead of waiting, therefore making them more money.

In the end, the US Postal Service using the argument that the internet is killing them is just ridiculous. The USPS has been around for a long time… in one way or another before it was officially run by the United States Government. I wonder if anybody ever argued that other forms of communication like phone lines would kill them? Before any electronic communication, letters were the only way to communicate across distance. Did the mail volume go down with the advent of a phone in every house? I bet it did. Its much easier to pick up the phone and call your friend.

Stop blaming the internet for your failing business model.

Victoria’s Secret Sleazy Credit Card Language

Recently my girlfriend got a notice regarding a change in terms to her Victoria’s Secret credit card agreement. Victoria’s Secret store cards are held by World Financial Network National Bank. In reading these terms, I found some oddly worded sentences, that made it seem almost as if they were trying to slide changes past their women card holders. It mainly pertained to finance charges. (Emphasis mine).

14. FINANCE CHARGES

D. The Daily Periodic Rate of FINANCE CHARGE applicable to your Account will be computed by adding 21.74% to the value of an “Index,” and dividing by 365 (The corresponding ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE will be the Index plus 21.74%). The Index in effect for each Billing Period shall be the highest “Prime Rate” of interest as published in the “Money Rates” section of The Wall Street Journal for the calendar month preceding the month in which the Billing Period begins, rounded upward, if necessary, to the nearest .001% (“Index”). The corresponding ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE will not decrease below 24.99% nor increase above 24.99%. An increase or decrease in the Annual Percentage Rate will result in a corresponding increase or decrease in the amount of Finance Charge.

Effective July 1, 2010. The 24.99% maximum Annual Percentage Rate will be removed from your account. This means that the Annual Percentage Rate on your account can increase above the 24.99%, upon an increase in the Prime Rate.

In plain English, the APR on your Victoria’s Secret card will be 24.99%. That is, until the rate cap is removed on July 1, 2010 and it can be further increased. Better pay off that card each month unless you like paying 24.99% interest on all those fancy bras and underwear.

Oh, and you better opt out of receiving monthly paper statements or they’ll charge you $1 for each of those you want to receive.

Retail Sales are Dead

Retail sales are dying. Lets face it. Personally, I haven’t shopped in a brick and mortar store that has sales associates in the past 5+ years. You want to know why? Because I can buy the same product online for cheaper and not be harassed (or even lied to) to buy other crap I don’t need.

Just this week, we found out that Office Depot employees have been lying to customers who don’t want to purchase extra products. If they don’t want an extended warranty or other accessories, which is where most stores make their money, the sales associates lie to the customer and tell them the product they want is then out of stock. If you do want to buy all that extra crap, you’re in luck, the lapotp you want is it stock.

BestBuy has been caught using similar tactics to upsell products to customers. Circuit City has gone out of business because they couldn’t upsell enough products. The cost of operating a retail store is expensive. The cost of paying employees to stand around around and sell products is expensive. The margins, on some products are narrow, because the accessories have a very high margin and that’s where the real money is.

Online stores don’t need to print ads. They don’t need to pay associates to stand around. They pay to keep the website functioning and for people to fulfill orders. On top of that, some even have mostly automated warehouses. They might send out emails with specials, but that costs next to nothing.

Brick and mortar stores with retail sales associates are a dying breed. Just like the RIAA and MPAA, they haven’t found a way to compete and stay profitable with the new players in the market. Its the same thing that’s happening with print media vs online media.

Why Newspapers Are Failing

Newspapers wonder why subscriptions are down. They wonder why they can’t make any money and why more and more are going bankrupt. They’re using a flawed business model. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones using that model.

My local newspaper subscription ended today. I only received the Sunday paper for the ads and coupons. The Sunday paper itself was always a bit on the thin side with ads and coupons varying at times, sometimes with hardly any. It only includes a few sections: Front Page / World News, Local, Sports, Money, Real Estate, Entertainment, Automotive, and Classifieds. Of those sections I only read a few and sometimes, only an article or two of those sections.

Recently I’ve been finding more of my news online. From independent sources that do not skew an article one way or another and give you all the facts instead of just the facts they want you to know. I don’t have money to buy a new house so I skip the real estate section, same goes for entertainment. If I want to see a show somewhere, I look up my options online. I do usually check the local section, but despite the fact they publish a local section for my county, I always get a local section for another county meaning the news in that section is never local.

I’ve also found that the time I invest in cutting coupons plus my annual subscription for the paper outweighs the savings I actually get from those coupons. Doesn’t make good fiscal sense does it?

Now to the failed model that is killing newspapers: when demand drops, they raise prices to make up for it. Couple that with the fact they haven’t figured out how to use the internet and you have a dead industry. When I received my paper today it included a letter from the Circulation Director noting a deal they were having to lock in 2008 rates if I pre-pay for 2009.

Because of the economy raising prices on raw materials and lack of demand for the paper in general, they need  to raise subscription rates from $1.50 to $2.00 for Sunday and from $0.50 to $0.75 for daily papers. This baffles me because the newsstand price of the Sunday edition was already $1.50. When I lived closer to Philadelphia, we got a newspaper in a larger market that had double the amount of news and ads for only $1.25 on Sunday… and that was the “out of area” price because we lived an hour outside of the city.

When I moved to the Harrisburg area, I never liked that the local paper cost me $1.50 on Sunday and was quite lacking. But now, because of lack of demand it will be $2.00. No Thanks! Maybe they should look for ways to provide better content for a cheaper price. If the Sunday edition was only $1.00 for what they offer now, I might be more inclined to keep my service.