Admitted…..To The Inner Spoke

You may recall a recent post or two about my latest hobby, riding my mountain bike with hybrid tires, wherein I have taken a tumble or two and waxed eloquent on the joys of exercise.

It is great exercise, and just the thing to clear the mind of various confusing academic concepts.

What you haven’t heard about is the 38 flat tires I’ve experienced over the last 3 months or so. My mentor, Pedicabman, took me under his wing after the first flat, and gave me the full monty on how to fix the boogers. Which was a relief, since I didn’t want to spend that $10 at the local bike shop every time I ran over a thorn. A spare tube, a neat little tire tool, a tire patch kit, and I was ready to strike out on my own. Total investment….under $10.

The bike shop guys were happy to sell me the gear, and seemed slightly warmer, as if thinking that maybe the old guy was really going to get into the bike thing.

Soon, I was dropping into the bike shop and asking other questions. How to fix a slipping chain, or how should I clean the gears, could you untwist the bead on this tire that I really screwed up, and, maybe, how much for a new set of tires? Soon I, or rather, the bike, was shod in new shoes that would give me more speed on the road while holding up to the stresses of the greenway (my favorite ride of all!). It was getting positively friendly in the ole bike shoppe.

But with the new tires came the aforementioned rash of flats. Bike lore, or shop talk, or superstition…whatever, informs that each tube in each tire can only be patched twice before it must be cast on the rubbish heap of history. After the 3rd or 4th visit (I’d lost track of the tube purchases by now), and subsequent series of flats, I took the unusual step of taking my entire rear wheel into the shop where I could show the boys my problem. What about these holes in the tires? The tubes must be getting shredded because of the holes. Do I need a new tire after just 3 months?

It was at this moment that I was admitted to the inner sanctum. My friend, the manager, took me aside and advised that what I really needed was a tire liner. You see, they make a thick liner that sits between the delicate tube and the exodermic tire…a penetration of the tire is caught by the liner, thus sparing the tube from the insult of penetration. A beautiful concept, for which I gladly forked over the $19.99.

In the warm afterglow of the exchange, I murmured to my friend that I appreciated his help. I admitted that it has been a long journey, learning to ride and care for my bike, but the pleasures of the experiences vastly outweigh the pains. Why, I wondered, didn’t more bike riders buy the liner? His laughing response was that most folks just want to drop off their bikes, with flats, and spend the $10 or so for his guys to do the work. I shared the laugh, and cast a knowing glance in his direction. I had been given a secret, something that I had to earn, but whose possession invited me into the inner spoke of bicycle knowledge.


The New AT&T is Getting Old

Please give a big welcome to our newest blogger, Harriett Nuff. Hattie, as she is known to friends and enemies alike, comes from a long line of curmudgeons. At her husband’s request, we are pleased to provide an outlet for Hattie’s howls of indignation, outbursts of temper, and the expression of her complete and total frustration with the human condition. It is her husband’s fervent wish that this outlet will preclude the further destruction of expensive high-definition television sets…

The New AT&T is Getting Old

by Hattie Nuff

They call themselves the new AT&T. But what they don’t tell you is that the acronym stands for Aggravating, Terrible & Tedious. Aggravating because of the trouble it takes to get service from them. Terrible because of the quality of service you finally do get, and tedious because of the way you are treated by their ridiculously repetitive customer-service representatives—certainly not the sort of behavior that I want ‘representing’ my global firm.

We could as easily reverse the acronym to mean Totally Taking Advantage because of how this corporate megalomaniac tricks (yes, tricks) you into extra fees. Whatever it says, and whatever it says that will cost, you can be sure there will be additional fees. Often fees for services you never (ever) request. An example: one fine day a shipment arrives from TT(&)A. It is a beautiful wireless USB plugin for my laptop. Wonderful. Except that I never ordered it. And terrible because they want $49.95 for it. I call, clarify that I never ordered it, and after about 45 minutes of pleading I am sent a return-postage label. Good. Except that one month later I get a letter asking where it is or why have I not paid for it. A new series of haggling phone calls follow with overly polite, extremely inflexible ‘representatives’. I get transferred three times before things are resolved. A morning wasted for something I never ordered. I end up with a terrible technology headache. You know what that is.

I could go on, but that’s not the point—even though there are thousands if not tens of thousands of similar stories about this… this company. The real point is that they don’t get it. They don’t realize (how can they possibly not realize by now?) that this is not the way to develop a loyal following of customers and get repeat, much less referral, business. They don’t realize that they’re making the situation worse. Not just because of how they train their customer representatives, but because of their sneaky tactics. And they claim to be in the communication business. Ha!

What to do? Here comes the real problem. There is little that we little people can do. But there is a solution. And that is why I am reluctantly but now firmly stepping forward as a ‘representative’ of all those people who like telephones, want to pay their bills on time, and despise being jerked around. I am going to speak for all of us in the hope that this message crests into a wave that eventually crashes onto the shore—the big beach party—where these guys (who are they anyway?) seem to be luxuriating at our expense. Doggone it. Enough is enough. There, I said it. And you should, too.

Hattie Nuff is a professional social critic and network technology watchdog who has published numerous books about corporate dominance in our personal lives. She is currently working on a new book entitled, OMFG: Here They Come Again.

Watch Cash Flow

I understand the fundamental meaning of cash flow. Being a middle-aged college student means, simply, that there ain’t no cash coming in, and there is a lot of cash flowing out. What I have not really understood until recently is the financial concept of cash flow. Not to worry, though; Dr. Evans is making damn sure every student in her class has a very clear understanding of the cash flow principles in our corporate finance textbook (you remember, the book I bought online and had shipped from India).

What a surprise then, after slogging through the text, working the examples, studying the powerpoint, and using the online study aids, that the final words of the introductory chapter on cash flow should be a poem. Not a literary milepost, for sure, but a tale to remind the budding business-people that the subject does carry some weight in their futures.

Quoth the Banker, "Watch Cash Flow"

Once upon a midnight dreary as I pondered weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of accounting lore,
Seeking gimmicks (without scruple) to squeeze through
Some new tax loophole,
Suddenly I heard a knock upon my door,
Only this, and nothing more.

Then I felt a queasy tingling and I heard the cash a-jingling
As a fearsome banker entered whom I’d often seen before.
His face was money-green and in his eyes there could be seen
Dollar-signs that seemed to glitter as he reckoned up the score.
“Cash flow,” the banker said, and nothing more.

I had always thought it fine to show a jet black bottom line.
But the banker sounded a resounding, “No.
Your receivables are high, mounting upward toward the sky;
Write-offs loom.  What matters is cash flow.”
He repeated, “Watch cash flow.”

Then I tried to tell the story of our lovely inventory
Which, though large, is full of most delightful stuff.
But the banker saw its growth, and with a might oath
He waved his arms and shouted, “Stop!  Enough!
Pay the interest, and don’t give me any guff!”

Next I looked for noncash items which could add ad infinitum
To replace the ever-outward flow of cash,
But to keep my statement black I’d held depreciation back,
And my banker said that I’d done something rash.
He quivered, and his teeth began to gnash.

When I asked him for a loan, he responded, with a groan,
That the interest rate would be just prime plus eight,
And to guarantee my purity he’d insist on some security—
All my assets plus the scalp upon my pate.
Only this, a standard rate.

Though my bottom line is black, I am flat upon my back,
My cash flows out and customers pay slow.
The growth of my receivables is almost unbelievable:
The result is certain—unremitting woe!
And I hear the banker utter an ominous low mutter,
“Watch cash flow.”
Herbert S. Bailey, Jr.

Come on, admit it. It’s kinda cute.