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Last week-end I pulled weeds. Not just any weeds. Let me put it this way. If there was a dandelion category at the state fair – these dandelions would take the blue ribbon. I mean to say, these babies had roots as big as carrots. I filled five Hefty bags with weeds.

They were in full bloom. Some with bright yellow blooms and some had gone to those wonderful pillowy mini parachutes that you blew on as a kid. And I’m out there thinking why do we hate these beautiful flowers so much? Clearly they will withstand a nuclear attack, can grow in concrete and as the old Timex commercials touted, “It takes a licking, but keeps on ticking..” Case in point. Mow a dandelion – two hours later, it’s back!

So why do we scorn them? Because someone along the way decided they were evil.

Definition of a weed: A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.

But what if your house is a rental house and we inherited the weeds? I don’t have a garden, don’t plan to start one. They were here first. Shouldn’t we be thankful for their bounty and color?

No. Because our neighbors will scorn them and us. We are, after all, the rental house on the block. Sure, they could possibly expect it from us – to look more ghetto – but peer pressure made me go out there and kill them. One by one. I don’t want anyone to think I’m not a good neighbor.

You unwanted, undesirable yellow flowers – society has decided you must die. You are bad – and those petunias, marigolds and dusty millers I bought at Home Depot (for almost 30 bucks) that will maybe last three months are good. So kill the free hearty stuff with medicinal qualities, and replace it with seasonal weaker stuff.

Isn’t it time, in a recession, to reassess what’s good and bad? I say we let the dandelions flourish. You can eat them! We change our attitude towards weeds. We redefine weed – to only mean desirable growing plants that flourish in bad weather and economies.

At first glance they are quite beautiful. Their coat of feathers an iridescent purple, that shimmers in the sunlight. They eyes a piercing gold against their black shiny head. I grabbed my Birds of New York Field Guide to properly identify him. 
Common Grackle

Size 11 – 13 inches

Male: Large black bird with iridescent blue black head, purple brown body, long black tail, long thin bill and bright golden eye.

Female: similar to male, only duller and smaller (always true in birds – God’s little joke?)

Juvenile: similar to female

Notes: Usually nests in small colonies of up to 75 pairs (WHAT? that’s SMALL?), but travels with other blackbirds in large flocks. Unlike most birds, it has larger muscles for opening the mouth (rather than closing it).

Okay, it’s true. I’m a backyard birder (geek). 

I spent $100 on a feeder that is truly squirrel proof. When my Northern Cardinals, Dark-Eyed Juncos, White Breasted Nuthatches, and Chipping Sparrows land, they can eat freely. The squirrel weighs enough to pull the seed doors shut. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. But don’t feel sorry for my squirrels. I have the Squirrel Bungee to keep them fed and entertained. And for my Red Bellied Woodpecker, a suet feeder. 

After my beloved Mavis passed on (the best dog in the world) I realized I could not go through the pain of losing another pet. So I became a backyard birder. It’s cheaper, less stressful, and you never have to hire a sitter. They make me very happy and are a welcome distraction to work (my feeders are perfectly centered outside my office window).

But yesterday things grew dark. I mean Alfred Hitchcock dark. As a pack of Grackles descended on my Disney display. They scared away my American Goldfinch. The greedy bastards surrounded the place, and one made his way to the feeder. But here’s where it gets interesting – when a second landed on the feeder, they weighed as much as a squirrel. Shut out! One by one they pushed each other off hoping to get the bounty of seed. The more greedy they got, the less they ended up getting.

slide001Hmmmmmm……sounds like Wall Street.

img_02221I’m in a very dysfunctional relationship right now – with Saturn.

Today I got my email survey from Saturn. I’ve been waiting for it. As some of you may know, I was a crazy loyal Saturn owner. I’ve owned 5 Saturns over a 15 year period. I included my Saturn story in my first book. I have the mug, bumper sticker, key chain, license plate holder (I heart my Saturn).

But lately, they have disappointed me. Big time.

I blogged about the faux pas of the XM radio and their second survey trying to get a high rating from me. I also threatened to leave them. But I can’t. I’m still trying.

I found out last week that the Smithtown Saturn no longer washes my car when I get service and forgot to torque my oil filter down (or so the wonderful people at Springfield, Mass Saturn told me) so my brand new VUE breaks down on a road trip. Oh yes….it’s bad.

But I’m rooting for Saturn. I know GM has to cut costs to placate the government and Saturn is on the block. Only the dealers can save this brand and I sincerely hope they do. BUT, they have to remember what made us so loyal. It’s not the car, it’s the experience buying and servicing the car. It’s yours to lose dealers.

According to Fred Reichheld, author of the Ultimate Question, loyal customers will do three things:

1. Buy more from you (check – bought five).
2. Market for you (check – included you in my book).
3. Tell you how to improve your business – I’m ready.

Page one of the online survey – language selection. okay. English.

First Question: How satisfied are you that your vehicle was fixed right on this service visit? Completely? Very? Satisfied? Somewhat? Not at all?

WHAT? You forgot to torque down my oil filter and all the oil slowly drained from my car causing my engine to sound like a jack hammer was under the hood as I pulled into a client’s driveway 180 miles from home!!!!!

15 questions later, similar in their delivery.

“How would you rate the lighting in the waiting room?”
Not too bright. Just bright enough. Satisfactorily bright. Not bright enough.

They NEVER gave me an opportunity to tell them what happened and why I can’t give them the highest rating that they are used to.

This is why I love the ultimate question:

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Saturn to a friend, family member or colleague?

And then the golden question: WHY did you answer the way you did?

Two questions. No bullshit.

If they had only asked me those two questions, they would KNOW why my loyalty is waning and they could respond to me and close the loop – solidifying my continued love which they so desperately need in order to stay alive!!

And here’s what Saturn needs to know. I would probably give them an 8. A passive score. Because I felt that we had a relationship. I have time invested in this relationship and I want to continue, but ONLY if they care enough to listen to me!



Punxsutawney Phil not only saw his shadow (which means six more weeks of winter) but he bit the Mayor.

Conclusion: 2009 is going to bite!

That’s the new angle that CUNA is taking in trying to justify credit unions bellying up to the TARP trough.

The press release is the trifecta of bad, in my opinion. It combines the credit union brand with tainted TARP AND Timothy Geithner (newly appointed US Treasury Secretary who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he didn’t pay his taxes because the one page form was confusing).

I’m in California right now and I know there are a lot of credit unions that are having to make tough decisions. Some may not even survive this recession. But they are the minority. We have such a tremendous opportunity to renew our values to the seven principles – one of them is NOT government bail-out, in fact, #4 is “autonomy & independence” and #6 is “cooperation among cooperatives is vital.” Why are we not doing this CUNA?

If being treated as “second class” means we remain a financial cooperative owned and operated by our members with a 100 year history of NOT costing taxpayers money, I for one will proudly wear that label. Who’s with me? Raise your hands.

Dear United Airlines,

dataThanks for yesterday. I really appreciate it. Sure, we had to move 188 passengers from a completely loaded plane in Chicago (Gate B18) to a fresh new (not broken) plane at Gate B8. But I still made my connection in Denver. Thank you for giving me my luggage back in Albuquerque. Sure, it was unzipped and my panty bag was sticking out – but I know that’s not YOUR fault. You were actually “early” to ABQ, sadly the gate crew wasn’t ready for us, so we DID have to sit on the tarmac until it was time, but darnit you tried.

We celebrated our 111,670th mile-in-the-sky for 2008 last night. That’s me boarding 113 United airplanes in just under 12 months. Or, on average, 9.41 times each month I stood in line, your “preferred” line, to check my luggage, go through security and board your planes.

I stayed with you after 9-11. I endured your pilot’s strike – twice. I try to be compassionate in the winter months and understand your decision to place your hubs in Chicago and Denver. I’m even okay with you not serving pretzels anymore.

Today I heard some disturbing news. A dear friend of mine told me that she can “buy” my status from you for a mere $25.00 per trip. This can’t be true I told her. That’s why I’m so loyal to United. Because they recognize my undying devotion by giving me that one extra little perk – not having to wait as long as casual travelers as I commute to work (yesterday my commute home was a total of 9 1/2 hours).

Nope, she said, now ANYONE can buy that convenience. Oh, but United wanted to make sure that 1K flyers know they can still get that for FREE! But, United….um, I HAVE paid for it. On average my business spends $30,000.00 in airline travel. To YOU!!! And now it’s going to cost ME more, by giving up a little chunk of my soul on each flight.

Rookie travelers will be vying for my overhead bin space, slowing me down in the TSA line with their bottled water and cans of hairspray, and refusing to queue up to a machine because they never travel and want to talk to a live person (of which there are only two working per major airport) thereby clogging the flow of frequent flyers.

I know you need the money. Times are tight and all that. But if we’re going to go there – and by “there” I mean straight to bad profit hell – then I might as well fly an airline that is cheaper, friendlier, has the best on-time record AND peanuts.

Good bye United.
Hello Southwest!

GUEST BLOGGER: Mark Sadowski, author of It’s Accrual World!

This has been a trying week for bankers. Yipeeee! We’re credit unions!
We don’t HAVE shareholders. We don’t have a plummeting stock price! We have the NCUSIF backing our member’s deposits, not the FDIC which is almost out of money!!

Segue: I took Denise to see Spamalot on Broadway earlier this month. We’re big Monty Python fans. It’s based on Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

This week, we came up with our own script, over wine – with apologies to the Flying Circus:

A cart passes through the muddy road that is Wall Street.
A dismissed CEO cries. Stockholders wrestle in the mud. A woman beats Jimmy Cayne.


Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!

As each stockholder comes forward with his or her dead bank, they throw them on the cart. The Cart-Master holds his hand out and they pay.

A man comes with a dead-looking bank in a dirty nightshirt slung over his shoulder…starts to put him on the cart…

Man: Here’s one.
Cart-Master. Ninepence.
Old Bank (WaMu): But I’m NOT DEAD!
Cart-Master: (surprised) WHAT?
Old Bank (WaMU): I’m not dead!
Man: Yes he is.
Cart-Master: ‘Ere! ‘E says he’s not!
Man: Well…..he will be soon…..

And then…there’s my attempt at a video….enjoy!!!

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June 2023