Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can you fill in--we have people out

Joe Walker, WSJ, Aug 30, 2010, says lean and mean can get really mean when people are asked to do double duty to cover for people on vacay.

One the good side (I guess), one guy said, “Every person matters.”

This hit one company who didn’t have enough notice of two people going on a trip to get some temps. The wife of the owner had to operate a precision wood-cutting tool. Apparently this did not result in anything untoward, but it sounds like it could have been iffy to me.

In another part of the company, a guy in charge of keeping all the assembly lines running had to assemble some tool sheds and reassign workers and he forget a truck was waiting outside to be unloaded.


Panic mode is how the owner described it.

At another company, caterers, the office staff had to pack up food.

Overtime, one said, is wonderful, if it voluntary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Buying a rented home

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, says often these days those who do venture out to buy a house find it’s occupied by renters.

Upside: The seller wants out of this situation and will deal.

Downside: The renters may be a problem or others may consider a rented home…er…low-rent..

With people needing to move, yet wanting to see if their home values will come back, many homeowners rent while they hang onto the house.

But the landlord thing gets old.

If you know the house is rented, go when the renters aren’t there. Many renters aren’t too happy about the house being sold. They may make disparaging comments or try to throw off the sale.

Get a detailed home inspection—the renters may have messed things up.

Renters may not report a problem until it’s severe—for instance the dishwasher may have leaked a little, but was not reported—then the whole floor was rotted.

Renters also have rights, remember. Living in there until the lease is up is one of those. Discuss this in detail with your realtor.

Buying a place that has been rented may carry a stigma—forget that and see if it’s a smokin’ bargain.

A friend once bought a rented house with a closet full of chicken bones. Don’t even ask.

Friday, August 27, 2010

White collars take a second job

When I hear the term “moonlighting,” it makes me think of moonshining. Very different.

Anyhow, Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Aug 18, 2010, talks about a guy who got hit with a one-day furlough and now works 7 days a week.

The three days about make up for the one day without pay. He’s a graphic designer.

CareerBuilder surveyed 4,500 white collar employees and 9% had second jobs. Another 19% intended to get another job in 2010.

This can lead to clashes with employers and exhausted workers. Vacations are a memory.

On the upside there are more white collar job websites. Peopleperhour.com is one. Also, don’t forget snagajob.com.

Such employees also have to avoid conflict of interest problems with their main employer.

Oh—and this is not temporary. Most of these two-jobbers see this as the new normal.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two households, one sitter

Before I had my kid eons ago, a friend and I used to joke about having maids and nurses. I think she maybe had a baby nurse for awhile, but I assumed all the roles myself.

Kristyn Kusek Lewis, September 2010 REDBOOK, says why not share a nanny in these um…turbulent times?

The writer had some arts jobs with lots of leeway, could work at home one day, and so on, but still needed coverage three days a week.

Finally she talked with a friend about consolidating the kids and hiring one sitter. (Don’t worry—consolidating does not harm kids.)

First the two moms set up a Google calendar to track schedules. They email and check in several times a week. If the nanny is sick or something changes, they cope.

One day was so nutty, the nanny was not there—the four parents appeared in shifts. The kids apparently did not care and had a fine time.

That’s another advantage—the kids have someone to play with. Someone short who is not trying to work.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get the best deal you can

I think there is a temptation in this economy to focus strictly on what a buyer’s market the job market is, how you are a beggar asking for work or alms, how you have to take whatever comes your way, forget your own self interest.

Things have changed and new “normals” are being established, but employers still need and value certain skills and will pay for them. Look at all those special visa people being imported from India—why can’t Americans learn whatever it is they do?

Russ Wiles, Arizona Republic, Aug 24, 2010, says you can be assertive in the hiring situation if you have the facts.

Women tend to negotiate less than men.

Go to salary.com and see what salaries are in your area. You can check out an offer and see what you will take home at paycheckcity.com.

If they are negotiating, they want you. This gives you an advantage.

Don’t annoy people. Don’t puff up earnings in past jobs. But have a minimum.

If the pay is set, see if you can move them on benefits. Vacation time, tuition, certain health packages, company cars, travel, overtime and other things can be discussed.

How about asking for an early performance review—with a raise possibility?

If you never get even one “no,” you didn’t push hard enough.

But never get into the intimidation area. Well, yeah, when they yell out, “Security,” this is not a good sign.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Will your employees still heart you?

Cyndy Trivella is director of business development in Kansas City for NAS Recruitment Communications. She is all about human resources and company reputations.

In an article she wrote for Ere.net (interesting site), she asks, what about exit interviews? Do you do them? If you do, do you do anything with the information? Cyndy says a lot of questions, such as what could we have done better, should be asked while the person is still employed.

Companies also should not just ignore people who have put in their resignation. “This,” Cyndy says, “is like placing the coins on (their) eyes before (they have) performed (their) last job duties.” It’s rude, stupid, and long remembered. (If there is a new project involving proprietary info, maybe the person would not be included—but be cool about it.)

Poorly done exit interviews hurt your “employment brand.” The employment brand is the epitome of your organization’s humanity, Cyndy says.

Remember—that employee will still have friends in the organization and can still say things about his or her former company.

Yes, you may have spent a lot training the person, yes, you may feel they are not returning that loyalty—but employment at will means either side can act in its own self-interest. Companies lay people off if they want to or need to.

Employees can leave, too. Make sure they do it with a smack, not a smackdown.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Diggin' it Sonoran style

Anne Marie Chaker, WSJ, Aug 18, 2010, writes about dry yards.

We have those in AZ. I think they look like rubble.

Still, people come out to the desert, crave green, put in lawns, then you have the Battle of the Weedeater (and allergies).

Green stuff likes water, too. Water costs. Mexican landscapers cost. Weedeaters, damn their hearts, cost.

We call dry gardening xeriscaping—to me because it has zero charm. I know, I know—I am a crab. Hey, you kids, get off my rubble!

I am not proud of this, exactly, but it is a fact: I have killed 100 species in my yard since moving to AZ 15 yrs ago.

I finally found some bamboo-like stuff that wants to live—called arunda donax. I put an ad in the Pennysaver a decade ago and offered to dig up bamboo people didn’t want. I got to the woman’s house and she had a stand of what turned out to be arunda 50 feet high behind her barn. She seemed disappointed that I didn’t take it all—just a few small plants.

She also had a little burro who kept presenting his hard little nose for us to pet as we tried to dig this stuff out.

Anyhow, I now have screens of arunda. Giant grass, originally from Tibet. They make clarinet reeds out of it. The roots are supposedly psychedelic, which I have not shared with the young folk hereabouts.

Oh—and it’s drought-tolerant. I did get in trouble with the homeowner’s insurance, which said my yard was a jungle. Yes—nice, isn’t it?

That picture? Is it my yard? You’re so funny.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Job hunters getting new set of sites

Dot Jobs is the ending. A new domain. Disney.jobs already exists. Ditto for Whirlpool.jobs.

According to the WSJ, in a story by Sarah E. Needleman (Aug 19, 2010), the kicker will be more general sites, such as Virginia.jobs and hospitality.jobs.

For one thing, small job sites such as diversityjobs.com fear someone coming in as diversity.jobs and sucking away their clientele.

As it is, employers have been going to cheaper sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and the gang.

The Dot-jobs sites are not first come, first served, but vetted by the Society for Human Resource Management, which means they could refuse the competitors to existing sites.

Or not.

It’s a big bad internet out there.

There are so many jobsites now, I can’t keep up. In my field—journalist—the per-story rates offered are so bad only a person cleaning nuclear sites with a Dust Buster would be attracted. Try a hundredth of the rates of five years ago.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The "unbanked" walk among us

Now meet the “unbanked.” At least, the Wall Street Journal is just meeting them.

Out here in Arizona, many people are in the cash or shadow economy. They don't have their own bank accounts. They use check cashing services, money orders for bills, that sort of thing. If they get a check, they also can take it to the issuing bank and cash it.

Nationwide, this is 17 million people, hardly a handful.

States are now trying to persuade people to come to banking, according to Sudeep Reddy, writing in the WSJ, Aug 18, 2010.

Problem is, people have been burned—their tax refunds go in their accounts and are sucked out by overdraft fees and other costs lying in wait.

Why the heck does a bank incur a $35 cost when you overdraw? Is it paperwork? What? Just because they can? $35 is a lot of money these days.

With bank savings account paying 1%, what is the incentive to use a bank to save? (Internet banks like ING pay slightly more.)

The FDIC is starting a pilot program to encourage $1 minimum balance accounts and rein in fees. Pilot only. The banks freak out if someone says this could go nationwide.

Let’s see if this works. But what do I mean by, “works”? More customers for banks-like they have been so great to all of us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Don't carry on and ruin your house sale

Sid Davis wrote “A Survival Guide to Selling Your Home.” He was quoted in a story by Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, recently.

The topic was forced home sales and how angry, bitter sellers can muck them up.

One woman, forced to sell because of divorce and then cancer, got furious when prospects criticized her home.

David recommends finding a listing agent who can deal with the emotions involved. Contact two or three agents before deciding on one.

Try to find objective information on pricing—don’t endlessly kick it around with friends.

Get good comps—not automated ones.

Listen to your listing agent’s ideas for changes and upgrades to make your home worth more. These are not insults—the agents wants to max out, too.

Try to make as many changes as you can.

People these days want turn-key—they don’t have money for big changes.

Don’t, above all, reject low bids without countering.

This isn’t personal. It’s business. And it’s a huge business transaction. Do your best to prevail.

It will help ease the rage, fear, and frustration.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If you "merge," what about all the houses?

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, wrote recently about how to smash two households together when you marry, especially later in life.

People remarry--or in this economy, must move in with a relative or friend.

Sell one house or the other—or both and get a new one? (Who can even sell in these upsidedown days?)

The biggest thing here is the emotional factor. Is one moving into the other’s territory? What about memories?

The advice is to discuss thoroughly. Often, people who marry later in life. much less people crushed by the economy, have been on their own, making their own decisions. Discussing may not come easily.

In every couple, said one expert, there seems to be one money-oriented person and one non-money-oriented person.

If there is a deadlock, you can consult a financial advisor.

Be open to changing neighborhoods if you decide to move. The schools are probably not an issue. Maybe you are sick of the burbs and want a downtown life. Write out your idea day, month, year—see how each compares.

You may need more money in retirement, not less. Factor that in.

I would say—get rid of one blender. See how that goes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The pay may be low, but you are not

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says many people are taking jobs, shall we say, out of their field, these days.

One woman, with a degree in early childhood ed, ran and hid when some colleagues came into the movie theatre where she was working.

Almost everyone getting laid off is ratcheting downward when they do find work. Even that woman’s movie theatre job disappeared.

Don’t think of it as stepping down the career ladder—think of it as hopping off altogether.

When you go to an interview for something better, just say you did what you had to—and you will do what you have to help their company and make it a success, too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chillin' at the zoo

Phoenix is hot. You may have read that. Today in the Arizona Republic (Aug 12, 2010), they had a story on how even African animals think it’s darn toasty.

It reminded me of the halcyon days when I could sneak into the National Zoo in DC a block from my apt and walk and talk to the animals before the zoo opened. Some days, I would see no human at all. The panda was snooty—he would sit at his tree stump set with his breakfast of bamboo and oranges with his back to me and never turn around.

A rhea bird (ostrich-like) named Bubba fell in love with me and would come to the fence and pant. Good times.

Any-WAY, in this story by Connie Midey the animals turned out to be darn smart. If offered rags or burlap, the orangutans would soak it in water and put it on their heads. They used big palm leaves as hats.

The keepers had ponds, misters, hoses, moats and evap coolers, of course, but the animals also liked cooling rocks—slabs with cold water running through them. They liked to swim in kiddie pools. They drink Crystal Light. They make mud and dive in.

The otters liked fish in ice chunks. The elephants relished five-pound juice icicles suspended from the trees. I remember in DC they liked to crack watermelons, too.

On the worst days, even the cheetahs would go in the moat. All they need is a mai tai, one keeper said, and it’s like Scottsdale.

I believe those are "cougars" in S’dale, but that’s a whole other post.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cheap rescue

Water Displacement, 40th Attempt—our friend WD-40—is mostly fish oil.

It removes wet paint, leaving dry paint underneath intact.

Other uses are legion. Removes tar from the car chassis. Makes floors looked waxed without being slippery.

Lipstick stains cannot survive.

Removes tomato stains.

Lubes all noisy parts. Some say even arthritic parts, like knees.

Makes windows easier to open. Same for sliding doors. Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging.

Keeps pigeons off your balcony (the smell).

Attracts fish. Spray it on your lures.

Got a fire ant bite? You know what to do.

Gets crayon stains off walls.

The best one? Gets those stupid price stickers off!

I read this list to my kid and she said, “We’re out. We need another can.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Forget raises--you could get a cut

Steven Greenhouse, NYT, Aug 3, 2010, says companies and govt agencies are asking people to work more for the same money or even cutting pay.

Pay cuts are occurring most in state and local govts. Furloughs mean docking pay for time off. Now, they are forgetting the time off and just docking.

Univ of Hawaii professors took a 6.7% cut. Albuquerque has cut pay by 1.8% on average.

This happened in the 1980s, but was mostly union workers—whom many people said were earning more anyway.

Factory owners sometimes threaten to go to cheaper locales if workers won’t take the cuts. Sub-Zero, the ritzy fridge makers, said take a 20% cut or we will lay off 500 people in Wisconsin.

Seattle Symphony players took a 5% cut.

Law firms are cutting associate salaries.

Most employees eat these cuts in order to have a job—probably a wise call.

Still sometimes union workers strike over this. At Mott’s apple juice, 300 union workers have been on strike since May 23 over a cut in wages and 401(k) contributions.

The workers say Mott’s is rolling in money and this isn’t fair. Think of that the next time you grab a Snapple.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lawyer or liquor magnate...her choice

We talked about a career change from cop to flight attendant (below), now here’s one from lawyer to CEO of Dirty Blonde Cocktails.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Kristen Raskopf, 44, had already taken fewer hours after her second kid, writes Alison Stanton.

She said she always liked sales and marketing (and presumably champagne cocktails).

Distribution has been her biggest challenge. Alcohol is stringently regulated.

She learned as a lawyer, however, how to ask the right questions.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Don't be the local doormat

Jeffrey Zaslow, WSJ, Aug 4, 2010, says if you work at home, are sending out resumes, telecommute, or whatever reason you are home, the neighbors will tend to use you.

Or try to.

PTAs, church groups, other housewives or househusbands, teachers—everyone thinks you have time because you are not in an office.

Could you pick up both kids tomorrow? Let in an installer or repairman? Bake the cupcakes. You know the drill.

Some shut-ins (as I ironically call us) are fighting back. Mommylogic.com and babycenter.com have had their threads about shut-ins who are fed up.

If someone puts them as an emergency contact at school, they may get a sick kid. But going to the store for people? Helping them move?

One woman said she felt like saying she could do it, but could they thrown down $20 for it?

Some people say OK to these requests just to get out of looking for work. They should keep looking.

Advice? Don’t say yes right away—say you’ll think about it. If you can’t or don’t want to, say no, don’t go into excuses or reasons.

Let people know your hours. Have hours.

Ask them to reciprocate.

And—if you need a favor from someone at home—be sure to reciprocate and be clear that you value the friendship too much to let a request ruin it.

I have worked at home 29 years. I still get a blank look from family members when I remark, “Today’s a work day.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fire fighter to flight attendant

Talk about a career change. Scott McCarthy (WSJ, August 5, 2010) says JetBlue is hiring retired cops and fire fighters.

They tout their emergency response capabilities.

“You want people who don’t get too high or too low” is how one exec put it.

At least they could handle terrorists—but what about babies and people who lop over the seat?

The retirees like the schedule and trip discounts. They also use their training to size up people.

Fire fighters and cops can also deliver babies.

One calls himself a “security chaperone.”

Even picking up trash and serving meals didn’t faze these attendants. Fire fighters make and clean up their own meals, after all.

In a larger sense, what qualities of a past job qualify you for a new one? Think! Always think for a prospective employer. They love that.

Coffee, tea, or lots and lots of water?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interviewers need to watch it

Anita Bruzzese writes about this on CareerBuilder. Yes, it’s an employer’s market at the moment, but job hunters don’t forget crappy interviews. Moments don’t last forever, remember (though this one feels like it).

Also, we have the internet now—burn an applicant or act like a dope, and in an hour, it will be twittering around your ears like an old cartoon.

That job candidate—also could be a customer. Make that ex-customer.

And—human nature—the negative stuff sticks with a person.

Some examples from Bruzzese’s story: An interior designer was introduced to others in the office as “the girls.” They were all over 25. She didn’t love it.

Then, during the interview, a design call came into the interviewer and she flipped over the applicant’s resume and made notes on it. Oh—would that be scratch paper?

A guy applied for a telephone job in a sports company dressed in pressed jeans, shirt and sports jacket—and was told to leave because he was inappropriately dressed.

Come on, guy—tell them your tux was at the cleaners…

Aw…I know it’s not funny. People just seem to want to be dopey these days.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stupid credit card tricks

Got to give the CC companies their due (heh)—they are quick. Seems like yesterday, they got the hammer brought down and ALREADY they have found new ways to do us in.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg writes about this in the WSJ on August 1, 2010.

We don’t even have the Bureau of Financial Protection Do-Dah-Day or whatever, and and the big card issuers are already…

Sending us letters upping cash advance and balance transfer fees by 33%.

Slapping on annual assessments.

Getting all crafty with variable rates, whatever those are.

Accepting payments on weekends so the last day before a fine can be a non-postal day.

Cheating on the 21 days the law says must pass between mailing and payment due. Us? Really?

Creating fake non-activity fees (you don’t pay if you use it a certain amount—meaning activity).

Offering low limit, prepaid cards, then when you send in the $300 or whatever, taking $170 or more in fees upfront.

Adding on foreign currency fees if anyone involved is not in the U.S.

What's in YOUR pocket? Probably lint.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When to get the best deal

USA Today Weekend (July 30, 2010) says there are good and bad times to buy certain items.

Cars. August and September are best. New models coming.

Gas grills. September through December.

Lawn mowers. October.

Camcorders. November. Also best time for GPS and bicycles.

Appliances. December through January. After-holiday prices.

Exercise equipment. January—they are trying for the post-Christmas fat crowd.

Indoor furniture. February.

Televisions, Blu-Ray, etc. March.

Computers—end of each quarter, April, June, October, January.

Athletic shoes and clothes. April.

Outdoor furniture. July. Summer’s over in retail terms, get rid of it!

If you have money, lucky you. Hold on to as much of it as you can. For dear life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Great, now we have to be cops

First, I read in the AARP Bulletin that if someone gives you counterfeit money, you are pretty much up the brown waterway.

Some guy cashed a money order and got 10 hundred-dollar bills. At a gas station, an alert attendant said, ‘Uh…sir…”

The Secret Service says it’s kind of holders keepers—the last person who has the money when it’s discovered is eating it.

You could learn how to spot a phony… go to www.secretservice.gov/know_your_money.shtml.

I also read that the banks have noticed that the cyberthieves have outmatched them and urge you to go on your account everyday and check for problems. Also change your password a lot.

To get a weird password, try a sentence. For example, BANK ROBBERS SUCK 10 TIMES OVER. That becomes BRS10TO.

Is that easier to remember or harder? Naptime!