Archive for the ‘Trust’ Category

Service of Due Diligence

Monday, December 13th, 2021


Image by aerngaoey from Pixabay 

It pays to ask questions or do a modicum of research which some marketers have learned the hard way. According to businessinsider.com, in the 1990s Yardley hadn’t asked actor Helena Bonham Carter about her makeup routine before they announced their relationship with her. After she publicly admitted she didn’t wear makeup and couldn’t fathom why they chose her, they cut their association that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.


Image by Hannah Wesolowski from Pixabay 

In 1989 PepsiCo staff needed only look at Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” music video to determine that it didn’t reflect the image they sought. Yet they paid her $5million to appear in benign commercials which included the then new song. “While the ad itself was PG,” reported Laura Stampler, “Madonna’s music video for the song in which she witnesses a rape and gyrates around a burning cross incited an explosion of controversy.” Would checking that have been so hard to do?

And what about recently? In the “Sex and the City” reboot, “And Just Like That…” on HBO Max that premiered last week, a main character, Mr. Big, dies after a 45 minute Peloton class on a Peloton stationary bike–a super product placement gone south. The company didn’t pay for the placement but knew their equipment was being used, reported Joseph Pisani and Megan Graham in The Wall Street Journal. It also approved a Peloton instructor, Jess King, appear in the segment.

Did anyone at Peloton ask enough questions or demand answers before playing ball? “While Peloton coordinated with HBO on the placement of one of its bikes, HBO didn’t disclose the plot in advance because of ‘confidentiality reasons,’ Peloton said.” Lesson learned to leave nothing to trust in future?

Peloton spokespeople put a good face on it. “’Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle—including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks—and was at serious risk,’ said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist on Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, in a statement from the company.” The reporters ended the article: “Peloton said there is some good news: ‘Riding his Peloton bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event,’ Dr. Steinbaum said.”

It’s not only in business we need to ask questions and insist on answers. The husband of a friend swallowed pills that killed him. He didn’t check the product insert and counted on his doctor to remember his health history that contraindicated the drug.

Are you good at asking questions? Do you know of other examples in which a well known company missed the boat due to lack of research? Are there any elements in our lives that we can leave to trust?


Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Service of Unmasking the Honor System: Do I Trust My Fellow Citizens?

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Image by Spencer Davis from Pixabay

The business of removing face masks indoors in public, permitted in most states if you’ve had both vaccines, got me to thinking about the honor system. Do I trust my fellow New Yorkers to cover up if they’ve chosen to pass? Can they be trusted to be true-blue and wear a mask until they change their minds? It’s small comfort to hear, “don’t worry about getting sick if you’ve had both vaccines–you won’t be hospitalized and you won’t die, most likely.”

In a New York Times opinion piece “Just How Dishonest are Most Students,” Wake Forest professor Christian B. Miller claimed that honor codes are “surprisingly effective” in curbing cheating. “But many schools and programs, from elementary to graduate level, take their honor codes seriously. And for good reason. Empirical research has repeatedly found that schools that are committed to honor codes have significantly reduced cheating rates compared with schools that are not.”

The operative words are “significantly reduced.” Is that enough where health is concerned?

Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

Professor Miller wrote: “Donald McCabe at Rutgers Business School and Linda Treviño at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State found a 23 percent rate of helping someone with answers on a test at colleges without an honor code, versus only 11 percent at schools with an honor code. They reported impressive differences as well for plagiarism (20 percent versus 10 percent), unauthorized crib notes (17 percent versus 11 percent) and unpermitted collaboration (49 percent versus 27 percent), among other forms of cheating.”

Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research,” the study to which Professor Miller refers, begins “This article reviews 1 decade of research on cheating in academic institutions. This research demonstrates that cheating is prevalent and that some forms of cheating have increased dramatically in the last 30 years.” The article was published in January, 2010.

There is no honor code for society at large. The percentages of cheaters in the study above for 2000 to 2010–49, 23, 20 and 17–if anywhere near what happens with the public in general, give me goosebumps. This is a city with $215 million worth of fare-jumpers [in 2018] according to Jay Willis in an article in gq.com, not that sneaking in bus or subway for free means that you’ll take off your mask when you shouldn’t.

Do you think that vaccinations for any killer virus should be required for entrance in public venues? Vaccines are already required in some instances. According to the New York Department of Health, “Children attending day care and pre-K through 12thgrade in New York State must receive all required doses of vaccines on the recommended schedule in order to attend or remain in school. This is true unless they have a valid medical exemption to immunization. This includes all public, private, and religious schools.”

Do people brought up in schools with honor codes remain honorable or do they need honor code booster shots after graduation? Will you trust that the man or woman near you at a store, a wedding, in a theater or religious institution has been vaccinated because they aren’t wearing a mask? Do you plan on wearing one indoors at least until 70 percent of the population in your city or state are vaccinated?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Service of Trust and Risks

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Photo: foodsafetynews.com

We each have different tolerances of trust as well as for risk. The death of uber Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff reminds us of the potential hazards of the financial investment kind.

Photo: amazon.com

We continue to eat fresh food in spite of reports of E. coli. Romaine lettuce, a favorite of mine, was on the carpet at one point. On March 10 the Center for Disease Control reported that 22 people in seven states were sickened by this bacteria but they couldn’t identify the causes. The FDA even looks out for pets. As of April 12 Meow Mix has been recalled for potential salmonella contamination.

I’m not known as a risk taker, but I fought to get a vaccine appointment even though vaccines for Covid-19 hadn’t yet been approved by the FDA–nor have they yet. I’m not alone. Our World Data reports that 95 million have been vaccinated in the U.S.–76.7 million fully vaccinated, or 23.4 percent of the population.

Anti-vaxxers must rejoice at the pause that federal health officials have put on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine until researchers can determine the cause of rare and severe blood clots in six women aged 18 to 48–one died–of the 6.8 million doses in arms in this country. I couldn’t find out how many of the almost seven million vaccinated were women. Nevertheless this was the prudent thing to do.

We recall lettuce and cat food that make fellow citizens and pets sick and few blink. The J & J recall shows how vigilant federal health officials are being in the interest of public safety. It underscores my trust. Do you agree? Are there risks you were happy you took and some that didn’t turn out as well?

E. coli Photo: fda.gov

Service of Trust III

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Over centuries there have been millions of examples of King Solomon’s choice where mothers give up their children to save them. Nine year old Gittel’s mother did. The character of a prize-winning book, Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story, written for children six years old and up, Gittel’s experience was inspired by the flight of author Lesléa Newman’s grandmother who also escaped her homeland alone.

In the book Gittel’s mother was refused entry to the ship that was scheduled to take them both to America to flee Nazi Germany. She didn’t pass the health inspection so Gittel made the long journey by herself.

Imagine never seeing your parents again. Gittel did but Newman’s grandmother didn’t.  The tragedy of this loss resonates with many families. “All of my grandparents came through Ellis Island in the very early 1900s,” said David Reich. “Some came with a sibling, but none came with their parents and none of them ever saw or even spoke with their parents after they left Russia, Hungary and Poland, other than by letters.”

Lesléa Newman, author, Gittel’s Journey

At that time, author Newman told Bill Newman last week on WHMP Radio, Northhampton, Mass., “Gittel found her family [in New York] because many people were kind to her on the boat, they created makeshift families and she was taken care of on Ellis Island until her family could be found.”

Nurturing strangers, typical of the period, “stands in such stark contrast to the way the US is reacting to and treating immigrants seeking asylum from Central America and Mexico today,” said Newman, which is what motivated her to write the book to show children–and to remind all her readers–that “there are other choices when a stranger comes to your land.”

“Gittel’s Journey,” magnificently illustrated by Amy June Bates, won a 2020 Christopher Award because it exemplifies The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Like the other celebrated authors, illustrators, writers, producers, and directors of 20 winning feature films, TV programs and books for adults and young people the book also “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Would you be able to let go of your child to save him/her? Is there a valid rationale for mistreating innocent children or anyone escaping danger? Will we again return to a caring culture that proudly and aggressively protects the innocent and fragile?

Photo: thechristophersblog.org

Service of I Never Thought It Would Happen Here: Warnings about Travel to the U.S.

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Photo: newyorktour.com

Most American tourists who plan to visit countries that are in the news due to unrest read the State Department’s website to evaluate the danger before booking the trip. International travelers no doubt check in with the keeper of their country’s travel warnings as well.

It breaks my heart that we’re now the subject of warnings by other countries. The potential impact goes well beyond the slap at my national pride and obvious financial repercussions.

Our state department assigns each country with one of four numbers to reflect the safety of travel: 1=exercise normal precautions; 2= increased caution 3= reconsider travel and 4= do not travel. Businessinsider.com recently focused on South American countries reporting1’s such as French Guiana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Suriname and 2’s Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana and Columbia to 4: Venezuela.

Photo: newyork.cbslocal.com

The reasons for Venezuela’s last level: “The State Department warns of crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens. The agency ordered government employees and their families to leave the country in January 2019. There are also shortages of food, electricity, water, and medicine. The agency warns against travelling between Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas at night and not to take unregulated taxis from Simón Bolívar International Airport.”

Claire Parker’s Washington Post article “Gun violence in America prompts Amnesty International and a growing list of countries to issue travel warnings” raised my eyebrows and made me sad: How can this be happening in MY country?

Parker wrote: “A travel advisory the organization issued Wednesday ‘calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country.’ ”

Parker added that Uruguay and Venezuela “have also discouraged their citizens from traveling to the United States, citing this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, as indicators of danger and a rise in hate crimes. The Japanese Consulate in Detroit, meanwhile, released a statement Sunday calling the United States a ‘gun society’ and urging Japanese nationals to stay alert after the Dayton shooting.”

Photo: thrillist.com

She continued: “These are just the latest countries and international groups to label gun violence in America a safety concern. In recent years, Germany, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand have issued similar warnings about travel to the United States.”

Shouldn’t Washington pay attention to this dramatic shift in image that points to the United States as an unsafe place to visit–and by extension, doubts about the security of this country as a safe place in which to park money? You’d think that this would be a wakeup call to immediately revise gun sale regulations and enact measures to ensure reasonable private gun ownership for an administration that honors the almighty dollar above all else.

In addition to lives, which seem to be last in a line of priorities for Congress, and the shame of the well-deserved reprimand by the international community, much more is at stake than hotel, restaurant, and airline bottom lines. Real estate and American-owned businesses should be prepared to suffer losses as international investors seek safer havens for their treasure.

And it’s not just violence-by-guns turning tourists away. A Crains New York news alert on Wednesday August 14, 2019 warned: “Chinese tourists sidestep NYC as trade war rolls on.” To end on a fittingly mercenary note, who, in DC, is watching the store?

Photo: bustle.com

Service of Mi Casa es Tu Casa–Come on In!

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Photo: tierrafina.com

Daily we hear of hacking that’s happened either to a friend, big corporation or organization. It’s a form of break-in. I think it may have inured the public to the normalcy of loss of privacy that gorges on volunteer personal intrusions. Think such smart speakers like Alexa and Amazon Echo.

Photo: wired.com

Maybe that’s why Walmart and Amazon have or are about to introduce a new wrinkle to their delivery services. In select markets, both will or do arrange for access to a customer’s home to put food in the fridges of the former and leave packages in a home, garage or car trunk in the latter.

Citizens of Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh and Vero Beach will be the first to officially invite Walmart delivery staff to put perishables in their refrigerators through a program slated for a fall launch called Walmart InHome. [The system was tested in New Jersey.]

Photo: commons.wikipedia.org

In “Walmart Wants to Put Groceries Into Your Fridge,” Sarah Nassauer wrote “The workers will wear a body cameras [sic] clipped to their chests, allowing customers to watch live streams of deliveries being made while they aren’t home.” She reported in her Wall Street Journal article that they’ll have access to homes via a smart lock that connects to the Internet allowing a door to unlock remotely. Wallmart sells the device.

Delivery staff for the service must have worked for the company for at minimum a year. “Not everyone embraces the concept at first, but just as people have gradually accepted renting out rooms in their homes through services like Airbnb Inc, ‘people are very quickly comfortable with it,’ said Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business.”

Photo: gate labs

The Amazon service, Key by Amazon, wrote Nassauer, is for Prime members in 50 cities. Fresh groceries aren’t involved. In another program Via Prime Now customers get orders from Amazon’s Whole Foods division on doorsteps.

Not every delivery business received the mega company’s stamp of approval. Sebastian Herrera reported last week in the Journal that Amazon is deep sixing its restaurant delivery service.

Would you be comfortable inviting strangers into your kitchen or your home, garage or car trunk when you’re not home? Do you think comfort level for this kind of trust may be higher in some parts of the country than others? Have privacy-breaking services like Alexa and Amazon Echo paved the way? What if you’re in a meeting or otherwise inaccessible when you need to unlock your front door remotely with no time to watch while the delivery person with body camera drops off your perishables? Do you think that this person—or the staffer who packs the order–will be trained to leave foods like tomatoes and bananas out of the refrigerator and on the counter?

Photo: orchardestates.com

 

Service of the Custom of Traveling with the Goods

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Photo: travelpulse.com

I was 15 the first time I traveled alone internationally and my parents warned me to never accept a package or letter from a stranger who’d ask me to pop the missive in the mail when I got to my destination. Fast forward and airline agents for years now ask whether you packed your suitcase and if anyone has given you anything to take with you.

Photo: dissolve.com

This custom has changed dramatically with the advent of Grabr, an online company that introduces travelers to shoppers in foreign countries who count on them to carry purchases. Customs charges are the responsibility of the traveler who is supposed to ask enough of the shopper to cover them. They negotiate the amount before the trip.

Wrote Andrea Fuller in The Wall Street Journal, “Grabr works like this: A shopper posts on Grabr’s platform that they’d like to buy an item, such as a new smartphone. A traveler who plans on visiting the shopper’s country then agrees to transport the phone for a delivery fee negotiated with the shopper. The traveler then buys the phone, packs it, and gives it to the shopper, who pays them back via Grabr’s system. The company earns a commission on each transaction.”

Bangkok Airport. Photo: youtube.com

Some travelers pay for their trips. Grabr pays for others “in lieu of per-item rewards.” They “transport suitcases full of goods assembled by Grabr staff.” [The company says it is phasing out this part of the business.]

Duty free limits range from $300 in Argentina to $500, in Brazil, for example. “Travelers to those countries should owe customs 50% of the portion of the value of items over the duty-free limit,” wrote Fuller.

Kevin Hartz, whose company invested $250,000 in Grabr–it attracted $14 million in all–who had also invested in Airbnb which, in its infancy, faced doubts about the legality of home sharing, said about the concept: “This is just a matter of sentiment change.”

Grabr’s co-founders Artem Fedyaev and Darla Rebenok say the company’s terms of service require users to comply with customs.

In my experience, customs officers are smart. They know that a Gucci handbag costs many multiples of $450, should a traveler try to get away with the smaller amount on a customs document, and that people don’t travel with three smartphones and four laptops for personal use. If they don’t already know about Grabr, they soon will so there won’t be any savings at the customs counter for travelers-with-the-goods. I wouldn’t be surprised if customs duties in certain countries increase.

If you’re planning a trip to a country where electronics and other items are pricey, would you be interested to give Grabr a whirl? Do you believe a stranger will pay for the items you give them? Can you predict the success of the business model? Has customs ever stopped you—and have you had to pay up–in this or another country?

Photo: aisino.com

Service of Too Big to Question

Monday, October 12th, 2015

 

Due diligence

In the news last week were at least two examples of people who should have known better. They conducted zero due diligence on activities of an individual or about a company for which they were about to pay dearly either because of the stellar background of the former or the size of the deal in the latter instance–or maybe because they were gullible [unlikely] or lazy. In all cases people were not doing their jobs.

Anupreeta Das and Jean Eaglesham’s Wall Street Journal story, “Harvard, Goldman, VC…Fugitive,” is about Iftikar Ahmed, known as “Ifty” to his friends. [Shifty is more appropriate.] They report that he “allegedly stole $65 million” from his partners at Oak Investment Partners. He “exploited the trust-based culture of the venture capital firm,” they wrote. According to the reporters, “Mr. Ahmed’s former colleagues at Norwalk, Conn.-based Oak found that he used doctored deal documents, phony exchange rates and fake invoices to siphon off millions of dollars into secret bank accounts, according to prosecutors and regulators. Oak made the discoveries only after Mr. Ahmed was arrested on insider-trading charges unrelated to his work at the firm.” Nobody knows where Ifty is these days–India they think.

The article describes the fascinating details and is worth a read. What got me was a trustsideline detail. Ifty’s wife was able to buy a Manhattan apartment for $8.5 million cash weeks after he was arrested! The intrusive financial raking that small fries must go through to buy a co-op is insulting, so clearly, this purchase must have taken place at a condo whose board members wear blinders. They aren’t the only board so equipped. Please read on.

Next, I was glued to The New York Times article, “A Deal That Still Haunts Hewlett-Packard” which you should also read. The allegations illustrate inconceivable neglect by a CEO and board of a publicly owned company. To describe their vetting process as “scrutiny light” is an exaggeration in the $11 billion purchase of a British company called Autonomy, covered by reporter James B. Stewart. Most people would do more research before purchasing a vacuum cleaner than HP’s chairman Léo Apotheker and the HP board did before buying a foreign software company.

wearing blindersAccording to Stewart, “Some consider the Autonomy acquisition to be the worst corporate deal ever. Just how bad is confirmed by the latest revelations from a shareholders’ suit over the deal: Mr. Apotheker didn’t even read the due diligence report on Autonomy that H.P. commissioned from KPMG, the giant accounting firm. Nor did Raymond J. Lane, the board chairman, or any other member of the board, according to a report prepared by the law firm Proskauer Rose, which was hired to represent H.P.’s independent directors.”

Stewart notes that the executive summary contained “numerous warnings.” But they didn’t read the executive summary either. [Stewart did–as well as the full report.] He wrote: “The executive summary stresses repeatedly that Autonomy stonewalled KPMG accountants, who were granted ‘access to very limited proprietary financial and tax information.'” The summary questioned the “claimed stellar revenue growth” and Autonomy’s “revenue recognition practices,” crucial backup information to justify such an expensive acquisition. 

In the first instance, does a “trust-based culture” have a place in today’s world? Were the Oak venture capital partners asleep at the switch, busy doing similar fiddles or simply blindsided?

Regarding the second example, I Googled “most expensive vacuum cleaners,” and saw one that cost $5,599.99. Would you pay that much based on a brochure claim that it was worth the money with no other information? Stewart wrote, “I’d say that for $11 billion, HP should have been able to see whatever it wanted.” Do you agree?

warning

 

 

Service of Debt Collection

Monday, September 14th, 2015

where's my money

I read this on a Facebook posting on September 10: If you write for _______, please beware. I filed my invoice on June 1 and still have not been paid. The editor gave me the wrong info on who to send my invoice to–twice! I’ve sent numerous emails and it’s been so time consuming trying to collect my money.

“I got a few emails from their accounts payable dept. saying all my info was in and I should be getting a check soon. Today, I checked on it and was told that they do not have all of my paperwork. I finally heard back from the editor and she said, ‘I really hope you won’t tell people not to write for us because of $300.’ I’m not telling you not to write for them. I just–at this point–really dislike them. I just want you to beware.

Social mediaWriting about this kind of exploitation infuriates me as do people who either play games, working the float on small fry suppliers making them wait for months or worse—ordering work they know they can’t/won’t/don’t plan to pay for.

I’ve written before about a writer friend who was stiffed a fee in the middle five figures by people she knew in an industry in which she was well known, causing such havoc on her finances that she had to move precipitately to another/less expensive city where she didn’t know a soul. The company was going bankrupt and the owners took advantage of her. This was years ago and I still want to take a shower when I think of them.

I knew a flim-flamer who told a graphic designer he worked with for years, “You designed those logos on spec,” when nothing of the kind had been said. Contracts don’t protect you: They cost too much in time and/or lawyer’s fees to defend in court. I’ve not been immune nor have other honorable, hardworking colleagues in PR who provided topnotch counsel, creativity and results.

The typical victim is not too big to fail so who cares?

I used to see typed or handwritten names of people on bits of paper taped to grocery store cash registers representing customers whose checks the cashier was forbidden to accept. Because the honor system doesn’t work so well, instituting a similar online virtual list, by industry, of individuals and companies who have swindled others wouldn’t be viable. People who disliked or were jealous of someone could add a name that shouldn’t belong and anyway, nobody is guilty here without a trial.

taking candy from a babyWhat’s the difference between these perpetrators and youngsters who mug the elderly or adults who abuse children?

What do you think about resorting to social media to accelerate/stimulate/embarrass a company to pay? Before hiring someone, even for a project, smart employers check a person or company’s Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages where they’d see such postings. The writer in the intro was angry and rightly so, but would a reputation of blabbing to the world about a grievance frighten away future clients?

Exploitation

Service of Trust II or I Wish It Were True

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Tax relief

I would like to know how you gauge which commercials to trust, especially those involving health-related products, identity theft protection, tax relief advice, weight loss, gardening aids, deer and mouse repellants.

identify theft protectionI was inspired to cover the topic [again] after listening to a segment of “Health Matters,” on NPR sponsored by Sharon Hospital in Conn. The doctor, Jared Zelman, shared sage if obvious advice: Don’t believe quick fix solutions regarding weight loss remedies or those described by people who claim to have been cured of their chronic diseases simply by taking X. The hospital and/or doctor must come across plenty who fall for useless tonics or they wouldn’t select the topic–there are so many other potential ones.

Deer eating plantsRadio personalities tout [and say they swear by] miracle anti-wrinkle creams, weight loss tonics that take off 30-40 lbs. in a month, easy back tax relief for those who owe $10K or more, foolproof rodent repellants, effective organic garden pest deterrents and protection from identity theft. The latter makes me chuckle: If Sony, Target, TJ Maxx and Home Depot can’t fend off hackers while allegedly spending $billions, how are Mr. and Mrs. Middle America supposed to protect themselves by tossing monthly dollars at some company?

If I’d saved what I’ve spent on useless mouse and deer repellants alone I’d be on easy street. I continue to fall for what I so desperately wish would work. Do you? And as I asked in the lead, how do you know what is really effective? Are you ever tempted to give something new a chance?

garden pest

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