Profit Guaranteed

A few years ago, my 1998 Ford Explorer stalled in traffic.  I had it towed to my mechanic’s shop and called my mechanic to let him know it was coming.  As soon as he could get the vehicle in to look at it, he told me that it needed a new alternator.  I was expecting that.  What I didn’t expect was the price he quoted.  His price for labor was not the surprise, but the cost of the rebuilt alternator was shocking.

I had already looked online to check out the price of alternators so that I could know how much repairs might cost.  A 1998 SUV with 260,000 miles requires research to determine if I want to repair the auto or have it junked.  The price of a rebuilt alternator quoted by my mechanic was almost twice what I saw online for the same part.  We had a discussion.

He told me that the price was more than I had expected because he places a warranty on all parts and service.  If I wanted to install it myself, he had no problem with that, but he would not sell or replace a part without the warranty.  Back in the 1970s I replaced a starter on a 1958 Ford station wagon.  It had a V-8 engine and I had to either drop the suspension or lift the engine off its mounts to install the new starter.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was a horrible event – it took me days to replace that starter.  I like Fords (See The Green Latrine), but my experience with self-maintenance on the make is not pleasurable.  I paid the mechanic’s price.

We needed some plumbing work done recently.  Estimates were probably six times more than what I thought I was going to have to pay.  All estimates included labor, parts, and warranty.  “Can you break it down?”  Short answer, “No.”  “What if I don’t want the warranty?”  The answer is always the same.  “It’s in our policy.  You have to receive the benefit of our warranty.”  Isn’t that nice!  To me, benefit would mean that my parts and service are guaranteed, and I shouldn’t have to pay for the company’s screw up or faulty parts.  That’s not how it works in today’s world of business.

The practice of including warranties in the price of a part, product, or service is becoming more of the norm.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much that warranty costs the company providing the service?  Try to obtain a breakdown of 1) parts; 2) labor; and 3) warranty sometime.  You won’t get it.  Worse, that warranty comes with a sales tax.  However, the good news, you are told, is that the warranty is free.  Huh?

The windfall of money not spent on warranties after the warranty period expires becomes income for the seller or service.  There must be a better way of reporting to customers than the present procedures.  There are statutory laws covering warranties (no pun intended), and there is a “Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) that regulates business finances. For example, the FASB requires warranty issuers to provide financial reports to customers. In particular, warranty issuers must disclose:

    1. their method for establishing liability for product failures
    2. their financial accounting for each reporting period including their:
      1. starting balance
      2. subtractions for warranty payouts
      3. increases from newly issued and pre-existing warranties and
      4. ending balance”

I could have asked about this information, but what do you do when you are in dire need of a part to get your vehicle back on the road, or your furnace blows up in your face and you need to replace it?  Besides, I’m sure the information on a financial report is filled with lots of actuarial goobligock making it difficult to understand.

I could have made a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, or the Consumer Protection Office of the Iowa Attorney General.  I could have developed legislation that would address the problem I have with businesses that tack on mandatory warranties[1].  I doubt I could get it introduced, much less get it enacted.

As I have purchased items in the past where the clerk smiles and says “this product comes with an extended warranty for five years that costs only . . .”  That’s as far as I let them get with the offer.  My answer is always ‘no.’  Does the manufacturer believe the product is that bad that it must offer a warranty beyond the one provided?

Let’s get real, I guess I just wanted to bitch about this.  Nothing’s going to get better for the consumer in this area of business law.

[1]   A mandatory warranty or maintenance agreement is a contract that comes with a product and is included in the total selling price. Under a mandatory warranty, your customer does not have the option to purchase the product without the warranty. Examples include standard manufacturers’ warranties that come with new vehicles, computers, electronic devices, appliances, and auto repair shops’ parts-and-labor warranties on repairs.

 

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We’re Wearing Masks As Much As Possible

Why everyone should consider wearing face masks all the time:

Women only need eye makeup

Men don’t need to shave

It will cover up bad breath

You won’t be able to pick your nose

You might not be recognized by a person with whom you don’t want a conversation

It keeps your face warm in cold weather

People will take you seriously when you warn them “you should not get too close to me.”

Your zits and other blemishes will be hidden

You may look better if a tooth is missing

Cooties and COVID will not fly up your nose

No one will know if you have a cold sore

A mask will prevent anyone from focusing on crusty nose hairs

Chapped lips will be protected from the cold and wind, and will not be exposed to gossips

You can blame masks for having your ears stick out

Someone will not be able to give you an unwanted or surprise kiss

You can show support for your favorite sports team right out front with a mask bearing the team’s logo/emblem

A pasty complexion is masked – literally

Prevents frostbite when skiing or sledding in the winter

Masks are generally free at some establishments if you don’t have one

But the most important reason of all – you will not be subjected to facial recognition programs

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On Banning Text Books

It must be some sort of rule or law that every twenty years books must be banned, come hell or high water.  We are in the twentieth year of the process.

As you must know, each time a book is considered objectionable, questionably offensive, or outright banned, sales of that book will skyrocket into the orbit of the unavailablesphere because of high demand.

Noticing some of the books that are being brought into question made me feel nostalgic.  My freshman year in high school we studied Shakespeare.  Have any of these parents who want certain books banned ever read Hamlet?  “Throughout the play Hamlet refers to his mother as an incestuous, cold hearted, whore, whose actions are only defined by her sexual desires.”

Perhaps these overbearing parents read King Lear instead.  Talk about misogyny.  “while Lear’s misogyny manifests in his belief in the inferiority and weakness of women, Hamlet expresses his misogyny through his Freudian confusion of sexuality and womanhood.”  In any case, we had discussions in class about these plays.  Bear in mind that I attended a Catholic parochial school.  The nun teaching English Literature, Sister Isaia, was about 100 years old.  At least I thought she might be.  And being a nun, she emphasized that “get thee to a nunnery” meant get thee to a whorehouse (experts disagree on this – I am not an expert).

We were supposed to have read “The Merchant of Venice,” but I had a difficult time getting into it.  I must have picked something up in class discussion to get a passing grade on this.  Again, the story is somewhat anti-Christian.  If a Catholic school can teach about this play, how come it wasn’t considered offensive?

During my senior year at Kuemper, my English class was taught by a nun that was much younger than Sister Isaia.  Sister Charla was a young, hip, motivator.  One of her projects was for us to study the poetry of the Beatles – in 1968.  Our reading assignment for this year was “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck.  If you’ve ever read this classic, you might ask yourself what is this book doing in a Catholic school?  The book is rife with slavery, opium use (or abuse), prostitution, adultery, elder abuse, and greed.  One of the daughters was slain after birth because they couldn’t provide for her.  The main character builds a separate wing of his home to provide for his concubine.  He stows his wife in a small room and leaves her to die.

I saw “The Good Earth” at a used book sale and bought it.  I realize I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was supposed to read it.

Should kids be reading these things?  Perhaps the classics mentioned above are not visually pornographic, but if the subject matter was appropriate for young Catholic high schoolers in the 1960s, what crosses the line today?

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Trophy Coach

  Minnesota is a brutal state. The winters bring subzero wind chills that can freeze exposed skin shortly after walking out the front door. Summer heat and humidity makes it difficult to breathe just strolling down the driveway to the mailbox.  But probably the most difficult element to survive is being a Vikings football fan.  The stress and damage to the heart from the elevated blood pressure and heightened anxiety each and every football season may very well have killed more Minnesotans than heart attacks from shoveling snow.

On February 2, 2022, as people across the country were eagerly awaiting whether or not Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow or not, Vikings fans were wringing their hands wondering, ‘Will Jim Harbaugh be the next head coach?’  Well, Groundhog Day is pretty pointless for Minnesotans. Whether Phil sees his shadow or not, only six more weeks of winter is in fact spring arriving early in Minnesota.

So, unable to fantasize about an early spring, Vikings fans for a brief moment in time envisioned a stadium packed with purple jerseys, clapping their hands together above their heads as they finally Skol their team into a championship win.  After all, Jim Harbaugh has a proven winning record both in the NFL and at the college level. He has the age, ability and years of experience to fulfill that long awaited Super Bowl win.

Later that day, Harbaugh flew back to Michigan without a job offer and then the Vikings organization announced their intent to hire handsome, thirty-six year-old Kevin O’Connell, the current offensive coordinator for the LA Rams as their next virgin head coach.  He will be the second youngest head coach in NFL history.

The Vikings want young people and will gamble to get it.  This is easily seen through their head coaching search and the final candidates for the position:  Raheem Morris (age 45); DeMeco Ryans (age 37); and Patrick Graham (age 43).  Two other candidates that were initially interviewed were Jonathan Gannon (age 39) and Kellen Moore (age 33).  But can a “youth-driven” campaign be masking age discrimination?  Discrimination is difficult to prove, especially age discrimination.

Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, the New York Giants, the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos for racial discrimination. One of the issues he cited were “sham interviews”.  Flores has proof that he received a text from Bill Belichick, the head coach for the New England Patriots, congratulating him on being the new head coach for the New York Giants.  Flores hadn’t interviewed with the team yet.  Apparently Brian Daboll had been offered the job, and Belichick texted “Brian” without paying close attention to the last name.  I can’t sit in judgement.  One retired state senator received a text from me stating, “Love You to Pieces.”   Luckily he had a sense of humor, and so does my husband.  But, I digress.

There was a strong reaction from the parties’ named in the lawsuit.  Well, the NFL thought that they’d solved the issue of race and sex discrimination by adopting the Rooney Rule in 2003, which originally required every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more diverse candidates before making a new hire.  “In 2021, the NFL approved changes requiring every team to interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions and at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator job. Additionally, at least one minority and/or female candidate must be interviewed for senior level positions (e.g., club president and senior executives).”  Did this have the desired result?

Pictures truly are worth a thousand words, as you can see by the new head coaches for 2022.

When discrimination is ingrained in a culture, it can’t be easily removed.  Money can’t buy your way out of it.  Jargon can make you feel like you’re making changes, but changing words doesn’t change attitudes.  The first step is to recognize that we all discriminate because it’s simply part of the human condition.  Breaking down the denial is the only path to a future where we start seeing people for their true worth.

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Always Skeptical of a Sen. Grassley Idea

In a media release several weeks ago, Senator Chuck Grassley said, “it appears that the standard of care and quality controls at many state veterans homes falls well short of those required by other government supported nursing homes.”  The statement was referencing the number of COVID deaths and infections in veterans homes across the country.

How many is many?  Grassley’s source for this information is media reports.  From the information provided by Grassley in footnotes, a handful of media reports were listed Although some media reports cite statistics provided by the government, the statistics used by Grassley are flawed.  The largest nursing home in most states are the states’ veterans homes.  For example, a veterans home such as Iowa’s, located in Marshalltown, serves four hundred patients.  What nursing home comes close to serving that many patients?  The government supported nursing homes referred to by Grassley include a vast number of homes with fewer than fifty patients.

Also, other ‘government supported nursing homes’ means those nursing homes, most of them privately owned, receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid supplements.

The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown is not one of those facilities that falls short of requirements or expectations mentioned in Grassley’s letter to Denis R. McDonough, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Prior to the Pandemic, I visited the IVH monthly to see a childhood friend who resides there.  The care, treatment, and respect he receives from the employees at that facility is exceptional.

The IVH is clean, sanitary, and well-managed by the supervisors and union employees I am in contact with on every visit.  There are no concerns that I have about the facility.  I have no concerns about my friend and fellow veterans.  However, at this time, visits are limited, non-contact, restricted, and brief due to the IVH’s attempts to keep COVID out of the buildings.

Yet, the message Senator Grassley wants you to hear is that state-operated nursing homes for veterans are not as good as civilian nursing homes.  Nor is the oversight and reporting to the federal Government Accounting Office as forthcoming.  This comes from a Republican official who has complained about the government overreaching into businesses and private lives.  His message now screams for new regulations and government oversight.

I am skeptical.  Personal experience with Senator Grassley has often led to showing that he has alternative motives for some of his concerns.  I am not very convinced that his statement is out of concern for veterans.  My belief is that he would like to see state-run veteran homes close or turn the facilities over to private corporations to operate.  The result, of course, would be breaking unions, and padding the pockets of corporate run nursing homes.

One of the media reports Grassley referred to in his letter was followed up by the same reporter writing about a nursing home in Iowa which was cited for violating ten federal regulations and eight state violations.  A resident had to call 911; staff were seen by a state inspector sleeping on the job; toxic mold was discovered in 80% of the building, including residents’ rooms; bedsores were left untreated; the facility had no building maintenance for almost a year; and a “woman’s breathing apparatus was found to be ‘plugged with hard, caked secretions’ from not being cleaned.”  State fines were proposed, but not imposed.  This could be the exemplar of what could come for veterans if state veteran homes were privatized.

Senator Grassley may have a sincere desire to be concerned about the care veterans receive.  However, that sense of feeling that he has a subliminal thought to break unions is what causes me to doubt his sincerity.  He’ll proudly show you his union card, but that’s a little like me showing you my Farm Bureau card from back when I was a member in order to obtain cheap health insurance.

“Though these facilities have implemented some Government Accountability Office recommendations,” Grassley writes, “recent media reports highlight additional oversight gaps that may have fueled the death toll among facility residents during the pandemic.”  He wrote this in his letter after the VA has implemented three of the four recommendations of the GOA.  The fourth recommendation is in the process of implementation.

Senator Grassley believes that our “veterans deserve the best possible care after giving so much for our country.”  I agree. I only want to make clear that when Senator Grassley seeks to improve oversight of veterans nursing homes in America, Iowa is the model, and he should take time to visit.  Basing decisions on hand-selected numbers and media marketing can be dangerous and damaging.

Marty Ryan has been a constituent of Chuck Grassley for far too many years.

This essay appeared first in a Fall issue of the Prairie Progressive, page 7, and later in December it was posted by Bleeding Heartland.

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There is No Vaccine Mandate

The Sixth United States Circuit Court of Appeals published an opinion last month upholding the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to implement what many are calling a vaccine mandate.

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the matter this past Friday.

There is no vaccination mandate.  The ETS allows “employers to “opt out” of any vaccination policies).”  There are several ways in which a business may continue without requiring employees to be vaccinated.  Businesses may require employees to wear a mask rather than be vaccinated.  However, those employees who do not want the vaccine, must be required to “test for COVID-19 weekly.”  There is also the option of having employees work from a remote location, such as their homes, and those who work exclusively outside are exempt.

Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds claimed in a statement that “We are in the height of a workforce shortage and supply chain crisis, and I have no doubt these issues are only going to be compounded by this poor decision.”  She needs to reconsider.

A requirement to wear hardhats, safety gear such as goggles and ear plugs, steel-toed boots, and many other safety features to protect the employee and those working around the employee came through the same process.  This ETS is just another example of what OSHA does.  Protecting employees on the job, to ensure that more employees are available to do the job will improve the status of workforce shortages by reducing absenteeism and providing a healthier environment for workers.

 

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