The Customer is Always Replaceable

This is a repost from a blog posting I wrote in 2008. I don’t go to Taco Hell now either, but I like the rant so I’m reposting.

The Customer is Always Right. I used to see this sign in businesses. The theory behind it is a pleasant one, although I usually only saw it invoked as a means for bullies to treat customer service representatives like crap. But today, it seems the idea has gone completely out the window. It’s like stores don’t give a shit anymore if we don’t patronize their businesses; 800 people will be standing in line behind us if we don’t like the service that we get. It’s this way with stores, restaurants, customer call centers, you name it. I don’t eat out much. For one thing, it’s expensive as hell. For another, I heard Portland has had an outbreak of Hepatitis A and that it is often spread by restaurants. Since I had to get a shot in the butt in 1990 for an e-coli outbreak, and the thought of eating someone else’s poo is just more than I can manage, I avoid restaurants.

But sometimes you’re across town and starving as hell and ready to run people over your blood sugar is so low and you’re willing to eat all the things you wouldn’t normally touch from a mile away because you’re that hungry. That was me today. I recognized intellectually that I felt like a wretch and I didn’t care because I needed food.  So I went to Taco Hell. Yeah, I know it’s gross. But it’s cheap and they have this burrito with rice in it and I don’t get cheese so I went. The service was horrendous. The charming “customer service” representative who took my order informed me that the burrito I like “cannot be grilled.”

Huh? I told her when I’ve patronized the Taco Hell by my house they always grill it for me. Well, she sneered, that’s another franchise. Uh, okay. Small problem. When I’m hungry, I don’t care how big a bitch I am, at least when I’m that hungry. And I was that hungry. But I’m working hard on living in the moment and I did not want to be the bully customer who makes a worker feel like shit. I sat there in my car waiting to pull up to the window and thinking how irrelevant all this is and what a waste of my energy, but I was still getting annoyed. So I decided to be calm, but I still wanted to know why can’t they just grill my fucking burrito?

I pulled up and asked the kind lady how come they couldn’t grill my burrito. She said it is just a store policy. I said that isn’t an answer, it doesn’t tell me why the policy is in place. She said she didn’t know. Across the way a man who was probably a higher up manager because he wasn’t wearing the fancy Taco Hell outfit but instead had on a cheap shirt and tie came over and asked the problem. I started to say there wasn’t a problem, I just wanted to know why my burrito couldn’t be grilled. He said they are not allowed to grill them, company policy. I said that I get them grilled at the Taco Hell by my house. He said they aren’t supposed to. Then the girl helping said something to him and he turned to me and said it was a health issue. Huh? I said how in the world is it a health issue? He said it’s like giving them a cup and asking them to fill it. It has my germs on it. I was VERY confused at this point. My lack of blood sugar addled brain couldn’t quite muster what was going on. I said how in the world can it be a health issue to grill a freaking burrito? It’s in the restaurant, you put on all the ingredients. I never touch it. He just walked away.

At this point, I didn’t give a shit if my burrito was grilled or not. I just wanted to eat. I sat and waited until the girl handed me the bag. I asked for my water and drove off. I pulled to the side of the parking lot to eat it and it was grilled. Weird.

The main thing I kept thinking about after all this was that had I threatened to take my business elsewhere, they would have said fine, go ahead. We don’t need your two dollars. Companies have gotten so big that the customer isn’t right anymore. Everyone puts up and shuts up about crappy customer service because there is nowhere else to go where it will be any better. This is another byproduct of our one-size-fits-all one dimensional corporate society. Hate waiting on the phone on hold for 20 minutes when you call the phone company? Fine, go somewhere else. And while you’re at it we’ll charge you $200 because you’re in a lopsided bullshit contract.  Hate the piece of crap you bought at the Dollar Store? Too bad for you. No refunds.  Who cares if the state law allows you to return a defective item to a store with no refunds. You planning to sue us over a dollar? Don’t want to wait in line at a store with no employees? Fine, leave. Better yet, stand in line for 10 minutes, then leave. See if we care. Want your burrito grilled and we won’t do it?  Go fuck yourself. We don’t pay our workers enough to care. We don’t hire enough workers so they’re all pissed off all the time. Go somewhere else. Again, see if we care. That’s capitalism. It leaves no one alive.

I know this is a cynical bitchy rant. I shouldn’t complain without offering some solution. But I don’t know what the solution is. I go out of my way to avoid patronizing monster corporations, but sometimes it’s inevitable.  Sometimes it’s just being so damn hungry I’ll eat a rat in the gutter or Taco Hell. Those are the times those places get my business. I never go to Walmart or McDonald’s ever, and I mean never. They could be the last businesses on earth and I wouldn’t go there. Maybe there isn’t a solution unless enough people say enough, and judging by the lines in SkankDonald’s and Taco Hell or the mass of cars in the SkankMart parking lot, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime I guess I’ll rant on my blog.

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Privatized Suffering

This excerpt comes from the John Steppling blog. Disheartening as it is, this is truth.

Privatized Suffering
by John Steppling

“The white liberals today are defending Obama and Hillary because they don’t recognize their own dead zone and because they really don’t care about the poor anymore than the ruling 1% do. They don’t care about the targeted abuse of the poor, especially black and brown, and they are able to provide expensive education for their own children, so they don’t care about the absence of education for marginal classes. And that same expensive education is the one that trains people for shopping, for compliance to authority, and to think just like they think. The reproduction of a dead *now* is by design. Liberals are not in conflict with Reagan values, they only tell themselves they are. This is intellectual three card Monte.”

Keep reading here…

Safety is a Straw Man

This article has been published on Huffington Post. See it here.

I’ve read multiple articles since the shootings last week, both in my hometown and the deadly assault on school children in Connecticut. I’ve read a sadly moving article on mental health, articles on angry young men, articles on angry white men, articles on angry men of every color, articles on why the second amendment allows us to bear arms, and articles on why it doesn’t.  I’ve read articles lamenting the deaths of children overseas because of US military violence, crying out against the hypocrisy of the president’s tears for US children, while seemingly ignoring those of the countries we invade. It seems all I have done this entire weekend is read about this tragedy, its victims, its causes, and why these tragedies continue.

Nowhere in any of it have I seen anyone addressing the issue of profits. Every time a mass shooting takes place, gun manufacturers make a massive profit. Citizens, afraid for their lives, go out and buy a glock. The point of the gun lobby is not to ensure that every person in the US has a gun; it’s to ensure that every person in the US buys a gun (or two, or three…).  This is the real reason we haven’t been able to succeed at gun control in this country. The gun lobby pours massive amounts into ensuring their right to sell weapons is completely unfettered. In this, they have succeeded more than any manufacturer of any other product.

It’s about profits above lives, whether it’s healthcare or guns. Guns just result in deaths faster. The second amendment is a straw man. It’s the excuse used by the gun lobby to keep us from reining in the massive profits enjoyed by gun and weapon manufacturers and to keep our eyes off the ball, which is that the manufacture of these products has only one purpose: to make money. If it is children in the line of fire, so be it. Gun manufacturers make a killing (pun intended) every time a mass shooting takes place.

If we want real gun control, we need to face the reality that it is profits over lives we are discussing here. Safety is a straw man. The gun lobby doesn’t want teachers carrying guns to protect their classes. Just imagine the budget for arming schools. That’s the real issue. It’s time to start calling a spade a spade, and make lives our priorities, instead of the almighty dollar.

I am a writer and bankruptcy attorney living Portland, Oregon.

The Score to Strive For: F to D+

I went into my bank to order checks for a new account. While waiting, I saw a sign that said the name of the bank that owns mine. I knew it was a French bank, but I had not known its name: BNP Paribas. Since I had nothing else to do with the time, I took out my phone and looked up the name of the bank on the internet. On its page it proclaimed for itself “the commitment of a responsible bank.” There was also a link in recent news stating that PNB Paribas had been ranked the highest in the world of any bank for corporate social responsibility by Vigeo. Vigeo is considered the leading European expert in assessing companies and organizations with regard to their practices and performance on environmental, social, and governance issues. It has launched under its proprietary brand a range of indices identifying companies which demonstrate best performance in corporate social responsibility in the context of their field of investment. Companies featured in the Vigeo indices are those achieving the highest score on all criteria, judged on 38 sustainability drivers under which Vigeo reviews company performance measured against up to 330 indicators. PNB Paribas ranked as the banking sector leader, with a set of scores of between 52% and 64% in all the areas examined.

Huh. So the top bank ranking, one worthy of self congratulation and laudatory commendation, scored what would be the equivalent of an F to a D+ in the American grading system. That’s the BEST score of any bank. If the BEST score of any bank in corporate social responsibility is failing to D+ I wonder how dismally the others performed. I have some idea and it’s not good. Hell, world giant HSBC openly laundered money for Mexican drug cartels; regular banking must seem saintly in comparison. If a corporate responsibility ranking of failing to D+ is enough for a bank to consider itself credible, no wonder the world is in such a dismal state.

It Continues Unabated

I have believed my entire life that good will prevail, that the greed of imperialism and corporatism would fail, that eventually in the battle against those who seek power for its own sake, who destroy this lovely planet for their own narrow gains in the moment, would all lose in the end and we would embrace one another and our home as sacred.  I have believed that the selfishness of the individual who isn’t at the top of the corporate or power ladder would somehow dissipate and there would be more balance between feminine and masculine energies.  Even though imperialism has spread from one place to another and destroyed entire populations on every continent, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake, I thought ultimately, those who seek harmony with our earth and one another would ultimately prevail.

Yet I realize that it continues to get worse, as it always has–Europe stole Africa, North America, South America, the South Pacific, India, and Australia. Europe’s North American protege steals from Asia and the middle east. Imperialism has taken the entire planet.  My country is killing people all over the world.  My country takes what it wants and cares not for the consequences to the people from whom it takes or the planet from whom it takes.  My country steals from this planet, all in the name of greed and power, regardless of the long term result.  My country does all this while waving its flag claiming its superiority over everyone and everything.  What a mockery of true superiority.  What a mockery of all that is decent and good.

The reality is that imperialism and greed have won, are winning, will continue to win until there is nothing left.  Our race learns nothing from the mistakes of the past, because we as individuals did not experience them.  The last victims of the Holocaust are dying off even as new versions of it have continued, nearly unabated.  In spite of all evidence to the contrary, America and its citizens continue to ignore global climate change, pretending it isn’t man-made so they can continue to live as they want unabated because making any changes beyond clicking a button on a mouse or sorting out some recycling is the limit of what they are willing to do.  We take from the Mexicans through imperialism and corporatism, leaving nothing for them in their home place, then beat their citizens in whatever way possible to keep them from trying to escape. We take from China and southeast Asia through imperialism and corporatism, allowing anything that makes us more money, while ignoring flagrant human rights violations.  We take from our oceans. We take from our land.  We take and take, and on, and on.

I look around at the world and, while I recognize that giving up hope of stopping what we are doing to one another and to the planet would be akin to joining the dark forces, I simultaneously realize that those who wish for something different are fighting a losing battle.  I suppose there is some miniscule percentile of a possibility that we can stop them, but reality is grim.  I fear it is going to take a global Holocaust, not just of people, but of the planet, to force people to realize that the pursuit of wealth and greed will destroy us.

Mexico: The House the US has Set on Fire

This article has been published on OpEd News.   If you like it, rate it and share it.  You can see it here.

Mexico: The House the US has Set on Fire

By Lara Gardner

opednews.com

Mexico is a house the US has set on fire, then covered its doors and windows with bars, allowing the people inside to burn alive. Fueled by easy access to weapons from their neighbors to the north, drug lords have infiltrated all sectors of society, and now Mexico is arguably the most dangerous country in North America and one of the most dangerous in the world. Deregulation, privatization of government services, liberalized trade, and the “war on drugs” have made life and poverty in Mexico so unbearable that Mexican citizens risk their lives to try and escape the burning conflagration and come to the United States. The US created this mess, and, through “border reform,” seeks to keep Mexican citizens from attempting to escape.

Even more so than in the US, the rich have gotten richer on the backs of the Mexican poor. Thanks to corporate America’s demand for low wages, Mexicans confront American sweatshops, pollution, congestion, horrible living conditions, and no resources to deal with the increasing violence. As in the United States, agribusiness has destroyed the family farm. Wal-mart has put thousands of small, local businesses out of business. Free trade was sold as a means to improve the lives of Mexicans and Americans. It has led only to greater exploitation. American jobs were sent to Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor with little or no safety or environmental oversight. The “war on drugs” has made outlaws wealthy and created a dangerous and corrupt police state where no one is safe. Mexicans want to escape–how can we blame them?

Immigration reform is constantly on the US agenda, yet it isn’t really about reform; it is about racism, ignorance, and fear. Americans, suffering from decades of the same economic policies that are leading to greater poverty in Mexico, blame their woes on Mexico’s victims of those policies. The smoke and mirrors illusion that the rising level of poverty in the US is caused by liberal systems, government socialism, and immigrants is part of the same lie that keeps Americans blaming and fighting one another. As long as everyone is fighting each other, the bulk of the population won’t focus on the true causes of economic disparity taking over the planet.

While it is highly unlikely that this approach will happen, Americans need to reach out and support Mexicans and Mexico. Rather than turning immigration reform into a battle at the border, the US must eliminate trade policies that benefit only the wealthy. The US also needs to help Mexico build its infrastructure, providing access to basic services such as clean water and functional sewer systems, decent transportation, and a healthy environment. We must help it form a strong education system so its citizens can achieve their dreams. We need stronger gun regulations of our own so drug dealers on both sides of the border cannot get cheap and easy access to weapons. Finally, we must end the failed “war on drugs” that has made outlaws unimaginably wealthy and forces millions to live in fear for their lives every day.

Unless the US is willing to embrace difficult solutions to a complex problem, there will be no true immigration reform. Killing, jailing, or sending back those who seek refuge here is not any answer. Real reform is formidable and ambitious, but it is also possible. True immigration reform would make the citizens of Mexico want to stay in their homeland rather than escaping to a place where our worst is still the best they can hope for.