BlogFestivus: Command Presents
This story is the third installment for “Ghost of Christmas Present” in a five-part series of 200-word stories for BlogFestivus, A Christmas Carol. Check out the links (at the bottom of this post) to all the participating “ghost” writers for this year’s challenge. I suspect you’re in for some dark, yet jolly, days. -BD
by Tom B. Taker
Scrooge doubled-over and braced himself as the nausea that proceeded Christmas-based time travel gut-wrenched his innards. Here we go again, he thought in dismay.
He undissolved and rubbed his eyes with gnarled knuckles as eyesight slowly returned. He blinked and his watery eyes dried and the world became clear.
Immediately he recognized the R&D department of his very own company. At last, a chance to see what those slackers did behind his back. Always the opportunist Scrooge was already planning to take advtange of these teleportations.
The ghost was about to speak but Scrooge silenced him with a gesture of his hand. He didn’t want to miss anything.
At a computer that mealy bastard Cratchit was putting the finishing touches on a colorful graph. It would be the basis for denying all Christmas bonuses. With alarm, Scrooge saw the graph was trending up. No worries, he realized. For the memorandum he’d simply display it upside down.
Moving along, he came to a table where his nephew Fred worked feverishly at some bizarre electronics. For the first time, the ghost seemed troubled. “What is your man doing?” the ghost asked.
“Oh, you’ll see,” Scrooge replied. “You’ll see.”
Click on the links below for more takes on A Christmas Carol from our other BlogFestivus bloggers:
Linda penning at linda vernon humor
Steve from Stevil
Maria-Christina blogging at MCWhispers
Dylan of Treatment of Visions
Sarah from Parent Your Business
Dawn blogging at Lingering Visions
K8edid from k8edid
Dave bringing it at 1pointperspective
Eileen from Not The Sword But The Pen
Lindsey at RewindRevise
Kandy of Kandy Talk
Sandra writing at In Love With Words
Natalie from So I Went Undercover
Jen at Blog It or Lose It
Amelie from In the Barberry
Cee Cee blogging at Cee Cee’s Blog
Ashley from LittleWonder2
BD writing Blogdramedy
Time to mortar a brick
I’ve been hearing a lot of hubbub of late about online retail sales overtaking traditional “brick and mortar” businesses.
Boo freakin’ hoo. To my way of thinking that’s like worrying about one turd shitting on another.
Still, I thought it might be a good idea to reminisce a few moments about the proverbial good times of ye olde mom and pop. The good old days and the “little man” of Alan Jackson lore.
Brick and mortar? Mom and pop? Who the hell is in charge of naming this shit? Dr. Seuss? Family jewels are found in aisle 42. Bait and tackle in aisle 69. That reminds me: “Clean up on aisle 69!”
I’ve already written quite a bit about Mr. Online Entrepreneur. He’s slippery, slimy and makes jackals and amebas seem like highly evolved life forms. He lies about everything including – most especially – that the product you want is “in stock.” Then he gets your money and you wait weeks to find out if you’ll ever get the product he just totally lied about or if you’ll ever get your money back. Good times.
How about Mr. Brick Mortar? How does he compare? And who is this guy?
Does the plethora of dings on the side of your car give you any kind of freakin’ clue?
Continue reading →
Taking Stock – We Have Your Money
Verily we just had a veritable festive holiday season. All across this great nation currency (and credit) was exchanged for consumer goods, primarily cheaply made shit from China. It was truly a touching and traditional way to honor the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. (Even though historians tell us he was more likely born on July 22nd.)
How well did we honor Him?
- Web visits to online retailers were up for the second year in a row.
- Thanksgiving saw a 6% increase.
- Black Friday was up 7%.
- Cyber Monday was up 11%.
- Christmas was up a whopping 27%.
- The day after Christmas was only up 1% but it still counts.
Halleluja! He is risen along with the economy!
That’s a lot of online orders. But, alas, no stats released yet on how many of those last-minute shoppers were told their coveted items were “out of stock.” That’s the internet’s dirty little secret. Discussion about that peculiar aspect of online shopping would be a real bummer, wouldn’t it?
My research shows that 87% of online retailers make no effort to show real-time inventory status.
Continue reading →
Gambling For Jobs
With the invention of The Lotto, the government become a bookie. The state is now a purveyor of legalized gambling. Proponents tie the organization to positive benefits like funding schools and other governmental activities like parks.
But where does that money come from? People who gamble, methinks.
Governments have turned gambling into, what I like to call, “unfair taxation of the stupid.”
Continue reading →
Up the Hatch
How important is it to pay your taxes? Pretty important, I’d say. Especially when failure to comply can result in more time in jail than if you shot two people in the head and killed them in cold blood.
Richard Hatch, the original winner of the TV series Survivor is back in trouble for his taxes. He turned himself in to authorities on Monday and will begin serving a nine-month sentence for violating the terms of his probation for tax evasion.
Hatch previously served a three year sentence for tax evasion. He was ordered to pay taxes on show winnings and other income but has not completed refiling of his 2000 and 2001 tax returns.
I didn’t know this, but Hatch was currently a contestant on Donald Trump’s reality show The Apprentice.
The Donald has said he would consider helping Hatch pay his debt.
“It sounds like a very tough predicament,” Donald Trump tells PEOPLE. “I may ask him if there’s anything I can do … I may get involved and ask him what the hell is going on.”
On the current season of Apprentice, Hatch quickly made enemies of Jose Canseco and David Cassidy, who accused the reality star of shoving him. Cassidy was ultimately fired.”He wasn’t loved on set because it’s a competition but I will say he was respected,” Trump said, adding that helping Hatch pay his debt is “something I’d think about. He’s been a great character on the show.” Source.
The judge surprised even the prosecutors by adding an additional three months to Hatch’s sentence beyond the six month maximum per federal sentencing guidelines.
The IRS says Hatch owes $2 million.
Hatch will now have to pay a staggering $2 million to the IRS.
The debt includes not only his Survivor winnings, but further income he has made since appearing on the show and penalties for his evasion. Source.
Times are apparently hard for Hatch, who told the court that he’s only made about $27,000 since his release from prison in October 2009, which would put him even below my scrawny income. Hatch has been looking for work though, claiming he pursued employment in “marketing” to working on a fishing boat.
Personally, I think the judge should have been a bit more lenient. It’s not like Hatch plugged two people full of lead. If that was all he done he would have already been off probation by now.
A Thanksgiving Layoff
No need to be coy this time and bury the lead. The subject line gives it all away.
A friend I left behind at the shithole company where I used to work got laid off on November 24, 2010 – also known as The Day Before Thanksgiving.
Seems like something ripped right out of the pages of A Christmas Carol, doesn’t it? That’s the risk you run when you work for Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge at Acme Widgets Corporation.
As frequently happens, however, the story doesn’t quite end there. Oh no, not by a long shot. The company always finds a way to fuck with you further and this case is no exception.
A brief recap on the place I used to work. I call the place the Shithole and my job title was “whore.”
Two of us were hired almost six years ago. Me and my friend who I will call Montgomery. We were hired in the same week.
Due to the amazing employee turnover rate, it wasn’t long until we were both the “old timers,” the longest serving employees at the company. In fact, earlier this year, we were both recognized for five years of service with an offer we couldn’t refuse.
Whenever the office threw parties (for lame birthday events or the rare employee recognition) the boss would get all soft and emotional and talk about how we were a “family.” All of us employees, of course, took extreme umbrage at such a sentiment. We took it as a severe insult. It was just too incongruous with the way we were treated which made it a totally empty word.
Montgomery was a good worker. He was the best salesperson and had a natural rapport with customers. They’d frequently stop by and ask for him by name. Like the rest of us he was forced to wear many hats. He could work phones, front office, the sales floor, and had a lot of institutional knowledge that was unknown to the rest of us. His primary duties for the last few years, though, were shipping, receiving and inventory.
I thought it was pretty amazing to watch him work. He had a routine for everything. He ran the shipping department like a well-oiled machine. Minor details like how he turned the tape around so it wouldn’t stick to itself made it clear that he put a lot of thought into what he did.
Recently, though, he had fallen out of favor with the higher-ups. We all hated the way we were treated, but he was one of the few that would talk back about it. (In my case I went passive-aggressive and got revenge in other ways, and I also channeled those feelings into my blog lest I explode.) He’d often end up in the boss’s office for 2-3 hour meetings where he said the things that the rest of us only fantasized about.
It wasn’t much of a surprise, then, when he ended up #1 on management’s hit list.
The entire operation, not counting the owners, was four employees and an office manager (who was not one of us). Near the end several of us began to suspect that a psychological war was being waged against us to induce us to quit. At times I was convinced it was true, and other times I felt I was just being paranoid. (The entire time I was constantly looking for work, though.) In Montgomery’s case I guess it turned out to be true.
When Montgomery was laid off, they gave him a “rehire” date so he could collect unemployment for a month. That was actually a nice gesture. If it sounds too good to be true, though, then what gives? Turns out they want him “on call” for production work as needed. If they ever call him and he can’t come in, that will end his unemployment. In other words, even after being let go, he’s still under their control and at their beck and call. As always, only the needs of the company matter. Fuck the “family” members.
What has happened since I left is that Montgomery was laid off. They cut hours for the other two employees. And they gave more hours to the office manager. And they still call in Montgomery to meet their needs. They’ve basically turned him into a super-part-time employee.
Behind all of this, of course, is the typical small business squealing about how the company “makes no money.” I’ve heard this shit for 10 years and the previous two companies where I worked. Two companies that are remarkably similar.
Yes, it’s true that the company is having a down year. As their IT guy I crunched the numbers and made a graph. (Yes, I have access to the big picture. That’s a side effect of writing their software.) To protect their proprietary information, I left the scale blank.
Data only goes back to 2004 when I began to get involved. The left column, in light blue, represents the historical revenue of the primary company. As you can see, 2010 is a downer year, but it is most decidedly not the worst year they’ve ever had. I know for a fact that these numbers represent profitability for the company. That means the numbers in light blue cover expenses, rent, cost of doing business, employee compensation (wages), etc. and leave income left over for the owners.
The right column, in dark blue, represents additional income from a side business they added in 2009. As you can see, that changes things a bit. Now 2010 is almost equal to the 2nd best years they’ve ever had. Even now. Even in this recession. Even as they are cutting hours and laying off people.
I believe that the reality is even more compelling. This graph only shows “revenue.” Not profit. You have to remember that the side business did not require any additional expenses. They used their existing infrastructure. They run it out of the same building so there is no increase in rent. There was absolutely no increase in compensation, either. The existing employees simply had to eat the additional workload and with no increase in pay. And, lastly, the side business is mostly “service” and has low costs and very low operating expenses.
In other words, the main business, which remaining profitable, is already providing everything the side business needs, which means the side business has a very high margin.
If I could somehow adjust the graph to show profit then I personally believe you’d see a remarkable jump in 2009 and and an even bigger one in 2010. (There is also a third service business that was layered on top of employees in 2010 which I didn’t bother to include in 2010. The 2nd revenue bar should actually be a bit higher.)
So when they call meetings to squeal about how they are personally losing money, I know they are lying to my face. I know better.
This is the thing that gets me. They don’t want to work. They find visiting their own business distasteful and anytime they stop by they can’t wait to leave. They find the office a drag, I guess, and they’re exactly right. So they need employees to make it happen for them. And they squeeze the shit out of things while lying about their profit so they make all the money while treating employees like shit and laying them off. On the day before Thanksgiving.
What is a company? In my experience, it is a place were an owner does 10% of the work and gets 90% of the money. Meanwhile those that do 90% of the work are treated like shit while getting 10% of what the company makes. There is no profit sharing so no incentive to care, beyond losing your job, about the success of the company. What kind of incentive is “my boss makes 30 times my salary” vs. “my boss makes 25 times my salary” while being a lazy ass and treating me like shit? And, “No matter how hard I work, I’ll make exactly the same.” Yeah, I wake up every day and get energized by thoughts like those. Not! And we wonder why so many of the employees we interact with during our daily lives could seemingly not care less.
What awesome people who run the place I used to work. I call this whole sort of phenomenon “gold nugget economics.” That’s why I proudly display my family’s coat of arms of Gristle.
So yeah, I feel for my friend. He’s unemployed and yet still under the company’s thumb. I can’t wait to see what they pull next. ‘Tis the season – ho ho ho!
A very taxing situation
For the last three years, my wife and I have come up short on our taxes. The amount withheld from our paychecks has been insufficient to cover what we owed.
This post may come as a shock to some of you, but the gist is this: The current withholding system is not necessarily designed to collect what you will owe.
Every year it’s the same deal. Get the taxes done and then be subjected to intense sticker shock as we realize we’re fucked. We don’t mind being good Americans and paying our fair share but this is ridiculous.
Each time this happens we immediately fill out new W-4 forms based on the recommendation of our tax preparer and submit them to our employers.
I have no doubt that I’m going to be forced to cough up more dough for 2009. With that in mind, I decided to finally take some action and figure out just what in the hell is going on.
In my grubby little hands I’m holding my first paystub of this infant year. Everything that happened this pay period exactly matches my year-to-date totals. What an exciting time. I very carefully scrutinized the amount withheld for federal withholding. It seems small. Damn small.
I went to the internet and found this page. The “2010 Withholding Calculator” on the official IRS website. I went through their five-page process and got a “page not found” error as the result. Typical.
I was determined, though, and not to be deterred so easily. I tried it again. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Guilty as charged! The insanity, however, is that on the second attempt it worked. Holy … fuck … shit.
Anyway, this story is not about the IRS’ ability to maintain a working web site.
The IRS web site had excellent advice for us. “You and your spouse should each enter 0 on line 5 of all of your Forms W-4.” No shit, Sherlock!
But wait, there’s more. Here’s the good part (my emphasis added):
Divide $X by the number of paydays remaining in 2010 (or use the table below to find this amount), and enter the result on line 6 of any one of your Forms W-4. This is the extra amount you need to have withheld each payday to ensure that you do not have too little withheld. Alternatively, you may split the $X between any of your jobs, by entering on line 6 of each Form W-4 the portion of this amount to be withheld from that job, divided by the number of paydays remaining in 2010 for that job.
There you have it, in writing, from the horse’s mouth. Claiming zero exemptions is not enough. You have to withhold additional amounts or you’ll be fucked. I must be an idiot, because I thought that was exactly what the fucking system was designed to do. When the hell did that fucking change?
You have all been warned. Save extra coins for the King or you’ll receive an unpleasant visit from the tax collector. You can thank me later.