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Friday, November 28, 2008

The inportance of RSVP

It’s a reflection on today’s society that before sporting events the public address announcer has to request the crowd to please honor America by standing and "removing your hats" for the playing of our national anthem. There was a time when it wasn’t necessary to ask a crowd to do that but it was in another era when "respect" was a common word in everyone’s vocabulary. That’s not the case as much today in our cell phone, iPod, hurried up mentality world.

With Thanksgiving behind us, we now enter December with its multitude of holiday parties. It is a time when many invitations will request an RSVP. This is not a new practice but, strangely enough, according to Jill Haney of JH Consultants, about 30% of invitees do not RSVP as requested by invitations. As with the national anthem, an RSVP is a show of respect and a response should always be made to the inviter.

For anyone who is not clear about RSVP, it is a French expression ("respondez s’il vous plait") that simply means "respond please." If you receive an invitation, you are being asked to let the prospective host know if you will or will not attend the function. To not respond is very rude and is not an option. It is an insult to the inviter who thought enough of the importance of your attendance to invite you. Also, the number of RSVPs allows the host to make plans as far as drinks, food, and the size of the room for the party.

An RSVP should be made the day the invitation is received or, at the latest, one or two days later according to Haney. How hard can it be to make a simple two minute phone call to someone who thought enough of you to invite you to their party?

Many invitations these days are being sent with a "regrets only" request. That makes it a bit easier on the invitee as they are being asked to respond only if they can’t make it. Even if you receive this type of invitation, it is still a nice touch to call the inviter and tell them "Thank you."

The RSVP is nothing new to most people but if 30% are still not respecting the request it desires, the above explanation hopefully will remind them of its importance. By exhibiting some manners, it may get you invited to more parties too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To tip or not to tip

Here is a bit of trivia for you: The word "tip" originated from the old English inns where a jar was placed by the front desk with a sign that read "To Insure Promptness." In other words, if you wanted anything done efficiently by the innkeeper, you better put something in that tip jar.

Tipping is controversial to this day. How much should you tip? Some people won’t tip at all as Elaine did in an episode of Seinfeld many years ago. She and Jerry were traveling to New York and Jerry tipped the airport Red Cap $5 per bag. Elaine thought that was exorbitant and chewed out the Red Cap for expecting such a tip. The Red Cap shipped Jerry’s bags to New York and Elaine’s strangely went to Honolulu. A lesson learned: Don’t mess with service workers!

I’m not saying everyone deserves a tip. In my case, I will tip 20% in nice restaurants like The Roaring Fork in Scottsdale or Ruth’s Chris in Phoenix if I have been well taken care of. I think that is standard for today. I might even throw in another 5% if I’m especially happy that night. Conversely, if the service is inattentive and the food is bad I will reduce it accordingly. Nothing is automatic. Excellent service on a special occasion can make a tremendous difference in the experience and I see no problem with a proper reward for it.

One thing I will not do is put money in "tip jars" when no extra service is provided. Places like fast food restaurants come under this category. They are a perfect example of the "give me something for nothing" mentality we see today according to Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute in a Sonoran News editorial this week..

Connerly also mentions the annoyance of ordering room service in hotels and having an automatic 21% gratuity added to the bill. On top of that a space is usually available for "additional gratuity." A room service waiter told him the gratuity is added on because some people might not tip. That sounds like how the government works: "If we don’t like the service, we are taxed anyway" explains Connerly.

Tipping makes sense for those who earn it by providing excellent personal service. Taxi drivers, hotel attendants, waiters, and shoe shine people know about earning tips and deserve them for excellence. They better be good because 99% of their livelihood depends on those tips.

When do you think tipping is and isn't appropriate?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Every senior guy's dream

There have been some wonderful inventions within the last century.

In 1926 Robert Goddard invented the liquid fueled rocket. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have discovered water on Mars recently. I know you are thrilled about that.

In 1927, Philip Farnsworth invented the electronic television system. Technicolor for movies was also introduced that year as was the first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer.

By 1938, items like automatic transmissions for cars became available as did the ballpoint pen, Teflon, and freeze dried coffee.

I know you are impressed by these accomplishments and there are more things invented after that time that are even more amazing. However, while watching a sporting event on television recently, I saw advertised the most amazing and useful invention probably in the history of mankind: Gentlemen, welcome to the world of the Cialis daily dosage pill.

We all remember when Viagara was introduced to help the guys out in times of stress with their ladies. The jokes were everywhere about Sun City being renamed Viagara Falls, etc. Funny stuff and Viagara was a nice help for many guys. However, it didn’t last very long and took a while after dosage to take effect. What self respecting stud could put up with that?

Fear no more, there is now the Cialis daily dosage pill that keeps the guys at full power all the time. No timing involved anymore, guys, you are always ready for action. I can see it now: The dry cleaners in Sun City and elsewhere are receiving hundreds of maroon and lime green leisure suits to be pressed for party time. The stores are running out of white shoe polish and the bars have been asked to extend happy hour by thirty minutes to 7:30. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby records are flying out of the stores and there has been a run on used Buicks with Dynaflow. Run for the hills, ladies!

In 1969 we put a man on the moon. So what! We now have daily dosage Cialis.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Scottsdale AZ has foreclosures too

For those who think that home foreclosures in the Valley of the Sun are restricted to areas like the West Side or Queen Creek, think again. Recent figures from the Independent show that four affluent zip codes in north Scottsdale have 542 foreclosures. A lot of the people in those areas have been strung out for a long time without much cash flow. They have enjoyed the high life of credit card debt and buying cars that they couldn’t really afford.

I have seen young families with 3,500 square foot homes in places like Grayhawk and DC Ranch where the 30 year old husband is the only income producer while his cute wife tends to their 2.4 kids and goes to the gym and pool every day to keep her waist at 19". Their driveway usually has a large late model SUV and maybe a BMW Roadster for mom with a license plate that reads "My Toy."

My first thought has always been, "How can they afford it?" Unfortunately for them, with the current state of the economy, they can’t. Expensive gas, loss of jobs, maxed out credit cards, failed loans, the crash of the housing market, and other factors have taken their toll. For example, there is a 2,296 square foot home in Grayhawk that was built in 1996 and was previously valued at $529,900. It was put at auction recently with a starting bid of $239,000. Grayhawk and DC Ranch alone have 88 foreclosures listed and even super wealthy Troon has 24. Many of the foreclosed loans are between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

As a side effect of foreclosures, many homes in affluent neighborhoods are being left in disrepair with lawns not being mowed or weeds taking over properties. Homeowner associations are also suffering losses from monthly fees not being paid by the lenders who have taken over properties.

It’s a downward spiral everywhere and shows no real sign of improving soon. It’s time for many of the pseudo-rich to tighten their belts, ditch the toys, swallow their pride, and realize that driving a used Kia and living in an apartment in Mesa may be better than walking and living in an Amana refrigerator box. At least for now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Mexico the new Detroit?

I can see why Mexican immigrants are anxious to sneak into the USA to make what Americans would consider "slave wages." As bad as those wages are they still beat what can be made in Mexico working in the auto industry. According to a recent AP story, Ford and GM have turned to Mexico for much of their manufacturing needs which has brought about a two tiered system of hiring because of the demands for cheap labor by the American companies. It sounds like the supply and demand law kicking in again.

Ford is forcing the auto union in Mexico to further decrease already low wages for new hires of $4.50 per hour to about half that as an incentive to get the business of building cars for them. As a comparison, the United Auto Workers tried a similar ploy last year in Detroit by offering their own two tier plan. However, their plan involved cutting starting pay in half from $28.40 per hour to about $14.20. Obviously, that is laughable as the jobs are mostly going to Mexico where $1.50 per hour with minor benefits is standard at some plants. Even China pays workers in foreign owned plants $2 to $6 per hour.

Meanwhile, GM has threatened to close one of their plants in Mexico because of slow sales. That may also be a ploy to lower wages. The immediate response of the auto union was to offer wage concessions to keep the plant open. The workers there make about $6 per hour, very high by Mexican standards. It looks like those "salad days" will be ending shortly.

Would you go to work in an auto plant in Mexico for $1.50 per hour? I made that much working part time in a grocery store in the mid 1960s. However, these days there is an abundance of young workers in Mexico who will flock to get hired under those conditions because of the supposed "stability" of such work. Juan Arreola, the Ford union leader, says "I guarantee that if we advertise for 2,000 workers, 10,000 are going to show up." Once again, supply and demand rules.

What does this mean to Detroit where second tier workers were offered a "low" $14.20 per hour? That is not close to being competitive with Mexico. Chrysler sales are down and layoffs are expected in Detroit. More jobs for Mexico?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kids growing up too fast

When I was ten or eleven years old, girls my age were considered "little girls." They wore frilly little dresses, patent leather buckled shoes with little white socks, and usually had their hair in "pig tails." Playing with dolls was not uncommon and they had no interest in going to a mall, because malls didn’t yet exist.

I know parents who have girls this age who are now pestering their parents for mini skirts, thongs, and cropped tee shirts. Also popular with these kids are short shorts with words like "Juicy," "Hot," and "Yum," printed on the rear end. Obviously, dolls and pig tails have disappeared from the equation.

This is only part of the desire of young girls and boys to pass up childhood. As Karina Bland points out in her recent Republic column, it is not unusual for kids to be "hanging out at the mall unsupervised, and going to boy-girl parties." Most of these kids have cell phones and computers and may even have a site on MySpace. Gone are the days of board games and toys.

Karina says that many experts blame the parents for allowing kids to become this way. I agree. Kids are impressionable and when parents allow them to see programs like "Desperate Housewives" they may want to emulate the characters on that show. Some parents think it is "cute" for kids 9 or 10 to date. Here are more statistics: 55% of parents say childhood is over by 11. 75% of parents allow their kids to drink alcohol before age 18, and in Arizona, half of the eighth graders in 2006 had tried alcohol. 54% of children are allowed to dye their hair and wear makeup before age 14.

Some parents justify this behavior saying "It’s harder to say ‘no’ to a child than it is to say "Go ahead and do it.’" What? So, you don't say "no" just because it is hard? What happened to sensible, disciplined parenting? I can’t say I am surprised that parents take this attitude. In Scottsdale and Phoenix I have observed kids controlling their parents for years. The parents are too lazy or disinterested in their kids to "lay down the law." A lot of parents also have their own agendas which don’t involve their kids. It’s selfishness on their part as they refuse to give up their precious time and interests for the sake of their kids.

Maybe I am behind the times and this is now acceptable behavior for kids and parents. I see mobs of kids in the malls. There are usually boys and girls hanging together. When I was a kid, there was no way my friends and I hung around with girls. We were intimidated by them! Taking a girl to the movies was a special occasion. That was a different era but I think it made a lot more sense than some of the stuff I see today. At least we had a childhood.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A lifetime lover of LifeSavers

Does anyone besides me eat LifeSavers candy anymore? I went into a Safeway store in Scottsdale the other day and they had no LifeSavers for sale at the registers. The checker told me that they carry some LifeSaver items in bags in the candy section. My response was,"In Bags??!!" I asked where the LifeSavers were that came in rolls and were always by the register. She looked at me quizzically as though I was from another planet. It figured, she was young and was probably a Tic-Tac girl.

I have had a lifetime love affair with LifeSavers. Sure, when I was a kid, occasionally I was disloyal and would buy a roll of Sherbets or some other unworthy substitute, but LifeSavers were always the best flavored hard candy on the planet. Every store sold LifeSavers and they usually carried the entire selection. I especially remember the candy/tobacco stands at the main downtown post office in Cincinnati. They were run by guys who had lost their sight, probably veterans of World War II. They had a display of LifeSavers that contained every flavor from the assorted fruits to each individual flavor. There they were, in long rows on the counter: assorted, cherry, Wint-O-Green, Cryst-O-Mint, Pep-O-Mint, butter rum, and others. They sold for 5 cents a roll and were wrapped in wax paper and foil plus a printed paper outer wrapper. It would have been a tough package to open if not for the little string on the end of the roll which easily opened them when pulled.

LifeSavers were invented in 1912 by a candy maker named Clarence Crane who was primarily in the chocolate business. Because chocolate was hard to sell in the summer, he came up with the idea of selling a hard candy during that season. He got the idea to make them round from watching a local pharmacist make pills. The idea of putting a hole in the middle was his own.

In 1913, Crane sold LifeSavers for $2,900, probably a big mistake since the buyer, Edward Noble, went on to make millions from them. They were eventually bought by Kraft, then Wrigley’s Gum.

Like Lifebuoy soap, Prell shampoo, Ammident toothpaste, and many other popular products from the past, I guess LifeSavers have lost some of their appeal and sales to the many modern mints and candies. I still remember their ads that read, "LifeSavers, the candy with the hole, still only 5 cents." Those days are gone, they now sell for 89 cents and worse than that, they don’t have the little string on the end anymore so they are very difficult to open.

Times have changed and so have LifeSavers but as long as I can open the package, I will buy them. It would be nice, though, if they put the little string back on the end.