The “Fun” Run

Fun run

“Fun” run.

“Fun run”, said no one ever… except the seriously masochistic. Profuse sweating. Stinky body odor. The look of having just been ravaged by a gaggle of Kardashians because you had a Coach purse coupon in your hand. Where’s the fun in that?

“Oh, but Ken, you just don’t get it.” No, I get it. I mean, who else gets up at 4:30 in the morning, in the middle of January, bundles up like they’re Nanook of the North in clothing that could withstand a polar bear attack, suffer frostbite of the lungs from the heavy breathing, just so they can run in the dark and dodge cars of sane people driving nice warm cars with heat to work?

Or, strips down to almost nothing, and goes to sweat all to hell in the hot humid summer? (Although, there is something to be said for exercise sweat on the ladies… just sayin’.)

Then there’s the facial expressions of runners while they’re doing it. Pain. Discomfort. Drudgery. There’s a reason that running has been used as a punishment or torture in some societies, and this is it. Those looks of utter grueling distress are all too real. Let’s be honest, marathon finishers only smile because it’s finally over.

This defies all logic.  Rational people simply don’t act this way.

I won’t even mention the potential… no, the probability… of serious injury. Just another layer to peel back that brings you down to the next level of hell. Shin splints, knee problems, flat feet, back troubles, the list goes on.

And to think, some organizations actually advertise running as fun.  Come to our event and take part in a “fun run”.  😐  They should be prosecuted for deceptive advertising.

There are only two times that running is an acceptable endeavor… 1) getting out of the way of a speeding vehicle, and 2) stretching a double into a triple.

However, since I am a fair and nice guy, if I have to find something good to say about running, at least runners aren’t dressed as cartoonishly as street mimes… or rabid bicyclists.

Then there’s me…

Tipping: Part 1

…of 193, probably. Ugh! This is going to be quite the series. LOL! I have strong opinions on tipping. Yer shocked, nay, dismayed, I can tell… that I have strong feelings about something.

TIPS: To Insure Prompt Service. Phfft!  Yeah, ok, whatever, I’ve never believed that is the actual origin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. For true service, and good service, I am good with tipping. Many people hear my thoughts on tipping and think I’m a spendthrift and a curmudgeon… wherever would they get that idea???, I mean really!… but I actually tip well. I’m usually in the 20-23% category, sometimes higher, and my wife can back me up on this. I even usually sometimes tip more than they actually deserve when they provide lousy service, I’m still around 15% even for that (though I know I shouldn’t). So what do I kvetch about? Let me tell ya…

1. Entitlement Mentality: This is probably my biggest pet peeve regarding tipping, the entitlement mentality that has developed. It’s no longer an appreciated gift for having done a good job or providing a worthy service, it has evolved to become an expectation and if you don’t live up to their unknown and possibly unreasonable expectation you are treated as a pariah. Scorned and scowled at if you ever go back and they remember you. Simply for not lavishing them with the remnants of your bank account.

The entitlement mentality goes both ways, from some servers and from some businesses. They’re taking advantage of people and getting what is virtually free labor because the state allows them to get away with it.

As things generally go, this entitlement mentality has expanded to other professions that might not deserve a tip. Everyone seems to think they’re special. Which leads us to…

2. Who gets a tip?: Tied to the entitlement mentality, which professions should get a tip? A server in a sit-down restaurant? Sure. They’re running around basically catering to your whims. They are your servant for the moment. Regardless their hourly wage, that’s worth something. Don’t be a tightfisted chump, treat them well. We’ll get into wages in a future installment, but they often are legally paid less than minimum wage (in most states), and that is and should be a factor, but just one factor of many.

How about the person who cuts your hair? Should they get a tip? Yes? Why? I say ‘no’. I do tip, albeit because of the societal guilt trip involved with not tipping, but I shouldn’t have to. I go to independent barbers. They state their price on the wall. End result, they are paid in full, and set their own price based on what they feel their service is worth. That’s fine. But it’s also somewhat dishonest. They know most people will throw in some extra. I say if you want or need more money, then raise your price. I’m still going to pay it, but it will save me the bother of having to wonder if I gave too much or too little. Yeah yeah yeah, you can say that you aren’t forced to tip, no one’s holding a gun to your head, blah blah blah. Societal guilt tripping and peer pressure is powerful, and that’s a fact. A set price would actually be more respectful to both parties.

How about “servers” at buffets and picking up ‘to go’ orders? I say ‘no’. A case could be made for a ‘to go’ order, and it’s true they may get paid less than minimum wage, and there is some effort involved in putting the order together, but it’s far less than table service. As such, a smaller tip would be appropriate, maybe 10%.

Having said that, with a buffet I’m literally serving myself… and isn’t that the point of a buffet… variety and that I serve myself? <shrug> They might get drinks and clean the table afterward (or they might not looking at a local buffet I frequent [they do have good food and they’re cheap]), but that is small compared to literal table service. No, if I’m doing virtually all my own work, the person standing in the corner watching me eat is not deserving of a tip.

The way we’re going, I fully expect bridge toll takers to start getting tips any day now. <insert eye roll here>

Conclusion: So that’s it. That’s the end of Part 1. Future installments will include (in no particular order)… tip jars & counter service, tip sharing, wages & laws, the amount of the tip, the effort put forth, people who don’t tip and/or are rude to the servers, and more. Stay tuned. 🙂

Soap Box: Retail Pricing

Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed…

That’s exactly how I feel when it comes to retail pricing, and it’s getting worse. I’ll share some examples and I’ll include my evolved philosophy and procedures.

Example #1: I recently ordered some printer ink from Amazon. It was on back-order, but they said it’d be just a week, so no big deal. The price was $42. Remember that, it will be relevant as we go further. As the week is winding to an end I get another email saying it’d be another month. Ummmm, no.

So, I ventured down to my popular big-box retailer and they don’t even carry my brand of printer ink. Next I mosey on to my local brick-and-mortar office supply store. Go in, a guy asks if he can help me, so I hand him my empty box and say, “I need this.”

He finds it and goes to hand it to me, and I stop in my tracks. I said, “No offense intended, but I can’t buy it at that price.” He says ok, puts it back on the shelf and I leave.

The were charging SEVENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS for the same thing I could get at Amazon for $42. 83% higher! And they wonder why online retailers are kicking their butts.

Now, granted Amazon had it on back-order, but I wasn’t out so my situation wasn’t critical. I get back on Amazon, find it through a third party on Amazon, in stock, for… get this… $40 and free shipping (and no sales tax!). It won’t be two-day Prime, but it has already shipped this morning, two days after I ordered it. It will arrive soon.

Example #2: I have a couple friends who work for a local photo store. They often say that people don’t understand the value they provide. They often say that people will regret the day when there are no brick-and-mortar retailers from which to shop. And you know what… I agree with them. I completely agree with them. There is great value in what they provide that goes beyond the simple buying of products.

I know people who think nothing of going into a store, comparison shop, consume the salesperson’s time, then go home and buy it cheaper from an online retailer. Those people suck. They have no intention whatsoever of purchasing from the local retailer. They’re just selfish and rude. Those people suck.

If I go to a store, and let’s say I’m shopping for a new camera lens, I will ALWAYS give that store first shot at the sale. Always. I am also willing to pay a reasonable amount extra to buy from them. 1) I want a vibrant local economy, 2) I value the service that they just provided, 3) When I establish a relationship I can go in and talk with a friend in a no pressure and no expectation scenario, and that has value as well, and 4) I want a place where I can comparison shop brands and models in the future.

So, as I said, I always give them first shot. But… there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?… but, I am not a lottery winner. I don’t have a deep bank account. I am not Mr Moneybags. I have to look out for myself at the same time, and ensure my own financial well-being. I am willing to pay a bit extra for local and for service, but I am not willing to drain my bank account to do so. The retailer still needs to respect me and be competitive.

I’m not saying they have to beat, or even match, the online retailer’s price, but they do have to be reasonably close. How close varies with many factors, but my general rule of thumb is in the 5% to 10%-ish range (less on very expensive items). If Amazon is charging $750 for a camera lens, I will pay around $775 to $800 from my local retailer, and I will do so gladly. I refuse to pay anyone $900 for a $750 lens, regardless who it is.

Example #3: We have a local regional grocery store chain that is, overall, pretty good in selection and quality. I would prefer to shop there exclusively instead of the big-box retailer, but I can’t. They’re simply too freakin’ expensive. On average, according to a couple price check surveys of my own that I have done (yes, I really have), they’re about 30% higher than the big-box guys. Again, at some point it is too much, it is price gouging, and I have to look out for myself, too.

Their big slogan/jingle is about having “a friendly smile is every aisle”… note the rhyme, lol. Nothing about price (except the odd good sale), nothing even about value, just how friendly they are. Spare me <insert eye roll here>. Just know that any business that goes out of it’s way to avoid telling you how competitive they are are doing so because they aren’t competitive at all, and they know it.

Example #4: Soft drink prices in restaurants have gotten completely absurd. Most places are trying to be as competitive as possible on their food, I get that, but they don’t want it to cut into their profits, so they’re making up for it on the drinks.

I have a great deal amount of restaurant experience, including ownership for a short time, albeit many years ago. Soft drinks have always been a high-profit item, but now it’s ridiculous. A glass of soda costs the restaurant, maybe, 20c. Maybe. I’m now commonly seeing prices of $3 (ok, $2.99). This means that for my wife and I to have a refreshing soda with our meal, up to $6 gets added to our bill, and unlimited refills go only so far. And to be even more insidious about it, many restaurants are taking drink prices off their menus so people don’t go into sticker shock when they see it. They’ll still list the flavors, of course, but no prices.

My counter-measure to this is that I now always ask the server how much soft drinks cost. I have set my own admittedly arbitrary limit… $2.29, which is still very generous… and if they answer with anything higher I reflexively say I’ll have ice water… which I should be doing more anyway, but I digress.

I have had one server laugh and say she understood. Many servers look disappointed, or even annoyed, because $6 less on the bill affects their tip. Well, sorry, talk to your boss. We’re back to where I have to protect myself and my own bank account.

Example #5:  Raising the price without raising the price.  You’ve seen it.  A product gets smaller, but the price stays the same.  And of course the package never points this out to you, though they do label size/weight per law, so *IF* you’re paying attention you’ll notice, but if you aren’t, well… you know.

Breyer’s Ice Cream went from 2 qts, to 1,8 qts, to 1.75 qts, to 1.5 qts over a period of just a few years.  Many kinds of orange juice are no longer 64 oz, but 59 oz.  The dog food we buy used to come in 40 lb bags, and is now in 30 lb bags.  And I could go on and on and on.  You get the idea.

I have read instances where companies are claiming they are only reacting to people’s desires for less portions, etc.  Ok, but if that were the case then the price would go down with the packaging.  It doesn’t, does it?  Let’s be honest and call it what it is… raising the price without raising the price.

Conclusion… finally, eh?: That’s it. And to think I started with two examples in mind, and it snowballed from there.  Anyway, you have to be on-guard. You have to protect yourself. No one cares more about you and your well-being than you.

What did I just sign?

So there you are, at the doctor’s office, checking in and going through all the paperwork and confirming all same stuff you just confirmed two days ago. But hey, I might have changed my name and moved to… and back from… Alaska since then.  Stranger things have happened.  But I digress. Anyway, you get to the point about privacy, because you know, our privacy is their #1 priority… that’s why laws needed to be passed making it so.

But I digress again. Anyway, you’re told, “Please sign in the blank box on the screen. It’s just saying that you’ve been offered a copy of our privacy policy.” Did you catch that? It’s **JUST** <whatever> (we’ll come back to this later). In other words, it’s nothing to be worried about. A mere trifle. Beneath my important self. Don’t worry my pretty little head. Or, phrased differently, just shut up and sign it.

I know, I know, I can ask for a copy of what it is, but really… how do I know the two are tied together? For all I know black helicopters may swoop in as soon as I sign it and shock troops will rappel out and take over my front yard, all while accusing me of some international conspiracy.

Had the same thing happen a couple days ago when I had to have some some plumbing work done. At the end the guy hands me a tablet and tells me I need to sign in the big blank space. “It just…”… see? there’s that word again… “…says that you are perfectly satisfied with the job.”

Does it? Bear in mind that I am purposely avoiding the unnecessary use of the word ‘perfect’. For all I know I just signed over the deed to my house while agreeing to continue to make payments. Phfft! <shrug>

In true “Back in my day…” mode, I don’t think it unreasonable that we go back to signing paper copies. Or at least make it obvious WHAT we’re signing.

I’m just going to the store…

I find this photo ironic, because sometimes police are the worst panhandlers.

…don’t accost me on my way in and out begging for money.  (Sometimes you do get hit up in both directions, too.)  And really, that’s what is going on, begging for money.  Same goes for at the register, btw.  Doesn’t matter if a product is being sold or a good cause is being promoted.  It’s still confronting people to pressure them into buying a product they didn’t come out for.  Sort of an emotional public intimidation.  But what it really is is begging.

I’m just going to the store, leave me alone.

I’m not talking traditional panhandling.  You know, the people at the side of the road with cardboard signs.  That’s bad enough.  But that’s easy to take care of… just swing your car as if you’re going to run them over and watch them scurry for safety.  LOL!!!  Oh, fun times.  😛  But I digress.

Warning, mini-rant:  I especially hate it when panhandlers use their kids.  That makes me angry.  /mini-rant off

Anyway, Little League, school clubs, Scouts, various charities and so on, all selling their various goodies and wares by placing themselves at an unavoidable place of a store entrance.  It doesn’t really matter what the cause it, I didn’t leave home to seek you out, you placed yourself in my path seeking money.  That’s a form of begging.

The worst, IMO, is the fire fighter “boot drives”, where fire fighters (and sometimes police) station themselves at busy intersections and walk up and down the stopped vehicles holding their boots out for people to toss money in.  Let’s be real, that’s intimidating to the average person, and they know it.  It’s a form of bullying, an emotional strong-arm tactic, regardless the intent or who is doing it.  Bottom line:  it’s no less panhandling than what traditional panhandlers do.  No way around it.

I don’t appreciate being put in the position of being the “bad guy” who didn’t donate to the cause, or didn’t buy the requisite amount of cookies, or whatever, in full view of everyone and being labeled “that guy” when I may have a perfectly good reason to not participate.  Maybe I give elsewhere.  Maybe I have other causes near and dear to my heart, and limited resources, so I have to pick and choose accordingly.  Public coercion doesn’t allow for that, though.  You still get unfairly labeled.

Then again, maybe I should embrace being “that guy”.  I am a curmudgeon, after all.

Soap Box: Pets, Hurricanes, and People

Today we introduce a new feature, the “Soap Box”. This is where I will go on a literal rant about something that, in my humble opinion, any decent person should agree with me is just plain wrong. Soap Box topics generally make me angry, and I have little to no tolerance for the guilty parties. Soap Box topics cause me to believe that people suck. While very curmudgeonly and very opinionated, I am not prone to violence, nor do I endorse violence in most any individual circumstances (excepting self-defense, then it’s expected). So, here we go…

In the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey many people have had to evacuate their homes. Many of those people have bent over backward to save their pets, as well. Some of the faces of the forlorn pets is heartbreaking. People, even most kids, know and can comprehend what is going on. That doesn’t make it better, per se, but they get it. Animals, on the other hand, essentially have the relative safety and security of their world turned upside down. They’re scared, they’re tired, they simply do not know what’s going on. Add in domestication and they are unusually dependent on us for their survival.

Then we have the dregs of society. The ones who define “people suck”. Two recent examples involve dogs. In one example a dog was left in rising flood waters tied to a tree. In the other example two dogs were left in rising flood waters in crates on a porch. Who the hell does that?!?

Just thinking about it makes me livid.

Really, what kind of selfish low-life person does that? Personally, I cannot imagine leaving my pet behind. A pet would be second only to people, of course, and if I absolutely had to make a choice, I’d have to go with people first, but I’d do whatever humanly possible to save my pet, as well.

And I’m not so much ranting about leaving the pets behind. I don’t know the people’s situation, and maybe they had to make an either/or decision. That’s one thing. It’s quite another to leave them in a situation where they are likely to suffer a horrible death by drowning. If you have to leave a pet behind, ok, but leave them free so that they at least have a chance to run and/or swim to safety and a chance at survival. Only a sadistic jerk would not allow them that chance.

In both of these examples someone happened by and saved them. Those people deserve eternal admiration. But it shouldn’t have to have happened that way in the first place.

/rant off

There is no humor in this post, as that wouldn’t be appropriate, but true to my general purpose, it needed to be said.