Tuesday February 18, 2020
 

Where Were The Managers?

Chipotle took a reputation blow in Massachusetts for failing to follow child labor laws.  It was hit with more than 13,000 alleged violations.  Either restaurant managers didn’t know or didn’t care to follow the rules, and no one had headquarters was checking as well.  There might be an excuse for one or two mistakes.  There is little one can say about 13,000 except that it was a pattern of misbehavior.  The fine was large enough to make the company pay attention in the future — $1.3 million.  As the author of the article notes, it is not up to employees to know labor laws.  It is a manager’s job, and clearly, the managers weren’t doing it.  Now, Chipotle will have to be vigilant about scheduling teenagers, but it should have been doing that all along.

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Marketing Misery

This airline offers no-frills, rock-bottom seat pricing and all the discomfort that implies.  For all that, it is making money.  There is a market for misery as long as it is cheap, and Spirit knows that.  The commentator praises its honesty and purity of positioning.  There is none of the multiple tiers of comfort and cost that one finds in competitive airlines.  There is one class and that’s all.  It smacks of the Southwest Airlines strategy that drove that company’s success.  For short to middling hops, passengers put up with the cramming because they know in a couple of hours they will be free.  That’s enticing to the budget-minded and it proves that customer treatment can be shabby as long as one prices for it.

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What Robots Can’t Do

NASA likes manned space flight and wants to put astronauts back on the moon then go on to Mars.  So far, robots have explored the planets and have done a good job.  What is the reason for putting humans at risk in the vacuum?  This is one.  Humans can repair and maintain instruments once they break, even if the machines aren’t designed for it.  If NASA returns to the moon for good with a station, there will be a demand for equipment servicing that will require human intellect and skills.  Sometimes when an instrument goes down, there is no way to fix it from earth.  And when a detector is not built for in-space servicing, repairing it is even harder.  But, humans can do it and are the last line of defense against failure.  This, then, is a reason for expending billions to put astronauts on the moon and Mars.  It might not seem like much, but it is better than pushing for humans in space with little justification for having them there.

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What Robots Can’t Do

NASA likes manned space flight and wants to put astronauts back on the moon then go on to Mars.  So far, robots have explored the planets and have done a good job.  What is the reason for putting humans at risk in the vacuum?  This is one.  Humans can repair and maintain instruments once they break, even if the machines aren’t designed for it.  If NASA returns to the moon for good with a station, there will be a demand for equipment servicing that will require human intellect and skills.  Sometimes when an instrument goes down, there is no way to fix it from earth.  And when a detector is not built for in-space servicing, repairing it is even harder.  But, humans can do it and are the last line of defense against failure.  This, then, is a reason for expending billions to put astronauts on the moon and Mars.  It might not seem like much, but it is better than pushing for humans in space with little justification for having them there.

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Twisted

Hate is a peculiar thing.  One can destroy oneself in the act of harming others and glory in the negative outcome.  Consider the white nationalists apprehended before they could disrupt a Virginia pro-gun rally.  They set out to kill marchers and police and thereby sow division and start a civil war.  What they ignored was their intended action would turn everyone against them, including pro-gun protesters.  They would have gained nothing except a visceral satisfaction that they did something and almost certainly would have died for their cause.  General George Patton probably said it best when he counseled his troops as follows, “ The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”  Haters are beyond reason and persuasion.  They hew to their twisted beliefs without doubt or an ability to consider another side.  They are beyond what communication can possibly do.  The only way to handle them is to stop them by force, if necessary, and to separate them from society for good.

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Integrity

An accounting firm’s currency is integrity.  That is why this is a crisis for PWC, and the partner in charge is gone.  He should have said something, even dropped the client under suspicion of wrongdoing.  Once again, the story broke with a release of documents, 700,000 of them and they detail the theft of funds from the poverty-stricken African country, Angola.  PWC is investigating but the damage is done.  It will take time, perhaps a lot of it, for the firm to regain credibility among African clients. While there is no suggestion yet of wrongdoing by the partner, there is indication he looked away from the thievery that was occurring.  It is an age-old conundrum.  Should one dump a lucrative customer whom one knows is breaking the law?  Most companies won’t.  Accounting firms cannot afford not to.

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End Run

Uber is so upset with California’s new law making Uber drivers employees that it is experimenting with an end-run to get around the legislation.  It is telling some of its drivers to set their own fares for passengers.  While this might survive a legal challenge, it could well be a PR and marketing nightmare.  What will passengers say when a driver jacks the usual fare by 25 percent because he thinks he can get away with it?  Not only will there be an upset customer but it will lower chances the rider will ever use Uber again.  Uber can give a suggested fare and leave it up to the driver to determine if that is what he wants to charge, but inevitably pricing will go awry.  Taking an Uber will be rolling dice in a casino.  It’s not a great idea and there is a good chance Uber will not roll it out to all of its California drivers because of an administrative nightmare and consumer agita.  Maybe Uber will have to give in after all and treat its drivers like employees.

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Short Sellers

Short sellers of a company’s stock are acid in CEOs’ stomachs.  The shorts are betting a company will fail and its equity will fall.  That’s why this is an interesting case.  A short is betting against Tesla based on unintended acceleration claims.  Tesla says it has proof that drivers who experienced the phenomenon had accidentally hit the accelerator pedal.  Not only that, but the vehicle is engineered to go only when the accelerator is pushed.  There are no gears in which a defect of the transmission can cause the cars to lurch forward.  Lastly, a Tesla critic has offered money if anyone can prove the vehicles have the defect.  So far, it is not looking good for the short, but it is still a serious PR issue that must be addressed.  Shorts are a seamier side of stock trading.  They won’t go away so one has to be aware of them.  There is a sense of satisfaction when one is proved wrong and a company’s stock price is not affected.

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Branding A Nation

Holland isn’t Holland anymore.  Forget that.  It’s the Netherlands, or so Dutch officials would have it.  They are doing it for tourism and international relations and to acknowledge that the name, “Holland”, consists of only two of 12 provinces.  It will take years for the world to make the shift, so the Netherlands shouldn’t be in a hurry.  Of course, one can change signs, logos, correspondence and run advertising, but that won’t shift habits for a long while to come.  Essentially, the Dutch will lean on a new generation of citizens raised under the banner of the Netherlands to make the name change stick.  Then, it can work on the rest of the world.  Over time, they might succeed in getting everyone to say the Netherlands rather than Holland.  But, it will take time measured in decades. 

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Piss Poor

This is the worst kind of flackery, and it is good it was caught as quickly as it was.  One wonders what Facebook employees think about it and the ham-handed way it was handled.  There is little excuse for running paid editorial that looks like real copy.  There is far less excuse for the chief operating officer to spotlight the article and react as if it was actually an editorial product.  Clearly, Sheryl Sandberg knew, or, if she didn’t, she should have known.  Facebook had the humiliation of admitting the copy was paid-for, then it took it down but not before social media mavens began to chatter.  How dumb can one be?  It’s not PR and it’s not even good publicity.  One hopes Facebook doesn’t try something like this again.

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