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going to work for your dad December 4, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Lessons Learned.
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cc-licensed photo by Larry Page

My father had exactly one post-college job in his entire life: he worked for his dad — my grandfather. It was a good job, though a hard one — he left for work at 5:30 every morning and got home at 5:30 every night, and had to work every other Saturday. He was tired a lot, and dirty, and he’s got some lingering injuries that are probably work-related, but we lived in the lower tier of upper-middle-class and we were, overall, pretty happy. Later, after my grandfather and his business partner retired, my dad became one-third owner of the business along with the partner’s two sons. And, finally, he retired as well. All in all, a normal life for a person born in the 1950s.

Things are a little different now. Kids are still working for their parents, but parents are in different types of jobs. Manufacturing and delivery are often done by bigger companies and corporations where nepotism only works when you’re the CEO. And in small companies, you can certainly hire your kids, but there’s a recession on. What happens when you have to cut staff? Do you fire your son or your daughter? Do you keep your family on staff even though you clearly have more talented employees not related to you?

Family restaurants, laundromats, and so forth are a different animal, so let’s leave those out for a minute and think about a couple of case-studies.

That Guy. Now, obviously I didn’t go to work for my dad, though I did sit in a couple of times at the office when one of the receptionists had to miss a Saturday. I never wanted to go into a physical-labor field (his company delivered and serviced restaurant equipment and supplies, and had been doing so since the early 1900s), but it was made clear to me that, if I needed to, I could go work for him.

I didn’t. I got a job at an office supply chain in high school, then went off to college and never went back home for anything more than a summer.

Because of the nature of the business, and because my dad retired and as part of that his partners bought out his third at a set price, contractually, I don’t know how the business is doing. I hear from time to time that they’re still making money, so that’s good. But what if they weren’t? What if I’d gotten hired and the business went south? Would I have lost my job because I was a newer employee, or would I have kept it because my dad was the boss? Would my dad have worked longer to make sure I had the dad-as-boss protection?

Plus, from a purely physical standpoint, my dad is a pretty strong guy. I’m not — I’m about average. I’m sure that lugging around equipment and making deliveries would’ve remedied that, but my dad is also very mechanically-savvy; he would often leave the management duties to his partners and go repair stuff in the shop out back. I think his employees liked him better than the other guys, but then, when the hammer needed to be brought down, it was my dad who did it. Could I have succeeded him? Probably not. Would I have been happy in the position? Definitely not.

And what about the money?

That brings us to case two.

cc-licensed photo by blmurch

Kyle. Kyle is a friend of mine who works for a small, family-owned jewelry shop. And when I say small, I mean small — they have four employees. There’s Henry (the owner), Beatrice (the owner’s wife), Lewis (another employee), and Kyle. Oh, and also me — I freelance for the store, doing their web development and keeping their catalog updated. Now, also important to note is that Henry and Beatrice have two children, Ramona and Robert. And that Ramona is married to Kyle.

You can see where I’m going with this.

Kyle got a job working for Henry some years back, when he and Ramona were just friends. But they recently got married. Now Kyle works for his father-in-law, in an industry that was fairly hard-hit by the recession — who’s going to buy jewelry, especially from a small, family-owned shop, when they can get something less expensive in the mall or at the jewelry exchange*? Now, before the wedding, Kyle faced a few pay cuts, but he’s still making good enough money to support himself and his wife, who currently works part-time while finishing her Master’s Degree.

What happens, though, if the jewelry industry takes a turn for the worse? What happens if Henry has to lay someone off? Sure, Kyle’s good at his job, but Lewis is a better salesman — do they fire Lewis (because Kyle supports their daughter) or do they fire Kyle (because Lewis will bring in more money and gets paid less anyway)? Can Henry in good conscience fire Kyle, knowing how it will impact his daughter? What if Kyle can’t find another job, and Ramona can’t find a full-time job? Will Henry just end up supporting them by letting them live in their house? (I’ve been there; Henry and Beatrice have a nice house with plenty of room now that Robert has moved into his own place.)

Quite a dilemma for Henry. Quite a dilemma for Kyle, who knows his job is secure as long as the company makes enough to pay his salary. And quite a situation for Lewis if Henry ends up having to make that decision.

So… knowing what you know, would you hire your son or daughter? His or her spouse? What about other relations — nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, cousins, and so on? Most big companies have rules that relatives cannot supervise each other, and it’s a whole different issue as to what happens around promotion time. But in this economy, if you have no job and your parents get you one at their company, sometimes you (and they) just have to deal with the consequences.

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* I remember, as a kid, going to the jewelry exchange and being bored to tears. I wonder if people still go to those, or if they’re all out of business.

Note: My dad did not own or work at Doug’s Repair Shop. It’s just an example of what is likely to be a family-owned and keep-it-in-the-family kind of place.

ten tips you’ll never use at work November 6, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Lessons Learned, Seen Elsewhere.
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I found this little chunk of bloggy goodness called Ten Tips for a Happier Life, and I suppose they make sense, but if you work in a corporate environment, none of them will ever be applicable to you.

1. Don’t worry. Worry is the least productive of all human activities and thoughts.

Worry. Worry that you’re going to lose your job. Worry that your project won’t get done on time because someone else didn’t bother to finish his or her part. Worry that you won’t see your kids tonight because your boss decided to drop three extra tasks on you at 5:30, and then he jetted off to see his mistress while you sat at your desk, trying to convince the cleaning people you really are supposed to be there this late.

2. Don’t let needless fears preoccupy your life. Most of things we fear never happen!!!

Well, I suppose this is true. I fear paper cuts; I’m careful not to get them. But how about contractors who don’t know if they’ll have a job when their contract is up? How about people on COBRA who can’t figure out how they’re going to pay the $1200 premium when the Obama “help you pay your COBRA” money runs out.

3. Don’t hold grudges. That is one of the biggest and most unnecessary weights we carry through our lives.

You kind of have to when you’re at the office. If you don’t, you’re going to get stomped on again and again as you try to be nice to the people who have wronged you.

4. Take on one problem at a time. It’s the only way to handle things anyway; one by one.

Good luck with that. If you’re not multitasking, your boss won’t think you’re doing enough work… but, worse, if you’re not multitasking, you’ll never finish everything you have on your plate.

5. Don’t take your problems to bed with you. They are bad and unhealthy companions for good natural sleep and rest.

Okay, (a), don’t sleep with people at work no matter how hot they are. And (b), you’re going to have work dreams. Yes, the place that sucks away your soul for nine or more hours a day is going to intrude on the six or seven hours of blissful sleep that you’re supposed to get all to yourself every night. Get used to it.

6. Don’t take on the problems of other people. They are better equipped to handle their own problems than you are.

No, they’re not. Your boss will likely saddle you with someone else’s tasks if that person isn’t getting them done, done right, or done on time. But you don’t want your boss having to do that because it reflects badly upon the entire department. So you take on the tasks of the least-capable person at work so no one gets in trouble.

7. Don’t live in the past. It will always be there in your memories to enjoy. But don’t cling to it. Concentrate on what is happening right now in your life and you will be happy in the present and not just the past.

Companies don’t look toward the future. They look at what they did in the past and try to change one tiny thing in hope that customers will think it’s new and totally awesome. If you try to come up with something new and ground-breaking, you’ll be shot down. Better to live in the past so you’re not disappointed.

8. Be a good listener. It is only when one listens that one gets and learns ideas different from ones own.

Don’t get friendly with anyone who has kids in the Girl Scouts, or you’ll be buying overpriced cookies for the rest of your tenure.

9. Do not let frustration ruin and rule your life. Self pity more than anything interferes with positive actions with moving forward in our lives.

Let me just laugh out loud for a moment. Work is frustration interspersed with tiny bits of satisfaction akin to a child being congratulated for eating broccoli instead of feeding it to the dog.

10. Count your blessings. Don’t even forget the smallest blessings. As many small blessings add up to large ones.

Okay, I can get behind this one. Be thankful you have a job, because so many people don’t. Be thankful you’re getting paid less than you deserve to do a job that sucks because it keeps a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator. Be thankful you have good enough credit to put your kids into private school even though it means you’ll be working until you’re 80 instead of 67 or whatever the mandatory retirement age is these days. Be thankful you get to spend ten hours in the office, two commuting, and two more finishing work at home so you can keep your crappy job.

Count your blessings.

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my problem with give-and-take August 31, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Lessons Learned, The Two-Year-Old.
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What we were always taught as children is: be fair. If you do something for me, I need to do something of equal perceived value for you. Perhaps it isn’t fair in your eyes, but it is in mine. This is also a founding principle in sports trades — perhaps Randy Moss was only worth a fourth-round pick to Al Davis and Bill Belichick back when he was traded to the Patriots. Davis felt he was getting a fair shake, so both sides were satisfied.

If your boss is on the other side, you lose. (CC-licensed photo by toffehoff)

If your boss is on the other side, you lose. (CC-licensed photo by toffehoff)

Unfortunately that doesn’t happen a lot at work.

The trick of give-and-take is to not overload one side — either perceived or actual overload. That happened to me last week. I went to the Two-Year-Old with an idea: we have this topical blog network, and I offered to write a new blog in the network about a subject that interests me — let’s say, for the sake of argument, I’m going to write about professional wrestling*. Writing blog entries about the world of wrestling will make me happy, and I’ll be able to bring to bear my not-inconsiderable writing talent** and wrestling knowledge to the table. Many people will read and enjoy my words as a result.

She was fine with the idea. But while I was sitting in front of her, she hit me with an “oh, by the way…”

Yes. That’s right. I’m now in charge of making sure people remember they have to consider the web side of their projects during planning meetings. That’s going to eat up about three hours every morning. Some of my web development duties are going to be shifted to the new corporate guy, which I guess is fine, but the problem here is that I don’t have any real power. I just have to be in charge without being able to pass punitive judgment on employees who refuse to do the web right (if at all).

But that’s what she decided would be the price of running this blog, and now I’m stuck with it. To me, it’s unfair — taking on a ton of responsibility in exchange for spending maybe 30-40 minutes every couple of days doing something I actually enjoy and getting paid for it. I really wish I could take it back, but it’s too late.

Beware the management definition of give-and-take. It will rarely end in your favor.

It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, The Daily News

–Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind”

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* I haven’t been seriously interested in professional wrestling since about 1999, but the principle is sound.

** If I do say so myself.

most adults still haven’t figured it out April 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Lessons Learned, Seen Elsewhere.
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In the United States, you are ostensibly an adult when you reach 18, even though you can’t drink until you’re 21 and you can’t rent a car without an under-25 fee until you’re… well, until you’re 25. And, on top of that, most of the “things you ought to know when you turn 18” lists aren’t read by the 18-year-olds they’re intended to help. They’re read by people who are already in the workforce, buried, unable to make changes or go back and do the right thing. So they read them to their kids, who summarily hear only the sound of a muted trumpet.

John Hawkins, who once put me on his “top 20 posts of the year” list when I was another incarnation of myself, posted one of these lists. Here’s some bits that apply quite well to the corporate world:

7) “Don’t have any children or get married until you can support and love yourself first.” — D-Vega

Children are wonderful. I have some. But one of the prospective parents in a committed relationship is likely to be of the “let’s have the kids right now” camp. Just remember that kids are expensive, and even if your medical insurance covers you (or your wife, if you’re the non-pregnant member of the couple), who’s to say you’ll still have that job later? How much will COBRA cost you if you lose your job? And what about all the baby stuff you have to buy — bassinet, clothes, diapers, formula*, car seats, strollers, and that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. And as for the “love” part… if you’re unhappy at your job, why spread that unhappiness to your family too?

10) Start looking for a new job BEFORE you quit your old job.

You should always be looking for a new job. Spend at least two hours a week checking job boards. Maybe you have the ideal job now, but what if the next great job comes along while you’re not looking?

23) When you move, sell, throw away, and give away as much as possible or you’ll just end up moving boxes from one closet, where they have been sitting for five years, to another closet, where they’ll be sitting for the next five years.

When you change desks, throw stuff away. If you take a desk from another person, box up all his/her stuff and deliver it to him/her. If that person was fired or quit, keep the box for a year, then toss it all.

36) If you want to do something exceptional, don’t expect anyone to believe you can do it until you’ve done it. Unless you’re already perceived as exceptional, most people won’t believe in you. That’s doubly true for the people who know you best and have therefore seen you at your most mediocre, like your parents, family, and friends.

Underpromise and overdeliver. Come up with the next great idea, start implementing it, and then tell your boss. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to make good on your promise to make things extra-awesome, and when you can’t… well, there you are.

50) When trying to decide between two closely matched alternatives, always have a bias towards action. In the long run, it’ll lead to your having a lot more experience, great stories, and a richer, fuller life.

Better to take action than to wait for someone else to do it. Or, in the current corporate environment, at least talk about taking action. If you’re lucky, someone else will be assigned to take the action so you won’t have to do it. But if people aren’t doing their jobs, and it’s driving you crazy, volunteer to troubleshoot. It’ll eat some time out of your day but if you’re ultimately making the product better, you should get a little leeway on your other tasks.

I’ve got a post brewing about that last bit, but I’m still pretty pissed off about the way accountability is handled here at CorporateSpeak. When I calm down, I’ll write it.

In any case, there are 45 more things you should know by now, things that 18-year-olds should be taught before they leave home. Here’s hoping you know at least half.

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* No matter how committed you are to breastfeeding, trust me — you’ll need formula at some point. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. I strongly recommend splurging on the liquid; the powdered kind you mix into water always made my kids extra-gassy, which is not something you want.

don’t forget the most important part March 20, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Lessons Learned, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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People spend so long preparing for their job interviews that they often forget the most crucial part, so wonderfully illustrated in this episode of Wondermark:

wondermark494

Oops…

quality over quantity, or: a list of things you will never be allowed to do at your job March 16, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Lessons Learned, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all worked for the same company in some form or another. It was a family business specializing in beverage services. My great-grandfather used to make deliveries in New York via horse-drawn cart. My grandfather and his business partner moved the business from New York to the state where I grew up. The two of them brought their sons (my father and the partner’s two boys) into the business, and the other two guys recently bought out my dad’s third of the business at his request, so he could retire.

While I was growing up, I spent a few days a year at my dad’s office. Sometimes I helped out by answering phones or filing, and other times I was just there to visit. I always thought it was something special when I was allowed to go to work with my dad or even to stop by while my mom was running errands with me in the car. If I ever bring my own children to CorporateSpeak, I know people will be glad to see them, but I don’t think that, when my oldest is 11 or 12, I’ll be allowed to bring her to the office for a day to actually do any work. Maybe that’s the difference between small/family-owned businesses and big corporate endeavors.

Anyway, I found the following picture via Lifehacker, and it reminded me of my experiences working with my dad or even listening to the way he and his partners ran the business. These are things that would never fly in most businesses these days — corporate or otherwise — but then, that’s why I think people are so fed up with companies and customer service: no one seems to emphasize quality over quantity anymore.

Photo by Tim Ferriss

Photo by Tim Ferriss

E-mail: My father’s company came to e-mail relatively late — certainly after he retired, though he had his personal account, which he checked maybe once a month. I’m not sure how things are run these days, but I get the feeling that only the office staff would be required to check e-mail more frequently than a few times a day. Not only is it a small enough office that the receptionist can just yell back to the owner’s office, but also the beverage service business doesn’t really depend upon e-mail. Not where I grew up, anyway.

No e-mail: Even though it was a service industry, and the shop was only open (and delivering) 5.5 days a week (half-days on Saturdays), I can count the number of times my dad got a late-night call from the office without taking off my shoes. When it wasn’t his Saturday to work (the owners all took turns), I could depend on spending time with my dad without him having to worry about work calling with little emergencies.

Emergency = use phone: Still in effect. A lot of people working in the corporate environment, however, prefer to deal with emergencies using e-mail for a few reasons:

  1. Paper trail: you have proof that you attempted to solve the problem, and if you did, you can document it and use it when you have your next review.
  2. Time delay: you get extra time to figure out what’s wrong so that when your boss calls you, you can say “I fixed it” or “I took these steps”.
  3. Plausible deniability: you can always say “I didn’t get that e-mail forwarded to my phone. I don’t know what happened.” Most companies aren’t going to subpoena your e-mail records no matter how big the screw-up is.

Focus: Everyone at the shop had a specific job except the owners, and even they tended to focus on specific tasks — my dad preferred to sign checks and repair stuff, one of his partners specialized in accounts, and the third dealt with the people in an HR role. Drivers drove trucks and delivered product; receptionists took orders and filed stuff; dispatchers dispatched; repair specialists repaired things. There was little cross-training because they had an efficient setup and didn’t feel the need to fuss with it.

Log: A service/repair/delivery business is very different in their methods of logging work, so I can’t really comment on that.

Minimize Chat: Useless chat is a feature of the current corporate environment; it’s not a day ending in -y if someone hasn’t wasted a quarter-hour gossiping with you at your cubicle. Plus, there’s a lot of rehashing — just because I sent my boss an e-mail explaining how I completed a task, that doesn’t mean he’s not going to rehash it with me later in the day. At my dad’s company, there was relatively little unnecessary chat, mostly because the bulk of the employees were out delivering product and repairing equipment.

Maximize Single-Tasking: A recent issue of Reader’s Digest* said that, when you’re working hard on a task, it takes about 15 minutes to get back into the groove after someone distracts you. That speaks to the previous item, but maximizing single-tasking means that you’re not distracting yourself thinking about another project you’re in the middle of. Claiming you’re an expert multi-tasker makes you look more valuable to potential employers, but switching too frequently from task to task makes the work as a whole suffer. Again, not a problem where my dad worked, for reasons already explained.

Out by 5:30pm (no excuses): My dad was almost always home by 6pm. I’m sure most of his employees got home at the same time every day — that time being “on time”. But these days, there’s no such thing as the end of the day. If you don’t work the unpaid overtime, you get a black mark on your record — or, in some businesses, you get fired. If you make a habit of leaving on time, management wonders if you’re doing all you can to help the company make money. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked during the day; unless you’re an hourly employee**, your official hours are merely a suggestion.

Every single item in that picture is something that you’ll unfortunately never be allowed to do at your job. Not anymore. Not in this economy. I mourn the passing of good business practices in favor of forcing people to do more with less in less time, but that’s the way it is.

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* I can’t give you the issue number off the top of my head; my wife read me the article during the week of February 23, if that helps.

** Hourly employees must leave exactly on time or else they incur overtime, which brings the hammer down on themselves, their managers, their managers’ managers, and so on. If you’re hourly and you stay late (and claim it on your time-card), that’s a sign that you either can’t get your job done on time and need to be disciplined or you’re trying to bilk the company out of a few extra bucks. Therefore, if you can get an hourly schedule, it might be worth it just to guarantee you can leave on time or sue the company for making you work unpaid overtime.

everything happens for a reason March 6, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Lessons Learned, Management.
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Everything happens for a reason. At least, it does at first.

CorporateSpeak is such a big company that we can’t get away without having a Community Affairs department. They’re in charge of making sure that we perform charitable acts in the community (as a company, not as individuals), and they recently came up with a way to encourage others to do nice things for people. Naturally, they wanted to track it. Naturally, they wanted to tell the stories on our community web portal. Naturally, I got tasked to do the web elements.

So, with the help of marketing, I developed a way to keep track, a way to log in and tell the company what you’ve done to help others, and a way for us to contact people who have paid it forward, as it were. I thought about it for a few hours, came up with a plan, and got it approved. Three days later, it was on our website and working perfectly.

Every part of the microsite I created existed for a reason: tracking numbers, little cards you can give to people you do nice things for, forms to track cards on our microsite, forms to input what you’ve done to be nice, and a place for you to upload photos, videos, and stories to share with everyone.

CC-licensed photo by Foraggio Fotographic

CC-licensed photo by Foraggio Fotographic

Then along came the new VP, who thought this was such a great idea that she just took out a huge stack of the little cards and handed them out at random to everyone in the building.

When we started, I explicitly told her that cards had to come through someone on the community affairs team before we gave them out. I told her why. She agreed and thought it was a good idea. She never came to me and said “let’s change this aspect for this reason.”

Everything I put on a website I design or develop, I put there for a reason. I explain it to everyone involved. I make sure everyone understands and is on board, and I make changes if I have to before we roll the project out. And then, if someone has a concern, the proper course of action is to bring it to me so I can come up with a better way.

This VP has now made my life difficult because I have to now fix the system (she wants me to keep my tracking system running, by the way), and she’s made one of her own employees’ lives difficult because that woman now has to keep track of all the little cards before they go out. Which she can’t do because the VP drops another handful on the staff every day or two.

Just goes to show: if you make everything happen for a reason, then someone else will ignore those reasons.

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your money or your livelihood March 4, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Lessons Learned.
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CC-licensed photo by Flickr user jarrod job.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user jarrod job.

This morning, I had to stop by one of my doctors’ offices to fill out a form. On the way back to my car, I passed their little cafeteria and spied a cappuccino machine. I’d planned to pull into a gas station and get a coffee, but with this machine right here, charging me only 20 cents more than a BP or QT, I figured, why not? So I filled my cup, put on a lid, and went to pay, placing my MasterCard on the counter.

The woman (apparently the owner) took one look at it and said “minimum charge $2.50”.

Now, I’m not usually the kind of person who likes to throw a fit, but I don’t carry cash unless I’m on vacation or need to purchase something at a place that only accepts cash (such as a parking garage or snack vendors at sporting events). However, I really just wanted to take my coffee and get out of there.

So I did what the fine folks at Consumerist.com say to do and inform the cashier that your agreement with the credit card company explicitly forbids you from instituting a minimum purchase rule.

She shrugged and said “if it’s less than $2.50, I don’t make any money.”

Well, I admit I was in a hurry, so I grabbed a couple of cookies (60 cents apiece, but they were originally purchased at the grocery store at a price of 18 for $5), paid $2.79, and as the woman handed me my receipt, she asked if I worked for the bank. I smiled and said, “no, but I read a lot of consumer advocacy websites.” She didn’t know what to say to that, so I signed the receipt and left.

Now, according to Consumerist, here is what the MasterCard merchant’s agreement says:

9.12.3 Minimum/Maximum Transaction Amount Prohibited

A merchant must not require, or post signs indicating that it requires, a minimum or maximum transaction amount to accept a valid MasterCard card.

So here’s the ultimate question: your money or your livelihood? What I mean is, will you eat the profits on a $1.50 cappuccino, or will you risk a dissatisfied customer who really, really wants that coffee calling MasterCard and reporting you, which possibly ends in your losing your ability to accept MasterCard as a form of payment?

The gas station I usually shop at has chosen option one. I haven’t come across the problem much because when I go in there, I get coffee and a breakfast sandwich (they have pretty good croissants) or baked good (apple fritter, most likely). I’ve heard them mention it, but when the customer seemed upset, they just shook their heads and said “don’t worry about it this time”. Which, I think, is a way to go: rather than strictly enforcing it, prime the customer by saying “okay, I’ll do it this time, but next time, if you could, please make a purchase of more than $2.50”. Odds are good the customer will comply. I’ve seen it happen.

The other thing a customer will do is just bring a few bucks when they know they’re going to a place with a minimum charge. I plan to grab $20 from the ATM next time I head down there, because while it was a bit of a pain to get, the cappuccino is really quite good.

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three cheers for browser compatibility testing February 27, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Lessons Learned, Technology Trouble.
1 comment so far

It's always funnier to use a LOLcat to tell people they're in the wrong.

It's always funnier to use a LOLcat to tell people they're in the wrong.

I am generally in charge of building the first (and second, and third, etc) version of all special webpages for my office’s website. However, I was recently not in the office, so my boss built a page for a feature we run every February — a Valentine’s Day guide sort of thing that is evergreen enough to live for an entire month. Unfortunately, due to site redesigns, he couldn’t just copy last year’s.

Apparently my boss has not coded a page in a while. Despite what I told him about Firefox 3.x’s new, stricter standards about commenting out code in HTML.

The way you comment out code is thus:

<!–– you can put your programming notes and other items in here ––>

IE is much more forgiving — you can put as many dashes and spaces as you want. Firefox does not permit that. If you put an extra dash, the code is commented out, but the comment does not end cleanly. At best it leaves a very large white space, and at worst it displays things you don’t want seen for whatever reason.

So I found this:

<!–––      begin content          –––>

Yeah. That’s not going to work in Firefox at all.

But here’s the thing: if my boss had done any cross-browser compatibility testing, he would’ve known it wasn’t working and at the very least he could’ve called me and said, “hey, this isn’t working. Why?”

Instead he just looked at the page in IE, decided it was good enough, and pushed it live.

No one complained; that’s why he never noticed it. But I recently took a couple of telecommute days and, when telecommuting, I tend to use Firefox more often because it renders faster*. Otherwise, no one important would have figured it out.

Anyway, I fixed it in about ten minutes.

There are plenty of apps available for browser compatibility testing. BrowserShots is one of the most popular and most comprehensive. I personally prefer doing it by hand, loading pages in the five major browsers to test them. But whatever your particular preference is, browser compatibility testing is a must these days. Gone are the days when Firefox and Safari users looked at an incompatible site, sighed, and worked around the problem.

Except where management is concerned. For them, it’s not a problem until it’s a problem, and until the Big Boss thinks it’s a problem, it’s not a problem. And since the Big Boss uses IE, well… you get the point.

* A lot of our work must be done in IE because a preponderance of our site visitors use IE — and so does the Big Boss, who matters more than any of them. Also, a lot of our internal-use-only corporate-supplied web apps only work in IE, despite what corporate says about them being compatible across all platforms. If that’s the case, I guess my boss is just acting as the corporate office acts.

can I use you as a reference? February 12, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Lessons Learned, Seen Elsewhere.
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The following was written in 2005 by Yoshi, a friend of That Guy. Please be advised that it contains strong language.

Right now, I am looking for part-time work because I am also going back to school. I’ve decided that my high-school diploma just isn’t cutting it any more, and it’s time to move ahead with my life.

That said, I have found filling out important financial and employment documents not only be a cramp in my style (as well as my right hand), but can be a bit tedious at times. Case in point, the all-too-important references section. My financial aid (read: loans I’ll still be paying back when I’m 40) documents required that I put four (4) whole references down. Look, with the exception of one or two select friends, I have no one I would put down as a reference. Especially since, with the exception of the previously mentioned two friends, everyone else I know is either an acquaintance or a drug addict (or both). Not exactly someone I would use as a reference for both financial and/or employment reasons.

Let’s face it: I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder. I don’t make friends easily (without the aid of alcohol or illicit substances, that is) and with my recent weight loss (125 pounds in the past year*) and employment loss, I don’t have the ability to go out and make friends at the moment (read: none of my clothes fit, I can’t afford drugs or alcohol, and I can barely afford to put gas in my car). Knowing all of that, where exactly am I supposed to find people who I would trust to use as a reference?

What do my friends know about me and my ability to handle fiscal and employment responsibility? All they can really say is, “Yeah, that Yoshi is an okay guy. Not an asshole or anything.” “Yoshi is an okay guy” is not the same as “Yoshi pays his bills on time and shows up to work on-time all of the time.”

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user twodolla

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user twodolla

This leads me to another point of discussion that falls in the same area. Have you ever recommended a friend to your employer, only to have it backfire in your face? I have once, which is why I would never again recommend a friend to my employer. Too many hassles. Nor would I expect anyone to do the same for me. Or so I thought.

On Monday, I went for an interview with a company that a friend of mine recommended me for. After careful thought (read: desperation at not having any money), I submitted my resume to the company with my friend’s name as a reference. Now, I know that my friend has vouched for me and that my chances for getting this job are high but I am really hoping that I will not get hired. In fact I took subtle, yet unconscious, steps at making sure I would not get this job. I forgot to shave (I had done so the night before, but the five o’clock shadow never looks good on an interview), I didn’t bring a copy of my resume, and I arrived two minutes late. To be honest, I know I would be perfect for this job. I just don’t want to tarnish my friend’s reputation if I fuck up at this new position. I don’t want that hanging over my head; I’ve got enough shit to worry about in my life.

I couldn’t help it, though. I need to have some kind of income coming in, and with going back to school and all the part-time position my friend was offering seemed like a good idea. However, if I recommend a friend to my employer, that is me putting my good name on the line for someone. And while my employer may not look badly toward me if that person fucks up, I can guarantee you he/she will never hire another person I recommend ever again. I don’t want that kind of thing happening to my friend.

***

* Early in 2005, Yoshi underwent gastric bypass surgery. As of this date, he has reached his weight-loss goal and is maintaining himself at that weight.