Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Five Ways to Die This Black Friday

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

alas, poor black friday shopper! i knew him, horatio

I almost died three years ago on the day after Thanksgiving. Well, “almost died” may be a stretch. We’ll just say I feared for my life.

Was it a bad case of turkey poisoning? After-holiday blues? Nope, just a good old-fashioned case of going to Wal-Mart on a Black Friday.

If you’ve never been to Wal-Mart on a Black Friday (you know, that magical day of shopping deals right after Thanksgiving), here’s what you’ll find:

  • Incredible bargains.
  • Amazing deals.
  • Sales events of the year!
  • A mob of absolutely freakin’ insane sub-human creatures.

black friday, all hope abandon ye who enter here

I’m still too traumatized to fully recount the experience, but let’s just say I won’t be going back to Wal-Mart on a Black Friday ever again. In fact, I won’t even leave the house that day.

Of course, nothing should stop you from venturing out on Black Friday to save yourself a few bucks… except maybe your sense of self-preservation. But if you don’t mind a little trip to the afterlife to snag that bargain, here are a few ways you can make sure you don’t make it to Saturday, November 25th.

  • Check out the ads early. Black Friday advertisements are already starting to show up on the internet. The best source for scans of store flyers is BFAds.net. Start filling your shopping list with one amazing deal after another! Electronics, clothes, furniture, toys–all at rock-bottom prices! So… many… deals… Oops, you just died of a heart attack from all that excitement.
  • Eat a good meal ahead of time. You just downed six pounds of turkey, three boxes of stuffing, and two cans of cranberry sauce, so you should have plenty of energy, right? Wrong! You’re gonna be doing a lot of running, maybe some jumping, and you might even need to throw a punch or two to secure that Tickle Me Elmo. So if your caloric intake on Thanksgiving was anything less that 20,000, then congratulations–you just died of lethargy. Or you simply passed out and hungry shoppers ate you while you slept.
  • Get in line at 2am. If you want to make sure that those Free After Rebate goodies fall into your hands, you’ll need to get up pretty early in the morning. Just keep in mind that temperatures start getting chilly in late November, especially overnight. Wait, you did forget, and now you died of hypothermia.
  • Push your way to the front. You pull onto the parking lot at 5:50am thinking you have a chance at that $100 Invisible Walking iPod, but you see 7,000 people already in line. So you drive home, right? No, that would be lame. Instead, you wait ten minutes until the doors open and charge head first into the stampeding crowd. You push and shove and bite and… wait, you didn’t just bite that 400-pound lady who’s gotta have her $100 Dell computer, did you? Sorry, you just died of angry large woman.
  • Take what you can get. You’re finally in the store, but you can’t find those darn $12 DVD players. But that’s okay, there are other deals to be had. You’ll just have to settle for the $20 weight set, $50 color television, and $99 stereo system. Unfortunately you forgot to get a cart, and you died of a herniated everything trying to carry all that stuff to the register.

And should you manage to survive the horrors you witness this Black Friday, don’t fret because the bird flu, nuclear war, or junk food will finish the job soon enough.

Monday, October 16, 2006

How Would You Like Three Months of Sick and Family Time Per Year?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

take two of these and skip work for a few months

Chances are that your employer’s policy on sick and family leave falls into one of these categories:

  • You may use up to X number of sick or personal days each year.
  • You can have as many sick or personal days as you like, but use too many and you’ll be looking for another job.
  • Hahaha, time off? That’s funny. Now get back to work!
  • No, seriously, stop reading this list and get back to work!

A bill being considered in Massachusetts (ooh, spelled that correctly on the first try!) would require all employers–even small businesses–to allow workers to take up to three months of sick or family leave every year.

Even before its ratification (if that ever happens), it’s fairly obvious how such a law would affect businesses in Massachusetts:

  • Big businesses. “Meh, we’ll just have one of our 362,000 other employees cover for you while you’re out. Then we’ll fabricate a totally different reason to fire you when you get back.”
  • Small businesses. “Okay, we have five employees at our company. If one of them is out for three months a year, that means we’re out tons of hours. How many? Um… let me see… carry the two… hold on, I better talk to Bill in accounting. Wait, what do you mean Bill’s out sick? How can I do math if Bill is out sick??? Our company is ruined!”

Either way, if this law passes in Massachusetts and at least three of the seven other states weighing similar legislation, then you could be out on sick or family leave all 12 months of the year! And still get paid for it! Or something like that.

Edit: Minor spelling correction.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Punny Poll #13: Christmas in September

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

I don’t understand how you all manage to get up every morning! According to last week’s Punny Poll, 58% of you do not like your jobs. And if you consider that my readers are likely happier than your typical bunch of folks, then the real percentage of Americans unhappy with their 9-to-5 is probably more like 97%, possibly much higher.

Summer is almost over, and you know what that means: Christmas is right around the corner! Okay, so it’s still nearly four months until the holidays, but that won’t stop advertisers from hammering you with yuletide glee from now until then. Fortunately you’re all smart shoppers and will keep your eyes out for great gift deals whether they come along on January 1st or December 24th. Or are you?
[Read more…]

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Punny Poll #12: Do You Love Your Job?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

i heart my jorb

Punny Poll #11 confirmed my suspicions about the pricing of auto insurance versus homeowners insurance. Nearly half of those who responded said that insuring their car costs more than double the price of insuring their home. Another 21% said the car costs more, but not quite double. Just 15% said the home was more expensive to insure.

After attending last week’s leadership conference, I talked to a bunch of people who are less than thrilled with their current jobs. Some might be happy again doing something slightly different, while others may need a total career adjustment to put the smiles back on their faces. I suspect there will be a similar distribution of unhappy workers in the Punny Money audience, but there’s only one way to find out for sure…
[Read more…]

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Do Retail Workers Just Not Care Anymore?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

the apathy of the retail worker

Most of us have been there before ourselves: working some minimum-wage retail or service job as a teenager to make a bit of spending money. We might not have liked those jobs very much, but we took them anyway all in the name of earning a few bucks to blow at the mall. We’d flip our burgers, ring up purchases on our cash registers, and assist our clueless customers while still managing to keep a smile on our faces.

Then again, I can’t remember the last time I saw a retail worker with a smile on his or her face.

In the last few years, I’ve seen growing evidence that our nation’s retail workforce–a vital part of our economy–just doesn’t give a hoot anymore. It seems that a serious outbreak of apathy has afflicted most hourly retail workers, and it shows in how they interact with their customers. I’m sure you’ve experienced your fair share of workers who are less than eager to be making six bucks an hour to bag your groceries or pump your gas; I’ve certainly seen these types myself, and it usually doesn’t affect me too much. But a small, almost inconsequential encounter last night made me realize just how little many retail workers care about doing a good job anymore.

My wife and I went to Target to pick up a new flashlight. With our purchase in hand, we went to the top-floor checkout lanes and entered a line behind a 30-something woman accompanied by her young daughter. She had an assortment of items, and the cashier–a woman who couldn’t be older than 20–scanned and bagged them all without much chit-chat. When the cashier tried to scan a metal teapot, she discovered there was no barcode. She looked up at her customer who said, “It was the only one over there, and I didn’t see a price.”

The young cashier flipped the teapot around in her hands a few times, perhaps hoping a barcode would mysteriously manifest itself. It didn’t. She turned to her customer again and uttered words I’ll forever recall whenever I enter a retail checkout line: “I can’t scan it, so I can’t sell it to you.” She proceeded to put the teapot on the counter behind her and continued processing the customer’s other items.

At this point, the customer appeared almost dazed at what had happened. She opened her mouth to speak as the cashier continued to ring up her purchases, but then she closed it again. Instead, she turned to us, still waiting patiently in the line right behind her. If her facial expression were an instant message window, it would have said “WTF” with an obscene number of question marks after it. I looked back at her, almost equally stunned at the cashier’s actions. All the while, the cashier continued to scan the rest of her items.

The woman opened her mouth to speak a second time, but she was interrupted by the cashier’s announcement of her transaction total. She looked back one more time at us but proceeded to whip out her credit card, paid for her purchases, and departed without saying a word.

I learned a very important lesson from that experience. It wasn’t that retail workers are becoming more and more uncaring, unresponsive, and unwilling to do more than their basic job functions; I already knew that part! My lesson learned is that people seem to be willing to let retail workers get away with that apathy and laziness. Had I been that woman, I would’ve had the cashier on the phone asking for a price check in two seconds flat. And then I would’ve spoken to her manager on the way out.

I can maybe understand why the woman might not have responded at first to the cashier’s rudeness and stupidity; it was a downright shocking experience. But to leave and let the cashier think that her actions were anything resembling proper behavior is almost as bad as the actions themselves.

So thank you, woman in Target, for allowing the apathy of the retail workforce to blossom unhindered. I’m sure we’ll appreciate your inaction even more in a few years when we consider a good customer service experience to be one where the cashier actually comes out of the break room to stand by her register as we scan and bag our purchases by ourselves.