Adventures In Stupidity: JC Penny

It went unnoticed by many, but if there was ever a contestant for a poster child to demonstrate what’s wrong at all levels across the spectrum of business there’s not one better in my opinion than what took place at J.C. Penny® recently.

Have you been into a J.C.Penny recently? The one where I live and formerly shopped has transformed from a peer competitor with the likes of Macy’s® to now looking and feeling like I’m shopping in a dollar store. What a train wreck I said to myself as I walked the isles and whomever is responsible for this should be fired. Well it seems they heard me, but not to clearly if what I read in the news is correct.

The CEO is blaming his #2 for poor execution. Fine, so they let him go but… (and it’s a very big but) not without him collecting nearly his full $12 MILLION sign on bonus. (Reports are it was pro rated to approximately $8 million or so, but hey, what’s a few million between friends right?) So I have to ask. What shows more stupidity? A: Hiring someone whom was so incompetent yet smart enough to protect themselves so that it cost you millions in salary to get rid of them? B: Poor execution of vision throughout the organization incurring damage of countless millions of dollars in your customers perceptions of your now tarnished brand? C: The CEO whom showed incompetence in hiring this person to begin with? D: The board of directors whom signed off on all this originally? Or… E: All of the above? I think you know my answer. What foolishness is all I can say. All this and it took less than a year. 8 months by what I’ve read.

I wonder how it felt knowing you were locked in to gain millions no matter what happened as compared to the actual investors or customers. Below is a stock chart for the time period. I think it speaks volumes.

What a Great Gig! Look even the stocks available at a Discount! Get’em while you can!

If they are going to sell anything new at a discount it should be one of two things. Either: “We wasted Millions of $’s and all we got was this lousy T-shirt!” or “I’m no longer with Stupid, it just cost me more than a few million dollars!”

Or you’ll get them really cheap at the “Going Out of Business Sale.” By the look of things that isn’t too far off in the distance if what I’m watching is any indication.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures in Stupidity: HR and Passwords

What at first seemed to be an uproar has now seemingly fell below a whisper. Job applicants were being asked for their Facebook® passwords so that prospective employers could view their accounts to determine if the candidates were acceptable to hire. I will say this as clear as I possibly can so nobody can misinterpret my response. “Who on this planet thought this was not only a good idea but an acceptable request? Followed up with, “Who signed off on it, and are any of these people still employed, and if so why?”

This is what happens when HR (Human Resource) departments are left to their own devices. Does anyone with any sanity believe that the person who first thought this was a legitimate request think they would ever allow this demand on themselves? But what happens over and over and over again is that many HR departments live within their own universe. All one has to do is watch how quickly some meaningless training program that demonstrates little results will be accepted throughout an industry. If one HR dept. implemented it somewhere on the planet Earth, well then it must be unquestionably revolutionary! Hence my cynical view when I hear someone quote a new and improved version of “Left Brain, Right Brain Thinking.” These are designed and sold primarily for the HR genre. The thinking goes as such; If it’s “New and Improved” well then it must have been successful before or they wouldn’t make a newer version right? And now from coast to coast some meaningless or detrimental training program will sweep nation.

As tough as I might seem on the HR genre, they are by no means alone in their follies. I lay the blame just as hard if not harder at the so-called C level management that allows this to take place turning a blind eye to deaf ear on it.

One of the foremost considerations any corporation or business around has today is the acquisition or the retaining of talent. Talent is what propels companies forward. And if you want to start asking prospective talented people for such things as passwords to their private accounts as a condition to being hired by you, then you had better be allowing that same talent access to your own passwords and accounts to help them understand why they thought they should have applied to your firm in the first place. Because in every sense of the matter. They would be insane to supply theirs, even more so than it is as stupid for someone to ask them for theirs.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures in Stupidity: Customer Service

Recently I shared an experience about a magazine subscription that I had cancelled only to receive as some form of  “Come back sales pitch” that their Collections Dept. was holding my mailings because I had not paid for my cancelled subscription!

What I thought was the most ironic part from this ordeal is the fact that when I wrote them stating how obviously incompetent this whole charade of “customer” anything was, I posted the image of when I emailed them showing that they would be in contact with me within 2 business days. As per my posting you saw that it had already been 2 weeks and the silence was deafening. So we say to ourselves OK so what, I probably wouldn’t want to answer it either if I was some poor outsourced rep. who has to handle such things. Just make sure the thing is cancelled and they get no more notices because obviously by the tone of this persons letter we really messed up and they’re not coming back any time soon. Well, as stupid and incompetent as that thinking sounds for anyone in a business that is dying on the vine and needs every single customer it has, they just keep giving people like myself more stories to share because I’m just not that creative to make this stuff up. Nearly 30 days later I receive a what? You guessed it, a “Form Letter” about my cancellation. The italicized, underlined are my comments as I read, everything else is the actual letter.

Thank you for contacting XX XXXXXX Customer Service.
We have canceled your subscription as requested. If you have recently received or receive in the near future a billing notice, please disregard it. (as of right here I’m thinking OK it’s been almost a month but maybe they thought because my issue showed how foolish they were it took them longer because they wanted to get it right. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and I’ll read to hear what they have to say.)

If you paid for this subscription, we will process a refund for the unserved issues.  (wait a second…my spider senses are tingling…don’t tell me this is a freaking form letter!) Please allow three to four weeks to receive the refund.  If you paid by credit card, you should see a credit posted to your account within the next 7 to 10 days.  You should see the credit on your printed credit card statement within 30 to 60 days depending on your billing cycle. ( If? Should? Depending? You have got to be kidding me. It is a form letter! Not only have you lost all credibility, but were better off when I just thought you were incompetent with this whole fiasco and not replying back, Now you have proved it. What an absolute waste in so many ways. This whole ordeal can be used as a case study in how NOT to stay in business and should be required learning at the Wharton.)

Because our mailing labels are preprinted, you may receive one or two more issues.  Please discard them or share them with a friend. We are sorry that you are cancelling and hope that you will consider ordering with us in the future. ( First off the only thing that will be shared is just how pitiful dealing with your company has been, and second if I ever consider you in the future it will be only to share just how imbecilic this exchange has been.)
We have removed your personal information from our promotional listings. ( Excuse me if I have absolutely no faith that this means anything.)
If your information was already on our files, you may have been selected for a recent promotion. Please allow ten business days for this to become effective. After that, you will not receive future promotions. ( I would wager dollars to doughnuts I still do even if I’ve left this Earth.)
If you are just providing us with your contact information, you will not be added to the promotional listings. ( Oh boy! Just what I needed. One more conclusive sign that there was no need for me to question this was a form letter and you could care less and probably never even read my email. Just lovely. Nice touch.)
We appreciate this opportunity to be of service.( And the Coup De Grâce!)

I’ll end with a little line I made up long ago:

“Some look at things and ask why…I look at some things and say…You have got to be freakin’ kidding me!”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures in Stupidity, Customer Service

If there’s one thing people sneer at it, it’s the term “Customer Service.” This has become such a joke that it rivals any signs of intelligence let alone “service.”

This entry once again is something that happened to me, not someone else…Ready?

My wife had previously subscribed to a magazine. She had been a loyal subscriber for years, but decided not to renew. What did this magazine decide was a great way to woo her back? Send threatening letters of amounts due for renewal as a way to intimidate her to start the subscription that she had cancelled. She was notified that her magazines were “On Hold from mailing” and would not commence until she paid for the renewal. I think writing and telling them “Cancel Do Not Renew” on her last invoice was not clear enough? (and yes she was paid in full) So I wrote back to them via their email billing server. I wrote (and I’m paraphrasing) “This subscription has been cancelled and we no longer receive your magazine and have no intent of doing so again. If I receive another threatening invoice from your magazine stating we have been put on notice to your “Collection Department” I will report you and your magazine to the proper authorities, and you can take this up with them.”

Here’s a screen shot from after I hit send:

Apparently they must be very busy handling all their other happy customers. And they wonder why they’re losing business!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Gratuity Entitlement aka Adventures In Stupidity!

The latest round of entitlement thinking is coming from not only those who demand services, but now it’s coming from those whom render service. I mean at this point it’s all a joke.

Like many who’ve climbed the ladder of success, I’ve worked such jobs as bartender, waiter, and others in my life. The pay structure for many was our first real entry into the world of pay based on merit. If you want to experience first hand a true example of “the entrepreneurial employee” there is none better. However, it now seems that the “I deserve” mindset is not only creeping into these entrepreneurial laboratories, but are being validated by the very owners of these establishments. This calamity can’t come about unless the attitude of both is “the customer be damned!”

Many establishments in the New York area [and also peppered throughout the country] are including the charge of a 25% tip to your bill. Automatically! Regardless if the server was the equivalent of being a contestant for “Worlds Greatest” or “Worlds Worst.” Not only are you going to be billed, but more than likely you won’t even be told. It’ll just be there as a line item along with your martini, steak, and dessert. The line item will give you a whole new meaning to “finger food” I’ll bet.

Wait staff of any order has always been a low waged salary because of the opportunity for the server to supplement their pay with tips. The word tips is attributed as an acronym for “to insure prompt service” whether or not that’s 100% correct is irrelevant. The underlying definition or meaning is the same. It was a reward for quality service above or beyond what was expected. If someone gets only what they paid for, well then why would a tip ever be necessary?

Over time it has been customary to tip 15% there or about. This was the equivalent of a server living up to expectations. If they were courteous, prompt, and pleasant, the customary gratuity was the reward. Over and above was up to the patron. Horrible service was of course discounted from the average. [I have never deducted from the wait staff for something coming from the kitchen when obviously it was not their fault. A piece of undercooked fish is unknown till served as an example.] Large parties such as multiple tables or family settings of 8 or more were treated differently. Gratuity was added at the customary level, but was stated “before” you ordered whether posted at the bottom of the menu or somewhere else. This was done to ensure not only the wait staff, but the house, and the patrons themselves some level of expected service because you were taking a person away from the ability of making money since they would now be relegated to serving only one party instead of many. This also stopped the party from deciding they wanted to be cheap and stiff the wait staff because they think $10 should be more than enough for 2 people to serve 20.

In tough economic times everything gets discounted. Gratuity based employment seems to get hit hardest first. However, owners can’t raise a salary by forcing or tricking someone else to pay. It is also just as foolish of servers demanding a fixed level of gratuity. If these establishments want to continue trying to force patrons into paying their employee costs than both are going to lose in the end because patrons will not go along regardless how extensive the wine list.

Check Please!


© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

The Buffet Rule…Better Known as Adventures In Stupidity

I find it both laughable, and appalling to hear views on the latest slogan known as “The Buffet Rule.” It doesn’t matter who’s pontificating, 99.9% of all the rationalizations are in my view dribble.

First let me state right off the top, sheath your political swords. This rant is not about ideology, it’s about idiocy. Whether you think it’s right or wrong is irrelevant to this conversation. So with that out-of-the-way let us continue…..

I find it absolutely laughable that the person who wants everyone else to pay higher taxes because he thinks they should is himself in arrears! Yes my friends old “Uncle Warren” doesn’t like how much he has to pay so he himself is quarreling, and refusing to yet pay over a BILLION dollars in taxes that were due in 2002. I sure hope he doesn’t have the same occurring issue happen for 03,04,05,06,07,08,09,10,11. That would add up to some serious coin would it not? I mean a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we’re talking real money as the saying goes. But I digress. What’s just as laughable is the way some are using this verbal diatribe as some sort of moral high ground to assault reasoned thinking. My response to most “Please, Spare me.”

First off, if old “Uncle Warren” wants to be a good example, he can just start by paying his own. He doesn’t need to pay more, just pay what they say he owes, and to stop fighting for that discount  he claims he’s entitled to. Second, I find it hilarious that this same person has the audacity to make sure his net worth of Tens of Billions of dollars won’t go to the government, instead it will go taxed free to the Gates Foundation. A good cause of course, but “Do as I say, not as I do” is obviously once again one of old “Uncle Warrens” sticky points.

Another revelation to this blather of idiocy is how others of wealth have contorted themselves into knots that would make a yoga instructor blush. If I hear one more time from someone stating, “Well I do think I should pay more since I’ve made so much.” I swear I’m going to throw up. It has absolutely no bearing on whether they should or shouldn’t. It’s just an exercise in “Let me tell you how I’m oh so much better than everyone else.” again please spare me. What I’m listening for that I never hear stated is that magical term that puts their money  (and their altruistic overtones) where their mouth is: ” I add x% to the total, and send it along with my return.” Yep, there’s a line on the form for one to do just that, but I’m not holding my breath.

What’s equally comedic is the way people with little wealth are holding up the most iconic hypocrites with wealth as their shining beacons of truth as reasoning why we need to take them seriously. Is it me, or is this not the most revealing case of why they aren’t wealthy themselves? These are more or less the same type of crusaders who lash out at some company for charging them an extra .50 cents on a latte because the price of coffee beans has risen 200%, but in the same breath want everyone else to pay more in percentages of their income because they think they should. I mean really, I guess the best mantra for this crowd was uttered back in the day of that true financial genius Forest Gump.

“Stupid is, as Stupid does.”


© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Customer Service better known as Adventures in Stupidity

Today’s adventure comes from a wonderful experience I had with a company I have been dealing with for years. The name is irrelevant, what’s poignant is this company was a bastion of commitment to the customer. From the top down this company demonstrated over, and over again to me that they “got it.” They went from tiny start-up to being one of the premier companies in their field in record time. They earned awards, recognition, and a lot of respect. What they also earned as they grew was the watchful eye of a much larger entity wanting to buy and merge them into their own organization. Maybe there’s symmetry in operations for the merger, but not so much for the customer experience.

Not that long ago I had an issue that needed to be resolved. I had called the original company and the phone was answered by none other than the owner and CEO himself. At this time they were very successful, had many employees, doing millions of dollars in business. He could have effortlessly switched me to the department that would have handled my issue, but he didn’t. He personally handled it as a matter of fact. It wasn’t for someone else to do, it wasn’t now beneath him as head honcho, the phone was ringing, he picked it up, and he could resolve it so he did. And that’s pretty much the way the whole company functioned.  Front line employee empowerment to fix a customers issue regardless of title was the culture, and it showed. It also forged a bond of loyalty with me. For a customer, dealing with a company like this is just about as good as it gets. Then, it gets sold. Cue the music…“Bring on the clowns.”

When full integration happened you could see the difference instantly. There were issues like there always are, but the customer service aspect went from the gold standard, to that lead balloon feeling. I mean it was noticeable to everyone. I watched customers I had been talking to over the years leave in lockstep because the so-called “new entity” had a customer service department that gave the impression that the now merged companies customers were some how second class. For someone like me it was like watching a film of what not to do. It has been breathtaking to watch in real-time. In less than a month they did everything a company could do either by design or sheer stupidity as to make one feel the original company they were loyal to, was not the company they were now dealing with. They even changed the color of the logo…twice!

Personally I had a small issue which I needed resolved yesterday. My problem was since the integration I needed access to prior information that was done last year before the completion of the merger. However the portal to my information was no longer available on the company’s website. (yes the website is still an active, and promoted portal for the original company.) So I decided to use the “Live Chat” window since I was logged into my account, here’s how I was greeted…

Please wait for a site operator to respond.
You are now chatting with ‘******’
Them: hello how may I help you
Me: Hello *******, I can’t find the portal for access to my statement for last year..Can you help me?
Them: sure please go to www.*****************.com
Them: and login there
Them: go to accounts<history/statements
Me: Even though I was with ***** all of last year?
Them: pardon?
Them: we are now **************** sir
Me: I understand..all my past data is now on the ***** site?
Them: yes
Them: not all
Me: records for 2010?
Them: go to ********
Them: under accounts
Them: this is all the info you will need

I don’t know about you, but I could feel the indignant tone right through the screen. The other point is, if not “all” then where is the rest? It was clear she wasn’t going to tell me, or cared. I’m glad she knew that what might be available was all I’m going to need. Maybe premonition is now part of the new improved customer service. What a shame is all I can say. As for me, what did I do at the end of the conversation?

Closed my account.


© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Adventures in Stupidity, Better Know as Advertising

As one of my favorite comedians Joan Rivers would say...”Can we talk?”

Lately I’ve noticed a commercial playing on the financial news channels, and every time I see it I shake my head and think...”Who decided this was a good use of resources?” Or better yet, what “committee?”  These commercials are in a heavier rotation on cable than a Lady Gaga song is on the radio. The only difference for the rotation is people want to hear Ms. Gaga. These commercials get so much air time because there is more free time available than paying advertisers, but that’s another column.

I don’t want to embarrass the company by naming them, nor am I making a statement on how I feel about one side or the other. This is about what I see as just foolish. Or spending dollars on advertising to customers that hate you. Think I’m kidding?

The commercial tries to be high brow. It shows the “Big Company” telling its story on how they are doing this or that, and why you should be impressed. In a split screen shot, it shows what you are to take as a customer making statements on how, and what the company needs to do with its resources, money, and development of products that would put the company out of business if it did. Oh yes. it sounds like someone might have a point, but they don’t. The reason…If the so-called customer portrayed in the commercial had their way, they would put the company out of business, and cheer about it. You don’t have to take my word for it, all you have to do is listen to the wonderful dialogue some writer drafted up. It goes something like this (warning the words have been changed to protect someones job, though I would fire them myself.) “I think the big stone companies should start making plastic pebbles because once you crush stone you can’t put them back together.” then the Big Company comes on and says..”Well we’ve created more rock than anyone else since the big bang, and we’re creating more everyday.” only to hear the other side state something on the idea of, “What do they do with the money they make from stone…We need that money.” only to hear some diatribe about how the big stone company reinvested in the community. All I know is please make this foolishness stop!

The customer that the company is trying to win over hates their company, what they stand for, and buys their product only because they have to. If they didn’t there would be no amount of money you could spend to convince them your nice, and friendly. It’s a pathetic waste of time, resources, and capital. If you’re going to spend money on advertising why not spend it on your true customers, like the customers that buy your product, or the customers that buy your competitor’s product. Ge’ez who’d a thunk it?

You will never change a customer’s mind that can’t stand you or your business. But you just might get the customers who enjoy the benefits of your products to help in changing their minds if it can be changed at all. But you first have to get rid of the committee that thinks it’s a good idea to neglect your paying customers, for customers that want you to pay them for not using your products.

Maybe the advertising committee needs to see a commercial about a more important renewable resource…Happy paying customers.


© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

You can’t make this stuff up!

Just when you think there might be some sanity returning to  the world, something comes to slap you upside the head to make sure you’re paying attention. Ready?…………….

General Motors, yes, the same car company the Federal Government had to take over. The same company that made bad deals, over-loaded its books with unsustainable debt, and much, much more, is now really going to boost its sales. How you might ask? The same way we had such a great housing boon. GM announced today that it is buying a finance company, not just any finance company, but a company that specializes……wait for it……….. In “sub-prime” auto loans. Loans so that people with less than perfect credit can purchase a car more easily. Wow, is all I can say.

I wrote an article before on why GM might never lose that “Government Motors” moniker. How prescient is that now.

If it all goes the way of Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Looks like Fannie and Freddie will  be able to use the drive-up window to get at the ATM machine (American Tax  Money) because they’ll be seated in a new Cadillac.

And you thought Green Cars meant fuel efficient……Silly You!