out the window to see who it was.
"Ben," I cried, surprised to see someone I hadn't seen in a couple years - a stone mason who had done work for me in the past, standing alongside a young man that appeared to be heading to his grandfather's (as it turned out) rim-rod straight 6'6" height.
"I've been thinking about you! You've been popping into my head lately," I said as I opened the screen door wide and signaled for the two of them to come inside. "I've been wondering if you were back in town yet" I said, knowing that he spends his past-seventy years wintering in Atlanta, avoiding the cold we have up north.
"Last week I got back. We just finished a job for the city - we put up a wall over on Compton Rd., and we was out drivin' up here to put a bid in on another job. I thought I'd stop in," he explained.
Knowing that his stop was a mixture of pleasure and business, I did not disappoint. I told him my brother had just purchased an apartment complex and needed some masonry work done on the property and I suggested he give Tom a call and gave him my brother’s number. I also told him I had had a tree fall on one of my properties that had done some walk damage and had pulled part of a stone wall down with it in one of September’s storms and could he stop by and look at it. I said it probably wasn’t more than a day’s work for two people but it might fill a hole here and there in his schedule.
We talked a bit more before we got down to that particular business above – talk that brought each of us up-to-date quickly with each other. The young man with him was one of his twenty-two grandchildren, fourteen and half of a set of twins that I remember used to ride occasionally in the truck with their grandfather. “My, how he's grown,” I remarked, as many women approaching their dotages might. Seeing the puzzled look on his face about my eighteen month old granddaughter I explained that I was raising her while her mother got it together. “It’s hard, these days,” Ben said. “These young kids have so many temptations…” echoing for me something my mother said to me before she died. “We raised two from the times they was birthed - the girl just turned eighteen and the boy is twenty-two. Their mother had a hard time of it too. But it all turned out okay,” he finished, his voice dropping low and peaceful. I felt his consolation.
About the work I had mentioned, Ben said, “Thankye’ – I’ll get right on it,” and that I know he will. Sometime today, or tomorrow, I ‘spect to get a call from Ben telling me the work is finished and what I owe him for it. Whatever he charges will be fine with me. Our friendship goes a ways back and here is how it started.
“Ben” is a stone mason from way back. I first met him when he was contracted by the City of Cincinnati to remove and haul away a street that I lived on in Mt. Lookout. I became fascinated by the removal process as the digging out of the street for its replacement unearthed about 4 feet of street levels that included large, flat stones and old cobblestones that had been used as the curbing for one of the older street incarnations. I asked the fast-moving crew one day if they minded if I did some “excavation” myself at night after they knocked off, of those beautiful granite cobblestones. (Cobblestones were often times used for ballast in sailing ships. I have no idea how they ended up here in inland Cincinnati except for the fact that the city is located on the Ohio River and was a major shipping point by water in the past.) There was one thing for sure; I was enchanted by the history and mystery of those stones coming out of the street bed.
The crew member working one of the heavy pieces of machinery that I stood at the base of hollering up into the hot mid-day sun told me I needed to talk to the “boss” and pointed me in the direction of a tall black man, giving direction to a group of laborers that appeared stymied by a part of the removal process. As I approached the huddled group intent on some problem they looked up as Ben straightened and took his cap off. I remember how tall he was and how carefully polite he was as he asked me if there was something he could help me with. I told him the malfeasance I wished to commit after his crew had departed for the day and he laughed and told me to “knock myself out,” or somethin’ akin to giving me permission to rob the city of stones that were going to be hauled away and placed into a dump site that was to become a new runway for a small local airport.
I guess he thought I would give up after the first thieving attempt, defeated and crushed under the weight of the stones. At the end of the week, as my stash of stones grew ever larger after my midnight raids, I hear a knock at my front door. Opening it I hear an engine rumbling and behind Ben standing in my doorframe and in the street is one of those big yellow scoop trucks, idling like mad, black diesel smoke scurrying away into the wind.
“The guys tell me you gotta’ be onea’ the hardest woikin’ white women they’ve ever seen. Where would you like us to dump these stones?” and lo and behold he brought more stones in three short runs with that scoop truck than I could have mustered on my own up the hill in a month. I was oh-so-grateful and offered Ben and his crew something to drink. One of the men said a nice cold beer would be great and Ben interrupted and said Cokes would do just fine. I filled a cooler with ice and Cokes and gave it to Ben, knowing without having to ask him that he would return the cooler. He did a short while later and as he stood there asked me what I was plannin’ on doing with those stones as I was in the process of “washing them down” with a hose. “If you’s gonna be plannin’ on stackin’ them stones you’d best leave that clay on ‘em,” he advised. “There ain’t no better glue to help them dry stack,” he explained. I turned the hose off.
I told him I wanted to build short walls around my flower beds and a low retaining wall across the front of my house. He told me he did that kind of work and might he give me a price to do it for me? Excitedly, because it’s my experience stone masons are very hard to come by anymore, I agreed that that would be a wonderful idea. Stone masonry is a lost art and few practice it. There’s an artist’s eye that goes into building good stonework and little did I know I had come across one such artist.
He walked around my house and in about fifteen minutes knocked again at my door. “About $800 oughtta get this done for you,” and he handed me a list of what he proposed to do, attached to a rough drawing of the layout. Flabbergasted and expecting much more, I dumbly asked if that price included all the materials. “You got all the materials here,” he pointed out. "All them stones are gonna make some beautiful walls.” I knew then that we spoke the same language. About a week later he and those stones did just that.
Why do I tell this story? I tell this story as an example of a simple business development technique that works – building on old relationships by the very simple pleasure of staying in touch. Not a lot of business gets discussed when you circle back to those who’ve been important to you in the past but the business that does get discussed is pertinent, almost each and every time.
Stop in and see someone on a Sunday afternoon. You never know what you’ll find.
s Maureen and I wrote starting back in 2005.
Some on Hysteria Lane Even Poach Their Turkey for Thanksgiving
“Visualize the parking space and it will appear,” Joan murmurs to herself as she pulls into crowded Wegman’s parking lot late Wednesday afternoon - the day before Thanksgiving. Superlative customer service aside, if only the customers were as nice as the employees. Pulling carefully past the parked cars, she maneuvers her Bimmer - yes, 35% affords her a nice life - towards the front of the store when she spies a car backing out of the handicapped spot. No, the person is not leaving; just perfecting the blue-line technique, except the driver manages to straddle into the non-handicapped space - and without a permit. “Just great!”
“Damn,” she mutters quietly, “this person better have a good reason to park like that.” Yep, she notices the blue parking tag attached to the rearview mirror of the Jag; the driver exits - there s something familiar about the woman Joan thinks to herself. “Harrumph!” she barks to no one in particular and turns into the next row in search of parking nirvana.
Finally, Joan notices another car - one of those cute Volkswagen bugs with a flower standing high above the dashboard - zipping impatiently down the lane next to her. Too fast around the curve, the car almost mows down a young mother with a fully-laden grocery cart, a baby in the seat, and a toddler by the hand. So abruptly does the woman have to pull her heavy shopping cart to a halt off the downhill ramp that two of the bags on top spill out in front of her and dump their contents out upon the macadam lot. By this time Joan had parked and left her car, clicking the lock as she approaches the unnerved young family. “Here, here, let me help, everything s going to be okay,” Joan comforts as she scrambles after the creamed corn and the spilled Macintosh apples. Tucking the last grapefruit in one of the bags, she smiles at the woman and asks, “Can I help you to your car?”
“No, no, thank you - you've been so kind - that lady almost ran into us!” she exclaimed. “It’s the holidays,” offered Joan and shrugs her shoulders. “Some people get crazy perversely around the holidays - don t let things like this keep you from having Happy Thanksgiving!”
“We will - we’re havin turkey!” shouted the toddler who added, “and punkin pie!” Smiling, Joan achingly remembers her children at that age. “Oh, how time vanishes!” she thinks to herself as she enters the brightly lit and festively trimmed store.
As she wheels the shopping cart out of the parked lane and enters produce section, a cart clips her heals and nearly causes her to pitch forward. Turning around and two milliseconds from cursing up a blue streak, she hears, “Oh! I’m so sorry - I’m movin too fast, as usual - oh! Joan! How are you?” the offender exclaims as Joan notices it’s one of her Hysteria Lane neighbors - and the woman in the Jag who parked in the handicapped spot outside. Joan s eyes tightened to narrow slits.
Joan searched deep inside for the politeness that enabled her to say, “Hello, Anti-Poaching Person; that s okay - accidents happen - how have you been?” As if she really cares…
“Oh, I've been so busy! Between my busy recruiting work and all the monitoring I do on the groups - you know the groups, right, Joan? I just love the groups - and I know they loooooove me. I don t have a minute’s peace. I’m finally just now getting to the store for the first time in two weeks - I should have just waited til after Thanksgiving.” she trails off as she looks at the crowded registers.
“Are you cooking tomorrow?” Joan asks to which Anti-Poaching Person shoots back with “Me cook? No way! I’ve had so many offers from people wanting me to come to dinner tomorrow but I’m just gonna stay home and catch up on some of my reading - you know how recruiting laws change every minute of every day of every month in this great land of ours. I’m thankful for that!”
Knowing better than to ask and risk a forty-five minute inquisition, Joan creeps forward, pushing her cart before her, peering intently at the prices marked on the baked goods offered for sale. “Those pies look good but they want what? $8.99? For a pumpkin pie! Goodness gracious, some people really do go nuts on the holidays,” she thinks to herself. “Well, Anti-Poaching Person I hope you have a nice holiday,” as she ignores Anti-Poaching Person’s groups question, “I better get going, I’m cooking and I’m here to buy a turkey.” Moving off, and thinking aloud, Joan says to no one in particular, “I’m just so tired of roasted turkey - this year I’m going to poach it.”
Anti-Poaching Person’s head does a 180 - the only thing missing is a spinning bed and green vomit. “What?” she cries. “Did I hear you correctly??? You’re going to do what?” Caught a bit of guard, Joan offers a weak “Huh?” She also notices the Jaguar logo key chain on the keys Anti-Poaching Person has hanging from her Coach purse. “What did you say?” Anti-Poaching Person demands. “Did you say you’re going to poach a turkey?”
“Uhhh, yeah,” Joan stammers as if confronted by a burly police officer, “I was thinkin about it. Might be a nice change - you know; kinda thinkin outside the bird,” as she offers weak smile and a sly wink at Anti-Poaching Person.
Like waving a red flag waved in front of a charging bull, Anti-Poaching Person’s face reddens to an equally deep crimson. “But don’t you know, Joan, poaching is just wrong - it’s illegal and unethical - in this state and all others! It doesn’t matter that it’s a turkey - all poaching’s illegal, illegal, ILLEGAL! And to top it off, it’s just plain fowl.”
Joan sharply replies. “Anti-Poaching Person we’ve been over this - you know I don’t agree with you on some things, and this is one of them. Let’s leave well enough alone before one of us gets our feelings hurt.” And it won t be me, Joan chuckles to herself.
“But Joan!” Anti-Poaching Person is frothing at the mouth and almost screaming, “poaching is illegal - you know it’s illegal - and unethical!” She just can t help herself, the poor thing. Easy, Joan. Somebody ought to get Anti-Poaching Person out of here. “Poultry Roasting Owners For Intelligent Turkey Society - PROFITS - has strict guidelines on how to prepare holiday fowl. I’m certified - and you should be too. It’s a sign that you believe in traditional Holiday food preparation.”
“Anti-Poaching Person! Stop! You've made my mind up - I’m going to poach this turkey and you can t stop me! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find the Certified Poultry Purchaser - his name is Frank Clux and he is usually in this store.”
“What d’ya need to talk to him for,” Anti-Poaching Person asks, her nose wrinkling upwards as if smelling a foul scent.
“Well, if you must know, I want to know just how much he pays for the poultry he buys for this store - I found his name on their store telephone directory and I’ve left messages for him since Monday so I thought I’d come in here and hunt him down in person; I want to know why I have to pay $1.49/lb here when I can get it for 49 cents at Western Beef down the road.”
“A pilfered phone directory,” Anti-Poaching Person thinks to herself as a shudder runs across her thin frame. “I heard that before -oh yeah, I guess all of Hysteria Lane s gone to Heck in a Handbasket,” as she remembered the remark that wafted in on the morning breeze earlier in the week.
“Joan, we gotta talk,” Anti-Poaching Person blurts out, “You re gonna get yourself in some serious trouble, you have some serious bad habits, girl - did Noreen teach you this stuff?”
Joan chuckles louder than normal as Anti-Poaching Person throws her head back like an angry equine and mutters loudly under her breath so all in earshot can hear, “Poaching a turkey is just plain wrong.”
Turning to the woman who happens to be eavesdropping in on this juicy conversation, Joan smiles and says, “But it tastes soooooooo good.”…
Added by Steve Levy at 7:28pm on November 19, 2008
affing Industry exists.
SUBSIDIZING FAILURE & CRONYISM
Thank This Man for Destroying the American Auto Industry: Meet Ron Gettlefinger - UAW President. Yesterday the UAW refused to compromise on Bail-out negotiations to agree by the end of next year to wage cuts to bring their pay into line with Japanese car makers. The UAW refused to do so before its current contract with the automakers expires in 2011.
As Senator Mitch McConnell stated yesterday: "This bailout doesn’t fix Detroit’s problem," he wrote, “It subsidizes it.”
First it was Government forcing a quota system which influenced lending institutions to lend easy money to high risk groups to avoid being accused of red-lining communities. Then the Federal government removed the separation between commercial and private loans and created a securities market off of home mortgages that inevitably got bundled into junk debt. Then we had Senate/House Finance and Banking committee chairmen who avoided their regulatory oversight and defended Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and through their "Everything is Fine" press releases influenced stock holders to maintain their investments that would catapult them into portfolio ruin. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, then the banking system gets bailed out on the logic that they are a public utility system upon which the economy depends ... the handouts start, one after another, ... with little easing of the credit markets to show for the first 700 billion dollars. Now each and every industry argues before a Congressional committee why it deserves a bail out. All the while Capital firms freeze up, start ups wane, and Silicon Valley lays off thousands or freezes reqs to force attrition.
At the end of the day, it means thousands of recruiters being laid off. Recruiters become the perceived luxury item in a world gone mad when all the while government intervention throws good money after bad policy. But there are reasons and they should be understood. At no time have so many special interests collaborated to create the perfect storm and under government fiat to proceed with such ill advised policy. Today, we focus on how the powerful United Auto Workers (UAW) collaborated with its political allies to undermine one of the last great industries of American manufacturing. This is a story about what happens when government and its policies attempt to guarantee outcomes. Unfortunately, it isn't a fairy tale.
My public vote for the Big 3 to go into Chapter 11 to release themselves of UAW contracts otherwise we throw good money after bad if one of the primary causes doesn't get resolved.
** UAW Job Bank: Organized Slackers
** UAW Feels The Heat And Suspends Job Bank And Delays Trust Payments
** Job Banks - Protecting the people, not the jobs
** Congress targets UAW Job Bank as U.S. Car Makers fight for Loans
** Detroit Automakers, UAW To Spar Over Jobs Bank During Talks
** Will you shed a tear for UAW Job Bank employees when the loose their no show Jobs?
Ford's Most Advanced Assembly Pant Operates in Rural Brazil
TRIVIA TIDBIT: Did you know Toyota and GM sold roughly equal number of cars last year and GM went billions into debt while Toyota had a record year? ("GM versus Toyota: Someone is Doing Something Wrong")
STRUCTURAL & IRRATIONAL RED INK: UAW & The Job Bank
"We cannot continue to pay $65 an hour for someone to cut the grass and remain competitive.
Miller meant, literally, "cutting the grass."
WAYNE -- Ken Pool is making good money. On weekdays, he shows up at 7 a.m. at Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, signs in, and then starts working -- on a crossword puzzle. Pool hates the monotony, but the pay is good: more than $31 an hour, plus benefits.
"We just go in and play crossword puzzles, watch videos that someone brings in or read the newspaper," he says. "Otherwise, I've just sat."
Pool is one of more than 12,000 American autoworkers who, instead of installing windshields or bending sheet metal, spend their days counting the hours in a jobs bank set up by Detroit automakers and Delphi Corp. as part of an extraordinary job security agreement with the United Auto Workers union.
The jobs bank programs were the price the industry paid in the 1980s to win UAW support for controversial efforts to boost productivity through increased automation and more flexible manufacturing.
As part of its restructuring under bankruptcy, Delphi is actively pressing the union to give up the program.
With Wall Street wondering how automakers can afford to pay thousands of workers to do nothing as their market share withers, the union is likely to hear a similar message from the Big Three when their contracts with the UAW expire in 2007 -- if not sooner.
"It's an albatross around their necks," said Steven Szakaly, an economist with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "It's a huge number of workers doing nothing. That has a very large effect on their future earnings outlook."
General Motors Corp. has roughly 5,000 workers in its jobs bank. Delphi has about 4,000 in its version of the same program. Some 2,100 workers are in DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group's job security program. Ford had 1,275 in its jobs bank as of Sept. 25. The pending closure of Ford's assembly plant in Loraine, Ohio, could add significantly to that total. Those numbers could swell in coming years as GM and Ford prepare to close more plants.
Detroit automakers declined to discuss the programs in detail or say exactly how much they are spending, but the four-year labor contracts they signed with the UAW in 2003 established contribution caps that give a good idea of the size of the expense.
According to those documents, GM agreed to contribute up to $2.1 billion over four years. DaimlerChrysler set aside $451 million for its program, along with another $50 million for salaried employees covered under the contract. Ford, which also maintained responsibility for Visteon Corp.'s UAW employees, agreed to contribute $944 million.
Delphi pledged to contribute $630 million. In August, however, Delphi Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert S. "Steve" Miller said the company spent more than $100 million on its jobs bank program in the second quarter alone.
"Can we keep losing $400 million a year paying for workers in the jobs bank and $400 million a year on operations? No, we cannot deal with that indefinitely," Miller said in a recent interview with The Detroit News. "We can't wait until 2007."
The jobs bank was established during 1984 labor contract talks between the UAW and the Big Three. The union, still reeling from the loss of 500,000 jobs during the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was determined to protect those who were left. Detroit automakers were eager to win union support to boost productivity through increased automation and more production flexibility.
The result was a plan to guarantee pay and benefits for union members whose jobs fell victim to technological progress or plant restructurings. In most cases, workers end up in the jobs bank only after they have exhausted their government unemployment benefits, which are also supplemented by the companies through a related program. Workers go directly into the program and the benefits can last until they are eligible to retire or return to the factory floor.
By making it so expensive to keep paying idled workers, the UAW thought Detroit automakers would avoid layoffs. By discouraging layoffs, the union thought it could prevent outsourcing.
That strategy has worked but at the expense of the domestic auto industry's long-term viability.
American automakers have produced cars and trucks even when there is little market demand for them, forcing manufacturers to offer big rebates and discounts.
"Sometimes they just push product on us," said Bill Holden Jr., general manager of Holden Dodge Inc. in Dover, Del., who said this does not go over well with the dealers. "But they've got these contracts with the union."
In Detroit's battle against Asian and European competitors that are unencumbered by such labor costs, the job banks have become a major competitive disadvantage.
Breaking the banks
Analysts say the jobs bank could be a bigger issue than health care in the 2007 contract negotiations, particularly at Ford. It has a younger work force than GM, meaning any workers Ford sends to the bench are likely to stay there for a while.
"Ford is under pressure from investors to cut costs," said Roland Zullo, a research scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. "At the same time, the unions are going to be under pressure to protect jobs."
But does the jobs bank make any sense in a climate of shrinking profits and declining market share?
While some might envy their life of leisure, workers like Cisco, 56, feel humiliated by the program.
"I felt like I was useless -- like I was put out to pasture," he said.
Most say they have no interest in retiring -- or spending the rest of their careers doing crossword puzzles.
Classes are available, the workers said. They have been invited to take courses on bicycle repair, home wiring and poker. Silk-flower arranging is also available. READ MORE ABOUT HOW THE UAW & AUTO INDUSTRY ARE MAKING TAX PAYERS PAY THE BILL