USPS and CCCU- last update, hopefully

Those who waded through the saga described in my last post will recall that 1) I was advised by CCCU to close my checking account because I lost some checks  2) I opened a new account but after a month the new checks hadn’t come 3) CCCU contacted the Deluxe (check) company and was told that the checks must have been lost in the mail 4) CCCU closed THAT checking account and opened a new one for me and 5) I had to contact all 14 of the utilities, credit cards etc that I have payments deducted for to advise them that the payments would now come from a THIRD checking account.

I imagine you can guess what happened next. The day after I finished all the letters, calls and visits changing the account number for the second time (North Valley Bank insisted on an original letter) , the checks showed up for the second  account, now closed. According to the package, the checks were mailed from Lancaster, CA on March 13. It took FIVE WEEKS AND ONE DAY  for a small package to arrive here from Lancaster.  In the meantime I had tried to research the lost-mail stats fro the USPS and found- not surprisingly- that there are no clear figures. The consensus seems to be that the loss rate is between 2% and 5% for the USPS and a QUICK survey of what’s available on the loss rate of UPS and Fed Ex seems to indicate that customer satisfaction is far higher with UPS than with Fed Ex but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  A graph published by Fed Ex gives their loss rate as .55% for what that’s worth. 

I was curious to know how long it would take me to hear from CCCU since the very helpful and talented staff there are skilled at calming customers and I really wanted someone from management to give Deluxe a reality check on their delivery times.  This morning a nice person named Jolene (“like the Dolly Parton song”) called and we agreed that if this NEXT order of checks doesn’t get here in two weeks, I should call her and she will call Deluxe. I’ll settle for that. I will also mention that the envelope in which Deluxe mails its checks ( with the box flattened but you’d have to be an idiot not to figure out that the “Important Documents Enclosed” are checks) in a plastic envelope that says “tamper-proof” but which can easily be cut open so should really read ‘tamper-evident”.

I hope this is the end of it.  

I will add just  one thing more. Of all the entities I have had to deal with during this mess, the EASIEST one was Suddenlink, the WORST one was PG&E. Happy Spring!

Is This Good Customer Service? You Be The Judge.

I have had most of my money in Coast Central Credit Union since I moved back here in ’93. At one time I had my mortgage with them too. Mostly they have been okay, okay enough that I stayed with them.  Today I am madder than the proverbial wet hen, and here’s why.

Over the weekend of March 8 I lost my checkbook. I rarely write checks and believe me I won’t be carrying that checkbook again without a specific purpose but in any event , it turned up missing and you know what happens when you report that to a bank. They tell you: Close the account so the villains out there can’t use your checks. We did so and I obediently opened a new account with Coast Central and they gave me a few checks to use until I got the new box. Meanwhile I had to notify EVERY ONE of the 14 parties I had authorized to take payments/debits about the new account number. I called or visited North Valley Bank, HCSD, PG&E, Suddenlink, State Farm, PayPal, three credit cards, Recology etc etc etc. It took a week.

Then I waited for my new checks. I had to go to CCCU and have some checks printed up  so I could pay Fullerton’s for my tax return. As of yesterday,  I was waiting a month for the new checks that were promised in two weeks. Finally I went over there and pressed the issue. The nice lady in New Accounts called the check company who told her the checks were LOST IN THE MAIL.  Who the hell mails blank checks through the USPS? Well, Coast Central does.  And it’s your tough luck if they don’t make it.  The nice lady was sympathetic but I HAD TO OPEN A THIRD CHECKING ACCOUNT, and I am in the middle of the second round of notifications to PG& E etc etc.  In an effort to stave off further disaster I told them to hold the checks at the CU and I would come pick them up. Again it seems to fall to me to be proactive.   

Why can’t they shave a few cents off Dean Christensen’s million-dollar salary and FED EX the checks? Boom! NO more “lost in the mail”.  I’ve really been thinking about Coast Central and how it really has been getting a free ride by  by being active in the community, as they shoud be.  Makes me think I should drop in on a board meeting or start a user’s group or something. Anybody with me?  

Newest Economic Index Shows Leap in Manufacturing

Dr. Eschker and his hardworking crew at HSU have added another dimension to their Humboldt Economic Index; a specific tracking of the manufacturing sector.  That sector, which will likely generate the sought-after high-paying jobs so badly needed to stabilize our Humboldt economy, increased its index by over 30% in the past year. This is huge and shows a very positive development even though not associated with an increase in employment. Enjoy the Index here and many thanks to those who worked  on it and the sponsors.

“Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst”- Lessons from Loleta

The apparent closure of the Loleta Bakery raises questions that a lot of us may not have thought about since we took our first business classes. Whether we were schooled at Stanford or by the SBDC, the one principle that applies to all businesses is that you need to have a successorship plan. It doesn’t have to be a long document but it should make clear what happens  if one of the partners or family members becomes incapacitated or has to leave the business. It’s a standard part of any business plan. and no lender will release funds without one.  One or even two illnesses shouldn’t shut down a business.

The chaos and confusion around the bakery’s closing leads me to conclude that there WAS no business plan.  Since it’s impossible to get financing without a business plan I have to conclude further that the owners were wealthy enough to open the business without third-party financing, and without a plan. Now 20 people are out of work and facing an uncertain future.

Loleta is not the only town to be invaded by outlanders with more money than sense. When they start businesses that thrive, it’s called investment. When they screw up, they cause a lot of grief to a lot of people. Here’s wishing the very best for the employees and the people of Loleta .

The other local closure, Big Louie’s in Eureka, has been free of the drama seen in Loleta. Harold Lawrence has been an exemplary corporate citizen, supportive of community causes and youth sports. I wish him the best, and really hope the franchise will reopen. Meanwhile, when you open your business, think ahead to the time when you may be incapacitated or worse. Your family and your employees deserve better than to be left drifting.  A lot better.

 

Ripping Off A Farmers’ Market? Jail Is Too Good For This Guy

Like most of us, I don’t like crooks. Especially crooks who rip off the deserving. Rip off Larry Ellison? I don’t like it but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. But ripping off a farmers’ market? How low can you get? Really.

Well, it took an elected official to demonstrate how low. A Glendale city councilman is headed to jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the local farmers’ market over a number of years. Thank God they caught him but this is one of those cases that makes you start wondering if our justice system hasn’t overly restricted itself.  In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan-actually Gilbert-

“My object all sublime I shall achieve in time: to make the punishment fit the crime..”

I don’t know what punishment would fit this crime (a diet of rotten vegetables? ) but your submssions are welcome. We read about scumbags all the time but I know folks who sell at our farmers’ markets and I know how hard they work. Sorry for bending your ear, but this one really got to me.

 

The Billionaire Next Door-Red Emmerson on the Forbes List

Well, not literally next door but only a couple of counties over, Archie “Red”  Emmerson of Redding was recently reported by Forbes.com as back on their list. His Sierra Pacific Industries, based in Anderson,  owns 1.9 million acres or forest in Northern California  and Western Washington  and his current wealth is estimated at $3.1 billion.  At that level it’s hard to keep track of rankings but Forbes placed him at #520 of the 1,645 billionaires on this year’s list of the world’s richest people.

The Emmerson’s have strong ties to Eureka.  Emmerson’s late wife, Ida, was a Eureka native and legend has it that they met at the Ingomar Club. He has donated $500K in her memory  to Hospice of Humboldt to build a 12-bed facility for end-of-life care, to be located off Timber Falls Court, south of Harris Street. The entire cost of the facility is unclear to me but Hospice’s capital campaign goal is $2.5M and groundbreaking is scheduled for “Spring 2014″, whenever that is.  I just drove by the site and it is definitely beautiful and peaceful.

The Emmersons (he has two adult sons)  have a pretty spiffy place (click on the thumbnail photo to enlarge) but I don’t have the address and I wouldn’t give it to you if I did. I’m always grateful for any philanthropy in our needy community.  Who knows? I may be a customer for that hospice myself, one day. The family has a foundation and I’m sure they give to many worthy causes but if you were trying to figure  out what percentage of Mr. Emmerson’s wealth is being given to Hospice, on the back of an envelope,  I already did it for you. My calculator won’t accept the right number of zeroes but the way I figure it,  $550K equals .0000001 of $3.1B, or .00001%.  Please feel free to correct my math- it’s not my strong point.

Obviously, our favorite billionaires are those who, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are leaving their fortunes to worthy causes.  Despite the talk about income inequality, the ranks of the super-rich are growing. Forbes counted 1,645 billionaires on its new list of the world’s richest people, up from 1,426 on last year’s list. This concentration of wealth can do a lot of good, or a lot of evil. What do you think?

 

Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You

In its relentless march toward world domination, Dunkin Donuts has announced the franchises are available in Eureka, Crescent City and 40 other locales in NoCal.  Follow this link  for more info,  and good luck!

 

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RECORD STORE!

I went into The Works yesterday to get the new Pharrell CD and to see if they could order me an old Fred Neil album that I must have lent to someone and found that they’re not taking new orders! Darren (who works with Bandon , the owner who bought the business from Larry Glass) said that business has been so bad lately that The Works is definitely in jeopardy. The move to “C” Street gave them a bigger space for performances and readings but they lost a lot of the foot traffic they had over on “F” Street.

You know the story.  A dollar you spend at Target or another chain or ITunes or Amazon leaves the county; a dollar you spend in a local business is recirculated locally. Plus I don’t know another place in Eureka that will take special orders;  if anything happens to The Works, where will I go when I want to replace my CD of Donald Fagan’s New York Rock and Soul Review (Mike McDonald, Phoebe Snow, Boz Scaggs etc) that is wearing out I’ve played it so much? Or some wonderful old vinyl records? Clearly this is a quality of life issue, and anyone who is familiar with (for example) Amazon and their practices knows that’s not the answer. No, the answer is to support our local businesses much as we support our local farmers. So whenever there’s a break in the rain, go down and do some shopping at The Works, 210 “C” Street in Old Town or order over their phone which is 442-8121. 

I’ll see you down there. Oh, and they’ll have the Pharrell CD next week. 

 

“I’m the Captain Now”, or When to Dump Your Business Plan

Have you seen “Captain Phillips”, which was deservedly nominated for Best Picture of 2013?  You can still catch it on pay-per-view and it’s powerful. Did you know that the line “I’m the Captain now.” which has become the season’s catchphrase and was referred to by the New Yorker as an “iconic line” was IMPROVISED? Improvised by a Somalian taxi driver who had never performed in a film before? Here’s the story:

Barkhad Abdi was six years old when war turned his native Somalia into an inferno. The family fled to Yemen, where his father taught math and eventually settled in Minneapolis, where there is a sizable Somalian community. Abdi was working as a limo driver for his brother’s company when the word came that auditions were being held at the local community center for Somalis to act in “Captain Phillips”,  directed by Paul Greengrass (who filmed United 93 among other major films) and starring Tom Hanks as the skipper of the Alabama Maersk, the cargo ship  that was attacked by Somail pirates in 2009. Abdi and half a dozen other Somalis were hired by Greengrass.

When they started filming the scene where the pirates have boarded the ship, Abdi felt that the point wasn’t being made clearly enough to Hanks and/or his character that things had changed. So he came  out with the  line, “Look at me. I’m the captain now,” which sends chills down your spine every time you see it.  Greengrass kept the line in. He knew gold when he saw it.

As an employer, do you encourage creative improvisation  in your company? You don’t have to be Steve Jobs or Paul Greengrass to do so. When your people come up with something wonderful, tear up your script, throw out your business plan and go with your gut, like Greengrass did. “I’m the captain now” is a classic line on the level of “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” or “Nobody’s perfect.” The genius is in knowing when to dump your carefully laid plans.  The proof is in the watching.

Rosepond Aquatics is For Sale

Our friend Doug Rose has reminded us that he is selling his pond-and-water lilies business in McKinleyville and he’s listing it at only $7K. That’s an awfully cheap price to get into a an enterprise with lots of growth potential.  I’ll let Doug tell the rest of the story:

“Seasonal (March-August) pond plant business available in McKinleyville. Established 12 years with good client base and assumable land lease with room for expansion.  Facilities are fully developed with 10×12′ greenhouse, automated watering system, sheltered potting area with weed cloth covering all growing areas. Inventory includes 160 mother plant varieties of hardy water lilies with complete history, growing characteristics and graphic displays for every plant. Business consists of wholesale, retail and internet. Must sell by July 4th.  $7000 is walkaway price. ” His phone is (707) 839-0588, his cell is (707) 616-0111 and the website is right here. There’s also a video on You Tube

and his email is drose@rosepond.com. (Sorry, I’m having problems with links again but the link to the website is good.)  If you haven’t met Doug, he’s an amazing person.

Good luck in your new business!