When is a company not a company?

I’ve recently become aware of a couple examples of how much the world has changed while it tries to conceal this fact. In my first example is something I had know about but since not being an insider did not understand the implications. I believe we have huge portions of the economy that are basically false advertising and are getting away with it because it happened slowly over a long period of time.

I have a friend that I’ve known for likely ten years, we met at a blogging site but since have met in person a number of times. He worked as a highly skilled assembler of  aerospace parts, something he thought was safe until his company moved overseas. This move happened at a time that a number of other companies pulled the same move and suddenly there was a glut of highly skilled workers and he was forced to come to grips with his future being shattered and at the same time expected to recareer.

He took some time off and decided he’d like to drive a truck. Long range and complex loads were for him as he could pass the tests and acquire the licenses being a pretty sharp guy with a mechanical background. He did this quickly and was on the road but it soon became evident that the same big business ethics that dumped him on his ass in another industry were at play in his new role.

The company he works for is called a trucking company, they advertise the service of trucking but they don’t own any trucks. The modern way to operate is to put up a sign and hire a room full of office people that pose as a trucking company but when an order comes in they “hire” a trucker like my friend to move the goods. This way the company does not have to pay truckers as employees even though they are posing as a trucking company. They also don’t have to maintain any equipment since all that is the employee’s I mean “contractor’s” responsibility. You see what is going on here?

I was a little shocked to learn this as it came out slowly because this is an accepted practice, for now. When he posted about buying a truck I did not understand that he was reaching into his own credit to buy that truck that immediately was sent to the paint shop to have the company colors applied, his name and his first name only appeared in tiny letters near the door.

Later he wrote about how the company used numerous tactics to get out of paying him, like how he would be called for a pickup at a certain time and then made to wait hours that he would not be paid for. They also penalised him for not making connections that were impossible if not illegal to make. Since the company had divided the work over numerous small contractors they were able to take advantage of them being the big fish while the driver was the easily replaceable small fish.

Even though he owned the truck and made all the payments he was not allowed to take any jobs from anyone else which is odd as you’d think that being under the complete direction of one employer would instantly make you an employee.

You should not be allowed to present your company as something it is not. If you call yourself a trucking company you should not outsource your entire business, what they are is brokers and not truckers and deserve no exclusive rights without offering employment.

Here’s my second example in this early similar scenario that reared its ugly head about 18 months ago when I spoke to a local fellow who does groundskeeping. The fellow said he also worked as a roofer actually he said his main skill and trade was as a roofer but had to supplement his trade and chose to call himself a grounds keeper because there are laws that prevent him from calling himself a roofer.

We spoke more and he had an interesting story. It seems that the local industry of those who legally call themselves roofers are actually just roofing brokers with signs and business cards that falsely purported them to be actual roofers as they have no hammers and no trucks and worst of all no employees but they do have a lic. and those are limited and hard to get.

The trouble is his “boss” only calls him when he has a job, actually bosses as he contracts to a number of “license holders” who not only expect him to show up at a job site with one day notice but if you can’t because you are finishing another job they often penalize them for it by withholding future jobs. Worst of all with this new system of exploit the lowest is as a contractor he is no longer able to claim unemployment during the winter months as he used to when he started in this business as an employee.

He’s on his own for the bad times and it seems for the good times as well as the company scoops the bulk of the profits because they can. All these changes were know about in advance by those who perpetrated them, it was only a surprise for those who were negatively impacted.

 

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Repair of the day, Black and Decker Belgian Waffle maker

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NOTE: This post has been updated to include a 3D printer solution, download this part if you have a 3D printer.

Its called the Model WMB500 and I got one for Christmas last year. It worked perfectly the first time I used it but when I went to use it a second time one of the hinge pins was broken so we took it back and got another one but those pins broke within a few weeks. I called the Black and Decker hot line and was sent some more pins but shockingly they broke too so I put away the waffle iron thinking that one day the idea for the perfect fix would come to me.

Its really too bad as the little machine made perfect waffles and wasn’t too hard to clean for a waffle maker, less parts makes less parts to clean you know. Its small size was perfect for storage and fit neatly on its edge in the cupboard next to the waffle mix. I was disappointed, really that was an understatement as I blamed outsourcing for destroying the integrity of the manufacturing sector and was driven to a sad state where I would watch Noam Chomsky for hours clutching my tiny blanket and murmuring.

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(One of the many broken pins I have)

Last week I took my broken waffle making appliance to the local Ace Hardware and walked up and down the isle of little screw and nut bits until an idea came to mind. If I could find some fuel hose that fit in the hinge opening then a small nut and bolt could be used to expand the hose and form a new hinge. You want to use at least “fuel hose” because its made to withstand a bit higher temperature than normal hose and since a waffle iron gets hot you gotta think about these things.

Image(The parts used to make the new hinge pins)

I bought two 1/4″ x 1-1/4″ counter sink bolts with hex nuts included, two 1/4″ washers and one foot of 1/4″ fuel hose. If you want to try this you have to make sure the hose fits in the hinge opening as hose is sold by the inside diameter not the outside diameter so that number can vary.

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The hose was cut to just over 1″ and one end was counter sunk by hand turning a 1/2″ drill bit to remove a tiny bit of hose material.

ImageHere the bolt and hose have been inserted in the hinge opening. Make sure the hose passes through both parts of the plastic body so there is room for it to expand.

ImageTighten only to apply enough pressure to keep the pin from coming out, too much could break the plastic body.

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Finished repair. I used the least expensive hardware which made the total cost less than $3.00 but you could use an acorn nut that would hide the threads and make a slighter nicer looking repair for another $2.

I wish I had another picture here of my smiling face grilling waffles but I’m sure you get the idea.

Craigslist imitates life?

Guitar search or another day meeting jerks.

FG110

Its all about the odds I tell myself. Yesterday I had to go to the East side so I though I would drop in and see a used guitar that was on my route. The guitar came up on Craig’s days ago and I contacted them immediately as $95 seemed like a good deal. They responded and we were going to set a date until hours later I get another message a different account saying $95 was a mistake and they now wanted $200 which is almost full retail and out of the question.

I offered somewhat less and said it was pending the guitar being exactly as described. Three days later I arrive (after they set up and moved my meeting twice). Nice house in nice area but the first bad sign is a hand written “House For Sale” sign on the front lawn. The old dude is packing boxes in the garage and stops to take me into a house with no carpet just the underpad. His wife tells me a story of how the guitar was under a bed upstairs when they bought the house and that the guitar belonged to some actress… I mentioned it was a nice story but unless she was also famous for playing the guitar and left some document saying she was the owner it would not affect the value.

He hands me the guitar, first bad sign is he put new strings on it. The ad did not mention this nor did the photo show it, I said its not as described but he takes little notice until I find that he also lost one of the screws that holds the high E string so now what is the point of new strings if you can’t tune the string? I also notice a deep crack in the body that was not listed. He tells me he’ll find the screw and mail it to me. I also mentioned that his ad was misleading because he was clearly out of the area. I offer him $95 and he opens the door saying he has another offer, I ask if he lied to him too and leave.

Here’s the problem, everybody today is an expert at everything they do. They are consumers and the consumer is always right so how can anything they do be wrong? Our guy revised his ad last night, he still wants $200 but now he mentions the new strings and includes that this is a perfect guitar for the beginner, its not. You don’t buy a beginner a 40 year old guitar that has not been played for over thirty years. He’s a jerk for taking off the old strings as not only did he loose a part and put some fresh scratches on it but he also lost information that the strings could have told us about its condition and how it was stored. To this old timer 40 years is not a long time and that’s what allowed him to waste money on strings and monkey with something he knew little about.

You can get a brand new beginner guitar for $100, with a warranty and one that parts are available so how does his logic make his worth $200? Because its his, that’s it. I call it lottery mentality and its when anything that you find is worth a fortune because somebody else found one that was worth a million and hell I want mine too.

(Originally published September 10, 2011)