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A theory or two...

Brian Keelan's picture
Tue, 05/01/2018 - 12:58 -- Brian Keelan

These are just theories… but?

The endless rhetoric about gun control has resulted in not much getting done, which is good for the NRA and Ted Nugent but very bad for young people in schools. Therefore I thought it was a great idea when the students marched on Washington to demand that the government do something to stop the killing. The government does not want to be seen ignoring them. It will go poorly for them at the polls if they do.

One thing I think they should demand, is that anytime someone is killed by a gun and the murder weapon is found, they should check the serial number and find out where the gun was purchased and who delivered it. That would lead to some very interesting statistics: which business sells the most guns that are used to murder our children and what company delivered it. That’s a business statistic you don’t want to lead, but someone does.

Logical positivism

My favourite philosopher is a character in an old Woody Allen short story named Albert the Logical Positivist. Many, many years ago, I was in the old St. Joseph’s Hospital having my appendix removed when Sister Mary Paranoid came into my room waving a piece of paper as she informed me, “Mr. Keelan, there appears to be a mistake on your admission form.”

“What could that possibly be Sister?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “Here under your religious affiliation you put down LP instead of RC.”

“Well sister, I did that because LP is the correct designation.”

“What does LP stand for?” she asked.

“I now count myself as a Logical Positivist,” I told her.

With a horrified look she asked, “Instead of a Roman Catholic! Is your grandmother aware of this?”

“No, she is not sister and I would appreciate it if you were to keep this information private.”

“And why is that?” she asked.

“Because I do not want to live in the world of deep doodoo that my life will become if she ever finds out.”

Over the next two days she continued to visit me and try to bring me back from the dark side using the old Catholic technique of graphically describing the horrors of hell that awaited me if I did not see the error of my ways and repent. One day, during an uncharacteristic burst of curiosity, she asked me what logical positivism meant. I told her, “I’m not sure what the dictionary says but when I first saw the words, I took them to mean that you would pursue a life based on principles of logic – in other words, they made sense and that you would do this with a positive attitude since a negative attitude does not seem, in the words of Mr. Spock, logical.

You got that sister?”

After about twelve more hours of, “Yes.. but,” and “Think about this…” I remained unswayed and then was discharged. Recently when someone else challenged my LP philosophy and I gave them the same definition, they said, “You idiot. That’s not what Logical Positivism is!”

When I looked it up on Wikipedia, this is what I found: “Logical positivism and logical empiricism, which together formed neopositivism, was a movement in Western philosophy whose central thesis was verificationism, a theory of knowledge which asserted that only statements verifiable through empirical observation are cognitively meaningful.”

Personally, I like my definition better.

Toys“R”Us

In an article my sister sent me regarding the Toys“R”Us bankruptcy, I found out that Toys“R”Us had been taken over in 2005 by Bain Capital Partners in what is known as a leveraged buyout. Bain Capital was founded by Republican, Mitt Romney. Before the buyout, Toys“R”Us was largely debt free and profitable. When Bain bought them, they put down a little bit of their own money and ‘financed’ the rest, which meant that although Bain owned controlling stock in the company, the company was now 5 billion dollars in debt. That’s a lot of debt for a company with sales of 11 billion; a respectable sales number but not one that you’d feel comfortable with if you owed that much money. Now remember, this was back in the high-flying pre-doodoo-hitting-the-fan days of CDO’s (Collateralized Debt Obligations) and CDSs (Credit Default Swaps). It nearly brought down the US economy and would have brought down the Canadian economy if Paul Martin had not been able to convince John Chretien that de-regulation of our banking system (which our bankers really wanted to do) was not a good idea and so we didn’t do it. Anybody with a functioning pension plan today should be very thankful for Mr. Martin’s wisdom.

Bain’s leveraged buyout with it’s 5 billion debt load meant that Toys“R”Us had no money to invest in any technological upgrades since every nickel they could get was used to either (1) pay the interest on the debt or (2) pay the ridiculous salaries and “Performance” bonuses of the people Bain hired to “manage” the company. The rest went to dividends as they sucked every nickel they could get out of the company. They were not about running a good retail business nor did they care about the lives of their 33,000 front-line employees. All Bain cared about was the money they could squeeze out of the company before they sent it into Chapter 11 to get rid of the five billion in debt. President Dave Brandon got $11.25 million in compensation in 2017 for leading the company to that end. The company filed Chapter 11 in September 2017. Then in December 2017 they announced additional “retention bonuses” to their top executives ranging from 16 – 32 million dollars.

Entertainment and Lifestyle writer, James Zahn, in a recent article about the liquidation wrote, “business rewards should be a fruit of success and not something that comes as a ‘participation trophy,’ for an immense failure.” I couldn’t agree more.

In that same vein

Canada’s own Tim Horton’s is now owned and controlled by some boys from Brazil who own 51% of a company called Restaurant Brands International after they merged Timmies with Burger King and later added Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. When Ontario raised the minimum wage recently, some of the franchise owners decided to raise their prices a bit to adjust to the additional expense which is a normal business practice. If costs go up, so do prices. In Canada it’s a level playing ground since everybody else must deal with the same basic wage level, but it kind of goes off the rails if you have people in other countries working for the same company and getting paid less than their counterparts in Canada.

Raising the prices is against franchise rules and would set a precedent for other minimum wage workers in other countries that do not have a living wage as their minimum wage, and that would be bad for overall international corporate profits. So, the boys from Brazil nixed the price increase. In response, some of the Canadian franchise owners cut back on hours and eliminated their employee benefits package and in doing so, basically negated the rise in wages.

Now I don’t mind paying a dime (or even a quarter) more for a cup of coffee (or a hamburger) if I know that the money is going to the people who are serving us on the front line, but I do not want to pay extra if the money is going to the boys from Brazil or to the stockholders.

Which brings me to

I remember having a conversation with an employee at a retail establishment who told me that she was taking a course at Lambton College in computer sciences. She had been working in this particular establishment for almost ten years and had never had a raise. She was paid minimum wage, had no benefits and averaged about 30 hours a week. When I asked her what she wanted to do when she finished her course, she told me that all she wanted was, “A good job.” I’d be willing to bet that all everybody out there who is making minimum wage wants is a good job.

Why don’t businesses realize that if you pay people minimum wage, you are really telling them, “If I could legally give you less money for doing this job, I would.” How do you expect an employee to give you their best effort if you have that kind of relationship with them? I understand starting people at that point but you need to give them a path ahead that motivates them to give you their best effort and make the customer experience a good one. If you were paying them $25 an hour you would then be able to say, “Okay. This is a good job. You get paid good money and you have a good benefits package. If you do a great job this company will grow and we will all be rewarded for doing so.”

The employer who offers a job like that has the right to demand that certain standards be met, and if they are not they will find someone who can meet these requirements.

I get the feeling that many of the businesses today use their advertising money to convince us that they have nothing but our best-interests in mind, but it seems like their philosophy is along the lines of: give as little as possible to the customer and get as much money as possible for doing so.

I think the customers have a right to served by people who are making a living wage and are happy to be doing what they are doing.

That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong, but I think Albert The Logical Positivist would agree with me.

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