Monday, May 12, 2014

You’re Doing it Wrong! EPISODE 3: Your Phone is a Private Form of Communication. Don’t Make it my Business.

I’m that guy.  
Yes, I am the guy who stands up and calls you out about it.
I encourage everyone to do it.
I’m not just bringing this up to out myself as some kind of  fist-shaking curmudgeon.  I do it when it’s appropriate.
Just this last Saturday, I attended a University Commencement. It's a huge day for everyone involved. That said, there was a young woman on her phone, ruining the event for everyone in her general proximity. It was a vapid conversation. Clearly she didn’t want to be there. I understand not wanting to be there, sure, that’s perfectly ok. What’s not ok is to bag on the event when everyone around you is trying to support the people that have achieved their goal of getting their degree and closing an entire chapter of their life.  It's a right of passage into adulthood, one of the few we have left in this culture.
So yeah, I stepped in.
“Excuse me, you need to get off your phone.”
She looked at me and gave me an epic eye-roll and kept talking.I'm kind of surprised she didn't flip me off.
And then I got loud.
“If you’re not going to get off your phone, you need to take your conversation outside. You’re being incredibly inconsiderate, what the hell is wrong with you?”
And without missing beat in her conversation, She got up and left the seating area. One of the attendees mouthed the words “thank you”.

The rule here is simple, if your behavior is encroaching on the experience of those around you, then you need to change your behavior. No one is enriched by the experience of being within earshot of you telling the poor bastard on the other end of the line how bored you are. You may feel like you’re showing everyone that you have a life, but in actuality you’re just showing all of us that this life of yours is not well lived.

Here’s a quick tip about your phone, when you’re on it, you’re sending a message to those around you, that they are not as interesting as the person whom your phoning or texting.  If it’s true then you should at least have the courtesy of restricting that opinion to your internal monologue. Unless you openly hate all of us, and in that case feel free to let your asshole flag fly!

Be considerate, and stand up to those that are being discourteous. Someone has to, because these poor fools won't know until you tell them.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

You’re Doing It Wrong: Episode 2: Just Because It’s Your Policy Doesn’t Make it Right

It should go without saying that just because something is “a policy”, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing do. History is rife with examples of this being the case. Look at any civil rights movement.  Separate parts of the restaurant, different water fountains, the whole bus seat thing, all operating under the “It’s our policy” umbrella. “It’s our policy” should never be used as a stand-alone argument. It’s feeble. Usually the people who use this as a their argument don’t agree with it. That’s why they just say, “It’s our policy.” It’s the business equivalent of “Because I said so.” which I also have a problem with.  

I was at a bank, Chase Bank to be specific. My credit union was across town and there’s a Chase Bank branch in the grocery store that I was shopping in, so I thought “Hell, it’s a Chase Bank check, I’ll just cash it here.” I approach the clerk, a smarmy slicked-back hair type, in a suit that was too small for him.

“Well sir, do you have an account with us?”
“No.” I said.

“Well, we’re going to have to charge you 10 dollars to cash this check, sir.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, that’s our policy.  We have to charge you if you don’t have an account with us.”

“You do?”

“Yes sir. That’s our policy.”

To which I replied, “Give me my fucking check.” His eyes got big with disbelief and handed it over. I must have some damn nerve.

I walked out of their glorified kiosk, I mean it’s a half step above a sunglass hut, let’s call it what it is. I decided to get my groceries and just go to my credit union. Screw these bastards. I was reaching for the nutty bars and when I realized that I was not going to be able to just let this go. So I went back. Smarmy bank clerk was there and I asked to speak to the manager.  I was polite, well polite for me anyway, and the manager had been halfway expecting me to come back. I dropped an f-bomb, of course he heard about it. 

“So Richard here, tells me that you have a bit of an issue with our policy.”

He stayed seated. Even when he shook my hand, he never got up.

“That’s correct. I’m having a bit of a hard time understanding where you get to skim 10 dollars off this check which was issued from this bank.”

His nametag said Tom. “Well that’s the cost of labor for the transaction.”

“So you’re telling me that I hand Richard here, this check. Then Richard here, takes the check, puts the check in the drawer, counts the amount written on the check and then hands it to me, costs ten dollars. Is that correct?”

“You know that’s not what I’m saying.” He leaned back.

“That’s exactly what you’re saying.”

“Mr. Padgett, you’re not a member of this bank, and this is our policy.”

“Tom, this is a scumbag policy. This customer, a member of your bank, has direct deposit into his account, which means you have access to his funds before he does. You make money off this situation from the word go. That said, when he inevitably does decide to spend some of his money, you penalize anyone he does business with, by charging them through this scumbag policy.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr. Padgett.”

“There’s no need for you to say “I’m sorry you feel that way.” because it isn’t an apology. It’s a way for you to seem like you’re sorry. Being sorry about someone’s feelings is ridiculous.”

“Mr. Padgett, other banks can charge you up to 12 or 13 dollars. This is actually quite reasonable.”

“So you’re using the everybody else does it so it’s okay excuse? That is not a valid argument. It’s just convenient.” I wasn’t getting heated and yes, this is where I get off. It’s true…kind of my thing. “Tom, How about we look at this as an opportunity. You have the opportunity to do the right thing here and not penalize your customer through this transaction fee.”

I could tell Tom was a family man, wedding ring, pictures of his kids on his desk, the whole thing. It was apparent the he was accustomed to saying no to his children and not having to explain himself.

“Again, this is Chase Bank’s policy.”

“Alright, I see your decision. This is a scumbag policy, and you know is a scumbag policy. Through this interaction, you have shown that you will discriminate against a prospective customer or possibly a future member of your bank through unnecessary fees. This will absolutely deter me from doing business with you in the future. I’m sure you acknowledge these facts. You know this is a scumbag policy, and by defending it, it in-turn makes you a…” At this point, I reached out my hand, palm up as if to say “This is your cue, honey.”…
Tom instinctively, as if it were a knee jerk reaction, said…“Scumbag.”

Yes. I got a grown man to call himself a scumbag and with that, I drove to my credit union.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

You’re Doing it Wrong: Episode 1: Devil’s Advocate is not License to be an Asshole

We’ve all been there. You’re in a group or possibly just in a conversation with one other person, and then it happens, someone chimes in and says “I’m just going to play devil’s advocate.”.  This is then followed with the person hurling shitty contrarian opinions in whatever direction the discussion happens to be going. This practice of proverbially hurling shit like a lower primate trying to reproduce a Jackson Pollock, is veiled as constructive criticism.  Oftentimes the individual who offers to play devil’s advocate is the same person over and over again. They love it. It makes them giddy when they get the chance to do it. You can see their eyes light up. You know this person. They lack empathy. These are the people who are consumed with being right as opposed to doing right. This person could be prone to one-upmanship; no matter what you’ve done they’ve done it better. These people are control freaks. Perhaps they are insecure about their intelligentness, so they fall back on being contrarian. The bitch of it is that they believe this practice, and the way they’re doing it, is actually helpful.

Watch this person. He’s not playing devil’s advocate, he’s announcing that he’s an asshole.

Playing devil’s advocate is intended to give people an alternate perspective, thereby exposing a possible flaw in the presiding argument. This could then steer the discussion back on track and avoid poor decision-making. See? Like that.

Here’s how you’re doing it wrong:  Your contrarian opinion has no point other than being contrarian. If you’re playing devil’s advocate for the sake of looking smarter than everyone in the group by figuratively shitting in the sandbox that we’re all playing in, then I’d like to invite you to take your Tonka truck and go home. If you’re unsure if you’re doing it wrong, then examine how your playing devil’s advocate. If it’s a situation of just shooting down an idea and there’s no pearl of wisdom to be gleaned from the statement; it doesn’t lead anywhere other than down, and it offers no solutions, then you’re the asshole. 
You don’t have to be. 
Here’s a good rule of thumb; if you’re going to shoot something down, then offer a better alternative. If you really want look like a prodigy, then solve the problem. Don’t compound it with arrogance.