Peanut Butter Terrorism

What are we up to– 400 plus products recalled because one greedy business owner looked the other way.

We hear a lot about how the government needs to stay out of the business of doing business. Well this is a perfect example of exactly why government interference is needed in the private sector. People are sick, others are dead – because one company chose to ignore the possibility of salmonella contamination.

What about the ripple effect to the customers of Peanut Corporation of America? And the peanut industry as a whole?

Peanut butter was a big staple in my diet.

Peanut butter on a toasted whole wheat bagel for breakfast.

Peanut butter crackers as a mid-morning snack or on a hike.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch or an occasionally dinner.

Peanut butter cups – both on their  own and the mini ones in ice cream.

I bet this stupid company flew the American flag on the holidays, (they added “America” to their name), gave lip service to how much they cared about their employees (I assume they are now out of work) and talked about how wonderful they were as a contributor to the economy, the community, blah, blah, blah.

Keep this in mind. All terrorist don’t look alike. They can high-jack a whole industry when they exhibit greed in favor of a true “corporate conscious.”


Does Your Marketing – and Branding – Suck?

We hear a lot about marketing, branding, blah, blah, blah. As the economy continues to toughen up – small businesses will have to work even harder to attract and retain clients.

Branding is more than just slapping a pretty logo on your product or brochures — then sitting back waiting for customers to beat down your door. Branding is about EVERYTHING you do.

A year ago, as my mother’s health continued to decline, I attended a “senior fair” sponsored by a law office specializing in estate planning. Several vendors had tables and there were a variety of speakers on a wide range of subjects. One of the speakers was from a company offering home health care services at my mother’s senior apartment building. The speaker made some interesting comments, and after she left the podium, I asked if she would be available for questions after the next speaker finished. “Yes, we have a table.”

Another 30 or 45 minutes passed before the other speaker finished, then I went searching for her table and asked the organizers to help me locate her. I guess the opportunity to finish work early on a Friday afternoon was just too big a temptation as she had closed up shop before the event had concluded.

Fast forward to the fall. Since her company was the most highly recommended of the two company’s located at my mom’s apartment building, we had contracted with them to provided morning and evening assistance with dressing and medicine administration.

My mother had a stroke in September, moved to one nursing home and then another in October. Cash flow was a bit of a problem, but I did send a small payment in  October and the balance due in November. The company did not send any statements, make a phone call, etc. –the payments were sent because we knew the money was owed.

Yesterday I received a second copy of the September invoice — not a statement. Attached was a sticky note with a handwritten message that the company had received payments, but we still owed money. The last sentence read “My accountant advised me this would be the last statement sent for this invoice before going to Collections.” The note was not signed.

The  invoice was the type that comes right out of Word, so it has a cookie cutter look to it. That’s fine for a small business. But nobody bothered to make the effort to look professional and turn it into a statement showing the monies received — they just stuck a blue sticky note on it.

Here is my response to the company:

I have received an invoice for  my mother.  There is no email on the invoice, so I am using this one.

Your company is looking for an additional $401.

As you are well aware, Mrs. Mom did not receive services for the full month of September.

According to my records,  your company has been paid  in full for August (including the increase in package) and for all of the days she lived at the apartment building in September up to and including the day of her departure.

The checks sent in October and November were sent not in response to any invoice — but because we knew we had received services and wanted to pay my mother’s account in full for all services ordered and received.Your current invoice clearly shows it was your policy prior to November 1, 2008, for clients to receive refunds when they did not receive services.

FYI – while she was there, some of the services we contracted  for were not performed. For example, I posted a reminder on the bathroom mirror and complained to your staff several times that I had frequently found nasty dirty denture water still sitting in her denture cup at the end of the day — even though all I requested was that it be dumped and rinsed out for just a second or so every morning. Not only that, I counted the denture tablets and they were not being used — no surprise since the same nasty water was still there. Made me wonder if they removed her dentures at all.

Also, there were many nites when I dressed Mom — with no expectation that there would be a refund — although your staff indicated there would be. We did not ask or expect one.

Generally, your employees were very nice and caring.

Instead of chasing ambulances to the hospital seeking additional income for new services — I would suggest you contact your client’s families for feedback while the person is still at the apartment to see if all services are being performed adequately.

In my opinion, the time to conduct your company’s marketing (such as customer satisfaction calls) is when your client is living at the apartment –not when you see an opportunity to make more money when a crisis has occurred. Your visits to see my mom at the hospital came across to me as a sales pitch and it really felt quite inappropriate.

Tell that to your accountant.

(editor’s note – I have removed proper names to protect my mother’s privacy.)

And The Winner Is….

The mailbox locations post.

This is the “most visited” post on my blog for 2008.

Apparently, e-mail has not totally eliminated the need for those little blue boxes on street corners. We still have to mail some of our stuff.

And thanks to the U.S. Postal Service…I get lots of visitors trying to find a list of nearby mailboxes and their pick-up times. It would be quicker to drive across the county and hand-deliver your letter than to find the mailbox listings on the USPS dot gov site.

If you need to mail something, click on my April 8th post…..then dig into the comments section….and you will find some great links to non-governmental sites to help you in your quest for the Almighty Mailbox.

I suspect this will be a most popular post for some time to come.

Thanks to my readers for helping us all out!!!

An Answer To My Mom’s Prayers

Yesterday while visiting my mother at the nursing home, she told me that every day she says a little prayer asking God for me to stop by and see her. Then I show up and she knows her prayer has been answered.

I smiled when she told me this.

“You’re laughing at me, but it’s true.”

She’s so sweet. Now the pressure is on to keep the faith.

The Coat Stayed In The Closet

Christmas has come and gone and now it’s on to a new year. I think I lot of us are ready for some good news.

I didn’t bother to put up a Christmas tree this year. There are plenty of nice trees of all sizes throughout Mom’s nursing home, so I really didn’t need one at home. I wheeled Mom through the halls and we stopped and looked at them throughout December. Mom’s eyesight isn’t too good — part of the dementia — so it’s hard to tell how much she could really see on each tree. She would agree they were pretty as I pointed out different ornaments on each one.

Even mom got tired of all of the kids singing groups traipsing through the activity room all month long. Come January, I’m sure there won’t be any more girl scout troupes or elementary school piano recitals.

Mom often comes up with witty little comments. Sometimes she makes observations that miss the mark. She’s still my mom and wants to share her dinner with me and tells me to eat one of her cookies.

It’s tough to come up with things to talk about. I ask Mom lots of questions about the past and sometimes her answers are surprising as she reached into her memory and comes up with a story I have not heard before.  I asked Mom about her memories of Christmas as a child. Her eyes were closed and a smile came across her face as she recalled that one year her big brother Robert had made her a toy kitchen cabinet. This would have been during the Depression.

The evening news on Christmas Eve carried a story about 95 year old woman who had been left outside to die in the cold at a nursing home the night before.  Someone wanted to turn up the TV to hear the details…but I shook my head “no” to protect my mom from the news.

There was a lot more excitement in the air and Mom sensed that Christmas was upon us because she asked me if she had a winter coat there. “I might need it to go out.” I didn’t  have the heart to tell her it was going to be staying in the closet.

Holiday Treats at the Nursing Home

Mom’s nursing home held a little holiday party for the residents and their families yesterday. They served egg nog, which was a real treat as Mom and I always shared a carton at Christmas time. I think we are the only ones in the family who liked it. We each drank two cups.

The activities “guy” arrived in a Santa suit, and of course he knew every resident’s name as he greeted each one and posed for a quick picture. I didn’t know how much they would get out of  a visit from Santa, but anything that breaks up the day is a good thing.

Santa had on a very good-looking red suit – one our table mates commented that it was a very nice, rich looking material.  Some of the Santa suits you see are kind of cheesey and cheap looking. I noted that St. Nick looked pretty good as he was more trim than some I had seen in the past and that this was  more in keeping with our health conscious times.

As Santa approached mom, who is now confined to a wheelchair — to my surprise not only did she have a big smile on her face  – but she was stretching out her arms and reaching for a hug!  I think my mouth dropped open and I held back some tears as I watched her respond with such joy to something as simple and timeless as a visit from Santa Claus. She was the only one I saw respond with such obvious outward excitement.

After Santa gave Mom her hug and posed for a picture, her turned to the next lady, “Virginia!”

As Santa and Virginia smiled for the camera, I announced to the room, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Several people laughed and I think just about everyone in the room was smiling. It was a good day.

My 2009 Prediction

I predict that Barack, Malia, and Sasha will skyrocket to the top of the “Most Popular Baby Names” list for Americans during the next 90 days and into 2009.

Some of these babies will be African-American, some will be of mixed race, some white, and some Mexican-American and others Asian-American.

Furthermore….the popularity of these names will spread to people of color in nations throughout the world.

Post Election Feels A Little Like 9/11

Remember how nice everyone was after the Twin Towers fell? For a few weeks Americans seemed to be nicer to each other. We had been attacked as a nation and we were all on the same side. People were friendlier and a more polite to strangers and others as they went about their business. We were all in it together. It was a quiet calm after the big storm.

It wasn’t the same happy feeling we experience during the Christmas holiday season. People are more rushed, pressured to get things done, but then they are pretty nice to each other for a week or so.

I think Americas have felt different since Tuesday night when Barack Obama was elected President. Our economy is in shambles and we’ve elected someone we hope can lift us out of the economic crisis and put more of us back to work.

Black and white strangers appear to be a little more friendly to each other. It took people of all races and economic backgrounds to elect our first African-American President, and we all know it.

Our country has undergone a major shift. I think in some ways we are experiencing a state of shock as we did post 9/11. But it’s a good shock.

How long do you think the honeymoon will last? Even if Obama solves all of our country’s major problems next year, how long will it be before people are back to their normal, indifferent selves?

Will the good feeling even last until inauguration day?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had this holiday feeling all year?

Palin – A One Hit Wonder?

I sure hope so. There’s talk in Alaska about her running for President in 2012. I hope by then she has found something else to occupy her interest.

Caribou Barbie is just too kooky to serve as our President. Although I would like to see more parodies on Saturday Night Live.

A Victory For All of America

A lot of white people walked into a voting booth yesterday and faced their own prejudices head on. And they did the right thing. They voted for a better economy, a better energy system, an end to the war. They voted for Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

We should all be very proud of our country. For once, I think the color barrier really has been broken.

I went to high school before busing began to more fully integrate our schools. Although my sister and I had a few black friends, and they were welcome in our home, our social lives were basically segregated. I live in a town that is predominantly socially segregated today.

Younger adults who went to school later with a more racially mixed population have a much more open attitude toward inter-racial dating. For a whole lot of adults age 50 and older, this can still be a difficult thing to accept. Prejudice can live pretty deep down in our psyches.

I’ve always been interested in the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War protesters. I also wonder if I would have been strong enough to take a stand and march in those days.

Yesterday I woke up and decided to conduct my own private Civil Rights march. I walked to the polls instead of driving and thought about how historic this election really is. History in the making.

For a black man to win the U.S. Presidency, a lot of white men and women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s did more then just give lip service to the rights of equality. We are hearing about a lot of college educated white voters…but let’s not forget about the other voters. They dug down deep into their hearts and overcame some of the prejudices they still harbor. They voted for the issues, not the color of a man’s skin. This is a big deal.

This election even sparked the interest of my mother, who for months has said she did not want to vote anymore. She missed the opportunity yesterday, and last night, she said she kind of wished she had voted. She wanted to see Obama win.

We’ve come along way in just this one day. Obama has done so much more for America than maybe even he can realize.

The face and feel of America has changed overnight. This is truly a Civil Rights victory…and for many people, a personal victory as well.

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