Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chipped hamming it up

Recent Big Winners:

    * Matt_Pritt won $30 Amazon gift card (5 minutes ago)
    * Amanda_Elliott won Nintendo Wii (1 days ago)
    * KoKo_Bunz won $30 Amazon gift card (1 days ago)
    * NativeDiva won $30 Amazon gift card (3 days ago)
    * The_Great_One won Nintendo Wii (3 days ago)

That would seem to be a nice way to start.  Actually that is a copy and paste from the Scratchix page over on Facebook, where I have been tinkering with the app for around a year or so and today I finally collected the 25th and final token to win the $30 Amazon gift card prize.  As I have doted on before, I am a pretty big fan of Amazon, so getting an extra $30 to spend on their site is perfectly fine with me.  Especially with the holidays coming up, I can do some of my shopping online rather than venture out to the malls and stuff.  I think I have about $60 in my account there right now, plus I have two $5 gift cards pending from Swagbucks, so I am looking forward to cruising around their site and seeing what I can buy.

I told you all that this would be the "Fall of My Content" after the "Summer of Suck" that has now passed and getting free stuff is just making it better.  Life has been relatively good these days, I can't complain.  Well I can and sometimes do complain, but in the grand scheme of things I am complaining about minor nuisances rather than full blown suck.  Which is a major upgrade over the way things had been previously.  

Work has been going okay.  I think I might have finally gotten a crew that works as hard, if not harder, than me.  Ed has been telling me to cut back on what I do, let the more strenuous tasks be handled by those beneath me, but I am not one to do that.  I will not ask my crew to do anything I wouldn't do, but just the idea of having more than my lone pair of hands doing things makes everything better.  And unlike previous hires, the two newest hires, Sammy and Brian, both seem to be working out quite well.  I think I first mentioned them in the blog on Oct 3rd and we still have them, which in and of itself is a pleasant surprise.  It hasn't all been wine and roses, we had some issues with Brian, but there weren't really his fault, more the fault of the situation he is in.  

Brian made some bad decisions previously, I can't go into details on them because I really don't know what they were and even if I did, they aren't anyone's business besides his and whomever he decides to tell.  I will only say that he was incarcerated for a time and now is staying in a halfway house, a place where he can serve out the remainder of his time, yet be a functional member of society if he chooses.  His responsibilities are to keep his nose clean and check in every night.  Any screwups on his part and they will send him back to jail.  While I don't monitor him 24 hours a day, he seems to be doing his best to stay out of trouble, finish off his time in the halfway house and use his currently employed status to squirrel away a couple of bucks to find something when he gets out.  To which I say good for him.  My only concern is that when you are at work you do your job, and he does a very good job (as does Sammy), so no complaints from me.

This is the part of the story where I tell you about a new product we have been selling called K2.  Basically K2 is a legal, synthetic marijuana type drug.  I haven't tried it to note how effective or ineffective it is, even if I had my few experiences with marijuana (which consisted mostly of just getting a headache) would leave me as a pretty bad person to compare one with the other.  That being said, for the time being K2 (and an assortment of similar products we also started selling recently) are all well within the confines of the law.  And they have been doing quite well for us.  Retailing anywhere from $19.99-$39.99 for a packet, we are selling probably 100 or so every couple of days.  It has been a cash cow for us, no doubt.  The problem for us came with the fact that while it is legal, it is close enough to an illegal substance that it set off alarm bells with the people that Brian has to check in with.  Mind you, he is with me, he isn't actually behind the counter selling it, nor has he been buying at work and using it, but just the proximity of it and him was enough for the people at his current place of residence to cry foul and say he couldn't work for us.  Thankfully we were able to work out a deal with his check in people where he could still work at our other store downtown (where we do not sell K2) and as an added bonus it saves me from running down the street a few times a week stocking coolers in two different stores, for the time being anyway, that store becomes his responsibility and all I have to do there is the ordering.  

We are getting ready for Ed to make his annual trip back down to Florida.  I think I am probably more anxious than most, not that I am mad at Ed or anything, but we are both pretty strong willed people and at times our egos can clash.  Plus he got my hockey tickets.  At least that is my story, and I am sticking to it.  

I have mentioned previously that Ed and I sometimes play good cop, bad cop with the sales reps that come in.  I smooth things over, Ed brings the killer instinct of getting as much as he can for as little as he can.  I would like to think the method has some merits, by me being nice the reps know they have someone who is looking out for them to a degree, that if we can all make money then we can all be happy, while Ed pushes hard for any extras or deals that may fall his way.  For example, Coke recently started doing a promotion where they were giving lift tickets to Seven Springs, a local ski resort,  to locations that started ordering Dasani water, a Coke product.  Well, we have had Dasani water since long before I was put in charge of the ordering.  Coke's obvious goal was to push another product on vendors to increase sales, and since they have the beverage contract at Seven Springs, getting lift tickets as a bonus for them was no real big feat.  But to Ed it was an insult, because here he was, selling the product all along and he was offered nothing.  His argument, and it is one I understand, was that the people who should be getting rewarded are the long term clients who have been selling the product rather than the new people just signing on, looking to get a freebie for their troubles.  So when the sales rep for Coke came in, Ed wanted to see him and basically said if he wasn't offered lift tickets then he was taking Dasani out of his cooler.  Of course the rep caved in, not one to lose a sale and like I said, the lift tickets for them are pretty much an easy get, but it is just the type of thing a rep has to deal with when dealing with Ed.  Next thing you know, Ed is trying to see what else he can get, so he is bargaining with the rep about adding an extra cooler at a cost of tickets to the Winter Classic hockey game at Heinz Field between the Penguins and the Capitals, since Coke also has the beverage contract over there as well.  Not that d likes sporting events, in fact despite the family having season tickets to the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, he almost never goes.  Partially due to a lack of interest, partially due to suffering from tinnitus from his time serving in Vietnam, Ed just doesn't go to sporting events.  But he will use the tickets as leverage in future negotiations with other people, or as perks for those that have worked hard for him.  I have gotten the baseball tickets a couple of times and the hockey tickets once, so I have been a beneficiary of said policy.  The Winter Classic thing is still up in the air, the rep said he would look into it, Ed offered him a spot in the store right next to the registers, which sales people love (impulse buys at the point of sale and all that jazz).

That being said, when it comes to the good cop, bad cop routine, I have been the good cop.  And it has worked as well.  Fred is our 7 Up rep, and I like him, I don't know if Ed does or not, like I said Ed can be pretty hard on everyone when it comes to sales people, so it is hard to get a bead on his actual liking of any of them.  Unless they are female, but that is another story.  Anyway, I have been left to handling much of the smoothing over process with Fred.  Earlier this year Ed wanted to increase his space for dairy products, which meant we either had to find room for another cooler (not likely, and even if space were available you get into circuit problems because of the way the building is wired) or we had to take something out for the dairy cooler to go in.  Ed took one of the two 7 Up coolers, which didn't make 7 Up happy and left me with the job of smoothing things over and coming up with a workable plan where we could get the essentials things from 7 Up (the ones that sell) and weed out some of the lesser moving products.  So Fed and I sat down, banged out a pretty good plan and he is still able to sell us roughly 40 cases of product a week, despite having one cooler in which to sell it.  Not too shabby of a job on my part, if I do say so myself. 

So Fred came in the store about two months ago, and after we walked through the next week's order we stopped by the office because Fred wanted to pass along the info of the upcoming sale (Sunkist was going off sale, 7 Up was going on sale) and a promotion they were offering with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  7 Up, despite being the #3 player in the market, managed to snag the beverage contract at the Penguins new home, the Consol Energy Center.  So they were running a couple of contests, one for customers where you collect soda caps and if you find the words to certain phrases, such as "power play" or "a great day for hockey", you could then send them in and win hockey tickets.  The conversation was pretty boring to Ed, not being a hockey fan and the fact it was a customer promotion and not for retailers, he tuned out rather quickly.  Instead he told me to handle it.  Fine, no problem.  As we are walking out Fred tells me of another promotion for retailers, where 7 Up is raffling off Penguins stuff, tickets, jerseys, and the like and to be involved in it all we had to do was buy product, which we were already doing.  We were to get 7 entries to start and an additional entry for every 10 cases of 20 oz. bottles we bought.  To me it was a no brainer, we didn't really didn't have to change anything we were doing, no new product was being added, nor were we being forced to buy any more than we already were, just keep doing what we are doing and there would be a chance that we might get something from it.  So I said, sure, throw us in and see what happens. 

Well what happened is we won.  Two tickets to see the Penguins from a luxury box at the Consol Energy Center, retail value of $200 per ticket.  The view from the seats would look something like this.

Needless to say, I was geeked.  But since I don't actually buy anything, I spend other people's money as it were, of course I had to give the tickets to Ed, but I hoped that he would end up giving them to me, since I did sign us up for the promotion, and of course, I am a big hockey fan.  But it wasn't to be.  Ed used the tickets as a perk for someone else, his doctor I believe.  Given his doctor just recently put a new stent in his heart, I guess it is okay, but I was still disappointed.  Ed told me that he would get me into a game at some point this year, just not this one.  And I am pretty sure he will, I have no reason to disbelieve him based on everything he has done for me in the past.

Remember, this is the "Fall of My Content",  therefore whenever a door closes, the rest of the world opens as it were.  One of the bad things about Facebook is that I can get easily distracted, I think of something I like and I look it up to see if there is a fan page or something, or I get buried in playing with apps.  Well on one such occasion I was tinkering around and I decided to look up Isaly's.  Isaly's was a deli/restaurant chain locally for a while, but most of the restaurants have since closed up, I think there are maybe two or three still in operation, but one of the things they became known for was chipped ham, a thinly sliced ham that is very scrumptious on sandwiches.  So while the restaurant end of the operation didn't fare very well, the deli side did and in pretty much any grocery store in the area you can get chipped ham as one of the many lunch meats available.  Well, I had been craving a chipped ham sandwich as it were, and I was on Facebook and while I couldn't very well order one on the web, at least I don't think I can, I thought I would give a look see for an Isaly's page or a fan page.  Sure enough, there was an Isaly's page, and one of the most recent posts on the page was a contest they were doing.  The contest was simple, yet hard, simple in it's design but hard in actually completing it.  The premise was to answer three trivia questions regarding the Pittsburgh Penguins (and local hockey), then email them with the answers.  Three emails with the correct answers would be chosen, the 1st, 3rd and 13th received would win a pair of Penguin tickets and a $25 supermarket gift card.  The first question was what team did Mike Rupp play for in junior hockey?  Off to the internet I went, looking for the answer, but I came up with two teams that he played for, not one as the question would suggest.  So I was left with a question of picking one or the other, or writing both down and assuming the question was phrased wrong.  I went with both and figured that my entry was now all but blown.  Next was to name the local hockey prospect that was expected to go in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft.  More searching, lots of hockey prospect sites with many of them not having much information about the player's backgrounds.  Finally I came across Brandon Saad, who grew up in the area, but was currently playing junior hockey in Saginaw.  That was as close as I could come to anyone locally, so I ran with it.  Last was a question about Sidney Crosby and the Penguins and was what other significant event happened the same night as Crosby's first NHL game after being named captain of the Penguins?  This was pretty easy by comparison, it was also Michel Thierren first game as Penguin's coach.  So I figured worst case scenario I got 1 of 3 right, and the time I spent researching the answers probably meant I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell, I spent nearly an hour looking this stuff up. 

That was back on Sept 30th.  I didn't hear anything from them, nor was anything posted on their Facebook page, so I just pretty much forgot about it.  I assumed that I had at least one of the questions wrong, or in this hockey mad environment, even if I did have the right answers, there were people faster than me in sending in the answers.

So Wednesday I am coming in from work and I do what I almost always do, hop on the computer and fireup the iGoogle homepage where I have it set to show me the most recent emails I have received and I see one from an address that I didn't recognize.  I open it to find out that I was one of the three winners, two hockey tickets for a future game and a $25 supermarket gift card.  Not much on the specifics, the email asked for my mailing address for where the prizes could be sent.  I replied with a quick thank you and my address, but still wasn't positive I had actually won.  After all, it could have been someone pulling a prank on me, so I did some snooping on Facebook to confirm.  So I made a trip to the Isaly's page and saw this...

Isaly's Original Chipped Chopped Ham and BBQ Sauce  Congratulations to our "Hockey: The Real Deal" contest winners! Matt Pritt, Ray Butter and Beth Novoselski each win a pair of tickets to an upcoming Penguins game and a $25 supermarket gift card. Check back here for more contests in the future!

It was official, so woohoo me and all that jazz.  It would be a few more days, Saturday to be precise when the prize arrived in the mail.  I have two tickets for the Pittsburgh-Phoenix game on Dec 20th as well as a $25 gift card for Kuhn's market.  Of course the thing is, Kuhn's is a market that is less than prevalent in the area.  Unlike the bigger chains like Giant Eagle, Shop N Save or Foodland, Kuhn's has maybe 7 or 8 stores total, none particularly close to me, but I was more interested in the hockey tickets anyway.  If I get a chance to use the gift card, great, if not, no big thing. 

I suppose I have yammered enough for now.  I don't feel like getting all politicky or boring people with whatever it is my respective fantasy teams are doing this time, so I am just going to call it a blog and go watch the Steeler game. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The quarter pole

Well the fantasy football season is 4 weeks old, which means most NFL teams have now played 1/4 of their schedules.  Currently I am 3-1 and in first place in the bar's fantasy football league, but the league has been competitive this year.  Of the twelve teams involved, one team is 0-4, two are 3-1 and the other nine are 2-2, so one game separates 11 teams.  This is a quick recap of my season to this point.

Week #1  A 69-68 loss, the only blemish on the record to this point.  What irks me is that is the week which I blathered about previously on the blog page, the Calvin Johnson non catch that cost me roughly 7 fantasy points, enough that if it had been ruled a catch (like it visibly appears to be) I would be undefeated at this point in the year. 

Week #2  107-78 win, thus squaring my record at 1-1.  5 of the nine starting players registered 11 or more points, with the leading scorer being the San Diego Charger defense with 30 points, including 6 turnovers (4 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries) and 2 sacks.

Week #3  A 94-92 squeaker that pushed me to 2-1 and a tie for first place, as every team in the league had lost one game after three weeks of play.  Adrian Peterson proves to be worthy of my first round pick and second overall in the draft, rushing for 160 yards and two touchdowns,.

Week #4  132-85 win, in week where I was worried about how I would do.  With Adrian Peterson on a bye I surely thought my team would be short handed, instead it put up the highest point total of any team in the league after 4 weeks.  While 5 players registered double digit points, it was once again the San Diego Chargers defense that stole the show.  4 points allowed, 9 sacks, two interceptions, one fumble recovery and a touchdown scored equated to 50 fantasy points in one game.  Remember when I said in my fantasy football draft recap that I draft a defense late because it usually doesn't matter?  Consider that I drafted the Chargers in the 15th round (out of 17), the 170th overall pick and after 4 weeks they lead all NFL defenses in our fantasy scoring system with 104.  The New York Jets were the first defense taken in the 7th round and 73rd overall yet to this point they have only garnered 69 points.  So nearly 100 picks later and I have gotten 35 more points than the first defense taken.  I will say it again, defenses area crapshoot and are best left for late picks.  There are far more important things to be chasing in the early rounds.

Okay, that wraps up the first 4 weeks.  I will be back in 4 more weeks to update how the team is doing and at the end of the season I will do a draft recap on all of my picks, complete with a subjective thumbs up/thumbs down analysis of how they did for the year.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Fall of My Content

I had a plan for what I wanted to say, honestly I did, but that plan was about a week ago, now I have no idea what I will say or when I will say it, just that something will be said, or typed as the case may be.

Second things first, as I type this I am listening to The Spy, 105.3 FM (Kingfisher, Oklahoma) and I am happy to report that they redesigned the website, complete with the old logo, which I think looks 1000 times cooler than the page when they first launched, or relaunched, a while back.  Dare I say it almost looks like a radio station website now, more professional that is for sure.  And I have always thought The Spy logo was cool, so glad to see it is back.  For those wishing to take a gander as to what it is I am talking about

Anyway, it has been a most profitable week since I last blogged, what with me being credited with another $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks, with yet another one pending, receiving my DVD from MyCokeRewards that I ordered and having my free mini camcorder show up from Marlboro, roughly 10 or so weeks ahead of schedule.

The last time we spoke I said that I doubted that the change meter would reach $200 by the end of the year, and while it is still a far way off, I can gladly report that I managed to make a dent in it since my last entry.  A tidy sum of $12.97 gets added and the new total is $189.77.  I still have to come up with $4 a month for the rest of the year, but now it actually seems possible, whereas a couple of weeks ago I wasn't nearly as sure.

Before I get to settled in here, let me go ahead and send the grocery order in for work for Monday.  No, I am not at work, just had a very unproductive day there.  As I have said before, I usually end up spending a couple of hours at work on Saturday morning, just putting the order together and then sending it in.  Well I get to work around 11am and all goes very well, I get Rick's order for the deli in the system in relative short order, followed quickly by my cigarette order and all of a sudden I am being very productive and in a timely fashion.  Next I started doing the ordering of the actual groceries and again very few problems, I had to pull some candy out of the stockroom, lest it sit down there and I reorder things we already have.  Still the grocery order for the most part went off without a hitch.  Last was the tobacco, which is usually the thing I am worst at ordering.  Not cigarettes, but stuff like snuff and loose leaf tobacco, cigarillos and the like.  I just have a hard time getting my head around all of it, and even when I do, that doesn't mean I have the requisite item numbers to order that which we are missing.  But even that today was relatively harmless, I found all of the item numbers I needed and I don't think I screwed anything up for a change.  Then came the sending of the order and when everything went to pot.  For ordering I use a device called a Texlon, which is a handheld unit that has a wand attached to it.  You can entre items one of two ways, either by scanning the shelf tag with the wand, or by manually entering the item number into the handheld unit.  Then to place an order, you take the device, which has a a speaker on the back of it and call into a special phone line and send the order as an electronic signal down the phone line.  It is much like the first computer modems back in the day, where the phone was connected to the back of the computer and you would get to hear lots of electronic gibberish.  Not the most technological of devices, but it works which is all I ask of it.  So I dial in to place the order and I get a busy signal.  No problem, perhaps someone else is sending in an order at the same time, so I call back.  Busy.  Again.  Busy.  Again.  Busy.  This process repeats itself for roughly 45 minutes before I decide that I will call customer servivce and see just what the problem is.  Well customer service isn't manned on Saturday, only during office hours Monday-Friday.  But there are a couple of emergency extensions in the company directory if there are problems after normal business hours.  Okay, so I opt for one of those and get shoved into voice mail.  I leave a message and try calling in again.  Still busy.  Again.  Busy.  Again. Busy.  We reach the hour and 15 minute mark and I still haven't heard from a live person, nor have I gotten anything but a busy signal when trying to order.  So I customer service again and try the other extension for emergencies.  Another fucking voice mail box.  Another 20 minutes trying to get an order in and I am getting nothing but busy signals.  Finally I call Ed, not what I want to do on a weekend, but he has cell phone numbers for some of the higher ups with Sledd (our grocery provider) and the time has come for me to start seriously rattling a few cages.  I don't care if they are out of the office, this issue needs addressed.  I get a couple of numbers and after dealing with some other issues, like not being able to dial out long distance on the store phone, I finally get to talk to a live voice, and one of the big wigs no less.   He proceeds to tell me that they are doing a major upgrade on the phone system and it will be down all day and that he thought everyone who orders on Saturday was supposed to be notified.  Well apparently not everyone, as I was kept out of the loop.  Still I had to ask if I put the order in on Sunday, would it still be delivered Monday, and he assured me that it would be, so I brought the Texlon home and just sent the order down my phone line here in me olde casa.  Had I know this I could have saved myself a trip in on Saturday and just done everything Sunday morning, rather than spend two hours in a futile effort of trying to put an order in.

Of course now that I am sufficiently irked I decide I need to do something to make me less irksome, so I decide I will go home, shower, change and take in a movie.  First I wanted to make a call to Phil, to see if maybe he would like to join me.  Phil and I used to do lunch around once a month, but after he broke his leg and was laid up for about a month we had lost touch for a small amount of time.  A couple of weeks ago I had called him only to get his voicemail, and he returned the favor a few days later calling me and getting my voicemail, though he called at noon on a Tuesday, when I most assuredly would be at work, looking to see if I would like to do lunch.  So I figure that I would call him and we could sneak in a movie and lunch, or an early dinner but when I called I found out he had been back in the hospital, another operation on his foot and he is on the shelf for another month.  Let me just say, the "Summer of Suck" can't end soon enough.

Nonetheless I did opt to go to the movies by myself, as I have no problem going alone, unlike some people I can enjoy a movie without the company of others, and I wanted to see "The Social Network" , so what better way to spend the rest of Saturday than in the theater. And without giving away spoilers or anything of the like, most of which could be found online anyway for those that wished to search it, the movie was good, maybe too good at points with characters that otherwise come off as self absorbed nerdish type people, still having the ability to crack wise on a dime as it were.  It was a matter of maybe the writer (Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote West Wing a show I loved) writing what he thought would be clever versus what the characters might have actually said in real life.  Though that is a fine line, and with all of the characters pretty much unavailable to speak with (due to non disclosure agreements), it becomes much harder if not impossible to nail the characters' voices down and leaves a gaping whole for the writer to, in essence, fill their mouths with words.

Sorry, took a little bit of a break there.  Lots of late night typing leaves me very sleepy so I took a nap then got up and went to breakfast.  The plan was to get up early enough to catch a bus and have breakfast at De Luca's in the Strip District, but I overslept by a half hour or so so I opted for Pamela's in Oakland.  Amazingly I got there about 20 minutes after they opened, 10  minutes until 8am, and the place was almost already full.  By the time I ate my eggs and sausage and had one cup of coffee (they weren't to quick on the refills this morning, big thumbs down there) and read a little of my book, it was about 8:30am and already they were running a 20 minute wait for tables.  While I know Pamela's gets busy in the mornings, that was the earliest I have seen them be packed, and on a Sunday no less, when most people don't even need to be out of bed.

I have come to the conclusion that while this was the "Summer of Suck", I am pushing for a "Fall of My Content" to help round out the year, and so far it has went fairly well, save for the ordering snafu from Saturday, the pluses have by far outweighed the minuses to this point.  Even the minuses have had sort of a cool factor to them.  Case in point, by and large while I like rain and sleep much better when it is raining outside and can even get into a thunderstorm or two, the other day I was caught in what was a meteorological nightmare;rain, wind, lightning. just an absolute mess save for the coolness factor of it.  Allow me to explain.

Usually when I catch the bus home I ride the 65 Squirrel Hill (formerly the 67H, but the Port Authority figured a cool way to screw with the riders would be to rename the buses.  And they wonder why they are always broke, it is genius moves like that that help, no one knows what bus they are supposed to ride anymore, so it is easier to not ride at all, but I digress.) The 65 is pretty much a straight shot from downtown to my apartment, I get on right outside of work, the corner of Smithfield Street and Blvd of the Allies and I get off at the corner of Ward Street and Blvd of the Allies.  The route from a geographical perspective runs along the Monongahela River coming out of town, parallel to, but further up the hill side  from both Second Avenue and the Parkway East.  So I am at work and because of the amount of work that I do, I didn't get off at the scheduled 3pm end of shift time, rather it was after 4pm when I finished.  So I step outside and as I do I see that the sky is starting to get dark, ominously so actually but so far no rain.  I wait for about 10 minutes or so and my bus arrives, but the bus is pretty packed, school kids that just got out and people getting off of work, so I was left to stand.  The bus starts the trek up Blvd of the Allies and I am just standing in the aisle, holding one of the traps so my fat doesn't tumble into somebody's lap and they mistake it for some grotesque sexual advance, and I happen to look out the window, back towards town and I see something incredibly cool.  Downtown is disappearing.  I am literally watching a storm follow the bus up the Mon River and as it does, those objects that are caught in it no longer remain visible.  It was awesome to just watch things like bridges no longer remain visible because of a massive wall of rain.  But for now the bus is ahead of the storm, though not by much, probably less than a mile.  As the bus approaches Oakland, Blvd of the Allies turns away from the river for a bit, so I can no longer watch the storm follow us, but it also means that we are going to run into traffic lights for the first time since downtown.  the first was green and we didn't even have to stop, we just passed right through it, but at the second one we weren't so lucky, it was red.  As we are sitting there the storm catches up to us, and in a big way.  the wind and rain start pounding the bus.  I look out the window toward the hotel (Best Western) on the other side of the street and I see transformers just blow, in a freakishly cool light show.  Lightning and thunder become part of the fun as well.  We get a green light and make it to my stop, which was about three stops past the hotel, and a dumpster has been blown out into traffic.  Yes, the wind had whipped up so much that apparently dumpsters were being moved by it.  I go to get off the bus and the wind is so bad the doors will not open, I have to actually push them open just to get off.  I step off the bus and into the downpour and lightning is just crackling all around.  I know there is an old test, because the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound, that if you see a flash of lightning and start counting one one thousand, two one thousand, and roughly the number you stop on is about how far away in miles the lightning actually hit.  Now that is far from an exact formula, but at least it is a good starting point for what was to happen next as a bright flash of lightning occurs and before I could even think to myself "One..." a loud boom, certainly something that hit nearby, so close in fact that all of the lights just went out, the traffic light and the intersection I am standing, the store across the street, everything just dark.  I manage to get across the street, though that too was perilous as too many drivers have no idea how to behave when a traffic light goes out (kids, its a 4 way stop for future reference) and I trudge the block or so to my apartment, getting soaked the entire time.  Almost as if on cue, I no more than get into my apartment and get out of my soaked clothes and the power comes back on, and I can't help but think I was just graced with the coolest natural occurring light and sound extravaganza ever.  The timing of everything that happened couldn't have been better, from seeing the storm approach, to being at the right spot for the blow transformer and power outage to just getting in my door and having power restored, it couldn't have timed out any better if it was scripted that way.

If that weren't enough, I have a couple of new guys at work, my crew as it were if I were one to get all big headed about my level of authority, which I am not, and they both seem to be relatively decent.  We had hired a couple of guys since the bad Josh episode, one who lasted all of three days, the other had potential but for the most part lived to far away, at least to far away to be able to work for us and continue going to school without one or the other suffering.  Ray attends the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and while he did okay at first, they had final exams a couple of weeks ago, then they have a two week break before classes kick in again.  During his break he wanted to pick up some hours, so he could make a few extra dollars until he had to go back.  I had no problem with it, Ed gave him extra hours but then he starts showing up late and trying to compensate for that by staying after he was scheduled.  Normally we don't have a problem with people staying if they are working, but if you are just staying because you couldn't be there on time to begin with, that is another matter.  So he is scheduled for 8am on a Saturday and then doesn't show up until noon.  The plan was for him to work until 3pm, he writes himself in for 6pm, without ever clearing it with Ed.  See, we already had someone coming in at 3pm to replace Ray, and Ed doesn't want two guys there stocking on a Saturday, which is typically a slow day for us.  But Ray did it anyway, and as a result Ray no longer has a job.  And what sucks is he wasn't bad at it, and he wasn't a person who was just biding his time in hopes he could get an easier task, like running register.  But when you are a new hire Ed keeps you on a relative short leash, and the leash officially snapped.  Instead I have two guys who are making my job somewhat easier, Sammy and Brian, who actually get what we are trying to do and picking things up relatively quickly for having been there for only a week.  They are good enough that Ed wants me to worry more about ordering and leave the more physically demand stuff (carrying cases, catching trucks, etc.) to them.  Not that that is going to happen, I told Ed I will not ask anyone to do something on my crew that I don't do myself, they need to see that I am just as willing to catch a truck, stock a cooler or anything else as they are asked to be, otherwise it will just look like I am a lazy piece of shit and they are almost slave labor.  So if they are catching a truck, either I am doing it with them or I am catching a truck in another location.    I may be old, but I am not so old that I can't throw around cases with the best of them.

Damn I type a lot, so much so that it is almost 1pm and time for football games to kick off.  I would go get me some wings and fries to go with the festivities, but I am still pretty full from breakfast, even if I settled for Pamela's.  Not that I have anything really against them, their chocolate chip and banana pancakes are still pretty awesome, but between the lack of refills on my coffee today and my omelet last week, they have dropped a notch or two.  Last Saturday I stopped in and got a Western omelet (green peppers, onions, ham, cheese) and while the eggs were fine, it was the toppings that were off.  Rather than cook everything in the eggs, only the ham was cooked with them, the veggies were laid inside the folded over omelet.  That in and of itself isn't a problem for me, but the veggies weren't even fried, it was like they were boiled or something, then kept on a warming table until needed, as they were just soggy rather than crisp.  I don't mind if they are underdone if they are crisp, I would rather have that than what I got which was wet veggies that left water on the plate.  Not cool, not cool at all.  But I talked to my aunt yesterday, we are planning the October breakfast in the monthly breakfast get together, and I know the place we chose, Jo Jo's Diner, is known locally for their omelets.

The bar league fantasy football team is off to a 2-1 start.  I don't know if it is a testament to how well we play against each other or how poorly we do, but after three weeks there are no undefeated teams in the league, and only one winless one out of 12 teams.  So technically I am tied for first, but I am playing one of the other 2-1 teams this week.  I figure worst case scenario I will be one game back after this week, and 6 of the 12 teams make the playoffs at the end of the year, which is good because I don't like my chances this week with Adrian Peterson on a bye, probably the best running back I have.

Well I guess I better call it a wrap.  The games have started and I am being a bit distracted by both the Steelers and my fantasy team.  Till we meet again.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chad Vader S3 Ep8 "The Improvised Episode"

Scamster - The World According to Paybox

You know, usually I am the last person to be out scam hunting as it were, but because of Facebook and a number of people promoting it on there I felt it became my due diligence to look into a program that kept popping up on my newsfeed, a program called Paybox ( 

The early descriptions were pretty mind blowing, especially for someone like me, who likes free things on the web.  Between doing surveys for, tinkering with Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards, playing Scratchix and Booty Slots on Facebook and my time spent on things like Coke Rewards, it is safe to say that I invest a decent amount of time in programs that have either paid out I have seen decent results from friends that would lead me to believe I could earn something.  Heck, just this week I got DVDs from Coke and a new mini camcorder from Marlboro, so I am not close mined on the possibility of earning things on the web.

That being said, along comes, with the suggestion that they want to be the next online payment software, and to do so they are starting to recruit members.  When you sign up as an early bird user, your Paybox account is instantly credited with $50, plus you get an additional $20 a day for logging in daily and participating in surveys and what not pending the official launch of the service and another $5 for every person that you refer to Paybox.  And all you have to do initially is give them your email address.  That is quite a hefty chunk of change for launching an online payment processor, so much so that to me it seemed to good to be true.  So I did a little digging, and then some more digging and finally some more digging.  Needless to say, what I found wasn't all that promising, quite the opposite in fact.

First there was the terms of service, offered up on Paybox's own website.  The number of problems I have with it are too many to count, so let's start with just a simple walk through and see some of what set of the alarm bells in my brain.

"All account balances are held in PayBox currency. PayBox maintains a currency that is autonomous and independent of all nations and governments. The PayBox currency is denominated in dollars and cents (similar to the currency of the United States and over 20 other countries). The PayBox currency is currently in a closed system, and cannot be exchanged or spent. Before long we plan to open our currency to be spent and exchanged just as you can with any other currency. Our plans include person-to-person transactions (via the Internet and over cell phone text messages), integration with merchants and shopping cart systems, debit card transactions (through an issued debit card linked to your account), and more. The value of our currency is estimated to be close to that of the U.S. dollar. As is the case with any currency, once the PayBox currency becomes openly exchangeable, its value as weighted against other world currencies can and will fluctuate due to forces beyond our control."

And here we have our first problem, all of that money they are promising to sign up?  It's not real money, it is Paybox money.  Not that they come out and say that to the people signing up, rather you have to go into the TOS to find out you are in fact earning what very well may amount to a worthless currency.  Meanwhile, they have your email address and a list of other suckers like yourself looking for a quick cash fix that they can package and send out to other outfits looking to do more of the same. 

"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time."

Well isn't that a kick in the teeth.  At any point they can refuse to allow you access to your account.  Even if the site does eventually start trading in real cash, which I believe to be a dubious proposition at best but more on that later, they can deny you access to it for no reason whatsoever. 

"Your use of the Service is at your sole risk. The service is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis."

Well I can't think of a safer place to have my cash than a website that claims my using it is at my sole risk.

" does not warrant that (i) the service will meet your specific requirements, (ii) the service will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, or error-free, (iii) the results that may be obtained from the use of the service will be accurate or reliable, (iv) the quality of any products, services, information, or other material purchased or obtained by you through the service will meet your expectations, and (v) any errors in the Service will be corrected."

I like to call this the "I didn't do it" clause of the TOS, because what we have here is Paybox clearly stating that they are not responsible for anything, including the security of the accounts that they are holding.  Nor is there any form of buyer or seller protection here.  For as much as Paybox wants to claim they will be the next Paypal, this statement right here is about as far as you can get from Paypal. 

"You expressly understand and agree that shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or exemplary damages, including but not limited to, damages for loss of profits, goodwill, use, data or other intangible losses (even if has been advised of the possibility of such damages), resulting from: (i) the use or the inability to use the service; (ii) the cost of procurement of substitute goods and services resulting from any goods, data, information or services purchased or obtained or messages received or transactions entered into through or from the service; (iii) unauthorized access to or alteration of your transmissions or data; (iv) statements or conduct of any third party on the service; (v) termination of your account; or (vi) any other matter relating to the service."

Just in case you didn't get the fact that they aren't responsible for anything, they double down on telling you once again that they aren't.  Your alarm bells going off yet?  Wait, it gets even better.

" reserves the right to update and change the Terms of Service from time to time and without notice. Continued use of the Service after changes to the Terms of Service shall constitute your consent to such changes. You can review the most current version of the Terms of Service at any time at: "

Okay, I missed one and it is a pretty big one at that.  Basically they can change the terms of service without notice and once you log in after the TOS has been changed, you have in fact agreed to the changes, even though you haven't been notified of any changes as such. 

Now I have reason enough to stay away, very far away.  But my work here isn't done nonetheless.  After all, while I raise some significant questions with the above stuff, not everyone may think so, or they may be looking for some reassurances from the management about the service.  Good luck with that, as there is no contact option on the main page, only a link to a blog and with many of the blog entries the comments are turned off.  Now, with my curiosity sufficiently piqued, we are all about the web sleuthing, so lets get all techie shall we.

If I can't get a message through to them from their webpage, I can at least look them up online, right?  Guess again kemosabe.  A lookup of the domain name finds that the ownership of the site is protected by a group called WhoIsGuard, an outfit out of California whose job it is to protect the names, addresses and phone numbers of domain holders.  Using the address on the domain look up to send snail mail will just send it to the offices of WhoisGuard.  A similar lookup of Paypal, the site that Paybox says it is trying to emulate, gives you this  Host Master
        PayPal Inc.
        2211 North First Street
         San Jose CA 95131
Quite a difference there in business philosophies. 

But we are not done yet, not by a long shot.  Also of note regarding Paypal is the expiration date on the domain name, that being July 14, 2018, so they plan on being there a while.  The expiration date of the Paybox domain?  August 2nd, 2011, less than one year after they started soliciting email signups.

One person who claimed to have signed up for Paybox mentioned in a blog entry that Paybox has released the plan for their rollout as it were to go live.  You know, when you can actually take those Paybox dollars amnd make them real dollars or rubles or pesos or whatever currency it is you are working with.  From the entry

Stage 10
Target Timeframe: December 5, 2011 – January 9, 2012
Launch PayBox currency exchange, allowing for open exchange with all major world currencies. This will enable users to convert their PayBox account balance (or any portion thereof) to any major world currency for withdrawal, or convert back for deposit.
This document is to be used as a general guideline only. The dates shown for each stage are estimates, and may be moved closer or delayed if necessary to accomodate unforseen {sic} circumstances.

Yes that is right kids, your currency exchange will take place 4 months after the domain name expires.  Now sure, they could repurchase the domain for another year (or two or twelve), but isn't it ironic that while they plan on not being fully functional until December 2011 in their rollout plan, their initial ownership of the domain ends in August of that year? 

As the adage goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, but fool me this many times and well, shame is the least of the things you deserve.   

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