” I Have Loved You From Afar…”

Cut out the title of this column and keep it ready by the phone. You are bound to get a scam phone call from India around tea-time and it is a very good phrase to use. If you do it with a sweet voice and then say ” Alas…” and let your voice trail away, the caller will not bother you again. They may go home to their little Indian flat in the heat of the night and scratch themselves all over, but that is not your affair.

There are other words and phrases that can help us through our day.

a. ” You are the one I saw yesterday. ”

This is a perfectly innocuous statement that can be spoken to nearly anyone in a public place. It has the ring of truth. It is also quite disconcerting, but no-one knows why.

b. ” You may speak to me now. The restrictions have been lifted. ”

Ditto for (a.). A little riskier because you may find that they have not spoken to anyone for a month and this will open the floodgates. If they start to become agitated, threaten to call a policeman. Call the policeman a bad name and then say the other person said it.

c. ” Your prices seem a little low. I was hoping to pay more. ”

This said to any retail seller will ring alarm bells throughout their whole body. If you then leave the shop they will be left wondering whether they have made a serious mistake somewhere. When they decide to raise their prices storewide, come back in and demand a discount.

d. ” Does your food contain ingredient 453B? Because I am not allowed to eat 453B. It’s on the EEC schedule 2, you know. Do you have a list of ingredients? ”

This said in any eatery, from Jamie Oliver to a pie cart, will cause the owner to bristle like a warthog. The wise ones will throw a pan of hot fat at you and have done with it – the foolish will try to argue their way out of it.

e. ” You were recommended to me by your competitors. “…here you can insert the name of an actual business rival for better effect.

The person you are speaking to will be flattered and frightened. Are you a plant or a trojan horse designed to make a nightmare of the place? Have you been so unpleasant at another shop that they have desperately sent you here? Or are you a chance for a big sale?

A variant on this is to say that you have been recommended by several other firms – and give their names…but the kicker is none of them are in the same business as the shop you are in…

f. ” Do you mind being recorded for evidence? ”

If they say yes, you ask what they have to hide. If they say no you ask whether they realise what is being said about them at the department. Have them speak clearly into your top coat button.

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” Lookin’ For A Good Time, Big Boy…? “

Yeah, I am. And I have learned to be damned careful where I look.

Recently a friend on Facebook shared a small essay about doing things for fun – as opposed to doing them for money. My mind, being what it is, instantly linked up the concept to the title and it all went downhill from there. But I thoroughly agree with the original essay – there is a limited time and a place for monetization of our lives – and an increasing pressure to judge everything we do by the standards of the cashbook and journal. But there is an equal time and place for it all to be done for love.

We stand in danger of becoming Jacob Marley in our spare time.

These essays I write are for fun – I find them so, even if you may not. I do not expect to be paid for them, as payment comes as soon as the words hit the screen. It is in the form of pleasure and satisfaction…and I do not need to do double-entry bookkeeping to appreciate that.

I have had hobbies that earned money – and I pursued them diligently enough for years. In the end the money that they brought has evaporated, as all money does, and the only thing  left is a sense of satisfaction or otherwise when I think back on the times spent sewing, developing, shooting, drawing, or whatever. I could equally have this final pleasure if no money had been sought. Indeed, it may have given me more time to seek pleasure, rather than profit.

Well, I learned. I now build model aircraft, take photos, and write to please me. I share some of this and if you are pleased as well, good times are rolling. But they do not need to roll with an on-line shop, etsy, or business model. They have other wheels to run on.

Good Morning, Sir. How May I Hell You?

Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives.

Indeed, I’ll go further than that – they should also, at some point:

a. Work personal service – wait tables, attend a public desk, man the complaints counter.

b. Work publicity. Write copy, draw illustration, serve at a promo show. Think up the bullshit and then have to spread it…

c. Work in dirt. Even if it is just a personal garden, everyone should work in dirt until they get a good result.

d. Work in a position that is monitored by a jealous and vindictive overseer. This may be a person or a professional board.

e. Work in a workshop. Whatever they produce makes no difference – it will cement their character if they can eventually do it well.

f. Work to a deadline. And fail once, and then succeed once, to know the difference in the way it feels.

g. Work to a financial bottom line. Unless they have had to watch the pennies, they’ll never know how to accumulate the pounds.

h. Work in a job where they were in command. Command of the job and command of other people.

If they have done all or most of these things, they are well-rounded individuals. But they mustn’t get cocky – so is the Michelin Man. And he gets tyred sometimes…

No… back to the topic. People who vault to command without ever experiencing the reality of work live in an unreal world and make false decisions. People who never rise also never see what command should be – there is always a battle between them and others that is detrimental to business. There needs to be a shared experience to share in effective management and effective employment.

 

 

Profession, Trade, Or Business?

That used to be the big question for people setting out on a career. Then it became a question of semantics as each category tried to define themselves – in most cases they tried to make out that they were better than the other two.

Now the field of definition has widened. Australia’s got more people idle for more reasons and there are new classes of occupation to examine. Consider these views, but remember that the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia is not an equal-opportunity employer…

a. Job – something you do to get eating money.

b. Work – something that you might have to do on the job.

c. Business – a job that involves other people giving you money. Unfortunately they expect something in return.

d. Trade – a business in which you are expected to be skilled at doing something that other people can’t do. You get to wear a uniform, drive a tray-top ute badly, and fail to keep appointments.

e. Profession – a trade that you only get if you put up with the annoyance of education after the age of 18. You’ll get a chance to make lots of money but there will always be some statutory body to take it away from you if you annoy their hierarchy.

f. Occupation – a catch-all phrase for anything from chicken-sexing to being a politician in South Australia.

g. Calling – something you want to do but feel the need to pretend that God wants you to do it as well to make it sound better.

h. Hobby – something you want to do that you don’t get paid for.

i. Avocation -a posh name for a hobby.

j. Pursuit – a hobby that starts to veer onto vaguely criminal lines.

k. Racket  -a fully developed pursuit.

If you are perfectly honest with yourself, you can find exactly where upon this scale of activity your daily routine takes you. If you are prepared to use the adjective ” perfectly ” to qualify the word ” honest “, you may care to start at the bottom and work up…

 

 

The Fountain Pen – Dear Sir…

Dear Sir,

Enclosed please find my cheque for $ 89.43 in payment of your invoice number 567 dated the 5th of January, 2018. Please return the receipt to the above address.

Yours faithfully,

And another piece of business is done. Provided the cheque has the correct date, payee, amount and numbers, and has been signed correctly…and provided that there is money in the account to cover it…the invoice should be paid for and the debt discharged. Well done.

The business of business is rarely taught in the historical style these days – and so much of the flow of money and words is done electronically that the young may pass into their legal majority ignorant of the correct forms of address and attention that business requires. While it is true to say that business comes down to demand and supply, and these can be done with barely civil forms of communication, there is social judgement inherent in even the simplest exchanges. In short, if you write like berk, you will be treated like a berk.

Let me de-berk you.

If you write to demand a payment, write clearly who you are, and where you are. Give the date when the demand is made and detail the reason for which it is made. ie the invoice number. If there are governmental numbers such as an ABN number or other taxation details, list them and tell the person that it is a tax invoice. This is law.

Being polite is also law, though only upon a social basis. If you are polite initially you will have no reason to apologise if further demands become stiffer. Also remember that an invoice, statement, or demand for payment passes through many hands and they will all judge you. You are not obliged to please or flatter, but you must not offend.

If you write to tender a payment, say what it is for in clear detail. Many offices have a great deal of business in hand and appreciate a quick route to the correct spot in their records. Help them to find it, and they’ll help you to get your receipt faster. You’ll also be marked down mentally as a reliable person with whom to do business – a valuable thing.

Note that it is also good manners to proffer a note of payment even if your transfer of money occurs via Direct Debit. Oh, they’ll see that you paid in the bank statements, but seeing it also as a letter is good communications.

And good communications make for a continuance of good business.

 

The Rivals

I am generally out of touch with social networks in my town – and with business affairs, cultural groups, and academic circles. I can be said to pretty much live in an intellectual bubble that is insulated from the rest of Western Australia. I have never been happier.

It is not that I do not welcome social interaction on a personal level – a conversation, a joke, a shared cup of vitriol. It livens up a day that might otherwise be given over to dragging a plough through flinty soil then falling exhausted into a ditch at nightfall. Retail trade was like that…

But being unaware of the world has the delightful advantage of rendering me neutral, by virtue of ignorance, in most of the deadly competitions and rivalries of the day. I can be in the company of people in my old trades – dentistry and retail photography – while they are frostily ignoring each other or cattily circling for commercial information…and I am unconcerned. If I occasionally ask one about the affairs of the other, casually revealing the extent of their spy network and causing alarm bells to go off in the mind of the listeners, it is all innocent. Perfectly innocent.

And then there are the firms that rep for other firms – the agency men. I’m old and I forget things and I cannot be held responsible if I blurt out secrets of the delivery date of a product to someone else in the mistaken belief that they are the firm handling the account. One lens can look very much like another when it is top secret and hush hush.

Likewise, I can hardly be expected to be up to date with all the staff hirings and firings unless someone tells me and generally they tell me only when a coroner’s report is delivered or a trial date is set.

Of course, once I have been entrusted with a secret I am the soul of discretion. Wild horses could not drag the parlous financial situation of ———- from my lips. Who knows, they may trade out of it.

It always pays to play fair.

Who Do You Trust – Part 2

In the spirit of science, I undertook an experiment today.

You’ll have read earlier in this column that the financial behaviour of our local BP petrol station was slightly odd – that business of pre-pay pumps in the middle of the day…and how the demand for pre-payment seemed to be a variable thing.

Well, today I dressed precisely as I had done on the last visit – a couple of Saturdays ago. I presented to the same pump, with the same car, at the same time. The only variable was the lady behind the service desk – the one who controls the door switch and the petrol pump remotes.

I put the nozzle in the tank, pumped in $ 38 of fuel, and went into the station to pay. The electronic terminal was a little slow but eventually it all worked well. I exchanged a pleasantry with the lady and came home.

It would appear that she is more confident in her position…or less arbitrary in her behaviour…than the other lady who served previously. Bravo. I shall look closely in the future to see who is behind the desk to avoid another affront. And there is always Shell down the street.