Easy Activism: Lousy Products, Lousier Customer Service?

Savage Chickens Cartoon

A few years ago I had to call ACME Widgets n’ More Customer Service for something. I was surprised that it was actually “good” Customer Service. Hours later I was still thinking about it. Why was I so surprised? I was never surprised by lousy Customer Service.

And that was the problem. For years I’d allowed businesses to treat me poorly. I never did anything about it. Apparently many other people were not doing anything about it either. My expectations had been systematically lowered over the years without my noticing.

I decided that day to change how I do business with businesses. Perhaps this will inspire or help someone else. I use the age old system of…




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Fear of Flying, Ch 3: I Pretend I’m a Parts Lister

Since I couldn’t just sit there and drink coffee and chain smoke forever I finally opened one of the Job folders stacked high on my desk.

Inside was a work copy of an IPC and a “Job Sheet” attached to an EPL (Engineering Parts List, the Parts List generated with a blueprint). The ‘job’ involved overhead storage bins in the cabin area of a passenger jet. I was relieved. I wouldn’t be responsible for killing anyone. But would my ignorance be the cause of storage bins crashing down on passenger’s heads in mid-flight? I imagined casualties in nursing homes across the country drooling into complimentary Airline Barf Bags (ABBs).

If IPCs had ever been placed in context within The Big Picture of Aerospace Manuals¬† (TBPAM) during the training class I would not have been so worried. But I did worry because I thought an IPC was an entity unto itself. Years later, when I’d moved up and out to different companies and wrote complete Maintenance Manuals, I found that TC‘s IPCs were incorporated into full manuals by Tech Writing Depts within the Aerospace Companies. With that knowledge I’d have thought, “Relax. They’ll catch any errors at that level.”

A foolish thought but it would have helped at the time.

If the Coordinator hadn’t come by after a few days I might still be sitting there shuffling those papers around my desktop. Luckily for me, he was an affable good-natured guy from some Middle Eastern country who didn’t seem to take much of anything seriously. “OK, so now you will be revising that IPC to those updates, right? Easy job! Yes! That is easy job!”

Oh thank goodness. A clue!!!

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I Finally Get To Show & Tell This Airline Joke

I wish I could take credit for the joke but I can’t. A friend back in NY made up the business name and slogan over 25 years ago. I also wish I could say I drew this but I it’s a ‘collage’ I created from other cartoons found online with Bob’s business idea added in. I hope someone finds the idea as funny as I have all these years.

TreeTop Airlines

Fear of Flying, Ch 2: You Too Can Be A Parts Lister in The Exciting World of Aerospace!

For those not familiar with IPCs and Parts Lists and Aerospace Manuals, here is an answer to the question “What is the function of an illustrated parts catalogue (ipc) for aircraft?” from answers.yahoo.com:

“ipc is a cataloge..generally like u purchase a refrigerator or other substance of a company u are able to see the catalogue so tht u can see the product and read the features.. ipc is also like tht and its given by every manufacturer to each comapny for ordering the product because the product u have to order u know how it look and what is the use but for the company u need the part number which is given in the ipc”

Hmmm. Probably a Tech Writer…

For those familiar with the process of creating Aerospace IPCs or who just want to listen to me shovel the dirt, skip the dull stuff. There’s a funny story at the end.

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Fear of Flying, Ch 1: I Accidentally Get A Job In Aerospace

In the mid-1970s I found myself in Southern California. I worked at whatever job I could lie my way into using my collection of references from out-of-state out-of-business businesses. I had no particular preference about what it was I did for a paycheck. Factory work, fine. Office work, fine. Bank teller, fine. I was in my early 20s, I was a quick study and as long as I could pay for cigarettes and some of the other necessities of life all was fine with me.

There was a guy who used to drop by my apartment to visit. Where did I ever meet him? No idea. Maybe at the Club for Currently-Not-Drinking Drunks (CCNDD). He had a huge crush on me for some reason though I certainly did everything I possibly could to make him miserable. At the time I was working across the street from LACMA and it was quite a ride to get there. Crush Boy (CB) said, “Why don’t you get a job at the place down the street? They’re hiring.” I asked him what sort of work it was. He replied, “They write manuals for jets or airplanes or something. Aerospace. You don’t have to know anything to work there.

I laughed! “What do you mean, ‘You don’t have to know anything to work there???’ If they’re writing stuff for aerospace how could that be possible?” He insisted what he said was true. I said that since a person didn’t need to know anything to work there he should go get hired. If that happened, I’d follow along.

Now CB was not the smartest guy in the world. To be completely honest, he was as dumb as a box of rocks and about as interesting. But a few weeks later he returned and announced that The Company (TC) had hired him.

Incredible! Could it be possible? Maybe he didn’t understand what they were really doing there?

So I called TC.

CB was right. I didn’t need to know anything. I set up an appointment for an interview.

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Fear of Flying: My Adventures as an Aerospace Tech Writer (Intro)

I preface this history of my¬†*cough* “Aerospace Career” with Ripley’s old adage: “Believe It or Not!

fly meSince the past tends to repeat itself I expect to be ignored or ridiculed and written off as a crackpot with a history of drug and alcohol abuse and a present of manic-depression. Having been dragged through all that while I was working at trying to save taxpayers a few billion dollars, I have no qualms about being dragged through all that again.

Bring it on! I can always use a good laugh!

A few years back Frontline did two shows: “Flying Cheap” followed by “Flying Cheaper.” I’d been out of Aero for about 15+ years when the first show aired. I was not surprised at anything that had been “investigated” and found lacking. What did surprise me was that the documentaries were precariously balanced on a false assumption.

Though “Flying Cheaper” showed that outsourced aircraft maintenance meant that many mechanics using the Maintenance and Repair Manuals were incapable of reading English – or of reading much of anything at all…

Frontline assumed the people who had written the Manuals could read and write and that the Repair and Maintenance Manuals were correct and useful.

I dropped them a line and said I had nothing to lose anymore and would gladly tell them about my years working as a tech writer for commercial aerospace. Never heard back. So I tell this story here, for my benefit and because it will make my daughter happy.

If you find something to wonder about and worry about, good. If you find something to laugh about, even better.

Forwarned is forwarned: This long tale involves sex and drugs and alcohol, lies, greed, fraud, laughs, drama, insanity and plenty of whistleblowing. A sense of humor required!

JP Morgan & Frontline’s Money Power & Wall Street Propaganda Series

Frontline: Money Power & Wall Street

Quotes below are from an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Martin Smith on Feb. 6, 2012.

“So it takes rocket science to — I mean, — (laughs) — these are very complex deals, correct?”

[Martin Smith to Terri Duhon, Feb 6 2012, during interview for Frontline’s “Money, Power & Wall Street” series.]

I’m not the brightest bulb in the box. I’ve never been able to balance my checkbook and yet after watching this series I had a general understanding of CDO’s. One of the few good things I can say.

While it may take rocket science to understand the complexity of the deals, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Frontline’s much touted series had an agenda. Nor does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that the disingenuous comments by Terri Duchon (joined JPMorgan as a derivatives trader in 1994) and the interviews with others about JP Morgan’s 20-something wiz kids who came up with the idea of complex derivatives were contrived to manipulate our perceptions of those behind the melt-down.

Terri Duchon:

“They are complicated. But for someone who is well versed in fixed income products or who has been looking at portfolios of fixed income products for a long time, it’s not that much of a leap from what they’re currently looking at. So if you’re looking at individual bonds and loans, already thinking about them on a portfolio basis, and then thinking about the tranches of risk isn’t that much of a leap.”

Martin Smith:

“OK. But by that argument, why did other banks go forward when your bank and your team decided to stop? So if it’s not so complicated, why did so many others keep going, marching toward the cliff?”

Terri Duchon:

“Look, very simply, there are certainly some investors, some banks, some borrowers who are a bit greedier than they should be. And we decided to stop because the products just got more and more risky. The risk became something that we weren’t comfortable with.”

Apparently JP Morgan did not stop as the $2 billion loss this past week was not due to a hedge gone wrong but to another failure of complex derivatives trading. Trading a product that doesn’t exist, gambling high stakes on a poker hand without the advantage of being an autistic card counter.

Watching the show as it aired, I was shocked by the way the JP Morgan 20-somethings were allowed to portray themselves as ‘kids’ without a clue as to what would happen with their new idea. These were adults trained to think ahead, whose jobs inherently required long term financial forecasting. To say they were ‘unaware’ just shows how creatively manipulative they are. Ms. Duchon and others from that group were a bunch of 20-something psychopaths whose job it was to come up with plan to hide risk in a way that wouldn’t show up on the charts. I can imagine them all high 5’ing each other and yelling “OMG!!! WE RULE!!!!!” when they came up with the idea.

And then again after Frontline aired.

The list of experts not chosen for interviews says as much about Frontline’s agenda as the list of experts interviewed. With Frontline’s typical lack of balanced and informed viewpoints, it watered down to nothing more than anti-Obama propaganda, the kick off for another election season. Not that it matters much. Anyone who thinks one politician is different from another… well, I can’t help you. Please seek professional help.

Have we all seen enough of smirking bankers and Wall St. execs wending their way through crowds of angry citizens to collect their bonuses yet? MOVE YOUR MONEY out of these predatory financial monstrosities and into community banks and Credit Unions.

Recommended viewing:

Bill Moyers Interviews David Stockman on Crony Capitalism of Washington & Wall St

Recommended additional reading:

Practically anything on ethics and, even with his occasionally flawed constructs, Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death.”