More telephone madness…..

It never abates, just gets worse.  Clearly our company falls into this category, but it is intentional. After having a published phone number and address for ever, and having to tolerate incredibly rude people actually turning up at the door, and in some cases being threatening, others trying to sell a myriad of unwanted products, and far too many looking for jobs, and having been told by ‘Outplacement Firms’ that turning up at someone’s door unannounced is wise, it has been a choice, and in our case, as our Company has operated ‘Word of Mouth’ from the outset, yes, we are difficult to find.

I have been screamed at by SO many rude sales people calling and insisting on speaking with the President, and calling me every possible name imaginable, when I have politely inquired ,
‘how may I help you’ ??
What they ALL missed, was that they WERE speaking with the President, and were RUDE, RUDE, RUDE.
This is not the case of the corporations where I tried to reach people over the last few weeks. They were ALL FORTUNE 500 companies, listed on the stock exchange, and with thousands of employees.
The latest in the list of corporate insanity, is saving money by eliminating a central phone number and receptionist.
Google their head office phone number, and find a 1-800  customer service number, and a customer service email address, along with a diatribe about their ‘preference’ for email.
Are they for real?!!
When I advised a Vice President of one of these companies about it, he emailed me back and announced that he was also unable to find one and would look into it.
Several weeks later, still no published phone number, in 2 cities.
These companies are ostensibly running businesses for profit,
They have shareholders.
They have customers.
They have employees.
They require NEW customers.
Unless I am seriously missing something, if you can’t EVER reach a human being, why on earth would you ever want to do business with them?  And the bigger question , which is actually the point of this BLOG, is just exactly WHAT HAPPENS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY?
Are you supposed to email an anonymous address may only be read by or answered by someone thousands of miles away in an offshore call center??  It could take days or weeks before someone actually responds, and they are clearly not in any position to do anything.
SO, if someone is walking on the street and sees something happening, there is absolutely NO WAY to contact the company about it, other than to run into the lobby and grab a security guard who probably couldn’t care less.
If there is a crisis at someone’s home, and a neighbour tries to call someone at work to notify them, it is impossible.
Clearly in the rush to automate and save money, the concept that humans actually make up a company has been missed.
My favourites include companies with a central phone number with an automated voice telling you to leave your message in general delivery. Attempts to reach an operator result in the call being
terminated.
The other stroke of genius is when one calls a company only to be rudely interrogated by some snippy receptionist who insists on knowing the reason for your call, and why you do not have the person’s personal mobile number. If she is unsatisfied with your response, she will hang up on you.
I asked one incredibly rude woman if she was actually paid to insult people before hanging up on her. She was seriously incredulous she was so rude.
This is a common complaint from people I know in numerous industries.
Is anyone listening??
Does anyone care??

Security Experts

Low tech or High tech – can you trust yours??

Just to make things interesting, we will start with lower technology, i.e., burglar alarms and work our way up from there.

Several years ago I was seeking a reputable burglar alarm company for my home. Spending as many as 5 months away made the concept become more of a necessity. It is not difficult to see uncut grass and hedges, and no footprints in the snow over an extended period of time.

Being a blonde female sole homeowner made things more than unpleasant.

I approached over 16 companies on the telephone, many were eliminated immediately when they insisted on speaking with my husband. No second chance on that as you know the service will be terrible.

Round two of those who were actually invited to visit after getting through the initial phone screening. Same issue, usually 10 minutes into the visit, when the proverbial question of when they could meet ‘the man of the house’ . A couple of them were formally introduced to my male cat, and rapidly escorted out of the door.

The level of incompetence and arrogance encountered in this process was extraordinary. One mind numbingly rude woman proclaiming herself as an ‘EXPERT” ….oh…how I just LOVE these people…..somehow made it through the initial screening and visit, but then came back with a drawing of the layout of my house and her ‘expert opinion’ of how to alarm the house. The price was absolutely over the top, and the lack of vision was terrifying. She kept pushing me over and over to sign the contract…….all in French, as she claimed she could not speak English, or more importantly, didn’t choose to, She droned on and on at how she was an ‘EXPERT” and at the top of her trade. I walked her into the middle of my back garden and insisted she look at my house in the bright daylight and asked if she noticed anything. Blank Stare. No Comment. Asked again. Was blasted with her physical signs of agitation at my disrespect, she clearly had NO idea what I was referring to.
Shook my head in disbelief, only to be met with a look of total condescension. Seriously?? This is how you close a sale for in excess of $10,000??? …..just saying……..

I pointed out the dining room window off in a secluded dark corner, then the shed leading to the basement door, also in a dark corner, then the basement windows under the deck which were enclosed with lattice work. And asked whether or not she had considered them as potential points of illicit entry.
She huffed and puffed and exclaimed that they could be added to the original quote. Really??? No apology, no explanation, just changes and more charges.
Once again, in the back door, and rapidly out the front door she went, becoming increasingly unpleasant along the way.

I guess we stupid blonde women need to be bossed around by ‘EXPERTS” like her. The concept that I might actually know something was beyond her comprehension.
She probably thought my husband gave me the house in a divorce. ABSOLUTELY NOT THE CASE. House was purchased by me, with my money, earned by ME. PERIOD.

An altogether unpleasant experience and appalling waste of time. The time lost is seriously galling, as it is time not spent on my business.

The last person to come was strangely from up North, and was actually my last resort. After going through all the ‘BIG BRAND’ alarm companies and being totally disgusted by them all, he had been recommended by a friend. He arrived with a smile, and a wonderful sense of humour. What a pleasure. After a house and garden tour, he looked at me and suggested that he felt I knew more about my house than him, and perhaps we should do the design together. What a concept!!! Along the way, he admitted that he had missed 2 key points of entry which I did not. He got the contract!!!
Many of the new alarm companies are pushing cellular technology as it is cheap and easy to install. DO NOT DO IT.

There are simply too many people driving around with devices to hack into these systems, it is just too easy.
Make sure that you TOTALLY understand the critical entry points and security issues regarding a system as well as the security of your person and your possessions. Not much point having a system if the most expensive article in the house is not properly covered. From roof entrances, to basements, back doors, windows and garage windows, ensure they are totally covered. Simply having the door from the garage monitored does not prevent someone from getting in and waiting for your arrival. Your life may depend upon it.

Also, make absolutely sure that the technicians and installers coming into your house have had proper Security background checks and that the company has certified this in writing. Some installers have been known to have criminal records and you do not want them to have access to your system or your home.
HIGH TECH

We constantly read about huge technology hacks where the confidential information of as many as 500 million individuals has been compromised. Unfortunately many very large well known corporations are unwilling to make the investment into proper Security Professionals, for both the data and the physical site.
They are constantly seeking ways to save money on infrastructure costs, and look to outsourcing as a way to save money. The only problem is that no one knows who has access to your data.
Senior Security Professionals are expensive, ideally with a Master’s degree in Cyber Security, and knowledge of penetration testing and physical security. Hiring some kid out of university in an entry level position is like advertising your utter disrespect or the critical data of your clients.
Think about it, travel companies have your date of birth, credit card numbers, a scan of your passport cover page……….shall I continue???
Retailers have similar information, including your shopping habits, and locations…….
Financial Companies have your personal information including such private information as Mother’s Maiden Name and passwords……
Credit card companies even more information including education, job history, locations of previous and present home……..and then the awful Credit agencies………

I hope I am frightening you………..
The big question, of course, is whether this whether or not this data is protected at all, or is easily available for a good hacker or unethical employee to access……

One ‘Security Expert” in a large retailer bragged to all his friends that he had ALL the confidential information on all the key executives in his firm, and all the client credit card numbers and pin codes……..He went on from there to a large Financial Institution, and on to his current gig where he is now considered the ‘RESIDENT CYBER SECURITY EXPERT”…….all through rabid self promotion on Linkedin and Security blogs. But, wait for it……….he continues to BRAG about the information he gathers…………albeit to a much smaller audience………and much more discreetly.

Several well known hackers have been offered high paying positions in large companies who feel they are well protected by these clowns, unfortunately, I do not share this trust or optimism. Once a thief, always a thief, and unless you know what trigger put them over the edge in the past, you certainly cannot foresee the future.

I will stick to only working with individuals with clean pasts and ideally a high level of Security Clearance.
If you are running a large infrastructure, complicated networks, and security, it is up to YOU to protect the data. PERIOD.

So, dear readers, be careful what information you share and where you share it.
Someone is always lurking around the corner trying to obtain it.

Friendship

Friendship or a business arrangement? Sometimes it is hard to tell.

If one is reasonably sociable, there are always new people to meet, and as the holiday season approaches, endless cocktail and Christmas parties. Some people are absolutely incredible at walking up to total strangers, extending their arm and introducing themselves, and often, this is also where you discover their true motives.

Some kind souls are truly out there to meet new and exciting people, such as moi, others are only soliciting business, some overtly, others more sneaky. If you have met as many people as I have, and are slightly cynical, which I have unfortunately become, it usually does not take long to ascertain their true motives.

One aspiring social climber, with no career, no education, and little to talk about except her children, and how totally ‘AMAZING” they are, has been slowly bouncing from one charity organization to the other to try and meet new people she deems to be socially ‘acceptable’. Other than being nice to look at, she is so boring you want to cry, and clearly, as her looks do absolutely nothing for moi, I am thrilled to report that I did not make the grade!!! Not wanting to be cornered to hear about her children was probably the clincher!!

Then there is the incredibly rude, pushy woman who grew up in the east end of the city from a working class family. Some of her school contemporaries speak of not being allowed into their living room at all, the the plastic wrap covering the sofa’s in case someone ‘important’ should come to visit.
She got an excellent education, promptly married an up and comer in the firm where she went to work, and quickly retired to have children and social climb. She acquired a nice address, but not the best, and with his money she now considers herself the arbiter of who is ‘in’ in social Montreal. What she does not understand is that wearing a ball gown and attending balls to be seen does NOT a nice person make. Class and manners still count, and she has neither. Her very aggressive social climbing really took off about 10 years ago, to the extent that she now has, WAIT FOR IT…….a fan club of women she has publicly offended as she deems them to be “ below her” . To her friends are simply ‘stepping stones’ which are quickly acquired and discarded once their usefulness has expired.
NOTE to SELF……..PEOPLE DO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!

Another woman I met who owns a PR Firm and has a reputation of being a nightmare to work for, calls people she has met, and invites them for lunch., to see if they have the social clout to be her ‘friend’, translation, ‘who can you introduce me to’ !??! Unfortunately, this resulted in a lunch where, surprise, surprise, we split the bill for lunch, it was NOT an invitation as previously indicated, and it came to a fairly rapid end when I told her I would not share my contacts with her on Linkedin or any where else. In polite company, inviting someone to lunch implies that YOU are going to pay, and NOT split the bill…..If you haven’t gathered from my commentary, it was NOT a particularly fun experience.

Another quasi-socialite, who proclaims loudly about how she wishes to ‘age gracefully’ is by far one of the most ungracious women I have met. She is an absolute embarrassment to be seen with in a restaurant.
Several years ago we ran into one another in London, and she mentioned that she would love to go out for a meal, we discussed restaurants and she mentioned one that I frequent, and the fact she had never been able to get into it. I offered to make arrangements to go the following evening as I know the owners and have been a regular there for years. So, we met there, and placed our orders. As always it was lovely, and I ran into several people I know, much to her surprise. Not being a name dropper, there are many people who have absolutely no idea where I have been, who I know……
We had a pleasant evening until the bill arrived. Then the tone of the evening changed drastically. She is SUCH an embarrassment I wanted to crawl under the table. She examined the cheque and studied each entry to ensure that she did not pay for anything that she did not consume, arguing about her alcohol consumption, then counting out her contribution, practically down to the penny, and leaving the equivalent of pennies towards the tip. THIS RESTAURANT WAS CONSIDERED THE PLACE TO BE ‘SEEN” in London for over 30 years and she was unable to get in until she came with me. Did she offer to pay for dinner? To pay the tip?? ABSOLUTELY NOT. So, needless to say, guess who found herself leaving the entire tip, which was 20% of the total, and NO, this is not a restaurant where one skimps on gratuities…….The taxi ride home was equally unpleasant, she asked to be let off first, and contributed 2 pounds to the ride, guess who got to pay the balance………and it certainly was NOT 2 pounds!!

Once before in Montreal we had been to dinner and as she has no vehicle, I found myself being the chauffeur, no, let me rephrase that, the driver, because the chauffeur is at least paid. SO, my gas, as it was MY car, I got to pay for parking, and she was delivered door to door. The unpleasantness with the cheque was the same, the only difference is the amounts were significantly lower.

Naively I thought this was a one time event, but as I learned in London, this woman is anything but gracious, and certainly not a friend. Did I mention she lives in a MILLION DOLLAR condo on Sherbrooke Street???!!!

We all meet people and become friends with them, sometimes we are extraordinarily lucky and they stay for a lifetime, I am extremely fortunate, and certainly have my share of those, they are scattered to every corner of the world, come in all shapes and colours, the sign of a true friendship is when you speak to someone you haven’t seen for a year and the conversation and comfort level continue as if you were with them an hour earlier. If it is painful, then it is probably a sign the friendship is over.

Friendship is not a business relationship. Friendship is not taking advantage of the kindness of others. Friendship is not being a cruel gossip in the back of someone.
Friendship is a mutually beneficial relationship between 2 people which, at times can be unbalanced, but over the years in a true friendship it balances out, and there is an implicit understanding that each party is there for the other during good and hard times. To be comforting when they are depressed or sick, to offer a shoulder to cry on, to give them a hug when they are sad, to come and bring them a small thoughtful gift when they need cheering up, not to be critical or judgemental.

To be UNSELFISH.

TO SHARE.

TO LOVE.

Anything else is a business arrangement.

the 2016 Presidential Election ……err… sort of…

This election has, on every front, been the most degrading, disgusting exhibit of lying and arrogance ever.

 

hillary-clinton-vs-donald-trump-cartoon-joe-heller-fb

The complete and utter disrespect shown between the candidates and their representatives on an international scale shows a contempt and disregard both to each other, and regrettably the American public, never before seen with such a worldwide audience.
Not only have their handlers NOT put a stop to this highly embarrassing and debasing behaviour, but they virtually compliment it. We have heard allegations of fraud, murder, tax evasion, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, chauvinism  daily, as well as a never ending barrage of inappropriate language. The only possible upside to this is that certain talk show hosts find their shows nearly written for them by the candidates and their representatives……..at least they add some levity to the situation.
But the extremely serious side of this discussion is that fundamental civility has gone out the window, what we see in its place is an outrageous display of:
  • Lying
  • Abuse of Power
  • Sense of Entitlement
  • No Dignity
  • No Ethics or Decency
  • No Civility
hillary-trump-debate-thumb-tpi-123
And above all, absolutely NO display of manners or class whatsoever.
Does this display, shown on an international scale, demonstrate what we can expect from the General Public, Business Executives and Senior Politicians??  That somehow it has become permissible to behave in this disgraceful and embarrassing fashion??   Has it become the norm to insult and berate others publicly with no fear of reprisal??
The basis of Civil Society is CIVILITY.  When this is lost, we can expect an exponential increase in Fraud, crime, and an increasing lack of physical security, due to the incredible sense of entitlement these individuals show.
Has becoming a public bully somehow become socially acceptable?
Manners and Class have always won out in the end, but they are taking a serious beating in this very public debacle.

MUCH too cool for moi!!

This seems to be a recurring theme. It is rude, frustrating and incredibly arrogant.

Once again, I tried to reach a friend by telephone. He recently joined a growing internet company. When I got nowhere with his mobile, it has been acting up a lot lately, I rang up his wife who suggested that I text him, and ensured me the number is still good. He has been having a lot of problems with the phone for a while. No, she did not have a new office number for him.

Not being overly patient, and preferring to actually speak with people, I figured, why not just call him directly at his new job. Logical thought. …!!??? Apparently NOT.

After spending 10 minutes ‘googling’ his new employer in Montreal, and finding no phone number whatsoever, I found one in Toronto and reached a chirpy, up-talking receptionist who proudly announced that no one in the company has a phone or phone number, and that one is required to either contact people on their personal mobile phones, and NO, they do not give the numbers out, or but everyone can be reached by email. Well that is all well and good, but I have no idea how you are supposed to acquire this information other than calling. I inquired as to his email, and was pleasantly given the information.

My question, is how is one to do business with a company with no phone number, and mysterious email addresses?? According to their website, one sends a request which is handled by a call center in INDIA, and with any luck someone will actually get back to you. Maybe not.
Certainly not the way I wish to do business. Being terribly old fashioned, and actually WANTING to speak to people, this is not for moi.

Having said that, OUR Company has NO website, absolutely NO Digital presence, and ours is a clear message. Due to the nature of our business, which is HIGH END IT Consulting and Search, we do NOT welcome unsolicited resumes. We work exclusively on a word of mouth basis, and are not interested in being inundated with useless resumes. Somehow some seem to get through, but they are not welcome.
As we are ALL industry practitioners with extensive experience, usually someone can find us within 2 phone calls. OUR clients are provided with numerous phone numbers as well as email, and are actually welcomed to call us after hours, at THEIR convenience.

I am mystified at how a relatively new company selling products can hide behind a website and call center in India, making it virtually impossible to identify or contact a human being. So if you are having problems, it goes to say that you will be totally ignored. Call India and hope that the recipient of the call actually understands what you have said and takes an action. If you have been paying your bills online as well, good luck.

Interestingly, I have several clients seeking service providers of this nature. They recognize the changing business landscape, and understand that by having an on-line presence, one has a global reach to sell their products. However, the other side of this equation, is that in a number of cases, these are individuals who are older, well established businesses, who actually expect the service provider to come and see them to discuss their needs. They will NOT do business with a company which does not understand this business model.

It is fine to try and be the ‘cool’ kid on the block, and reach out to millennials, however, there are an enormous number of successful business owners in their 50’s and 60’s who wish to be treated with respect, and be able to interact with actual humans, so these ‘funky, cool’ companies will NOT see their business, and it is HUGE.
These are the same baby boomers who are currently inheriting TRILLIONS of dollars from their families, and in many cases, looking to upgrade their homes and businesses.

If one is purchasing a generic item on line, and one can seek the same article from numerous suppliers, and price shopping is fine, but entering into a long term service oriented business agreement where it is virtually impossible to either identify or reach a real person is short sighted, and frighteningly arrogant.

They are mission out on BILLIONS. SO NOT COOL after all.

On Being Angry

Everyone is allowed a momentary fit of anger, in fact it is healthy, hopefully for a good reason, and over quickly, to be handled with a sense of humour, and the ability to make fun of oneself, as well as the ability to apologize to anyone in the cross hairs.

Unfortunately some people are perpetually angry, at themselves, at those around them, and at the world at large for some perceived injustice, however big or small. The anger can start small, over something inconsequential, but over time it has a quiet boil in the background until, for some magical reason the individual erupts, and watch out!!
We see it more and more today, life is hard, and it is a very aggressive world out there.
People pushing and shoving on sidewalks to occupy ‘their’ space, on buses, pushing and shoving their way down the aisle, with no consideration whatsoever to those in their way, people angry because they perceive someone didn’t look at them with respect, whatever that is supposed to be, people fighting over clothing or appliances at sales, or even worse, lipstick.
We see YOUTUBE videos of fights in shops escalating to violence over nothing but a glance, fights over merchandise, fights over parking spots.
Youths walking down a street randomly beating someone to death over an iPhone, or just because they decided they do not like the look of them.

Some blame it on the violence we see on TV, personally I do not see any co-relation whatsoever. As a Tomboy, my preferences have always been guns (toy), fast cars, fast airplanes, helicopters, martial arts and films with gratuitous violence and lots of spectacular explosions. My absolute favourites are usually some ex-military who are now CIA or MI5 with great plots. Does that mean I am violent?? Hardly. It is pure escapism, the adrenaline rush, the great plot to decipher, great action, great acting, and special effects.
Some of the people I have met who eschew violence and are holier than thou, are the most dishonest and unpleasant around.

For me, there is nothing like a fabulous explosion on TV which lifts me out of my seat!!

Anger shows its ugly face more and more, people use the excuse of religion, job stress, illness, financial difficulties, and have no problem sharing their anger.But why does it become the problem of those around you?? If you are having a bad day, why take it out on some unsuspecting stranger?? We all have our own problems, sometimes much more profound, but have been brought up to keep it to ourselves.

I am often horrified to hear of incidents in shops over sale merchandise. There is always another TV, another lipstick, another day. Why humiliate yourself over a thing??
Shopkeepers deal with excessive theft these days, incredibly rude condescending clients, but now they are dealing with anger, rearing its ugly face and turning into violence. Fist fights over a new lipstick colour?? Seriously?? And this from so called ‘Society Women”” how totally embarrassing.

A client I visited recently gave me a tour of their executive offices which are quite beautiful. He is in charge of all their on-line marketing, and his department is growing exponentially. He now has his own area with the newest technology, as well as his own photography studios. We had a lovely time, and he enjoyed my knowledge of the issues at hand.
At one point he mentioned they offer discounts of 50% to their employees, and offered me the opportunity to make a purchase, which I politely declined, he was surprised. I explained. He smiled, then giggled, and told me that once a year they have a VIP, by invitation only, sale day, where merchandise is offered at 75% off. I declined to be included in that as well, again with an explanation. He was surprisingly pleased with my refusal, so I inquired as to why. It appeared to be a strange response. His answer was that he respected the fact I wasn’t interested in doing business with him for discounts, and that unfortunately mob scenes and fights erupt regularly at these events, and my lack of interest said a lot about me. He respects me more.
We both had a good laugh, but wait……..how sick is that?? People are invited to a VIP, one day sale and behave like savages over discounted merchandise?!??

I mentioned that I prefer shopping early in the day when the shops are empty, and paying the price rather than reducing myself to some depraved lunatic who can only think of the ‘DEAL”.
No thanks. There is nothing I need that badly, and the day I do, is the day I cease shopping……

We shook hands, and he is referring me to another executive within the Company. I thanked him for a wonderful visit. He thanked me for being refreshing.

People need to consider others and not only themselves. The sale, the parking spot, the glance, the mis-placed anger and violence are disgraceful.
The consequences can be deadly.

Frightening.

Very Busy Important Man

Well, I am thrilled that I never promised no to write on this subject again, because the stories from friends, acquaintances and my own personal experiences make it difficult to hold my pen back, sometimes it simply can’t help itself, and here it is again, 1:30 in the morning on January 4, 2016, and my pen is racing across a sheet of paper with a mind of its own!!

In my business and personal life, I meet and have met an extraordinary cross section of people, judges, lawyers, doctors, people with titles, politicians, business executives, entrepreneurs, artists, and just about everything in between.
Most of the people I work with are highly educated, highly intelligent, and well travelled. Some have extraordinary life stories to share. So why is it, we all keep running into self important losers, or better, posers, who are loud, vulgar, self promoting and constantly reminding us that they are ‘very busy important people’ ???!!!

Last month someone finally called me back after my having left 3 messages over the course of the month. After 3 messages I usually deem the person rude and do not bother to call them again. He apologized, but then ruined the moment by telling me he is a ‘busy man’

STRIKE 1.

He then took the time to speak with me, and promised me a resume within a week. That was 2 weeks ago. Still haven’t heard a word from him.

STRIKE 2.

Once again, the salary he is currently earning is $80,000 below the position for which I am seeking someone. This is a role over $200,000, and highly visible. It is a life changer for the right person.
Guess what?? We are done. I am no longer interested in him. Clearly his career is not his primary concern, so he is no longer mine.

STRIKE 3.
There is an ART Gallery owner I have known for years who appears to think she has reached the pinnacle, and no longer has to return phone calls.
After leaving 5 messages on her mobile phone, 3 emails, and a visit to the Gallery for a vernissage, at which she was to have attended, and did not, yup, her OWN gallery, she never showed up for an opening……..full of guests and the artist……..yikes!!

I am still waiting for her to return my call, well, not really. The irony, is that I was bringing her a new fabulous artist to review for her gallery. He is well known, and has sold to a great many prominent Quebecers, and would be a major catch for her gallery. He is also super connected.
But she is TOO BUSY. Too important.
She never even looked at the portfolio.

Incroyable!!!

Over the holidays this same person posted on FACEBOOK that she had been really busy and that people should not expect her to return their calls, yet she posted endless photos of herself out partying.
Really?!!

How can anyone run a successful business and PUBLICLY announce that they are too busy to return anyone’s phone calls??!!
If there was a serious illness in the family it would be understandable, and an apology with an explanation would have been the correct thing to do, but there was no illness, just an arrogant woman out partying, and posting pictures of herself doing so.

So, if someone was ringing up to make a huge purchase?? Too bad, so sad. She was too busy to call them back??

Utter insanity.

You simply can’t make this up. It is the absolute height of bad manners.
How is it the busiest, most successful people answer their OWN phones, get things done, and the low level totally insignificant ones need this rhetoric??

This morning, January 4, 2016, I received an email from a CIO referring me to someone in his firm, a call from a friend who is a Judge wanting to wish me a Happy New Year in person, and a Senior Sales Executive, all 15 minutes apart.
They are all seriously busy. All of them took the time.

All of them really are ‘busy important people’ but with manners. What an old fashioned and oft forgotten concept, but certainly appreciated.

I shared the anecdote about the Gallery owner with the Senior Sales Executive, we have known each other for an incredibly long time, I thought he was going to cry he was laughing so hard in utter disbelief. He thanked me for the laugh, and said he hadn’t heard something so incredibly ludicrous for a while. Nothing like good old fashioned laughter to start the day!!!

So, a big THANK YOU to all of those who provide me with the inspiration for these BLOGS. You are obviously too arrogant to be aware, but you certainly keep us all entertained.

And to the rest of the readers out there, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

The True Cost of Social Climbing in Montreal

As someone who has travelled the world and has friends from every possible walk of life, I am absolutely fascinated by some of the questions people ask of me.

A week or so ago, I was chatting with someone who owns a very high end fashion shop, his merchandise starts at around $1000 per item, and goes to well in excess of $100,000. We have known each other for over 20 years (yes, we met when we were VERY young!!) and have shared some terribly entertaining conversations over the years. His clientele are primarily aspiring socialites who want to be seen in the ‘right’ clothes, and yes, I am trying hard to be politically correct, but at times it is extremely difficult. Although he is wealthy, he is looked down upon as a shopkeeper, hence the conversation and the segue, from social climbing, real estate and eventually death, not much was missed.
Interestingly I had a similar conversation with a lovely Barrister in London a few months earlier, who is currently residing in London England and was having a difficult time meeting people. I gave her some tips as she requested, she had  been astonished by the breadth of my contacts and Social Life in London over the years, considering I live in Montreal!!   When we last conversed, she had been following my advice and was beginning to enjoy a social  life in London.
For the last few years I have been admittedly absent from the social scene, and enjoying being relatively invisible, which has definite advantages. The never ending solicitations to purchase tickets to someone’s pet charity of the week have subsided, the requests for fundraising, and the never ending calls just simply asking for money or time have all but evaporated, and the calm is wonderful.
The last event I worked on was hugely successful, however an incredible amount of time and money was poured into its success. It was done willingly, there was no coercion, but being thanked properly would have been a nice touch, and it never came., It was the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back.
So you must be wondering where this is leading…
My wealthy shopkeeper friend asked me what steps he must take to become ‘socially connected’ and as we are good friends, he asked me what the associated costs could be. He was genuine in this, although he knows all the ‘right people’ due to his line of business, he actually does not get to socialize with them, and was curious as to what one actually does to be seriously ‘out there’.
I described an extremely aggressively social climbing businesswoman I know who has been fired in each job she has ever held, yet goes from strength to strength. Yes, you have read about her before, and the answer is that she uses the same ‘head hunter’ who is pleased to reap a huge fee every 1 1/2 to 2 years moving her from client to client. Ethical?? Not for a second, but with fees of well over $50,000 each time, this firm’s so called ‘ethics’ can be bought, and you now know the price!!!
She has a PR firm on retainer and every employer gets to pay the bills for the PR firm and for her very public social life. For every party she attends, her name and face hit the newspapers so the public are wowed by her apparent success and image. She is but one following this practice, there are many. It is not uncommon at all.
PR firms develop an image and promote the public face of many executives and politicians.
SO, to answer your question, the ‘right’ house downtown or in Westmount, absolutely lowest possible entry price is $1.5 million, for the condo or home, but $5 million is seriously more acceptable. The ‘right’ car, a large Range Rover, BMW or Mercedes SUV in the driveway, spending over a certain amount every year at 3-4 high end stores in the city so that invitations to private events are forthcoming, and the requisite mention in the social pages.
The ‘right’ clothes at the ‘right’ balls, tickets starting at $1000 per person and rising exponentially from there. Ideally a great table starts at $25,000 so that one is close to the ‘head table’ again, depending on the event, that number can easily rise to $100,000. Yup. You did read that number correctly.
Then there are the clothes for the event, figure minimum $5000 for a gown, but $10,000 for a more important designer, something from a house in Paris will start at $50,000. Hair, makeup, nails, shoes, jewellery, purse, wrap, and of course, his tuxedo, nothing under $2500 will do. Estimate, over $10,000 for each event, and,, Heaven forbid!! One couldn’t possibly be seen in the same gown at two consecutive events!!
As with everything there are pathetic cheats, and inevitably society learns about them and whispers nasty words behind their skinny backs. One ever aspiring socialite has a reputation for purchasing gowns for $10,000, bringing them to her dressmaker to copy, stealing a label and leaving the price tag firmly attached, then returning them within 48 hours. She has been rumoured to take gowns from consignment stores home to ‘show her husband’, then wearing them to an event and bringing them back the next day.  Her arrogance however had her caught, as she was photographed on a couple of occasions in these gowns, and now the shop owners will not allow her to remove anything from the stores unless it is paid in full and not returnable.
This woman is now in her 60’s and has been scratching and clawing her way up the social ladder for years. She is still in the same place as ever, with the same handful of friends, it has been a costly exercise to stay in the same place because she is not a nice person. Her husband, who is equally unpleasant just pays the price to keep her quiet. He is always striving to sell SOMETHING to someone at these events, so over the years everyone who is anyone absolutely runs from them.
The ‘Season’ generally commences mid September and goes to the end of December, then restarts in March through to June. During this time it is expected that one is seen at a minimum   of 5 important events per month, and during the ‘down time’ one is to be seen vacationing in a hot climate, and skiing in Europe. It is socially acceptable to fly economy, but one MUST either stay with friends or in a posh, known hotel, and to be seen out at fine restaurants with glamorous friends which can easily cost upwards of $1000 per evening, as one must order a decent bottle of wine or two.
When summer finally arrives, one’s Country home is opened for never ending ‘casual entertaining’ and enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the never ending stream of guests, many of which will be required to stay overnight due to their level of inebriation, (which is a fabulous excuse for a night out and no costs involved ) and unfortunately there are far too many of those  famed for this  behaviour.
So you ask, what is the cost of all this? It can run easily into $100,000 per year and climb exponentially. If one participates in the  annual Grand Prix madness, a weekend can easily run to over $50,000 to acquire the best tickets and invitation to the many events with the drivers and their entourages. Hopefully one owns a company with deep pockets which can pick up these insane costs, otherwise you had better be earning serious money, but with all this, regardless of attending the ‘right’ Museum ball, supporting the ‘right’ charities, wearing the ‘right clothes’, if certain socialites do not like you, GOOD LUCK, as their social cattiness will destroy any whiff of success……..
Many of these social denizens actually come from actually nothing, but they have clawed and scratched their way up the social ladder, re-inventing themselves with every new and improved marriage to the next more successful and wealthy  husband. Stealing someone’s husband is unfortunate but often necessary. They are ever so quick to deny their backgrounds, as their surgically enhanced noses tilt higher and higher towards the sky.
Is this only Montreal? Absolutely NOT. It is the same in every international city worldwide, the only difference being a different set of rules and costs. Some of the house costs can be mind numbing, the event costs even more so, and depending on your manners and behaviour, acceptance becomes more and more difficult.
With homes in Holland Park, London now reaching the $100 Million range, yes, indeed, one must be a Billionaire today to get in to that particular social stratosphere. The ‘Right’ Country Seat, minimum 20 rooms if it is the ‘Right’ address, but at least 50 is de rigeur, with lots of surrounding park land for privacy, and another residence somewhere warm, with a Private Jet and Helicopter to get you to your destination at a moment’s notice.
Can one have an exciting social life in London without that level of wealth?? Absolutely, but one had better speak a minimum of 2 languages, 4 is more acceptable, have travelled extensively, know about art, economics, and have an absolutely wonderful sense of humour, so that your personality is your introduction instead of your wallet.
Ten years ago, at a very exclusive Gallery Opening, I was introduced to a Gentleman who looked like he had just escaped from an 18th Century Painting. He wore a white frilly shirt, a black leather Frock Coat, Breeches, and fabulous over the knee boots, long blond curly hair and bottle green eyes completed the package, with the most absolutely stained hands I have ever seen. An oxymoron……..but a twinkle in his eye and a huge smile on his face. He was surrounded!! He was funny!! His position in life?? He owned a leather company, but nothing you would expect. He made all his own clothing which was spectacular, but he was actually under non-disclosure as he was working for a Saudi Prince, and was doing leather work on his private boat, and we are speaking of something in excess of 300 feet of private boat. Furniture, walls, floors, you name it.  A massive contract in the millions of pounds, and here he was, the life of the party. He looked like a pirate, but was anything but. He was to do the Private Plane of the Prince once the boat was completed.
So, he was meeting some of the wealthiest people in the world and travelling to exotic locales with his team, so they could complete their work. Should the Prince decide they were off to a new port, he and his staff were abord to continue the work, so provisions were constantly being loaded to ensure they had what they needed.
So why Death?? …..Seems like a strange inclusion in a BLOG about Social Climbing. The conclusion is simple, no matter who you know, how rich you are, how popular  you are, what parties you attended, it all boils down to a very humbling ending. You will be all alone in that wood box for eternity. I have been to a frightening number of funerals, and seen behaviour which is horrifying.
At the end of the day the only things that really matter were the acts of kindness people remember, generosity to those who have a better life due to your kindness, and it need not be monetary, those whose life you may have changed by your assistance or the time you spent with them.
Non of the rest really matters, it is superficial, it is fake.
Please leave your affairs in order so that we do not hear about the absolutely disgustingly greedy behaviour of your heirs at your funeral. It will be the only thing anyone will remember.

Being a USER

Friendship and all relationships are about balance, there are periods in time when the pendulum swings towards one or the other, as life plays nasty games on us all, we go through periods when life is wonderful, and others when life is truly awful, and how we deal with the bad times is what defines us.

Some people are incredible at making others feel like they are owed everything, others of us quietly slink into a quiet corner to lick our wounds and reappear when life improves. We take care of ourselves, and do not make our particular problems those of everyone around us.

We have all met them, they are charming, they make you feel like part of an exclusive group, welcome. It starts with a small favour, and over time the request for favours escalates until the relationship is totally one sided. If you don’t deliver on the latest request, they throw a temper tantrum which is embarrassing and extremely public, and if the request is not granted after an explanation is requested, you are eliminated from their fabulous lives. Fabulous through your generosity!!

The world has become a cruel place. With social media we are bombarded with pictures of the ‘in crowd’ and their fabulously lavish lifestyles. We see endless pictures of their homes, vacation homes, vacations, cars, jewellery, clothes, and private planes, the ridiculous numbers of Facebook ‘friends’ , Twitter followers, Instagram and whatever else is the social media of the moment. I know several individuals who have thousands of Facebook ‘friends’ but they do not even know 10 % of the people. They portray this incredibly cool image of success and more importantly fun and popularity, so others flock to be in their presence, and there it all begins, little favours asked with a sweet sideways glance and a slight touch, which subsequently escalates to utter insanity. At what point does one become tired of the endless requests for SOMETHING, and there is ALWAYS a request for something. Be it names and contact information for an event, the person who is pleading for this information now has YOUR contact list, and over time the provider of this information becomes irrelevant, as the ‘user’ moves on to fresh prey with a new address book.
I know of several people who have been absolutely drained of their contact lists and subsequently dumped when there is nothing left to gain.
From Political fundraisers, Charity fundraisers, artists hosting events, someone is always demanding more. Nothing is ever enough, ever.

Friendship has to be balanced, as do all relationships. There HAS to be something to be gained for all parties. One person can not always be making requests and expect them to be granted. Some of these USERS are extraordinarily adept at networking and portraying a public face of kindness and generosity, which the givers never quite seem to receive as the USER works their way through the never ending source of the generosity and kindness of others. But wait!! Over time they become less relevant and less in demand. There is always someone new and more exciting standing in the shadows waiting to appear on the horizon, and slowly the USER is left behind. The unfortunate giver is relinquished and left in the shadows……….

On the Take!

Over the last few years we have increasingly heard of companies implementing more and more policies ostensibly around the issue of ethics. Many have web pages speaking loudly about their professionalism and business ethics, and like many things, this falls under ‘thou doth protest too much’, but the reality of these companies couldn’t be farther from the truth.

One large Consulting Firm offers ‘ethics’ lectures to their employees, and distribute booklets on their ‘code of conduct’ while simultaneously the Senior Executives exhibit mind numbingly dishonest behaviour, and will spare no effort or expense to sign a contract. We hear of trips to Florida with expensive escorts, casino nights in the high roller suites, where the huge losses of the poor losers are covered in exchange for the signature on a tasty contract. Other gifts which are widely spoken of in the industry include Mercedes, condos, rumour of one VP receiving a cheque for, yes, get ready for it, $1 million in exchange for a particularly large contract. Another executive is rumoured to have received a 150 foot boat. There is constant chatter in the market, however no one is prepared to go public with these allegations for fear of never being able to work again.

Another huge firm is rumoured to be paying for expensive golf club memberships, apparently the fees at one club in Toronto are in excess of $200,000 annually……private boat trips for executives and their families in exotic locations, some of the payoffs are insane, in some of the smaller firms, one particularly pushy individual (I am being polite) is known for purchasing everything from dishwashers to wall to wall carpet and snazzy cameras to ensure he has exclusivity.
One company we were working with changed their policies along the way, and decided that all their suppliers in IT had to sign a new contract in order to provide Consulting or Search services. We were rushed off our feet by a particularly unpleasant young woman in HR, and as it was the means to an end, we went along with this as several Directors and VP’s had indicated their desire to work with us. I found myself being rushed to sign and deliver the document. Well, when something smells fishy, there are probably rotten fish somewhere …….and there certainly were. The last trip to see her, was different. This time I was actually received in her office instead of a small conference room. When she left the room for a moment to confer with a co-worker, I was able to cast a peek around the room and on the surface of her desk. There were many signs that she favoured a competitor, cups with logos, a leather notebook cover embossed with their logo, snazzy desk accessories, but the real tell was the $2500 Louis Vuitton purse and the silk $500 Hermes scarf carefully draped on the back of her chair. When she re-entered the room, I carefully checked her shoes and clothes, and it was clear that they were not in the least expensive, in fact, quite the opposite.
If she had the means to purchase the purse and scarf, she certainly would have not been wearing $60 shoes and a polyester suit. So, clearly they were gifts which she cherished from our competitor, and the type of gifts that we will NEVER provide.

Several months went by, no contact, no mandates, utter silence. No way to reach her, emails not answered, phone calls not answered. One day I called her from the reception area of a client’s office as I was told I would be waiting a while for the client to get back as they were stuck in traffic. I had space and time on my hands, as well as unlimited use of the phone the receptionist kindly provided, so I decided to use my time well. I called our Princess and, lo and behold, she answered immediately with a perky voice!! I introduced myself and politely asked if she had been travelling as she was difficult to reach. Always a good approach. I also mentioned that we had received to mandates or follow up whatsoever to the signing of the contract, at which point she rudely told me that ‘just because you have a contract do NOT expect any business’ ….
So what was all this about?? Why run suppliers off their feet to sign a contract if you have no intention of giving them any business??

Turns out, I spoke to a couple of other individuals in other firms who had the same experience. One gentleman was so angry that he decided to do a LOT of digging…..and was told that purchasing had signed numerous vendors to protect themselves from any image of impropriety, but the reality was that they have 2 ‘Preferred Vendors” who wine and dine them at incredibly lavish restaurants, send them on exquisite trips and buy them fabulous gifts, so unless one is prepared to offer up even better gifties, there is absolutely NO chance of ever doing any business in that firm. ….. . . . And it just gets BETTER………just this week a close business friend was offered a contract in that firm through a personal friend. He went for an interview, and was then sent to meet the Vice President as part of the so called vetting process. On his way to leave, the VP told him that he expected $5.00 per hour in CASH for every hour he worked there. My friend was speechless. He shook the VP’s hand and left. Now he finds himself in the situation where he needs the revenue but has no intention of paying. He is terrified that the VP will find an excuse to terminate him if he doesn’t pay up. THIS IS INCREDULOUS.

For the record, this is a huge semi public corporation, vendors are screened within an inch of their lives, but NO ONE is watching the employees who are making these rules and enforcing them. Increasingly we hear of companies where everyone from the Secretary, Purchasing and Senior VP’s are receiving huge gifts from vendors. Apart from being beyond dishonest, the other serious problem is that this behaviour is stifling small industry.
If start-ups are the driving force for the success of a growing economy, they are systematically being choked out before they have a chance. Many companies are forcing their suppliers to produce their financial records, and allow them to audit their accounts at any time. This is arrogant to a fault.
If a small start-up has an incredible product but a minus cash flow, how are they ever to get their product to market? To say these practices are disgraceful is an understatement.
One last comment on these practices, is that it is also a dishonest power play enabling large corporations to effectively steal great ideas from these little firms as they do not have the financial means to protect themselves.

Where are the ethics in this??

At some point these practices will be exposed and it will be a frightening sight to see the public reaction to this.

Trying to get perspective