Category Archives: Consideration

The Taxman Taketh, and taketh, and……

One hopes, that in death, the taxman would be forgiving, but it appears that is far from the case. Not only are they not forgiving, but they harass  and intimidate to such a point that it is abominable. Imagine, your life partner for nearly 50 years has died after a long illness, first  your joint bank accounts are frozen, and you find yourself with virtually no way of accessing your money. No end of forms to fill in at the bank, notary, and finally accountants. All the proper documentation produced endlessly, still no way of accessing your cash…months pass, the forms from the banks and government are endless, and it appears the only way to deal with the never ending saga is to hire a notary and have the accountants deal with the government. Income taxes must be filed, forms stating the value of one’s assets, and declarations, will’s to be produced….and ten  months later, when one would hope it was finally coming to an end, the government in their infinite wisdom re-assess the tax forms going back several years, and decide to charge even more tax.

This is the way the government deals with those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Do you think this is one isolated case?

Think again.

Over the last year, we have heard of no end of government bailouts for large industry with the excuse that jobs must be saved. No one has actually stepped forward to explain where all the billions of dollars which are being used are coming from. Senior executives in some of these corporations are giving themselves huge ‘retention’ bonus’ to stay, in the very companies they have pillaged and destroyed by their greed. We hear of isolated cases of lawsuits against the senior executives, but for the most part, the populace is remarkably silent. Why you ask?

For the simple reason that they are being bombarded with tax bills by the government and are scrambling around stressing out trying to figure out where that extra $2000 or $5000 is coming from when they are already stretched to the limit.

In the last year, I must have spoken to 50 people who are being re-assessed for taxes, which, in many cases were prepared by accountants and not the individuals themselves. Every myriad of additional taxation, estate tax, income tax, re-evaluation of past taxes, revision of deductions, RRSP’s, and more. In every case, the person I have spoken to is quietly freaking out as they paid a professional to prepare their taxes, and they are being re-assessed, and are under the impression that they are the only one.

The man who owns a sun tanning studio who has had a ‘life style’ audit.

The decorator who was obliged to give up his fabulous office of 30 years due to a huge back tax audit.

The small business owner who discovered his accounts were seized, and had no way to pay his employees.

The telecommuter in the IT industry who has to provide proof that the portion of his home is a certain percentage of overall square footage, and is not used for any other purpose.

The consultant who is being audited for having a smaller than usual income tax return.

The widow.

The homeowners renting out a couple of rooms in their huge empty house as a way to help pay the escalating property taxes.

The retired couple living on an increasingly small budget as their investments are losing money instead of providing an income stream.

These people are typical individuals from every walk of life, eking out a living the best they can in a world recession

It is time to speak out. We see and hear about every sort of protest except taxation. Taxation which was originally a temporary thing, and which now puts people in jail or on the street when the government seizes their bank accounts, property and wages. No consideration whatsoever as to the damage they are doing to  the credit records of the hundreds of thousands of individuals they are assessing, many times it is inaccurate, but the damage they cause is irreparable.

You are NOT the only one.

The only way this problem will go away is if everyone speaks about it openly and agrees that this strong arm approach has to stop.

Suggesting that law abiding citizens who have paid for an accountant and are being re-assessed are ‘dead-beat’s’ is neither attractive nor the truth.

The Dating Game

There have been more books and articles written on this subject, being that it effects both sexes equally. How to find a Millionaire, How to know if He/She is Cheating, an overabundance of “How-To’ sex manuals, and of course more romance novels than one could ever imagine, and of course, love songs.

Common sense seems to go out the window where love is concerned. No matter how brilliant someone is, love turns this giant genius with an over the charts IQ to mush. In our lifelong quest to find the perfect partner, we tend to overlook what, to our friends and families, turn out to be the monumental flaws of the loved one, and the list of horrors applies equally to both sexes. Members of the ‘fairer’ sex can be so cruel, manipulative, scheming and downright dishonest that it is unbelievable.

Take one successful businesswoman, quoted internationally with press coverage which is amazing, she has mastered the art of re-stating works of others, then promoting them as works of her own. Her Rolodex (using the expression to make a point) would put most senior executives to shame, all brightly coded as to their level of usefulness. Ministers, Presidents, Socialites, Members of the Press, they are all cleverly encoded. The level of Military Style precision in knowing how to network in order to meet her prey is something that most military strategists could use as a ‘how to’ guide. She has had multiple affairs and marriages, and has continued numerous affairs throughout her marriages and relationships, and in fact slept in one bed with one man, got up in the morning, went to the courthouse and married someone else. Yes ,you did read correctly, went home to bed with her current man, got up, changed and went to marry someone else. Boyfriend was called throughout the day by friends asking what was going on, and subsequently had the news confirmed in the press. He unfortunately suffered a nervous breakdown, his friends were horrified. Within months of her marriage, she was having steamy affairs with a myriad of other men, some single, some married, all extremely wealthy, including one older titled one in France. She continued her research, not happy with her latest husband, and met her new victim . She detailed his friends and lifestyle, associates, clubs, interests and habits with a fervor  which was unmatched. He was married, and living a very public life with his current wife. She was able to be introduced to them at several affairs, and flirted madly with him, snaring her latest catch. A very, very rich large catch. Will this marriage last?  The question blows in the wind. The only thing she is now missing is a title, and it is believed that through her international contacts, she is keeping that option open.

Another local socialite who was seeing more than one well-heeled gentleman, decided that it was time to settle down, she gave them all the same ultimatum, at the same time, propose or leave. One unfortunate lad was truly in love with her, but not in a position to propose, he left on a business trip for a couple of weeks, and returned to be told that she was engaged to someone else, and the Banns had been posted in the church, the announcement in the newspapers, the invitations and wedding venue chosen. When he explained that he hadn’t formally proposed, he was actually threatened by the ‘lady’s’ father with a lawsuit. He went through with the wedding. Within a year, his loving bride discovered that although he was famous, he was not financially very viable. She began a series of affairs and promptly divorced him and married someone else, much higher up the food chain. This time however, her mother had done careful financial background checks to ensure that he was as wealthy as people thought.

She has had extensive facial and body re-constructive surgery, and has created a beauty, unrecognizable from her previous self, combined with her extraordinary PR in international magazines, she has mastered the art of re-invention. She has re-located to London and is also seeking a husband with a title and a family seat. The storm of PR is amazing. The reality of her true self is astounding. A very middle class background, no formal education to speak of, totally re-invented family tree. One has to ask oneself, if these highly successful business men know to what extent their wives manipulated them to become their wives, or do they only see the trophy wife on their arm and are oblivious to the rest.

One flak suggested that a lot of these men are total predators in business and are flattered with all the attention bestowed upon them with these women. The pre-nup out the window in many cases. Some of these women will do whatever is necessary in order to acquire the wealth.

All this brings me to one last anecdote…of an overweight socialite who met the partner of a large legal firm at a dinner party, only to discover that he was single, wealthy, and had properties scattered about the globe, albeit 25 years her senior. She threw herself at him and made herself available to him for social events and dinner parties. When his health took a turn for the worst (it was well known that he was ill) she made her way to the hospital to sit at his side and never left. She expressed her love to him and how much she wanted to be his wife, so the minister was sent to the hospital room and they were married. He lived on much longer than the six months to a year that was expected, and her unpleasantness towards him was horrific. She was secretly hoping he would die as soon as they were married. She now lives in his spectacular home and lives the jet-set life, wintering

in the island home, summering somewhere else, and jetting to Europe at a moment’s notice.

Due to the speed to the wedding, there was no pre-nup.

So is there such a thing as true love? Absolutely. And it is something that occurs when one least expects from the person you least expect if from.

People who fall in love for all the right reasons have no reason to cheat, lie or cat around, as they know that they have found  perfection, which doesn’t necessarily have the biggest bank account or the best looks. Look around you and see the older couples holding hands and smiling at each other, they may know the secret of life.

Telephone Etiquette

There is nothing more infuriating to me than someone who insists they absolutely, positively, must speak to me urgently at the office, who have associates interrupt what I am doing to take an ‘urgent’ telephone call from someone soliciting me because they have decided I MUST have the product they are selling. From Financial Planners, Insurance Agents, Computer Repair companies, Charities, Telephone and Internet providers offering great deals (why didn’t they offer the great deal when you signed up originally?)  My immediate reaction to these individuals is to tell them to remove my name from their list and never call again, ever.

Perhaps (probably) I am old fashioned, but as a customer, I should be able to decide what I want, when I want it, from whom I want it, and when I want it, and not have an overly aggressive telemarketer make that decision for me.

The most hilarious ones are those who, when hearing a female voice, order you to pass the call to the President of the company. .My response, ‘How may I help you?” then more aggression…..and insistence that they speak with the President.One went so far as to ask for my name and threatened to report me to my supervisors, I continued to politely inquire who was on the phone, the reason for the call, the name of their company and then their supervisor. More screams. I finally let the abusive telemarketer that I was the President of the company, and this behaviour was not acceptable.

The best sales individuals are those who ask if it is convenient to speak and if not, when it would be appropriate to follow up. Let the client set the parameters.

One can argue vigorously on both sides of the equation, that timing is everything. You could miss that golden opportunity when someone else gets there first and makes the sale of the century. Unfortunately, the flip side is lurking in the background, the client finds the calls annoying and requests that you never call again, when do you draw the line?

With email, voice mail,  Blackberry’s,Iphone’s, and all the various and sundry communication devices available today, a remarkable number of people have completely forgotten about etiquette. If someone calls you, regardless of whether or not you think you want to speak with them, RETURN THE CALL. You never know. Someone could be trying to sell you a service or product you don’t want, take the call, politely spend one minute with them and give them the benefit of the doubt. Then, in the event you are not interested in them or their product, advise them that it would be a waste of time to call again, and as everyone’s time is valuable, it would be in everyone’s best interest.

We call people all the time, sometimes it is for references, information, product information, or to follow-up on a referral. It is incredible the number of people who don’t have the common courtesy to return the call.

We have discovered over the years, that it is one of the easiest ways to establish their actual level in a company and relative salary. Our rule of thumb now is that the more easily accessible someone is, the higher up the food chain they actually are. The more difficult they are to reach by email or telephone, they are trying to show the world how important they are and how busy, but in fact they are low level managers on the fast track to nowhere.

We hear that in the world of dating, people now leave voicemail messages that they don’t want to continue their relationships, and ‘have a nice life’ …which is the height of disrespect. If you no longer wish to be with someone, and have shared time together, do the right thing, and speak to them in person and tell them, even if the conversation becomes unpleasant. You never know where or how you will run into the person in the future.  If you once cared about them, and things have changed, it is no reason to be rude.

In the world of social climbing, it is also the new way for people to cut out those who they no longer deem to be socially acceptable. There are endless stories of people being un-invited to events and the message being left on voice mail. Would you like it to happen to you? Do you REALLY think you are that special?

Don’t ever forget, what goes up comes down even faster, harder and messier…..it can be your social life, career, anything, and people do remember rudeness, and as is human nature, it will be their great pleasure to give you back what you gave to them…..

Honorifics

Miz, Miss, Misses, Mister, Doctor, Sir, Madame, Your Honor…these are titles which were created for a reason..try to remember that, and use them as appropriate.

In Europe for the most part, people continue to use and honor titles, and are in fact still fairly awed by them, however in North America, everyone seems to wish to show how equal they are, even when they are not.

There is nothing more unpleasant than a shop clerk, telemarketer, customer service representative,

receptionist, condescending gate-keeper at a restaurant, who takes it upon themselves to call you by your first name. As the CLIENT, if strikes me that it is my choice by which title I wish to be addressed, not them. Furthermore, abbreviating my name and calling me ‘ROZ’ is the rudest one can possibly be. I am not, have never been, will never be, ROZ, but it is amazing the number of service people who have taken it upon themselves not only to call me by my first name, but to abbreviate it as well.

If someone has spent most of their life getting an education, they don’t want to be called ‘Dave’ if their name is David and they are a medical doctor, likewise the judge who finds himself being called by his first name in a shop after the clerk has seen his first name on a credit card.

I have experienced former Prime Ministers being approached by total strangers who address them by their first name and spoken to totally casually, although they have never met.

Take note folks, there are a lot of us out there who find you offensive. We pay your salary. If we become insulted enough, we will take our custom elsewhere, and you will be out of a job.

Collection Agencies

Overzealous thugs.

No, I am not being kind. If most people were aware of how their credit information is used, and the abuses in the system, they would think twice before giving all the information freely which is requested.

The current system works on the magical assumption that most people work and are paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, and therefore all bills are due on the beginning of the month. However, during the last 10 years, that situation has changed drastically, and the financial models which are used are in many cases no longer suitable. For individuals who are self-employed, one does the work, invoices, and waits anywhere from 10 days to 2 months. The total elapse time is 3 months. The credit system works on the old model, so if someone is 3 months behind paying their bills, they are immediately labeled a ‘deadbeat’, and bills are placed into collection.

With more and more people not having land lines, and relying entirely on mobile telephones, and changing their numbers and providers on a fairly regular basis, it makes for interesting times for collectors.

One of my business associates has been bombarded with telephone calls from a collection agency for the past month, with calls at all hours of the day, as well as on the weekend. The bill collector calls his home and asked him to identify himself, which, of course, being in the IT industry, and most importantly within the Identity and Privacy specialist, he refused to do. He asked over and over who they were, why they were calling, and they became increasingly hostile and belligerent over the telephone. He became so exasperated that at one point he threatened to call the police if they didn’t stop calling  over and over. He insisted to speak with a supervisor, also to no avail. Finally, after a complete day of rude non-stop calls, a supervisor finally called back. She confirmed the telephone number, it was correct, she confirmed the name, also correct, after much discussion, she finally admitted she was from a collection agency, so he inquired  exactly which bill it was that he was supposed to have not paid, it was an account he doesn’t have. The conversation ensued, she then asked if he lived in a particular town, considering the telephone number, it would have been impossible as the area codes do not correspond. That being said, she then asked if his birthday was a particular day and a particular month, it was not. So, it turns out, the person they were seeking had the same name, lives in a different area, has a different birth date, and is no relation. She then admitted that they were working their way through the telephone book and calling everyone with that name. No apologies, simply that she would update the file and they would cease calling.

We had a long discussion about the credit system, he then called the telephone company and had to pay to have his telephone number changed and unlisted.

This is disgraceful. The wrong person, the wrong address, the wrong everything, yet legally they have the right to call and threaten and treat people as deadbeats.

What is the reason for this article? To make you all mindful of the way the system works, and to warn you of a credit system gone mad.

Don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you know who they are, and are aware of the use of the information. Give as little as possible, don’t believe the rhetoric about how it is necessary. In most cases it is not.

Humanity

Humanity, Caring, Gentleness, Consideration, Respect

Concepts that appear to be rapidly disappearing in the new Millenium.

It is several days before Christmas, 2007, I recently went out for a drink with a girlfriend who had been away for the week-end. I had been out of town working for a month, and we hadn’t seen one another for a while, wanted to catch up, and interestingly had purchased small gifts for each other during our travels. We ran into some other friends in the restaurant and found ourselves sitting ‘boy-girl-boy-girl’ at the bar, which gave us proximity and opportunity to speak with our other friends.

Normally I would use the word ‘Gentleman’, however following the gist of the conversation, the homily is sadly inappropriate, and his description must be simply that of ‘Person’.

He currently owns a condo in a very high-end building which is about to require monumental repairs, well into the millions, and the condo association has maybe $100,000 in its reserve account. Bad management, to say the very least, but weren’t the owner’s paying attention? A building of this size and age should be sitting on at least a million in reserve. Unfortunate, as it is a heritage building and spectacular.

The architecture is exquisite, the views can take your breath away, and the scale of the apartments, from a bygone era, all with high ceilings, fireplaces, and maid’s quarters.

There are approximately 60 units in the building, so the assessments could range as high as $750,000 for the larger penthouse apartments. Over 50% of the residents are older, retired, and living on fixed incomes. Meetings of the owners with the condo association over the last few weeks have been unpleasant, and frightening for some of the older residents, who clearly do not have the means to finance the massive repairs they are facing. Furthermore, the market value of the units has publicly known, so the chance to sell on the open market has virtually disappeared. To further add insult to injury, as many of them have been in their units for over 30 years, they would require substantial renovations to bring them up to a condition to render them marketable.

This person’s assessment of the situation?…….

He thinks they should sell out for whatever amount they can get and leave. I softly suggested that many of them will need to invest the capital as they will have to pay for moving and rent, that if they are old and frail, they may not be able to survive on the limited amount they would derive from selling in a depressed market. Mr Inconsiderate felt that as they had purchased the units decades ago, they would still be reaping huge benefits compared to the original purchase price, and should be thrilled with the profit.

It is cold, damp, and winter here. These people planned to live out their lives in these wonderful apartments, not be forced to sell and move in winter.

He seems to find nothing wrong in pushing them out to make way for ‘those with fat wallets’ as he put it.

This thinking upset me considerably, and struck me viscerally as what is wrong with the society of today.

His idea is that they should ‘get out’ and make room.

One wonders if we should bring back ‘debtors prison’ as well? If people have lost their jobs and are experiencing a temporary hardship, should they be thrown in the street? In prison? Should we add them to the millions of homeless we see wandering around, instead of allowing them some time to get back on their feet?

Are we better off with ‘tent towns’ full of homeless people, or should we find ways to temporarily help them to get back on their feet.

Think about it. It could happen to you.

First Impressions

Over the years, many people have told me that I should write a book due to the unbelievable number of anecdotes emanating from thousands of meetings and interviews. Every business book you have ever read on ‘Dressing for Success’  starts out screaming at the reader that one only has 3 seconds to make  a good first impression. Unfortunately, far too many people base their so-called great  instincts on first impressions. Over the years, the one thing that is  clear to me, is that they are usually totally wrong.

Growing up in England with an extremely well-connected and elegant  grandmother, I was constantly being chastened about my behavior, and told that a model child should be ‘Seen and Not Heard’, “Speak you are spoken to’ , ‘Say ‘yes, please, no, I beg your pardon’, and respectful of elders. This was repeated AD NASEUM, and was learned the hard way. Being high energy, precocious, and inquisitive were not welcomed. The smallest squeak, and I was dragged out of whatever restaurant, party  or private home, and delivered home, to consider my actions. Other words of wisdom included the very interesting moniker, ‘always treat everyone you meet politely and equally. You never know when the  man you believe is the gardener is the Lord of the Manor, and the upper-class twit with the attitude and holier-than-thou airs, is in fact the butler.

The other one I loved was ‘Treat your servants with kindness and the  utmost of respect as they know all your darkest, deepest secrets”. As  painful as was this learning experience, as useful it has become as an  adult.

Several years ago, I was in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, and met an  older couple in their mid to late seventies. They allowed me to sit  with them, and after speaking with them for some time, they kindly  invited me to tea. They were the epitome of charming, but more  importantly, they were totally smitten with one another even after 50 years of marriage. They kept sneaking little touches and glances at  one another, the rub of a hand or arm, and the look in their  eyes. ..it was like being with 2 love struck teenagers. They were  absolutely charming.

Both of them were wearing clothes that were old and frayed. In the  course of the afternoon , they lost 19 pounds on the races, and  decided to leave before the last race and the rush for the car parks. They insisted that I look them up upon my next trip to London and join  them for tea.

Later on, I ran into some of my friends and was quizzed about my  relationship with them. I said that I had only just met them, but had enjoyed a thoroughly delightful afternoon in their company. Once the laughter had subsided, one of my friends asked if I had any idea who they were other than a ‘sweet older couple’ . I replied that  I had their names but little else. I was then informed that they reside in an enormous castle with artworks on the walls which most museum curators would die for.

There was no attitude, no pretention….they were totally unassuming and self effacing. I enjoyed every second I spent with them, the gift  of their gentleness and love makes me smile as I write. To continue in the theme….

I finally got to learn first hand the expression ‘flabbergasted’ or   ‘dumbstruck’ when in the company of another acquaintance.

We were on a trip together, and this individual regularly struck up conversations with total strangers in restaurants, shops, bars, always  talking about himself and his amazing ‘lifestyle’ . A bubbly  personality who is larger than life, and has an incredible ability to  create a buzz about himself.

People flock like flies to honey.  Entertaining stories about  international trips to exotic locales, island retreats, New York, Palm  Beach, private jets, eating in some of the ‘hottest’ restaurants and clubs in the world. Total strangers flock to be part of the ‘action’  total strangers pick up the tab in bars and restaurants. Invitations  are extended for even more fabulous parties. It is extraordinary how  highly successful business people and politicians are drawn in as if by a magnet, unable to stop themselves.

It is as if they all are hoping that some of this exotic lifestyle and  success will rub off. By being in the presence of such an amazing individual, it will somehow render them more desirable. The harsh reality of this individual, is that they are virtually bankrupt. A rented car, a rented apartment, no savings, credit cards  maxed out.

This example relates equally to both sexes, the fast talking merchant  banker in the $5000 suits and $120,000 car talking about his multi- million dollar deals. Lies in a room in a private club in one city, in a shack in the poor part of another city. Wears the most amazing  designer clothes….all purchased in Vintage stores for a fraction of  the retail price. The girls swoon over him, see instant husband  material, and can visualize their glamorous lifestyles with him jetting around the planet to their even more glamorous homes.

No-one pays the nerdy, pimply computer kid any attention. He is  ignored when he tries to shop, be it for clothes, a car, or in a restaurant. The service staff automatically assume he is broke, and they would rather serve someone who has the means. How wrong they are.  He is worth over $100 million and is under 30. …and he won’t forget.There are many urban legends about people like him buying a business  only to be able to fire the people who treated him poorly.

I recently interviewed a young Asian fellow for a technical computer  position. Upon shaking his hand and feeling the strength in it, I  looked up at his arms and shoulders, then inquired which Martial Arts he studied. He looked at me strangely, and inquired if because he was  Asian I was singling him out. I looked at him quizzically and offered  an answer that was totally unexpected. It was that due to the strength  of his handshake and the musculature of his arms and shoulders, it was  clear to me that he did. He then looked at me, smiled, and inquired if  in fact I had also studied Martial Arts. I told him yes, I had, that I  had looked at Jiu Jitsu, Karate and Kendo. We ended up having a very  interesting conversation about Martial Arts and Southeast Asia. It  turned out that he had only been to Asia for 3 days in his life, and  spoke virtually no Vietnamese, where I had spent considerable time  there, and had a much deeper knowledge and understanding of various  Asian cultures.

The last person in the world with which he expected to have a  conversation like this one, was with a white female.

He thanked me at the end of our meeting for what was one of the most  interesting 2 hours of his life. For many years, I have been visiting Palm Beach, Florida, during the  winter, and realized after many years that one of the things I like  the most is the lack of ‘attitude’ with the service staff in the shops and restaurants. As they are serving some of the wealthiest people in  the US, there is no way to know whether the person in the torn jeans is poor or worth millions, so they err on the side of politeness. It  is wonderful.

Perhaps it is time for most businesses to take a lesson from this tiny  town. All of us have experienced the wrath of the ‘clip-board’ gate-keeper from hell, been given a table next to the toilet, or left standing for ages when we are in a rush, so that the staff can finish their  personal telephone call to their best friend. I have taken to walking out of establishments that allow this type of  behavior. Over time, it has been interesting to note what percentage  of them disappear.

The longest standing restaurants and shops are the ones who recognize  their customers and treat them accordingly. As the person who pays  their bills.

Keep reading….there will be more on this subject……….