The first time this happened I thought I was missing something, but then my friend Sam told me she had the same experience, and we both wonder if it’s legal. I would love to hear your thoughts.
The company in question is Wells Fargo bank, but I haven’t done any research to know if they are the only ones doing this. They have an online bill pay service that I used once earlier in the year. I started by enter all of my bill information, ranging from Seattle City Light to my credit card bills, and as I entered the names of the companies and addresses, the forms would pre-populate with a lot of the correct information so it seemed the bank had a clear and easy way to pay the bills, and I figured it would be instantaneous from the moment I set the date I wanted the bills to be paid. Well that month all of my bills were late because I was wrong to assume they were wiring the money, even though that technology exists and it’s no big deal.
I went into the bank to ask them about it and what they said was that if I entered Monday March 2nd as the date they should pay the bill, Wells Fargo says it will take up to three days for the check to actually get mailed (so it would go out as late as Thursday the 5th, and then to allow up to ten more days for it to be received and cashed (so now we are up to March 15th). So if my bill is due on March 15th, I need to ask Wells Fargo to send it 13 days before that. That part is incredibly stupid to me, so I don’t know why anyone would ever use the service. So I felt dumb, and I got hit with some late fees, but I lived to tell about it. That’s a “how” I won’t ever use again when it comes to how I pay bills.
But just because it’s stupid doesn’t make it illegal.
The part where I wonder if it’s legal is the fact that if I have a $1,000 credit card bill, and I ask Wells Fargo to pay my credit card company on March 2nd, I expect my credit card company will get the money on or before March 15th and that’s when they cash the check, that’s when the $1,000 leaves my account. Nope. Wells Fargo takes it out on March 2nd and they hold it until my credit card company cashes the check. That’s up to 13 days of float they get. Unreal.
Is that legal?
Of course first and foremost this is a fun example of getting out of a “how” trap. The outcome, the what, that is needed is a dry field, and in the absence of a roof or tarps to prevent the field from getting wet, they then had to dry the field, and the “how” that is ordinarily used there is various forms of rollers or squeegees with lots of people on the grounds crew pushing the water off the field.
Here, someone decided to do some rethinking and figured that a helicopter in some senses is a giant blower and that might get the job done. Judging from the articles, it looks like it didn’t work, but it’s an innovative way to get to the outcome needed.
The other piece that I like about this is the financial side. When I showed the picture to my friend Don, he said “that’s a pretty expensive way to dry a baseball field.”
However, the people were already at the stadium, and while the concession stands were probably doing a great business selling peanuts and candy and cracker jacks, the cost of rescheduling a game of this size is very high. So I like that someone took a chance at something that seems outrageously expensive, in an effort to avoid a much higher cost. Again, it’s a shame it failed, but in the scheme of things, a $5,000 helicopter fee is peanuts in the overall scheme of things.
This morning I was reading the paper and at the bottom of the front page was an ad for ExxonMobil, with the heading “fuel for thought” and a clever picture of a circle that was a tire, but the top portion of the circle was what looked like a gas gauge on “full” but it read “1 Billion” and the lead copy on the ad read “How can we save up to a billion gallons of gasoline?” and points out that proper tire inflation is a way to save a lot of money on gas. I will add that I tried to find the ad on the ExxonMobil site and the New York Times site, and I couldn’t find it anywhere (if any of you reading this can find it, I will update the post and thank you in the post), otherwise there would be an image of the ad itself.
Anyway, the simple observation here is that this is a classic “how” trap where we think about “how” to save money on gas, we think about
1) driving less
2) buying cheaper gas, or
3) buying a more fuel efficient vehicle
Tire inflation is just something most of us never think about, and we don’t think about how much it really impacts our driving. It is hard to measure how much you save with properly inflated tires, but it makes a huge difference and I will give you two examples of why I know this.
Many years ago I was on a business trip in Montreal and it was forty degrees below zero, not including the wind chill which took it under 80, and there was a lot of snow on the ground, but my cab driver didn’t have chains on his tires. I asked him about it and he said that all you have to do in those specific conditions is let some air out of your tires and that provides enough grip on the road (which is resistance – which burns more gas) to not need tires. I thought that was pretty interesting. I didn’t think of the fuel consumption point until today when I read this ad, but it makes sense.
The other example is something that I learned over 20 years ago when I was doing a lot of biking on the streets of Seattle (after co9llege I was saving money for grad school). I had a mountain bike, my trusty Fuji Cadenza (which I still ride) and I used to ride it everywhere. When I bought it, with it’s big knobby tires, the bike shop owner pointed out that bikes have to be able to support very large people, and they are tested to support a 300 pound person, and at the time I weighed 150 pounds, he told me I could inflate the tires to double the recommended pressure which was about 120 PSI. You should try it. It was like walking in soft sand compared to walking on a sidewalk. I can go so much faster than any other mountain biker, still, because my tires have so much less resistance. It is really amazing.
So that’s why I am not surprised that we can save a billion gallons of gasoline (and not just ExxonMobil gasoline . . .) with proper tire inflation. If we want to get really serious about it, we should suggest that people in drier cities drive with smooth tires in the Summer, because all of those ridges in tires are for rain and they add a lot of resistance.
A couple of years ago, a Seattle morning radio personality was talking with his very overweight sidekick Joe about the need for Joe to lose weight. When Joe, the father of a little girl, expressed only mild motivation to lose weight, Bob offered an jolting observation that was almost caffeinated enough itself for me to skip my second cup of joe “how many fat people over 80 do you know?” Gulp. Good point.
But going in the other way, about the benefits of being downright skinny, the front page of the paper today had this article about an experiment to test whether the same reduced calorie diet that had proven to extend the lifespan of mice would have a similar result in primates, in this case rhesus monkeys. There’s clearly some debate about the interpretation of the results, and I find it very funny, and a little sad that it’s all but a given that people don’t have the discipline to reduce their caloric intake if it means living a lot longer.
“Few people can keep to a diet with 30 percent fewer calories than usual. So biologists have been looking for drugs that might mimic the effects of caloric restriction, conferring the gain without the pain. One of these drugs is resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, though in quantities too small to have any effect.”
Funny that they are thinking of drugs to simulate reduced caloric intake.
But the thing that struck me about this entire piece was that it seems to be a given that we want people to live longer. Just in the last 150 years years life expectancy has already increased over 40%, and it’s very likely many of us are on a trajectory to see our 100th birthday. And while that changes how long we work and how much health care costs and all the rest of it, making it to 70 and 80 still seems like a pretty good run to me. Just because we figure out how to make people live a lot longer, let’s be thoughtful in looking at whether we should do that just because we can achieve that outcome.
My work is all about outcomes, and I see so many people every day assuming that they should do something because they can – I just hope people can take a step back more often and ask whether they should be doing something, just because they can. The atom bomb is another example of something that once we figured it out, it got used pretty quickly. Let’s be careful with what we do with the results of these experiments.
And besides, I kind of like the idea of an unlimited diet some days . . . (the monkey on the right).
Just when I thought the government couldn’t give lighter hand slaps for fraud, corruption, and general sleaze, I read this story in the paper today about Beazer Homes USA and their fraudulent practices.
Basically a few lower level employees got fired, but the CEO is staying in his job and isn’t going to jail, and the board remains unchanged, oh – and the CEO got a big bonus even though the company lost hundreds of millions last year. If the government really wants executives and boards to rethink breaking the law, or that breaking the law will have any result other than an increase in salary and bonus, then this is a huge and startling step in the wrong direction.
As the article describes, in 2007 it was reported by a North Carolina newspaper that “fraud was committed in numerous ways.”
Problem #1 – a newspaper discovered the fraud, not a regulatory body or a consumer.
What are the regulators doing? Is there no oversight at all?
So now Beazer has agreed to pay $15 million as part of their penalty for their bad behavior, largely selling homes to people who couldn’t afford them. Hard to know from the article how much fraud was involved, but with over $400 million in losses at Beazer, I am guessing $15 million doesn’t scratch the surface.
But it gets a lot worse.
Problem #2 – the company knows the names of the people it defrauded but they don’t have to make any effort to notify or help them.
“If the company knows a particular customer was defrauded, and by how much, it is under no obligation to point that out to the customer.”
This is where it starts to get totally insane. If Beazer and the government know the specific names of people who were defrauded, and the amount, AND there is now $15 million to pay them back, they aren’t required to notify them (let alone apologize)? It’s up to the homeowners to do the research and figure this out? So the company that is in the business of making and selling homes (the expert), expects their customer, probably having little or no expertise in mortgages, let alone fraud detection, to figure all of this out and file a claim? Well, at least they can hire a smart lawyer to help them sort this out, right?
Problem #3 – the victims of the crimes can’t hire lawyers to help them sort through this.
Well, that’s not the exact wording, but when the article points out that “no money can go to lawyers who help these homeowners” – if the lawyers can’t get paid to help the homeowners, then I think the odds are low that they will be able to hire a good lawyer to help.
Problem #4 – the boss got a big bonus, got to keep his job, and so did the board.
“If a boss can preserve his deniability about crimes committed by his company – perhaps by showing little curiosity about just how the profits are being earned when he is taking in millions from cashing in stock options – then he can escape being held accountable if the crimes are eventually uncovered.”
The CEO claimed to know nothing of the fraud, and presumably that is at least part of the reason he gets to keep his job and not get arrested, but that’s crazy. And what was the board doing all this time?
Given the magnitude of the real estate and banking mess, don’t we need harsher penalties that motivate executives and boards to pay attention to what is causing profits and losses and take accountability for them, while at the same time not block the consumer from knowing when they have been wronged?
I don’t know why we think any of this will get better anytime soon if we don’t rethink enforcement.
There’s little debate about what is the oldest profession in the world, so it’s a good bet that one of the oldest sayings in the world is “sex sells” and that has never been more true in the age of the internet.
I am not going to bother to dig up the statistics, many of us have read and heard that the first place big money was made on the internet was porn, and because of that, the people in porn had to blaze a trail in making internet transactions trustworthy, making it much easier for companies that were growing up (with fewer limitations on how grown up their customers were . . .) to offer secure transactions over the internet.
It looks like porn is at it again, but this time in a less obvious way.
The article in the paper this morning (here) was on the front page of The New York Times and I think that’s probably where it belonged. The key of the article is captured by this quote:
“On the Internet, the average attention span is three to five minutes,” said Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment. “We have to cater to that.”
Basically, the thrust of the article is that the porn industry is removing plots from their films because they don’t have time to do character development and storyline and still have time to deliver what their customer wants when the customer attention span is three to five minutes.
This is a big deal and it extends well beyond porn given how much internet usage is increasing across so many demographic segments. Given that people are already selling songs one at time, instead of full albums, and books like my book Rethink can be purchased electronically a chapter at a time, there are precedents for more bite-size demand from the consumer, but this lays out the requirement more explicitly than I have seen previously.
Newspapers and publishers now have to rethink what they need to cut out of their content en route to these three to five minute segments. This is the sad reality of the world we live in that print books and the printed Sunday New York Times are becoming less and less popular, but content creators and managers need to make the adjustment that porn has already made.
Hopefully they keep the story lines.
I have to say, it was with very mixed emotions that I read Paul Krugman’s piece on healthcare reform yesterday which is here. On the one hand, he is absolutely right, that we have to look around the world to find examples of countries that have figured out how to deliver healthcare in scale to the masses without breaking the bank. That point is 100% valid, but sadly he stopped there.
Which is why I was delighted to see the article Paul O’Neill wrote here, on the same physical page, albeit below the fold. O’Neill points out that there are some astonishing statistics about basic flaws in healthcare related to things as basic as infections in hospitals. Beyond the lofty overall comparisons that Krugman offers, O’Neill is dead on in the need to focus on more tactical, basic mistakes that shouldn’t be tolerated. It is nothing short of inexcusable that there are not already controls in place to enforce these policies (absent some obvious lack of basic human motivation to do the right thing which David Brooks wrote about today very elegantly today here).
I talk a lot about what O’Neill did for Alcoa in the Rethink book, specifically his ability to find the right metric that drives overall success. I have to say the metrics he points out in this Monday article seem more glaringly obvious, and I am a bit disappointed that Nobel laureate Krugman chose to give this issue such a simplistic spin – O’Neill, again, has hit the nail on the head in terms of what’s needed.
I just hope the Obama team read this O’Neill piece so they can focus on fixing some basic problems, rather than just seeing if they can make their cost models align with the rest of the world.
Two weeks ago Paul Krugman talked about the liquidity “gap” as the big issue in this recession.
In his piece today here, he focused on the recent news of higher than expected unemployment. While I concede that unemployment inching toward 10% is troubling, I still get back to something I wrote about a couple of weeks ago – we need several specific goals so that we can really know when we are making progress. Focusing on one measure right now, out of the context of all of the other factors in this economy just isn’t very helpful.
What level of unemployment is the target in the short term? How much spending is enough consumer spending? What level of unemployment is enough progress? How much additional (or less) regulation is needed in financial services? There needs to be a list of key indicators so that people stop jumping up and down about one of them, largely out of context.
Krugman says the Obama stimulus plan to create 3 .5 million jobs isn’t “remotely enough” but he doesn’t define “enough” and I am sure he doesn’t think it’s realistic to get unemployment to zero. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if creating that many jobs in the right places would go a long way (please create some infrastructure jobs in Washington state to fix the horrible roads so my car doesn’t take such a beating), but I don’t have enough visibility into the other key drivers to know what else has to happen in parallel with that to be “enough.”
If we don’t define enough, if we don’t define success, how are we ever going to declare victory?
See the interview that was conducted live on the Business News network. Click here.