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Bait and switch

Recently, I signed up for Amazon's unlimited cloud storage, but received an email from the company this week.

The email said they changed my terms and conditions and even though I've uploaded several hundred gigabytes of files, I no longer have unlimited storage.

It made me think if I owned a restaurant ,how would that appear? In fact, what about some other annoying industries.

AMAZON

Mr. Amazon: “I'd like to order a beef burger with a side salad and French fries.”

Waiter: “Certainly, sir.”

Half way through the meal, the waiter returns, removes a half-eaten beef burger and a salad. “I'm sorry, sir, our terms and conditions have changed and you no longer have the full beef burger and salad. You now only have half a burger. If you'd like to continue with the whole beef burger, our prices just doubled.”

OIL INDUSTRY

Mrs. Oil Person: “Hello, I'd like to order this Caesar salad followed by the chicken Fettuccine on special for $20, please.”

Waiter: “I am sorry, but just as you walked in, the chicken refinery had an explosion and it is 4 o'clock on a long weekend, so I am afraid it has impacted our supply chain. You know, it's just supply-and-demand economics, you probably would not understand, but the special is now $35.”

THE CONTRACTOR

Contractor: “I would like a pint of beer and a dozen wings with fries please.”

Waiter: “Certainly, sir.”

Half an hour later

Contractor: “Waiter, I ordered half an ago. Where is my beer?”

Waiter: “I'm so sorry, sir, right after you walked in, we got very busy and we started working with a few new clients. I'm sure you understand; we will be with you as soon as we can.”

Waiter delivers his beer and fries.

Contractor: “Excuse me, waiter, where are the chicken wings?”

Waiter: “I'm sorry, sir, we used all our wings for the new customers who turned up after you. We are getting a new supply now and if you'd like to come back tomorrow, you can finish your dinner.”

THE AIRLINE

Mr. FastJet: “I come to this restaurant an awful lot, I love your loyalty program and your food, so I will order a glass of red wine and a New York steak, please.”

Waiter: “Certainly, sir.”

Waiter delivers the food and then returns to the table..

Waiter: “I'm so sorry to inform you sir, we have an overbooked situation. I'm going to have to move you to the outside patio or we could offer you a half-price voucher to visit again in the future once our prices have increased.”

Mr. FastJet: “But I'm one of your most loyal customers; I specifically requested a seat in the restaurant.”

Waiter: “I understand, sir. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it. The computer bumped you out of the restaurant because you showed up 30 seconds late. In the interim, I'm afraid somebody else purchased your seat in the restaurant.”

Of course, no restaurant that operated like this would be in business for more than a few months. It makes you wonder then, why would we keep going back to some businesses who do this to us constantly?



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Decisions under pressure

I remember sitting in the bank hallway with an office across from me.

In that office sat the lady who inquired where I was going to get the money I needed in a few short hours? It was money I urgently needed to deliver to a seller and it was not yet in our account

Late in the day, we had a deadline. We had to close on the purchase of a parcel of land and the funds were not in the account. I had a few hours before my fate was sealed.

In many similar instances people will choose to do a number of things:

  • Put their heads in the sand
  • Panic
  • Get angry and start blaming everybody else for the problem.

In our situation, we needed approximately $300,000 to be able to close on the land deal.

I decided my best role was to sit in the corridor at the bank while the team did their job and made phone calls to potential investors. That way I could turn around check quickly and drive three hours to one of the most important meetings of my life.

The story is not simply about faith. It is about planning, making decisions under pressure and ensuring that everybody on the team is productively moving toward a solution.

Overall, I learned to stay calm, delegate and maintain a sense of humour. In the end this situation worked out positively for us. For many people they get so wound up, they quit even though there was an opportunity to succeed.

Here are my thoughts on the three lessons I learned.

Stay calm

Nothing can be achieved positively by losing your composure. As soon as you give up control of your mind, you also give up the creative solutions that your mind can help you find. If you're working in a team then your team will also react to your lack of composure.

As soon as you feel that sense that you're going to lose your calm, you need to back away breathe deeply and get back into the zone that can help you be productive and find a solution. For me that can be as simple as taking a pen and paper and simply writing down all the potential outcomes of the situation.

Delegate

One thing I have learned is that I do not have all the answers. My strengths lie in certain areas and members of my team have corresponding strengths.

It is important in critical situations to effectively and authoritatively delegate tasks in order to find a solution. This one step alone can help maintain your sense of composure. Fundamentally it puts you in a critical role in finding that solution although credit must be given to the team ultimately.

Sense of humour

I have never been short of a sense of humour. Certainly on that day Cheryl, the bank clerk, was having a good laugh at my expense as I explained the situation I had put myself in. Thankfully at the end we were able to genuinely laugh as I delivered a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers to Cheryl for letting me sit outside her office all morning.

There are so many instances in our lives where we can lose our composure unnecessarily.

Sometimes, it's dealing with children, other times it's as simple as being held up in a shopping lineup. Whether are you in a car driving in heavy traffic or in the boardroom facing criticism for a recent decision, the only way out is with a sense of calm and a plan.



Chief gas-price storyteller

I apologize I just could not help myself. Enough of the silly excuses for why gasoline is changing price. Who pays Dan McTeague to make these extremely creative statements?

Here is a chronological list of quotes, one of which is not attributable to McTeague to highlight the creativity in reasons for pricing fluctuation. Just tell us we are “over a barrel” – pardon the pun.

My favourite creative excuse has to do with price increases at the pumps due to a solar eclipse.

To do some due diligence of your own, check out the historical rates for gasoline — five-history for West Texas Intermediate Crude and one for RBOB Gasoline on NYMEX — with the following links:

https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/CL1:COM and https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/XB1:COM

It is noteworthy that futures of RBOB Gasoline are trading lower and U.S. output of gasoline is almost at an all time high. With that being said, inventories are hitting a record low because of U.S. export success. Therein, probably lies the real reason. The market data allows and supports manipulation of the pump prices. I am no expert, but enough with the BS excuses.

Then like me, you can ponder why we even bother wondering what the excuse is.

From what I see, both oil and gas are a long way off historical values and are relatively stable so the only area to line pockets is from the pumps with any flimsy excuse necessary to do so.

March 2015 Prices going up.

“It’s a little bit like running after the sun as it falls, or a mirage in the desert: The further you run, the further it seems to be elusive,” McTeague said.

He blames a mix of everything from high taxes to issues with U.S. refineries and changing American driving habits for the Lower Mainland’s situation.

Over the last six months, oil prices have fallen from about $80 a barrel to about $50.

May 12, 2016 Prices going up (but they don’t come down for the opposite reason.)

McTeague said wholesale prices for gas have climbed five cents in the last two days.

He said that means gas stations in most parts of B.C. could push their retail prices as high as $1.12 per litre by Friday, although he estimates the increase will be short-lived.

July 2016 Prices going down

McTeague attributes that to an "abundance of supply" by U.S. refineries meeting North American demand as well as international political upheaval and its effect on oil prices.

March 2017 (Exactly where does our gas come from?)

“My expectation of $1.40 will be easily exceeded,” said McTeague. “At the current $1.38.9, we’re at a 13-cent-per-litre retail margin. Tomorrow at this time, we’ll be paying $1.41.”

McTeague said it’s mostly due to disruptions in two refineries in Washington state: Phillips 66 in Ferndale and BP Cherry Point.

April 2017 (It’s OK, that was not us, we get our gas from Chicago area… wait a minute it was us)

On Wednesday, fuel analyst Dan McTeague of GasBuddy.com said he suspects the recent spikes are due to the turnaround time for the Phillips 66 Ferndale refinery just south of the border in Washington state being delayed. Speculators are concerned there isn’t enough gasoline with such high demand.

August 2017 (A-ha. So no another analyst says we get our gas from West Coast US. Phew now it almost makes sense)

But Keith Schaefer, editor of Oil and Gas Investments Bulletin, said pumps in Western Canada are generally insulated from production issues in the Gulf Coast.

"We shouldn't see much impact at all," Schaefer told CTV News. "We get most of our refinery products from the West Coast of the United States and Alberta."

August 2017

Gasbuddy.com senior analyst Dan McTeague told Global B.C News that the hike in retail gas prices is attributable, in part, to tomorrow's solar eclipse.

That's because gas stations in the Pacific Northwest are loading up on supplies in expectation of increased traffic, which is enabling oil companies to sell their product at higher prices.

August 2017

Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, also noted there is a sizeable stockpile of oil and gas, so supply shouldn't be an immediate concern.

The demand for gas is also expected to diminish come September.

September 2017

Petroleum industry analyst Dan McTeague of gasbuddy.com had warned motorists not to fill up Tuesday because a five cent a litre price drop was on the way Wednesday with the seasonal shift to cheaper “winter spec” gas.

And now…

November 2017 (Do we get it from the Gulf and Midwest or don’t we?)

Spokesman Dan McTeague says prices are expected to remain high across Western Canada due to a spike on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the shutdown of the Explorer Pipeline, which delivers fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast to much of the Midwest. 

By now, if you are as confused as me. Bottom line, it does not matter, we are a pawn on the chessboard.





Alternative democracy

It seems like anything that doesn’t follow a typical, truthful or legal pattern today is simply an alternative fact, alternative truth or perhaps an alternative legality.

I learned first hand this week how pervasive this “alternative lifestyle” is.

My wife and I attended a local community water users association meeting. It seemed to be a fairly simple meeting after I saw the agenda and budget proposal, which led to user fees.

We were one of the members and were happy to support the board recommendation. 

As is typical in these meetings, a personal agenda often trumps what is best for the community and the board of directors is basically charged with running the organization with two over-riding principles:

  • Run the association within the laws of the province
  • Make decisions that benefit the community

Seemed simple enough. They recommended that members be billed in one of two ways. These were the only two options that met the Provinces Act.

So we had to choose one of the two. Pretty simple, either we are billed by the number of water licences we own or the amount of water we use. 

As the debate ensued, it turned out that it is not that simple. Individually, people went to great lengths to debate how they would be hard done by if either one of the two options were chosen.

The meeting turned into a lesson in Roberts Rules of Order and continued until it was established that there was a hidden third option. 

The third option was to forget the province’s guidelines and continue to operate the way the association had for all the years — outside of the law. The problem arose when the board indicated that they could not support that option since the association’s lawyer had made a pitch to comply or watch out, the province will take over.

This seemed like a big deal to me. I could not support something running illegally, so I voiced my opposition to this new found “alternative option." I voted against the motion. 

The proponent was, however, gleeful. He won, I lost. Mission accomplished. Basically nothing has changed and we can continue to ignore provincial acts designed to ensure safe delivery of water and proper stewardship of public funds.

I guess we would have to live with the decision, we are but one vote; it was democracy at its finest. 

What perplexed me was that the individual who proposed the idea of just ignoring the law pulled me aside at the end and said that he wanted my support.

He was at his wit's end over a community issue related to noise. Too much noise in his world and the noise was illegal. His challenge was that the RCMP were doing absolutely nothing about his noise complaint.

In his world, on this matter, there was no alternative reality, it was simple. There is a law and the RCMP were there to ensure compliance. We needed to lobby.

Would I support his cause? 

There may alternative realities in the world today, but there does have to be semblance of logic to the reasoning.



More It's All About . . . articles

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About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
mark@markjenningsbates.com
 

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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