Those pushy retail sales people

There is no escaping these people! You know the feeling when you walk into your favorite shoe store to buy a new pair of dress shoes and within 5 seconds, some sales person asks if you need help. Sure, just get out of my face for about 5 minutes and let me COME TO YOU if I have questions, that is how you can help me!! I am sure nearly everyone has dealt with those annoying sales people at one time or another. If they don’t come running after you the minute you walk into the store, like a dog greeting a stranger at the door, they are bound to make you feel guilty if you do not take advantage of a certain special. After all, the special only lasts until the end of the day. It is the best deal in town, blah, blah! I have heard it all in my life, however, I would like to share what happened to me the other night. Luckily, I am still here to talk about it and not in jail for taking out some young salespeople. Of course, I am just kidding, but their actions were borderline bullying of a potential customer.

After work on Friday, I decided to stop by my favorite electronic store, Best Buy, to pick up an accessory for my smartphone. I figured it would be just a short 5 minute trip and I would be out the door. Shortly after entering the store, I was approached by a young gentleman who starting asking me about my cable service. I saw that he was wearing the logo and shirt of my cable company’s competitor.I am very happy with my current service although, naturally, I would like to trim some costs off the service. Right there, I was hooked!! This sales guy saw a golden opportunity to reel me in! He started showing me various offers and the price comparisons. However, I was dealing with a satellite dish service, which does not necessarily work in all locations, especially mine. I grilled him on that fact and about the service contract. Could I get out of it after a short time and return to cable?   He could not guarantee either, but you know, I could save x amount of money each year. That was his main talking point.

This back and forth dialogue went for about 15 minutes and then, one of his sales associates, maybe his boss, joined in on the conversation. They kept harping on the idea that I would save so much money without any guarantees about the service actually working at my location,or whether I could get out of my contract. I felt trapped and started to feel very annoyed. I needed an escape so I mentioned that I would have to think about their offer and come back later. Their reply was “Well, what is there to think about?; why would you want to walk away from such a great deal? That was the last straw for me, I said thank you and walked away. They made me feel like an idiot for not accepting their offer. Worse yet, do I not have the right to walk away and think about?

I am sure others have been in this same situation with some salesperson at a store. We feel trapped and unsure about purchasing a product. There are questions like I have, but some pushy person wants you to buy it right now. I am by no means an expert on sales and selling products, but this treatment of people is way over the top. It is a total turnoff for me as a customer to feel pressured into buying something without giving it much thought. Maybe they don’t teach those things anymore in sales classes. It is all about hooking in some customer so they can make a sales commission. That is ethically, a very poor way of treating people and in my mind and others, a form of bullying.

With social media being huge these days and opportunities for customers to vent their frustrations, why would a sales person act in that manner. They are risking losing not only someone as a customer but many others as well. Once word gets out about their crappy sales tactics, their company might develop a poor reputation that is impossible to overturn. That episode totally turned me off towards potentially switching over to their services from cable. I will visit that electronics store again in the very near future and hopefully, the pushy sales people, who were trying to get me to switch over, will be nowhere to be found.

 

 

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College sports gone too far

College sports these days are certainly not like your dad’s or grandpa’s memories of college athletics. It is a big multi-million dollar business. The cost of televising the current NCCA basketball tourney runs into the billions of dollars. Major college basketball and football are big time sports in this country. It was only a matter of time before the talk of paying players and forming unions surfaced and sure enough, it has. Just last week, members of the Northwestern football team voted to form a union and the move was approved by the National Labor Relations Board. Is this move by Northwestern to form a union a good thing? I have my serious doubts. Lost in all this talk about a very complicated issue are some long-term concerns and issues I have about their actions and what it may lead to.

1.  What about the non-revenue producing sports? I certainly get the fact that a big-time sport at a university such as basketball and football generates millions for the school and the players are largely responsible for that cash cow. If a football union is going to bargain for insurance coverage for the team, what about the tennis, baseball and soccer teams? Are those athletes so less important that they do not get a chuck of the pie? Imagine the potential fighting that could result? Some soccer player will come out and demand that he or she get the same treatment as a football player. Why should players from one sport get paid along with getting insurance coverage and the remaining sports are left out?

2. Will players from public schools be allowed to form unions besides private schools? By law, in some states, an employee of a public university can not collective bargain over such things as wages and insurance. My understanding is that athletes of public, state-run schools cannot form unions. As a result, you have a mixture of schools with unions. Some schools will have them and many will not. That will certainly give the private schools a huge advantage in recruiting. They can more to potential recruits, thus creating a huge talent gap between schools.

3. Suppose a school’s great football program suddenly encounters lean years and the revenue that the sport generates drops. How is the school going to afford covering or paying these athletes? I can see where many athletic departments will suffer if players are guaranteed things from a union contract. It is very similar to a regular union who ends up hurting a company with their demands during a bad economic period.

4. Get ready for strikes. Yes, that dirty s work that unions love! Players who are part of a union will most certainly check on other union teams to make sure they are receiving equal coverage and pay. If not, I can see several scenarios where they go on strike. And it may happen at the worst time, such as before the final four basketball tourney. Image a sports team deciding to go on strike just before the big event and the chaos it would cause? It will make many networks very nervous to say the least!!

The fact that players are making these revelations about how much time they put into their respective sports is extremely troubling. I am reading that players spend full-time hours at their sport and very little on school work. What kind of BS is that! Isn’t the objective of college to help a student become a professional in some field outside of sports? Only a handful of college athletes will ever turn pro in their sports. The NCCA needs to regulate the amount of time a student athlete spends on a particular sport. Spending more than 40 hours a week is totally insane and ridiculous!!

Playing sports should never be the only sole purpose of having a kid attend college. I believe it should be like taking a couple of extra classes during the school year to go along with the normal courses. A sport can teach a student athlete far more things about life than any normal college class. But having said that, it is not meant to totally consume a student athlete of his or her time and energy. The sole purpose of going to college should be to work on getting some kind of degree, not to see how much you can get paid for playing a sport. Sadly, that is not the case in this modern-day of college athletics. Graduation rates are very low for many athletes of those glamorous sports. It is about time this changes and athletes are looked upon as STUDENT-ATHLETES!! not just some jock who temporarily generates money for a school. College is about learning a trade that pays you for many years, unlike any sport. Unfortunately, college sports is slowly turning into a modified version of professional sports. Soon, we will have 18-year-old players whining about not getting paid enough. It is coming, stay tuned. The Northwestern case is just the beginning of what might become the downfall of big time college athletics. I just hope the actions of a few will not ruin it for the majority of division 1 athletes who play sports for the love of the game and value their studies equally.

 

The joy of being single

Every once in a while, I get asked about my relationship status from family members, relatives, co-workers or buddies of mine. When I explain to them that I am single, no girlfriend and not married, I get a couple of reactions.” Well you are a smart man, Mark”, stay single is one response and the other is “Are you not lonely and yearning for someone special” Typically, the second response is more common. It is like people are feeling sorry for me after learning my status. They seem to think that I am missing out on a very enjoyable piece of life. Perhaps they are right, but I think that is very debatable.

I personally think that way too many people assume that getting married will make their lives so much happier. Many young adults see their friends getting married for the first time and they want the same thing. It is a dream of any young person to find that special person who they can raise a family and spend the rest of their lives with. But how many marriages end up that way? The divorce rate in this country is roughly 50 percent and many couples stay together for reasons totally unrelated to love. Why would anyone want to enter into a contract with those type of odds?

The internet and many media sites like radio and television like to sell dating sites as a great way to meet that “knight in shining armor”. I heard a radio commercial the other day talking about how bad it must be to be single and sitting at home on the weekends, really? These commercials seem to indict single people of a crime for being single. All they really are doing is creating a false perception of what dating is really like. It is nowhere even close to what they make it out to be. The selection of singles on many of sites are not as good as you are lead to believe. Many members have a ton of baggage issues to deal with. Being someone without any kids and never been married, do I want to deal with someone who has several kids and an ex still involved in her life? My life is way too enjoyable to get involved in that type of situation.

Every single person really needs to understand that their lives should not be defined on whether they end up getting happily married or not. If you need to have a man or woman in your life at all times, that is just a sign of insecurity. Think about the many freedoms you have with being single. I love the fact that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and I don’t have to answer to anybody. If I want to do play golf on Saturday morning, I don’t have to negotiate with my wife for a half hour! I can take a trip somewhere without any hassles or watch whatever I want on television.

I also love having a calm peace of mind. There is nothing worse than going through a break up with someone. It affects every part of your life. Do you really want to experience that kind of pain in your life? Some of the worst mistakes that people make are getting involved with someone who is absolutely NOT right for them. They feel lonely and get involved with the wrong person. Some of my worst mistakes in my life have been with women. During my college days, I broke up with someone and that affected me for a few years; I felt extremely lonely inside and wound up dating someone who was totally not right for me. Instead of accepting my singleness, I let my loneliness get the best of me and that mistake could have affected me for the rest of my life.

Maybe some day, that special woman will come into my life when I least expect it. But if not, I am perfectly content with my life. I am by no means a desperate single. Sure I miss the companionship that a good relationship can bring. It certainly makes life so much more enjoyable when you are in love with someone. But being single has given me opportunities in my life that I would not have had if I had gotten married. I enjoy the freedoms and peace of mind that being single brings. A good woman will only add more happiness to my life, sort of like a cherry on top of a sundae. It is certainly not a crime to be single. You might be surprised at how happy your life becomes.

 

The most over-televised sport in America

During a very cold Saturday morning not long ago, I decided to check my paper to see what was on the good old tube for the day. I was kind of in the mood to watch a sporting event, so I grabbed my newspaper television guide and turned to the listings. Perhaps there was a good college basketball game that I could enjoy to help relieve my boredom. Well sure enough, a game was on and not just one. There were about 20 games listed at various times throughout the day. Great! I could be a couch potato today and just watch college hoops from 11am to 11pm; 12 hours of college hoops!! Unfortunately, I have a life so I just watched one game!

For those of you who are college basketball junkies, the madness starts around the second week in November. When you start seeing my pal Dick Vitale on television, you know it is time for the season to begin and the onslaught of televised games. A typical cable subscriber, like myself, can watch about 50 games a week from November to March.. I can watch games from all over the country on just about any day. I often wonder why there are so many televised games. Are the sports channels just trying to fill in open slots with those games? There are definitely some games that I am very interested in watching, but to tell you the truth, I could really care less about watching more than 80 percent of the games. Most college fans are only interested in seeing games from their conferences. I live in Big Ten country so naturally I am interested in watching games from that conference. But do I really care about watching some PAC 10 game at 10pm on a Thursday night? Probably not!

I can certainly understand the pain of those non-basketball sports fans. Some of my hockey playing buddies always complain about the lack of hockey on television and they definitely have a point. I think other sports get shafted as well. Volleyball has huge participation numbers in this country yet there are only a handful of games to watch. What about some of those other Olympic sports like track and field and swimming? You very seldom see those sporting events being televised unless it is an Olympic year. There is no question that ratings play a big role in what a network covers, but is it really necessary to have so many college hoops games on? I cannot imagine that some of those games get very high ratings at all. A better alternative, for those stations with a time slot to fill, is to run specials about certain athletes and coaches. I find those programs to be far more interesting than just another meaningless game.

The only time that I can even come remotely close to watching multiple college basketball games is during the NCCA tournament. Outside of the big tourney, I have a hard time watching more than a few games a week. It is just too much ball to digest. And let’s not forget about all those NBA games as well. Some hoops fans, like myself, also enjoy going to our local high school to watch our teams play. Sometimes, there comes a point when you just have too much of a good thing and college basketball definitely fits into that category. There are just too many games on television. In some ways, having the wide choices of games is a good thing, but sometimes a sports fan has to experience the thrills that viewing other sports can bring. In a few weeks, the college basketball season will end and many hoops fans will need to undergo counseling for college basketball withdrawal. I hope those fans will wake up and get reacquainted with life outside of the college basketball world; at least until November!

A sports fan’s impossible task

There are certain things that people attempt which could be placed under the impossible category. The odds of accomplishing these tasks are so great that even a small amount of success could be seen in a positive way. For example, if I played LeBron James in a game of one on one to 11, I would consider it to be a success to score even score one basket. Now the odds of beating him to 11 are about as great as my ability to leap over my house in a single bound; it just ain’t going to happen!! The same holds true of picking a perfect bracket during this year’s men’s NCCA basketball tournament. Nobody has ever picked a perfect bracket and believe me, nobody ever will. Many have gotten 75-80 percent of the games correct but 100 percent? Not a chance!!

Many sports and non-sports fans around the country, including this blogger, will be filling out their NCCA brackets in the next few days. It is a March tradition in this country. People who usually could care less about college basketball are suddenly fans and greatly interested in the outcomes of the games. There are tons of office pools and betting on the games, not to mention a slight loss in workplace production at the office! This year, there is a new wrinkle in the bracket challenges. Anyone who picks a perfect bracket will be rewarded with a one billion dollar prize. Yes, one billion bucks!! Warren Buffet’s company is putting up the prize.

To put things in perspective, the odds of picking a perfect bracket are about 1 in 10 pentillion or 1 in 10 billion, billion. There are 9 quintillion possible outcomes with the 68 team field. I could fill out thousands of brackets and be lucky to have a 75 percent success rate at best! The odds of picking a perfect bracket are far less than winning any Powerball. It is nearly impossible! I would not get any false hopes of winning that billion dollar prize. Don’t quit your job anytime soon and put off any plan of buying that huge mansion with your winnings. It will never happen!

Besides the many combination of games, the tournament is about as balanced as it has been in years. I am struggling with determining who my final four teams will be. I can honestly say that about a quarter of the field has a real legitimate shot of making the final four. The tournament is completely wide open this year. It would not surprise me to see no number one-seeded teams make it to the final four. I expect a lot of surprises and upsets in this year’s tournament. The parity in college basketball these days is so great that there is very little that separates a number 4 seed from a number 13 seed. This might even be the year when a number 16 seeded team finally beats a number one-seeded team for the first time. The parity and even field makes picking the games even that much harder.

I will certainly try my best to win the billion dollars and move into my dream house, but my main goal is just to not finish last in my office pool. Heck, I would even be happier than a pig in mud if I got 20 bucks for finishing as one of the runner-ups!! I just want to have fun! It should be a great tournament and nothing brings people at work together more than an office pool. Just forget about winning the billion dollars. About 99 percent of us will be out of the running for that huge prize by next weekend. It just will not happen! Good luck to everyone on their picks and have fun!

 

The great missing plane mystery

Sometimes a news story occurs which totally baffles the mind and leaves you scratching your head. You anxiously await for further developments to get a better understanding of what is exactly going on. Such is the case with this incredible story about the missing Malaysian plane. There seems to be so few facts about the story and everyone is coming up with their own theories about what happened. Was it hi-jacked? Perhaps there was a mechanical problem on the plane. I even heard one ridiculous theory that some aliens took over the plane. Regardless, I have never heard of a more bizarre story in my entire life. If you are a lover of mystery stories, this one certainly will wet your appetite. We are all anxiously awaiting breaking news for more developments.

Like many folks, I have several questions about what exactly took place, but the following are my main ones.

1. In this world of high-tech satellites and GPS systems, why can’t they locate the exact location of the plane? I am by far no expert on those type of things, but it would seem to me that the black box of the plane could give out some kind of signal indicating its location. Is there not some type of GPS system on these modern-day planes that could give out information as to the plane’s exact whereabouts? It is hard for me to believe that no satellite could have picked up the final landing or crash of the plane. We have satellites which can pick up a dog hair on the ground; surely they could spot a large jet.

2. It’s very hard for me to believe some type of mechanical problem took place and caused the plane to crash or go off course like it did. The missing plane has a nearly spotless record of defects. I know many people are of the belief that the plane encountered some sort of mechanical problems during its flight and therefore crashed, but given the safety record of the plane, I find this theory very hard to believe.

3. If this was indeed a work of a terrorist, why has not some group or organization come forward and claim responsibility? Most terrorist organizations thrive for the attention after committing some heinous act of terror. They want their cause and message to be sent around the world to intimidate people. I would tend to believe that some organization would have claimed responsibility by now.

4. Why was the Malaysian government so tight-lipped about this event for the first few days? Only in the past few day have we gotten more information on this story. That is because American authorities have joined the search. Why was this not done initially? A case of missing plane of this magnitude should have the best resources available right from the start and no information withheld.

My theory about what took place is similar to most people’s. It has to be some sort of terrorist act of an organization or just a single individual with an axe to grind. The facts seem to point towards that theory. First all, why was the communication box turned off in mid-flight? Furthermore, the plane’s flight shifted in direction and changed altitude many times. In my mind, this indicates some sort of sabotage. It is hard for me to believe the plane actually landed safely somewhere. It may take days but eventually a clue as to where the plane crashed will emerge. And hopefully,some type of closure will be brought to this story.

You really have to feel for the families of those missing on the plane. Imagine if one of your love ones were on the plane and you are not sure if they are dead or alive. The emotional rollercoaster those poor folks are going through is unimaginable. Our thoughts and prayers really have to go out to the families of those missing on the plane. It would be an awesome miracle if they found the plane and everyone was found alive. I find that scenario very unlikely though. It appears this missing plane is another example of the evil that exists in this world. I hope I am completely wrong about my theory. I just hope some closure can soon be brought to this bizarre story. Stay tuned for more details. This story might be the greatest mystery of our lifetime.

 

A senior’s last game

The other night, I attended a very exciting high school playoff basketball game. A trip to the state tournament was at stake and both teams fought tooth and nail until the end. One the last play of the game, a shot that would have won the game, rolled around the rim and out. The game ended, and along with it, the careers of several seniors on the losing team. I could not help but notice the reaction of the losing team’s players. Many were laying on the floor, heartbroken and disappointed over losing such a close game and a trip to the state tournament. On top of that, many had played in their last career high school game. The end was upon them.

This scenario takes place at the end of every sports season for not only high school athletes, but many college ones as well. The final page of an athlete’s career is written. It may have started in kindergarten when you played in your first organized game. Anybody who had some sort of career in any sport, can fondly remember those days when your mom and dad drove you to those Saturday morning games or picked you up from practice. The game was more about being with your buddies at that time. Everyone got to play and the object was to have a good time and learn some basic fundamentals. Things began to change in junior high. Suddenly, things became a lot more organized and structured. Playing time was no longer guaranteed. Coaches started to yell at the players to play the right way. You probably saw and were inspired by older players and wanted to become as good as they were. The sport became a lot more serious to you. It was not just enough to attend a few practices and games like you did in grade school. Your goal was to make the varsity team as a sophomore and you put in a lot of effort and time into making that goal happen. Once that goal was achieved, you set your sights on making an all conference team in high school and helping your team win the state tournament. While your buddies are sleeping, you got up at 6am to work on your shooting  at the gym or hit the weight room. Then suddenly, it all ends. For most athletes, a career usually ends in disappointed. Only a select will win the championship. Most will have their careers suddenly cut short by a disappointing loss or worse yet, a serious injury. But for all, it will end at some point. It is amazing at how quickly those years go by!!

The next step for many high school players is to play in college. But the truth is that a high percentage of players will never be good enough to play in college. Some will try to play in college but a high percentage of athletes will end their careers in high school. The same holds true for college athletes. Less than one percent of all college players make it to the pros.

I would certainly recommend that all players in any sport try to reach the next level if possible. Don’t let anybody tell you that you are not  good enough. I never thought that I could go on and play college basketball, but I got much better after my senior year in high school. I was a late bloomer. But playing in high school is far more memorable than playing in college. Sure, it is exciting to play at some big time university if you are good enough, but most players are not even close to being that good. Most go on to play at smaller universities or community colleges like I did.

I certainly wish the best of luck for any high school or college senior who may have played their last career game or participated in their last event. Those memories will always be a part of your life. Someday 30 years from now at your class reunion, you and your buddies can sit down and discuss all those memories from the past like they just happened yesterday. A senior’s career may have ended but the memories will last a lifetime.

 

I  .