Monday, February 15, 2016

Where has the Middle Class gone?

This seems to be a question of great concern over the past five years. Actually it has been going away for much longer. I believe there is a direct correlation between the college degree and the disappearance of the middle class. It must also be stated the Middle Class is synonymous with majority. The Middle Class are where most people are identified on a social economical scale.

In the years following World War II the majority of workers could get good paying jobs after high school by learning a trade or taught by an employer. Starting in the late 1960's and in to the 1970's a 4-year college degree started to become necessary to gain good employment. Then in the latter part of the 1970's having a degree with 2-4 years’ work experience became the norm to gain worthwhile middle class employment for many careers that at one time required just a high school diploma. 

Colleges and Universities at the same time became more business oriented (I don’t care what they say they are not “Non-Profit”) and found the more students the more money and in order to entice more students competition between Universities became the norm and along with this it would require more dollars to advertise and build structures to house and provide pleasures for leisure instead of learning.

So how did the universities keep the money flowing in order to stay in business? It’s simple, they started to declare (In the 1980's) that 4-year degrees now require a graduate degree and then a few years later it is a graduate degree with 4 years of work experience in order to gain good employment. With that being said it is very hard to get a 4 year degree in 4 years because of the scheduling hurdles and obstacles (i.e., Price/Cost) that colleges put in place to graduate.

So what are the new norms?  Some degrees like physical therapy now want doctoral degrees. Others following suit include the nursing and educational fields.

Along the way the cost of obtaining a degree has outpaced the monetary level of the middle class and the only way to keep pace is to take loans to pay a for a future that may or may not be there by the time one graduates (Especially in Technology). Student debt will make the housing bubble look like walk in the park. We have mortgaged away a generation of students from life in the Middle Class ( Think Bernie Sanders).

What is very troubling now our K-12 education systems are now competing for students through school of choice marketing ploys that does nothing more than water down our educational system through competition and cost. 
So what is the solution? First we must realize in order to compete we must cooperate. Education is not a sporting or business competition. Education is the lifeblood of a society’s on-going improvement that must be for all citizens at a reasonable and obtainable price. By this I mean costs should be standardized and degrees should be normalized to make sense. Businesses want colleges to keep students longer and charge students instead of providing in-house training like they did in the 1960's-1980's. By shifting this burden and guilt (Companies say colleges are not doing their job in preparing students for work) to colleges has saved the business environment millions of dollars and provided money to universities. The losers are the vast majority of people whom were known as the Middle Class.

Now that the Middle Class is dwindling we will start to see universities and colleges default and only the elite will survive. Maybe that is the solution. We need to come full circle and colleges should only be for the elite and the majority of people should be able to have a good life through hands on training and apprentices like it was when there was a viable middle class that made our country strong. 

Want proof? Look at India and China – Both have huge middle classes that have been mostly trained and employed by American companies that have trained (Not the Universities) them for the vast majority of jobs that make up their middle class.  We have simply priced our own country out of the completion for the almighty dollar. My state of Michigan is a prime example:

While I am not endorsing a candidate here I will say Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have both hit at the heart of the American People about the trade agreements and what they have done to the middle class.

We should not forget about the one Trade Agreement that has been the worse and that is NAFTA! Do you remember who signed this in to effect?

Monday, February 01, 2016

Customer Facing Employees - Please shut your mouths when customers are present!!

I had to stop at my local dealership because my low pressure signal showed up on one of the coldest days of the winter. It was about 1:00 pm and I thought I might as well get an oil change too since I was coming up on my mileage mark.

My dealership now has a “quickee change” lube shop attached to the dealership. I had been there twice before and did not find it the best experience but I went because it was convenient and I have a lease car and the dealership is right there if something goes wrong.
I still take my older cars to an independent quick lube shop that I have been going to for years. They know me by name and are always friendly.

The service agents at the quick change dealership lube shop have been different each time I go but they all must have gotten the same type of training in customer service.  That is because they all complain and bitch about their jobs, the service techs and one another when the other leaves the shop to check something out. It’s amazing that they don’t seem to care as a customer that I don’t want to hear it.

I know it is the American way to bitch about your job, boss and co-workers but at least do it among yourselves. Grocery check-out clerks are famous for this too. Post from 2007 -

Then they send me survey emails for weeks wanting to know if I was completely satisfied with my experience. Perhaps I should tell the about the time when I had a low tire and when I asked the service agent when cashing out if there was a problem and he said no just low all was OK. As the service technician pulled my car around I asked him about the tire and he said there was a nail and that he plugged it. Then he said did the agent tell you about the leaky seal? I said no and he said well I wrote it up and you should pull over to the dealership and set-up an appointment to get it fixed.

How about my most recent visit when it got very busy and there were six people in the small waiting area. The service agents sit in the same area so all conversations can be heard. Oh the complaining was non-stop. Customers were getting frustrated on how long it was taking to get their cars services. I sat quietly and observed. I had to move two times because the cleaning lady was cleaning the bathroom and then was mopping the floor and wiping down counters as the customers moved many times so she could clean. I loved it when the service agent was complaining so much about her job that she wanted to change positions with the cleaning lady.

One older lady who was two behind me in order to get her car serviced began to complain loudly and to whomever she was speaking to on the phone. As I sat and watched the service agent roll her eyes and then whispered (Not really since I could hear) to the other agent to give her 10% off for waiting.  Amazingly she got her car before me (As did two others). Now you might say I had more work to be done but that was not the case. I observed my service technician through the window stop servicing my car a number of times and chat with the person on the hoist next to my car. No one offered me a discount because I did not complain, bitch or yell.

As I pulled out I said no more answering surveys and no more shall I come to this establishment. I will take my new car to my reliable Mr. Lube shop where “Wild Bill” (I call him that) always greets me and talks to me as a friend and not a customer.

I will take my old Quality Consultant route and never go back but I will tell five friends about my experience and now I have told you.

Here is the real kicker. My old reliable shop owner Bill is of Middle Eastern decent and has owned his shop for at least 20 years. He works long hours and has added a muffler/repair shop to his lube businesses.

I should not even have to mention this but the American workers at the new flashy lube shop could care less. And, they just lost a customer for life.