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Archive for November, 2009

Black Friday

After a lot of pent up demand, people are buying, and buying like crazy. Retail sales are back up, and holiday looks promising. But I think people are buying earlier rather than later, and its just a shift in sales from Dec to Nov, not an increase in sales from last year. Every night after midnight I await the numbers and look into each vendor’s interface. There are always problems with some partner or the other – always problems. No matter how much you plan for the biggest day of the year, things can go wrong. A partner’s site crawler is not working so their sales are down, and I have to email them to make sure everything is in order fast. Emails go back and forth during weekends to make sure everything is working. Its exciting to have a good holiday. We plan and plan for this time. After a VERY tough year, I hope to make my numbers.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores expect a big rush of people looking to buy Christmas presents. Electronics and toys have the highest demand – everyone wants to buy before they go out of stock or show up on ebay at a higher price. The hottest toy this year is a $10 hamster that runs or crawls or something.

The biggest day for e-commerce is Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when people come to work and shop. Yeah people shop and its widely accepted. Retailers time their deals around this week, because this week determines how good or bad holiday is/will be. There is such a mad rush in stores, and online IT works hard to keep the site from going down due to the traffic. This year many stores like Walmart opened at midnight on Thanksgiving to keep traffic manageable. Last year a Walmart employee was injured and died in a stampede on Black Friday, so they had to plan well this year. Its absolute madness! I cannot wait to see what sales will look like on Monday – will people buy more then?? Last year it was a big big day for me, not sure this year because people are already buying tons.

I went to Nordstrom today — my fav fav store — it wasn’t that busy. It was annoying to have so many salespeople come and offer to help. After one person came to me thrice, I ignored her and told her if I need help I will ask her. Do they get a commission or something? One salesperson held the clothes at the counter instead of leaving it outside the fitting room like they usually do, because she wanted to ring me up at the counter. Definitely commission. I didn’t see any Black Friday deals though, but did find some good stuff.

In my company, I got leggings for $5!!! Ha, $5, without my associate discount. You gotta love my company – the best prices!!

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Corporate America is all about making money and sucking up to the right people. You bark up the right tree, you get promotions and raises. You don’t, you are left with nothing. I was telling AM that maybe we should move to Europe. But the Brits are stuck up, the French don’t get me started. I like Italy, or maybe Germany, or Switzerland – way less stuck up and work-obsessed than Americans, not that Indians are less stuck up but still. Maybe London is different from the rest of Britain, kind of like how NY is different from the rest of US.

Parents teach you to be nice to people as a kid, and you think — let me be nice, people will like me and I will like people, and we all will get along. Then you learn that your parents were wrong, completely wrong. These days I come across negative people, and I tell myself, its just a job, move on. Don’t get so caught up and be affected by these things.

I spoke to an agency about working with them on a program, and asked him for info. The guy was an ass and was so rude and unprofessional. I ask him, are you interested? He says no go to another agency. The conversation goes nowhere, so I am like okay if you don’t want to work with us we don’t want to work with you. It ends there. The guy says he is the owner. I am not sure if he is bluffing, so I call his receptionist who gave me his number in the first place and ask her if he is the only guy to deal with. She says yes. I am like in recession, how come you have big companies working with you, when the guy has such a negative attitude? I will ask his biggest client whom I know personally whether he deals like this with them.¬†Anyway, the guy calls me back and is now more subdued and justifies his ass-like behavior.

It doesn’t end there. He calls the client I mentioned, and tells him that I called him asking for private info about their campaign. What a fucking slime-ball. My contact emailed me telling me about this. I was not going to say much, but I told him that the guy was rude and unprofessional with us, and my colleague and I were surprised by his behavior. And I did not ask for any private info. I will never work with that slime-ball in future. How does the guy run his business like this? He probably thinks my company is not that big. Well, go read the numbers.

Another vendor I work with backtracked on our verbal agreement. And kept backtracking. The vendor is all talk and no walk, completely fake, and their numbers are unbelievable. I am so so so glad that we did not end up paying a fat set-up fee that they demanded, and ended up having a different kind of an agreement. They sold this big concept to us, we had some results last year, went ahead with the plan, and now we have all sorts of problems with their interface. And their backtracking — I hate it when people go back on their word. So unprofessional. After back and forth nothing moved forward. I don’t see why I should have to go to them when they are playing hard-ball. I expect certain professionalism and when vendors don’t show that, its like WTF. Anyway, I am going to move on from this. We have spent enough calls, emails, time, and energy on trying to make it work. In any case I am sick and tired of their hard-ball attitude when they have no goods to show for it.

Who knew working with vendors required constant monitoring? But I like being on the client side way better. Its more challenging and you are in more control.

I have a new team in one agency. The team is very opinionated, but I like that. We disagree, but I prefer a team that is opinionated because at least they have an opinion. They have some logic behind it. The last thing I want is a “yes-vendor”.

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Annoying vendors

I was annoyed with a vendor, who did what I thought showed lack of integrity and reeked of desperation. I told the vendor on my call, no I do not agree with x strategy, and we should not do this. So she goes behind my back, and emails me and my boss and says, why don’t I walk you through these recommendations that favor the strategy (I just said no to)? My boss did not know the details, so she was happy to discuss more. I gave her a background and explained that I will not tolerate that my vendor will go up the ladder if I say no for something.

I am going to talk to my boss about pushing them to interact with me directly instead of reaching out to her so that the message is loud and clear that they cannot go up the ladder to have my decisions over-ruled. I am also going to tell the vendor clearly that my boss and my team trusts me to completely make the right decision, so they need to interact with me. If I say no to a decision, my superiors will not over-rule that decision and will defer to me for everything related to the channel. So they need to deal directly with me. The best way to prevent them from doing this is if my manager supports me and directs them to deal with me.

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Padma Shri award

The Padma Shri Award is given for the best contributors to art aka popular people who produce best sellers — the award is nothing but a famewhore. It is given only to popular people, and has nothing to do with art. See the recipients this year:

  • Film = Danny Boyle. What DB produced was great and an Oscar winner, and I liked the film, but which other films were considered?
  • Art = HIMESH RESHAMIYYA. Yes none other than nasal “singer” Himesh. Please hold while I barf. BARF. I cannot believe it. Ugh ugh ugh. I take back my rant on Chetan Bhagat winning for writing – if Himesh can win it for singing…OMG. This guy’s songs used to play all day on B4 channel, with that dumb cap on his head, and I hated him and his songs. He probably slept with the right people to get ahead because his songs sure weren’t the reason. He probably owned the channel.
  • Literature = Chetan Bhagat. Undeserved due to his writing style, but his die-hard fans *ahem AM & my brother* would beg to disagree.
  • TV = Cyrus Broacha. I LOVE LOVE Cyrus — he is soo funny and under-rated due to his peer Sajid Khan aka Farah Khan’s brother. Sajid is not funny and quite annoying, but his sister gets him places.
  • Sports = Mandira Bedi. Barf. I HATE Mandira with a passion – she is over-rated to the nth degree. Something about her puts me off. She is not interesting and too in-the-face. She wins for sports because she is a cricket commentator. Whatever happened to awarding real sports, you know, people who actually PLAY the game?

So yeah the award is complete BS.

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Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat is an IITD/IIMA graduate and the author of Five point someone, One Night @ the call center, 3 idiots, and 2 states. He is a best selling author in India, and gave up his i-banking career to write books. AM, an ex-IITian, and my brother, an ex-IIT aspirant, both lap up his books and are big fans.

IIT/IIM brings to mind a major attitude problem. Overachievers, put on a pedestal by parents and relatives for having gone to the most prestigious colleges in India, thinking they can do no wrong, opinionated people, being told they are the best all the time. Major attitude problem. Nerdy, make tons of money, work in the top companies, brilliant people (of course!).

Anyway, I tried reading his book 3 idiots. I also tried 2 states. The guy writes in a very amateurish manner. He lacks fluidity and finesse. He tries to be funny, is not, and tries too hard. But his writing is what appalled me — so amateurish!! Like in one situation he talks about how he was envied for being with the prettiest girl in class – which is completely plausible given that he was in college, but just the way he writes it and the way he moves between sentences, makes it feel fake. Like it did not happen and he is trying to make it interesting. At no point is his writing heartfelt. So yeah I could not go beyond 1-2 chapters. I tried hard, but the writing was just too bad for me.

And yet he is a best seller and is minting money on his books. Methinks because there is zero competition in that arena. Nobody else writes books about such topics, and given the numberof ex-IITians, IITians, and IIT aspirants, same for IIM, I am sure most of his books are read by them. Amir Khan is making 3 idiots into a movie — a must-watch! I am sure Amir Khan will bring characters to life in the way the book doesn’t. I cannot wait! A perfect topic too, 3 idiots in IIT. AM will relate to it. Oops! I mean, AM will relate to the life in IIT and not to the idiots.

Just read – Chetan Bhagat is being honored by the Padma Shri award. OMG!! I cannot believe what the award has been reduced too. Whatever, its just because Amir Khan is directing a movie for this guy and his books are best sellers. I cannot believe the low standards of the award. Ugh.

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I met my couple friends today for lunch, and had a wonderful time. They have two adorable kids – the older is very intelligent, and the younger too adorable for words. They are my fav couple – sophisticated & intelligent, and we have a lot in common except for the kids. Anyway, the situation called for disciplining the older kid who is almost 7 and wanted to eat sushi that very day at that exact time. Both of them dealt with the situation very patiently, and took a hard stand regardless of what the kid said and did. I liked their way of dealing, and was surprised at how patient they were.

We started discussing how we were raised – our parents beat us, as did teachers in school, and we turned out fine. Should we do the same to our kids so that they turn out fine? But beating kids is kind of illegal in the US. They were telling me how the kid behaves the opposite when they yell and gets more defensive, so yelling and beating is not the way to go — taking a hard stand patiently is the way to go. The more tantrums the kids throw, the less likely they are to get what they want and they forgo more perks such as TV and Internet. Its so hard to be a parent! The kid’s life depends on you, and sometimes your best efforts are misjudged and lead to nothing.

I used to get a lot of beatings at school. The nuns hit us with a wooden ruler on the calves which stung! Sometimes they went for knuckles which was brutal — I could take the calves any day over knuckles. Once my Mom came to visit us in our boarding school/hostel, and I was out so I saw her. She wanted to see my sister. It was after hours and the nun told me not to call my sis. Anyway, mom really wanted to just see her from far and see if she is okay, and kept telling me if I could just bring her out so she could see her, so I went to my sis’ dorm and called her out. My sis broke out sobbing — she wanted to meet my mom up close. So I took her and broke the rule. The nun beat me a lot for it, but whatever — they had made me immune to it. Once I left my books in the rain, so everyone who left their books out were beaten. I got a beating even after 10th grade from my mom (once). So yeah it didn’t bother me much. After what my parents have been through this year, I don’t think I ever want to be a parent, and its a scary thought to even be responsible for someone who may not give a damn about me and my efforts.

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Steve & Barry’s filed for bankruptcy this year. I had a job offer from them after I graduated with my master’s. I pondered over the job and kept it as a back-up for one month. They were willing to wait. I liked the company, the job, the boss-to-be, but the commute was too long and I really didn’t want to drive that much. Steve & Barry’s was set up by two friends. Both friends sold university-wear from the back of a truck. They got them made real cheap and sold them cheap. Soon they made it a big growing business and specialized in University-wear. Dirt-cheap stuff. You could find sweatshirts, etc. with university names. Soon they expanded into other clothing. Clothes made in India, etc. I bought a blue collared top and wore it for my interview with my lucky Tommy Hilfiger navy pinstriped pant. I wore that pant to every interview that I was serious about. Their concept worked because they set up stores in really cheap areas where real estate costs were extremely low. They were popular, so they got good real estate deals, and once they set up shop, that mall became popular and more stores followed suit. Anyway, I decided not to take that job. The company is bankrupt now. Of course I would not have stayed that long given the commute. I also did not like the quality of the clothes – they looked and seemed cheap. Of course you get what you pay for.

Valueline is another job I gave up. Valueline has a very good reputation in the world of equity research. Investment banks have equity research teams — research was funded by investment banking and trading. Over time, people felt that there was conflict of interest — equity research was basically details about companies which was made available to investors who invested based on recommendations. I considered this as a career line before I realized I would be bored to death with research. Anyway, traders could influence research by having the teams say good things about companies depending on where the company wanted to trade. So say they wanted to sell IBM shares, the research could be influenced by that and tell the investor to buy IBM shares. Which is not being truthful to investors. So a ruling was passed where research was supposed to be separate from trading and investment banking. Now who would pay for research? It was a cost function and started dwindling in importance. There are way too many research firms out there.

Valueline is primarily an equity research company. It is privately owned by the daughter of the founder. Their office is beautiful and very old fashioned. I had my interview with a guy whom I liked. I did have my doubts about the industry, but the job profile seemed interesting. Till I met the current owner. She interviewed me, and I negotiated my salary with her. We negotiated for a long time and she would not give in. Somehow my interaction with her gave me negative vibes. What did not help was when I saw the extremely old fashion computers in the offices, computers I had used in a job in India when computers were just gaining in popularity. A very old generation.

AM and I had a long long discussion – I wanted a new job, but I did not dislike my then job to jump for the first thing that came my way. I had time and the opportunity to choose what I really wanted to do. He strongly advised against Valueline, but I wanted to consider it seriously. After a long discussion, I decided to go with my gut and declined the opportunity. The person who was to be my potential manager had a company of his own so had a back-up in case this job did not work out – clearly he would not be as tied as I to the job. I called the next morning to decline and spoke to the owner – she offered a salary increase to the level that I wanted, and I told her that my decision was not due to the salary but that it was not a good fit at that time.

Anyway, I had contacted a previous employee via LinkedIn who responded after I turned the job down. She told me how miserable she was at that job, she left without another job in hand, and would rather remain unemployed than work there. The owner was extremely controlling, kept tabs on when people came in and when they left, was stingy about holidays, and people there were miserable. There were limitations with what the company could do because the owner had a very tight hold on the purse, and she did not want to include analyst/researcher videos on the website because she wanted consumers to have loyalty to the company and not to analysts/researchers. I cannot describe the intense negative vibes that I got during my interaction with her, but I really dodged a bullet there. I shudder to think what my situation would have been at that job. I always listen to my gut — always.

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