An update on the cup, and some thoughts about other stuff.

I threw the cup away.

I hated doing it. I don’t like throwing away goods that are still, seemingly, so good. I couldn’t get the lid off, though. With a lid on it, it’s useless to me. I can’t use it in my blender. I can’t possibly clean it properly. It feels like such a waste. Nevertheless, it’s gone. Dunzo.

Today I tried soaking the lid in oil (inside and out) to try and loosen it up and it didn’t work. I also tried banging it against the sink (stone sink) and it didn’t work. I also tried putting rubber bands around the lid to help grip and it didn’t work. I also tried silicone oven-mits and that didn’t work. I got so desperate that I knocked on my neighbour’s door. He wasn’t home, though. I took it as a sign that I should just give up.

I’m going to try to get by with just one blender cup, for now. It’s going to suck because of the fact that I hate washing dishes and I make smoothies daily. But hey, I’ll either have to deal, or get on the Ninja website and order new cups. (I say cups because you have to order them in a pack of two).

That’s a big ole explanation of something that’s not that important. I guess, though, that’s kind of an ongoing theme in my life.

In other news, today we reached a case count for COVID that we haven’t seen since early May whilst we were in the third wave. This is after the government stopped allowing asymptomatic testing, so that number is likely higher. This number of people with COVID comes as our government is stopping tracking, tracing and testing for COVID all together on the 16th of August. Once the 16th rolls around, if you want a test in this province, you either have to be being admitted to the ICU, or be willing to shill out $200 to a private company for them to do it for you. It’s part of our government’s large strategy of ignoring COVID and hoping that it goes away.

I can’t help but feel for all of the doctors, nurses and health care workers who have to deal with this oncoming shit storm. Our province has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. I don’t think the anti-vaxxers around here realize that the longer COVID is an issue, the longer our economy will suffer. The longer the economy suffers, the longer people will remain unemployed, or underemployed, be forced to close, or limit operations, struggle with making adequate money to cover expenses, etc… etc… etc…

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.

EVERYTHING.

Farmers are dealing with record-setting, once in a century droughts in this country this year. With such a short growing season in Canada, our farmed products are often much cheaper in the summer then they are in the winter. For those that don’t realize why this is… it costs a lot of money to pick fruit and vegetables half a world away and get them flown to Canada to be distributed on grocery store shelves so they can sit in your fridge for a few days before you’re ready to eat them. During the growing season, those fruits and vegetables that can be grown here will be much cheaper whilst in season. Rather than transporting them from the equator to Canada, they’re transporting them from a few hours down the highway.

When there’s a drought, though… we still have to purchase our goods from the equator. Costs remain as high in summer as in winter. Now, factor in that we don’t regularly purchase said goods in the summer, so the countries closer to the equator might have come up with other customers/countries to sell those foods too. Thus, there’s an increased demand for these goods, a demand that can’t be fulfilled, creating a buying war (prices go up) and food shortage for several different countries, not just Canada.

Everything is connected.

EVERYTHING.

Whew. I really started rambling there. Time to go wash my smoothie cup.

Financial Trauma

Recently, one of my favourite YouTube commentator channels, Tiffany Ferg, did a video about the role that wealth and class play in one’s ability to succeed with social media as a career choice. Video here, for reference:

One of the things that Tiffany spoke of in this video is the way that money, or lack thereof, can play a significant role in who we are, and who we become.

So, let’s talk about financial trauma.

The concept of financial trauma is the idea that those from low-class economic status have larger portions of their personality shaped around money than those raised in the middle class or upper class. Essentially, growing up poor or barely scraping by, play a considerable role in who you become.

From a personal perspective, this is absolutely true.

From a societal standpoint, I do believe this to largely be true. It’s one of the reasons, I think, why lottery winners are infinitely more likely to file for bankruptcy than regular folk. The sudden windfall of money is something that they really don’t know how to deal with, especially if lands in the laps of someone who’s spent their whole life scraping by, or just making it pay cheque to pay cheque.

But, let’s backtrack here.

I grew up in what is regularly defined as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. I was one of five biological children and seven total children living in the house. As a family, we were very much house poor. This means that we were living in a house, we had a roof over our heads and were ultimately very privileged in that sense, but the sacrifices made to ensure that roof stayed over our heads meant a lot of sacrifices in other areas of life.

My siblings and I would regularly go out on bicycles after dark to collect cans and bottles from dumpsters, to earn what very little money we could so that my father would have a way to and from work each day. There were actually days in which he hitchhiked to work. (Due to my father’s profession and the location of our house relative to where he worked, it was very difficult for him to find a coworker who was headed there at the same time as him)

Those memories, they stay with you. They define you, dare I say.

Even so, I know that while I may have grown up low-class in an upper-middle and upper class world, I still acknowledge how blessed I was to be in the situation that I was. Sharing a bedroom with three other people was annoying at times, but I did have a room. I had a house. I had a place to come home to. It’s something that I know a lot of people in the city which I grew up, and the world, did not and still do not have. For the sake of this share, I just wanted to acknowledge the privilege that I did/do have.

One thing I distinctly remember from my childhood is that, for the years in which we did have a vehicle (largely my teenaged years), the gas tank was always riding ‘Empty’. My parents had scraped together enough to get the vehicle, but between the vehicle and the house payments, things felt tighter than ever before.

I think this is very much one of the reasons why I didn’t purchase my own vehicle until I was 31 years old. I think this is one of the reasons why you will never, ever, ever see the gas-tank in my car get below the half-way mark. I can’t do it. The anxiety and stress that I get from seeing the gas-tank read closer to ‘E’ than it does to ‘F'(Full) is something that I cannot tolerate. If I cannot afford to fill up my car with gas, to keep it above the half-way mark on the tank, then I won’t drive my car until I can.

This, to me, is the idea of financial trauma. That the socioeconomic status in which you’re raised is something that stays with you, for what I can only assume is your whole life.

I know I’m not alone in this.

I know someone who grew up in a world-renowned mountain town, one famous for skiing/snowboarding, winter lifestyle and affluence. Their parents brought them to this country as refugees and they landed in this mountain town by some sort of cosmic coincidence.

Their upbringing was hard. This mountain town, known for accepting wealthy tourists from all over the world year-round, was one where cost of living was high, while the possible wages able to be earned by a refugee couple and their children was.

They’ve told me stories about working as a bag-boy and shelf-stocker in the grocery store every day of the week from as early in life as they were able to work, with the money they made in week not even being able to afford them the groceries they would want to buy from that very store. And of following their mom and dd to work as janitors at night to help them get work done faster so they can get more done, and thus make a little more money for the family.

This person, a lot of the financial decisions that they make today are the outcome of what they went through growing up. They go out of their way to ensure that living pay cheque to pay cheque will never again be their reality. They also go out of their way to ensure they don’t/won’t work in any industry remotely related to the jobs they worked growing up. The way in which they grew up has played a big role in defining the decisions they make today.

To an extent, I think this idea of financial trauma will be present in anyone who has lived, or is presently living in a situation in which money is not something that allows them to be comfortable. And, when you really stop to think about it, it’s something that really doesn’t affect those who come from a higher-level socioeconomic class. Because they’ve never had to worry about money, they’ll likely continue to not worry about money, or the choices they make with their money. Not unless they suddenly fall into bankruptcy.

So what shapes them, then? What shapes the upper half? If they’re not plagued by the choice of which bill to decide to pay this month, how do they discern how to make difficult decisions in life? I’m not too sure, really. I can speculate. But, since I’ve never experienced being in that place in which I don’t have to worry about money, it wouldn’t really be fair for me to do as such.

Also, I just want to point out that this is not my shaming of people who come from, or presently reside in, upper-half socioeconomic classes. Money is a wonderful thing. And, if you’re able to reach a point in life in which you’re comfortable, which you have a cushion in your bank account, I think that’s a very good thing.

I wouldn’t say that I have a cushion, where I’m presently at in life. But, I did manage to pay off my debts earlier this year, so I reckon I’m probably in better financial standing that many people my age. That feeling of having no debts, that feeling is unlike anything I’ve ever achieved before.

Funnily enough, my parents, in their late 60’s, have officially paid off all of their debts this year as well. While I’ve noticed a certain ‘lightness’ to them that I’ve never experienced before in my life, I also notice that there are certain things they’re unwilling to do. There are certain decisions being made out of the preservation of their present status in life, to ensure they never go back to their state of financial trauma.

I’d also like to note that financial trauma affects everyone differently. For some people, I think financial trauma manifests itself in hyper-consumerism. People desire to have things to showcase their status. For other people, financial trauma can manifest itself in an unwillingness to buy anything.

As much as money can’t buy happiness, it doesn’t play a very large contributing factor in who we grow up to be. Whether we went through financial trauma in the past, or we’re presently going through it now, money affects every decision in our lives, to some extent.

I’m not really sure how to close this, so I’ll just leave with an ideological thought that’s been on my mind for years. Internships should be abolished. The concept that young people should be forced to work for free and that University, College or High School credit, or ‘experience’ should be enough of a reason to force them through financial hardships should end. Free labor/labour should not exist in the western world. It shouldn’t exist in the world at all, actually. But that’s a discussion for another day – something I need to do a lot more research on and learn a lot more about. The concept of forcing a young person to work for free, ‘to pay their dues’ whilst they’re still required to pay their bills, their rent and they still need to eat is wholly unfair. At the very least, interns should be paid minimum wage in the industry for which they work.

At what point in time do we stop wishing for younger generations to ‘pay their dues’ (a grossly misguided belief) and start saying ‘perhaps the favour I can do for future generations is to ensure they don’t have to go through that which I did’.

Fin.

Predatory marketing during a pandemic

Disclaimer: When I started this was meant to, in fact, be a post about predatory marketing during a pandemic. As I started thinking further, and rambling, it unfolded into a lot more than initially intended. All that being said, I was unsure of what to change the title of this post to… hence the original title only being applicable to a portion of what I am talking about.

What’s the appropriate way to do business during a pandemic?

This is a subject that I’ve been thinking a lot about the past few weeks. Whilst we’ve been aware of Corona Virus since New Year’s Day (here in Canada), things didn’t really start getting bad until the end of February. The end of February also marked a distinct turning point in this country, a turning point in which both people and corporations, companies, businesses and entrepreneurs began to show their true colours.

I’ve seen a lot of blatant disregard for the human condition the past few months. Racist dog-whistles putting Asian communities across the world at risk, fights about which resources should be put where, people hoarding groceries and cleaning supplies forcing a lot of vulnerable citizens to go without. It’s been a trying time for our world. And, amidst it all, though I’m sure there’s more happening on the inside they’re not telling us of, a lot of business is acting as though it’s business as usual.

But is it?

To quote one of my favourite books:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair

-Charles Dickens

I guess I should preface this with saying that I did a double major of Marketing and Economics while at University. I remember falling into the subject my first year as a mandatory requirement, and for the next three and a half years switching all of my electives to relate to Economics.

To its definition, economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. More than it’s definition though, economics is the study of people. How we act and react to the world around us. What we deem important, what are needs, what are wants and what are frivolous things that we coax ourselves into purchasing.

Though it might not seem it from the outside, Economics and Psychology are two closely related subjects.

For the past year I’ve also been consulting for an economic development firm. The hours have been sporadic, at times non-existent, but it’s reignited my passion for people and the way they do things, and how someone (or some thing, in the case of what I’m talking about) can project behaviours based on the state of the world.

Basically, if you want effective marketing, you need to understand people – both from an economic and a psychological standpoint.

Wow, okay. Longest intro ever.

Does anyone else have an email inbox that has been inundated with ‘special offers’ from what seems like every company on earth the past month? Is anyone else getting special text message offers from other companies, of things they can do to take advantage of this sale that “they never do!”? No? Just me? Well, I speak from personal opinion anyway, so I’ll keep going.

When companies react to a crisis, they can take one of three routes:

Route 1) Understand that people are hurting, struggling or going through tough times and try to help. This can be done in a number of ways, using Corona Virus as the subject matter, examples include:

  • Breweries creating hand sanitizer to ship to medical facilities, senior care facilities, homeless shelters and so on and so forth
  • Clothing manufacturers halting production of clothing in their warehouses to have workers create protective masks to be sent to health care workers on the front lines
  • A basic example is just companies taking the burden. What I mean by this is, changing in-person jobs to online jobs. Purchasing the software and safety equipment necessary for the employees to be properly, and adequately looked-after because they value their employees

Companies that take option one are also the companies that understand, during a pandemic, that up to two thirds of the population are going to become very careful about how and where they spend their money. These companies aren’t about to slam products down your throat. They will, continue to market their products as done before, but they are acknowledging the fact that we’re living through unprecedented times and that there is no road map for life right now.

Route 1 is an option that I would personally consider to be a very productive means to support society… customers or not, during times of need. I have seen considerable examples of this during the past month. Vessi, a Canadian sneaker brand, gave away free shoes to any health care worker that could provide them proof of their employment/job. Tristan Style, a mid-high end Canadian fashion brand, is now paying all seamstresses in their warehouse to create protective masks and visors for health care workers.

Taking a closer look at communities across the country, there are companies who have taken this crisis head-on and are responding in productive, albeit not-profitable, ways to help. These companies are not only dedicating their efforts towards helping people in the front lines of this pandemic, they’re also helping each and every one of their employees by keeping them working. These are the companies that deserve support through ‘your’ business both now, and once the fog has cleared..

Route 2) Close or limit operations. Either for good, or for an indefinite amount of time, laying off or firing workers that relied on that employment as a means to feed their families and financially support them through said crisis.

Route 2 is a hard road to take and a hard pill to swallow. As much as we’d like to believe that everyone can stay open whilst not churning profit, it’s just not feasible. I understand that. But I also understand there are two types of businesses that have closed during this period. Those who were forced to close because they cannot financially support their employees to work through this time, and those who chose to close because the do not want to financially support their employees to work through this time.

It’s worth noting that in a grey area here also is Amazon. Amazon, a company that is.. half open(?) at this time, but is also not paying for health insurance or sick leave for any employees. I honestly don’t know enough about his personal financials to verify the validity of the statement, but I read online that Jeff Bezos (a man with more money then he could ever spend in his lifetime) could pay for basic health insurance for every single employee that works for Amazon and he would still have a personal fortune of more than 80 billion dollars. I’m not saying that Amazon is the devil here, I’m just providing all sorts of input. Nevertheless, I digress.

Through this pandemic there are businesses that have chosen to close. They were not forced to close. They opted to lay off, or fire, their employees and just close their doors because it’s easier. They’re cutting their losses, literally and figuratively, and will revisit at a later date. These are the businesses that I truly believe do not deserve time or money when all is said and done.

Route 3) PANDEMIC MARKETING. This is where the vultures come out. Pandemic marketing is a term of reference for any corporation, company, small business or entrepreneur who has tried to take advantage of this situation to better their business/financial standing. I refer to them as vultures because these companies, while aware that in times of trouble, crisis or panic are aware that people get more careful about what they spend money on, will market the fucking hell out of you just to see how much money they can get. Examples include:

  • The big players – Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc…
  • The mid-size players – Sephora, clothing brands like American Eagle or JCrew, national chains like Petro Canada (that don’t seem to understand price gouging is illegal)
  • The predatory players – Any and all MLM companies.
  • The smaller players (these are the players who are trying to hide their pandemic marketing behind a message of ‘just looking out for you’) – these include smaller businesses, maybe the local carpet supplier who’s trying to convince you that right now, right this very instant, is the perfect time for you to redo all of the flooring in your home

Whether it through email, text message, direct facebook messages, sponsored instagram posts, youtube videos, however you’re seeing it, I guarantee you’re seeing it.

“BUY NOW FOR 40% OFF. WE NEVER DO SALES THIS EPIC!” – Carpet One

“If you purchase during these difficult times, not only will you have the ‘hospital staff care kit’ (I’m not lying, they actually named it that) but we’ll throw in the energy fizz bath bomb and hand sanitizer as well!” – Arbonne

“Walmart has just what you need to get you and your family through this together! Also, take 40% off clearance items!” – Walmart

“Get a luxury mini when you spend $35, free shipping if you spend $50 and a coupon for 25% off your next purchase if you spend $80.” Sephora

So, upon first glance, these don’t seem all that bad, do they? Well, minus the Arbonne kit. Any company that is selling overpriced hygiene items they’re referring to as the ‘Hospital Staff care kit’ during a pandemic is a new level of low. But, as far as advertisements, these seem somewhat innocent.

Except they’re coming every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. Sephora knows that people don’t need makeup to get them through a pandemic, because they’re not going out. That’s why they’re trying to bait people with these ‘special offers’ that aren’t so special. Act now and get a luxury mini? Oh boy. People can’t find toilet paper, but a sample of luxury skincare enough for 2-3 uses sounds like a steal of a deal right now.

These companies are trying to take advantage of the fact that people are, or should be, at home right now, and if they are at home, they’re bored. They’re trying to take advantage of consumers wallets before people realize the severity of the situation and buckle down on how their money is being spent.

In the case of the Arbonne, and various other MLM advertisements I’ve seen and been bombarded with the past month, the MLM memos have been to prey on people’s anxieties and insecurities as a means to sell product. In what world would anyone want the ‘hospital staff care kit’ when all of the items in said kit could be found a the grocery store for half the price? In a pandemic when those items have been stripped from the shelves! Time to take advantage.

In the case of Petro Canada, I’ve seen some pretty alarming social media messages the past few weeks about the company, from coast to coast, selling things like personal/purse sized containers of hand sanitizer for $24.99. A month ago those containers would have been two or three dollars. But, this is pandemic marketing we’re dealing with. They know that people are panicking and they’re going to take advantage.

Social media sites like Facebook. Twitter and Instagram are making bank right now. No question about it. Because every company that has been affected by this pandemic is using social media to reach out to their customers, or could be customers through paid-for advertisements. I’ve seen how predatory it’s been first-hand because I run social media accounts for the economic development firm I’m consulting with, and also for Knight’s work, and Facebook has been shoving advertisement sales down my throat the past few weeks. SALE! SALE! ACT NOW AND WE’LL GIVE YOU 10 DOLLARS OFF! Oh, you didn’t act? Well, we’re still feeling nice, act today and we’ll give you the 10 dollars off!

I guess, the point of this long and winding message that I’ve been trying to portray here is that it’s important to take a look at how companies and people are acting, and reacting, to this pandemic. Who is trying to take advantage and who is trying to help weather the storm?

It’s a widely known fact that the majority of society will tighten the grip on their wallets in times of a crisis. This is where economics, marketing and psychology meet. Certain goods will not able to be produced at the same rates they’ve been being produced at for years, whilst other goods need to ramp up production. How do companies balance profits and losses whilst knowing that the products they’re trying to sell are exactly what people don’t need in the middle of a panedmic?

In the words of the late Kenny Rodgers ‘you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run’. That’s actually a pretty accurate depiction of business, and life in 2020.

Those who worried about how their bills are going to get paid are now being bombarded with ‘ACT NOW AND OUR $200 BIKINI IS ONLY $145!’ Do people have enough will power to ignore these sales? That’s what these companies are trying to exploit, hoping they will cave and spend even more money in a time where the future is anything but certain.

I feel as though I started this with a clear purpose in mind and I lost track of the point I was trying to make along the way. I’m hoping this makes sense. But I guess, if it doesn’t, that’s completely on brand for me.

Sporadic AF Thoughts, Nov 3.

I had such a good time writing the last post like this that I’ve decided I might do it more often. Though I still don’t like ‘AF’, so I need to come up with a new title. We’ll call that a work in progress.

After a week of feeling as though I really just wasn’t going to survive (yes, I am extremely over-dramatic when I am sick), I am finally starting to feel somewhat/relatively human again. I’m not 100%, but I can feel myself getting better, and that’s what’s important.

The sweet and wonderful Hilary from SereneLuna Blog sent me the kindest early birthday card/present and it absolutely brightened my spirits this week. There’s something about a hand written letter/note that will just never go out of style in my heart. It’s timeless, it’s so thoughtful and it really makes you (in this case me) feel as though someone genuinely cares. I think that’s why I really appreciate thoughtful birthday cards. Does anyone else keep their birthday cards? I keep mine. Is that weird?

I’ve been on the hunt for a ‘natural’ deodorant for a couple years now. And yes, I fully understand the dichotomy that ‘natural’ deodorants present. I think the biggest struggle that I am having in this search is that the majority of deodorants marketed as ‘natural’ are ingredient based in essential oils. I happen to be wildly allergic to most essential oils and using these products often causes me to get blistery rashes. So how does one find a ‘natural’ deodorant without any essential oils in it?

There’s been a growing narrative in Canada about a divided country, as the ‘Wexit’ movement gets propagated in the media and is gaining steam. Meanwhile, more and more multi-million dollar corporations have collected their tax-cuts from the Alberta government and are fleeing. Jason Kenney is running the narrative that this is ‘Trudeau’s fault’, ignoring the very basic fact that trickle-down economics don’t work. Trickle-down economics have never worked. The rich stay rich by hoarding their riches. They don’t invest it into their employees and the economy through sponsorship and infrastructure, they lock it in bank accounts in far off lands that have limited laws with respect to banking.

Following in the footsteps of his idol, the holier than thou Trump of Donald Senior, Jason Kenney handed out a corporate tax cut earlier this year promising the public this was a smart move for a better Alberta and that this would benefit everyone. And, as the corporations have subsequently taken their money and run, the Wexit movement now has more than 40,000 members on their online platform. Interesting…

It didn’t work when Donald Trump did it. It hasn’t ever worked for any government before and we all knew that it wasn’t going to work for Jason Kenney, but he did it anyway. He sold the public on a bill of goods that was built on pillars of salt and sand, meanwhile silencing anyone who dared remind him that trickle-down economics don’t work.

Now, I know that politics can get rather boring for people to follow at times, so I relate this to pop culture. Remember this fact: the rich get rich by hoarding their riches.

Kylie Jenner has recently been named the youngest self-made billionaire ever. Kylie, along with the rest of the Kardashian family, has a slew of employees who work for her. In her home, in her office, in the factories making the cosmetics that she sells. It’s widely reported that each and every one of her employees make minimum wage. It’s also been claimed by the employees who make Kylie Cosmetics that they’re not even provided with the basic safety equipment and working environment to help them properly do their jobs. According to the employees they’re paid only minimum wage, the bare legal minimum that Kylie has to pay them, not provided health insurance, and can at times, work upwards of twelve hours or more on a single shift during peak ‘launches’ for the line. All while only wearing a hear net and safety goggles.

The laboratory that Jenner uses is the same lab that Colour Pop cosmetics uses. And, it’s worth noting that these claims have also been made about Colour Pop Cosmetics as an employer. (Please note these claims of the factory and working conditions have not been verified through what I would consider… “media sources” for lack of better terminology. They’re Indeed reviews, youtube videos of ‘Why I quit working for Kylie’ and so on)

Why does Kylie only pay her employees the bare minimum wage legally required of her in the state of California? Simply put, would she be the youngest self made billionaire had she given them raises? Would she be the youngest self made billionaire had she offered any form of health insurance, chosen to upgrade the factory which her cosmetics are produced, offered employees more safety equipment to do their jobs? Likely not. Rich people stay rich by hoarding their riches.

Now I’m not hating here. I’m simply stating the facts as they relate to politics and they relate popular culture. What the girl has done is created a relatively average product, found the bare minimum it could possibly cost her to produce it and used ‘her brand’ to price it at a markup so high that in just a few short years she’s become a billionaire. She actually sounds pretty intelligent to me. But, she also reminds me of the very important point that trickle-down economics don’t work. In politics, in business, in Alberta, in life in general, it’s human nature to hoard our riches. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter who is in charge, the Oil Industry is still dying and Alberta is still in denial. Okay, I’ve talked about this for farrrrrr too long.

It’s raining outside. Pouring, actually. Consequently the downpour outside my window mimics the downpour in my head. Too many thoughts, too little time. I am a shallow heart with a wandering mind who is presently second guessing anything and everything that I possibly can. I’ll be 31 soon. It’s time to get my life together. I wonder what that looks like.