Archive for March, 2012


By: Jake Jakubuwski

Copyright, 2012. All rights reserved


Personally, I DETEST auto answering devices and robotic voices telling me how important my call is — and then telling me that all “service representatives are currently busy with other customers and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.” Great shades of Ernestine!

 My thoughts on the matter: I also know these ideas could be considered self-centered and maybe even arrogant. No doubt, if you’re inclined to be kind, you’ll simply consider my thinking archaic.

I am THE customer. I am the person that keeps you in business. Therefore, I think you owe me more consideration then a robotic voice, a verbal holding pattern and some idiotic “live” talk show excerpt while I am waiting to CONDUCT business with you! I certainly don’t want a “Push for” menu regarding how I want to spend my time waiting, when what I want to do is spend my money with you and not waste my time because of you.

 I am either trying to spend money with your company, or I am trying to resolve an issue that I have had with a purchase of goods or services from your company. For some reason, robotic voices telling me that someone will be with me as quickly as possible does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. It does not increase my confidence/convenience quotient regarding my experience with your firm.

Even more irksome is when “The Voice” asks me for information. Stuff like; “If you are calling in reference to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________ please give me your zip code, telephone number, the last four digits of your Social Security Number, you mother’s maiden name, your father’s middle initial, the serial and model number of the item you are inquiring about, the store number and date where it was purchased, or will be purchased and; the size of the speakers in the last boom box you saw!”

Then when a “representative” does connect with me the first thing they say is: “Hi! My name is __________, please give me your zip code, telephone number, etc.” And, all of that takes place before I can even begin to place an order or register a complaint. 

Then, God forbid! I get transferred to “Stacy” and Stacy asks me the same questions all over. This, in my opinion, is not marketing. It is a devilish program designed to make me take my business elsewhere, or cause me so much frustration trying to solve a warranty issue that I’ll throw the $%(*@## item away and buy a new one in a brick-and-mortar-store! I often wonder if the companies that resort to these tactics actually do have a desire to drive customers away… 

I understand voice mail. I use it myself when I have to be out of contact with customers, potential customers or contemporaries. My message is short and sweet: I’m not here. I will be back. Leave a number and I’ll call you when I return. No music, no radio, no sound effects and no “dead air.”

 nd, when I am “in the office”, I answer the phone! Essentially, I say something like: “Hello” or “Hi! This is Jake!” Recently, I had a caller say: “Wow! You actually answer your own phone?”

I may be in the minority but, when I answer the phone and that robotic voice says: “Please, hold. I have a very important call for you…” Or, “Let’s take a cruise!” (With a fog horn in the background) — I hang up! I also hang up when I answer the phone and a chirpy, smiley voice says: “Hi! I’m Audrey…How’s the weather this morning inOxford?”

So; How can your on-hold message provide an opportunity for you to market to me? It can’t.

Consequently, I suggest that you make it brief and forget asking me for information that I’m going to have to repeat to a “real” person anyway. Oh! Yeah! Did I mention this? Require a real person to answer the danged call after thirty seconds — max! Then you don’t have to worry about a sales message during the on-hold time…



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ANOTHER (!) Open Letter to NASA…

ANOTHER (!) Open Letter to:

Dr. Janet Kavandi,

Director of Flight Crew Operations

Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Dear Doctor Kavandi:

To say I am saddened in view of NASA’s seemingly total disregard of my letter of October 4, last year, regarding the new astronaut class that you were planning to begin is an understatement. The depth of my disappointment is so deep, it can only be considered catastrophic!

I was so eager and energized at the prospect of receiving an application for that class after reading the  article where you stated that  this was “…an exciting time to join the astronaut corps.”

I readily admitted, in my earlier letter, that since my back surgery I knew I was not a prime physical specimen and I told you that I have to sleep in a recliner. I really thought that since whatever you folks call the seats that the astronauts set in, they look enough like recliners that I would have probably fit right in. No pun intended.

Commendably you, or the folks that evaluate an applicants and their qualifications, have rigid criteria regarding education, reflexes and the applicant’s ability to hold their bladder in check for long periods of time.  If you felt that I fell short of your educational requirements — that’s one thing. If, on the other hand, if you rejected me on the basis of what you may consider my physical shortcomings or disabilities; then you, and NASA, may be in violation of the American’s With Disabilities Act of 1993!  

Actually, I can’t truthfully say why you disqualified me, or declined to consider me, since I never received an application or any other encouragement from NASA.

That brings me to another point. I mentioned John Glenn and his last trip into space at the age of 77 in my first letter and pointed out that I was (at the time) a full five years younger then John Glenn when he made his second historic flight.

In my effort to rationalize why you did not send me an application, or if you rejected me out of hand, because of my age, I need to put you on notice that I am a member, in good standing, of AARP! I’m sure that NASA would not want to become known as an agency that discriminates against the elderly and denies seniors the same opportunities they gave to younger folks.

I’m not making threats, Dr. Kavandi. I’m jes’ sayin’ that tickin’ off older folks is not a good idea.

In my earlier letter, I briefly outlined my flight experience. True, I have never piloted a jet, but I flew 150’s, 172’s and even a 182 on occasion. And, get this:  my actual flight experience goes back to 1957 when I flew in my first airplane — a Piper J3!  That’s fifty-five years of flying in, and piloting, a variety of aircraft!

Admittedly, I haven’t “flown” now for twenty-five years, or more, but the way I see it, it’s like riding a bike or swimming. Once you learn how, you never forget. Well, maybe I should carry an iPad with me just to take notes, do you think?

The experiences I have had as a passenger in the Piper taught me a lot about emergency procedures in the air. Duane Moffit, the pilot, ran out of gas (the J3 did not have a gas gauge on the instrument panel … it was a long thin wire that passed through the filler cap and floated in the tank on a cork).

We got lost. We landed in a farmer’s field and asked directions. We landed in a strip mine inPennsylvania and asked the watchman how to get to Altoona. Let me tell you — landing in a strip mine in a J3 is nowhere near as exciting as taking off from a strip mine in a J3!

And once, I sat in the copilot’s seat in a 747! True the plane was on the ground and the engines weren’t running but I knew that I was seeing the future!

Believe me, if there is an emergency in the air — in NASA’s case — in a shuttle, I know which buttons to push … leaving the one labeled “PANIC” to the very last. Of course, if I found myself in a life threatening situation, it would not take me long to work my way through the other buttons.

Dr. Kavandi, I won’t bore you with the rest of my qualifications as listed in my original letter to you. You can review them again, if you wish, at: with the date tag of October, 4.

Please do not construe anything that I have said here as being indicative of a desire on my part to pursue any litigation of your decision regarding my application to the class of 2013. My deep-seated disappointment and personal angst at what I feel was a brush off by NASA to a disabled (ADA) and elderly (AARP) American who only wishes a chance to serve his country is just that: disenchantment.

With best wishes to you, NASA and your next astronaut class, I remain…


Jake Jakubuwski

Oxford,North Carolina

 PS: Should you decide to reconsider my desire for an application and I was selected to be a member of the new class of astronauts, would whatever NASA pays me impact my current Social Security benefits?


 (Coyright, 2012, Jake Jakubuwski. All rights reserved.)

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

By: Jake Jakubuwski

Copyright, 2012.

All rights reserved.

 Right at forty years ago (39 to be exact), I was running a carpet cleaning company with six trucks, a furniture van, a car for my estimator and my own personal vehicles.

Then, the infamous Oil Embargo sank its teeth into the World’s economy!

The Oil Embargo culminated in a different game plan when it came to the pumping, delivery, refining and selling of oil-based products and chemicals from gasoline to plastics and roofing shingles. A lot of those changes were still in the future but were definitely coming our way.

Our immediate concerns in 1973-74 were with long lines at gas stations, limits on how much gas you could buy and concerns about the possibility of radically escalating prices for gas, heating oil and a host of other ancillary products. An ever growing list of “stuff” which was dependent — in one way or the other — on a readily available, economical, and uninterrupted supply of oil.

Stuff like groceries, medical supplies, fertilizer, manufactured goods and retail merchandise of all sorts, sizes, shapes and forms.

At the time, my primary concern was how to find and buy enough fuel to keep my small fleet of vehicles running and my business operating. My “partner” and I were discussing the problem one morning over our usual cup of coffee and I said: “Glen, it doesn’t matter if gas goes to five bucks a gallon as long as we can get it!” My thinking, at the time, was the costs would, one way or another, be passed on to our customers.

At the time, gasoline was costing me about thirty cents a gallon. It quickly went up to forty cents and higher as the year progressed and supplies tightened.

By 1975 the Oil Embargo was over and gasoline prices settled in at somewhere around $0.58 a gallon. Oh, for the Good Old Days, right 

By 1988, the year we moved toOxford,NC, gas was hovering between ninety cents and a dollar a gallon.

In April of 2001, I wrote an Op-ed piece for the News & Observer where I was discussing the price of gas going to $1.40 a gallon. That piece was inspired by an earlier article written by an economics professor at UNC who said that when you factored in inflation, we were actually paying less for gasoline then we were fifteen years earlier.

I really get my shorts in a knot when folks start telling me how much better off I am today when you  consider the effects of inflation. It’s not, in my opinion, that the goods cost more (Inflation), it’s the fact that my dollar is worth less (Currency depreciation). Ah, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I’m probably being unreasonable, but I tend to agree with Mark Twain. He said there were three types of lies; “Lies, damned lies and statistics!”

So, when it comes to comparing how well off I am today compared to how well off I was ten, twenty, thirty or even forty years ago; I think that simple statistical comparisons fall far short of the mark. Er, excuse me, Mark, I didn’t intend that as a pun.

I mean, I remember nickel candy bars, twelve cent-a-pack cigarettes and Saturdays when I would be hard pressed to spend a buck on movies, candy, ice cream sodas and hot dogs. That is, if I had a whole dollar to spend.

Anyway, here’s just one thing I had to say to the prof at UNC:

“The fallacy lies in statistical averaging. If I make $7.00 an hour and you make $21.00 an hour, we average $14.00 an hour each. And, by golly, gasoline at a dollar-forty-cents-a gallon only represents ten percent of our average hourly wage!

Factually, the cost of a gallon of gas represents 20% of my wage rate and only 6.66% of yours! For the wage earner making less then $7.00 an hour, the cost-per-gallon of gasoline is, when measured against their wage rate, even higher — and more onerous.”

Fast forward to 2012!

Last night, I heard on the news that gasoline “could” reach $4.50 a gallon by summer. Most folks seem to believe that we’re headed for $5.00 a gallon over the next several months, late this year or early next year.

One precept that I refuse to consider is that “in reality”, I’m in no worse shape regarding how much a gallon of gas cost today if I compare it, statistically, to the prices of 1955. 

Because I know this for a fact:

In 1955 I had my first “hourly” job and made sixty cents and hour. Cokes cost me a nickel each. That meant, to my way of thinking, that it took me five minutes of labor to earn a Coke. Today, if I were at an entry level job and making $7.45 an hour, and a 16 oz. bottle of Coke sells for $1.58 (Local WalMart pricing at check out) it will take me about 12.65 minutes to earn a Coke.

That means, at least the way I see it, that at an entry level job today earning over ten times what I earned per hour in 1955, it will take me more then 12 minutes of work to earn enough to buy what I could have bought in 1955 for only five minutes work!

Even if you consider that the Coke in 1955 was in an 8 oz. bottle and today’s Coke comes in a 16.oz bottle, I would still have to work six minutes today to earn a coke. That, I believe, is called wage compression. It means that I’m making more but it’s buying me less. Those are statistics that I understand.

In ’55 Pepsi came in a 12 oz. bottle for a nickel. That makes today’s Pepsi an even worse buy then a Coke!

In the final analysis,  here’s the way I see it. We’re getting slammed everyday with higher fuel prices, which, in turn, cause our tacos, Big Macs, Whoppers and peanut butter cost more because it costs more to deliver those things to the stores where we buy them. Even Coke and Pepsi.