Side Hustle: Hyre Car

There’s a market for everything. You ever heard of Hyrecar? I just learned of it today. It’s a relatively new service that allows you to rent out your car to car-less people. You make money for loaning your car to someone, and they get to use a car without the cost and commitment of managing ownership of a vehicle. The service is specifically targeting those who want to drive for Uber or Lyft but who do not have a car of their own (or they have an ineligible car), but I suppose anybody could use this service who needs a car for  any purpose.

Well, this is not something I would do, even if I’m being paid for the use of my car. Frankly, I am not letting people that I know use my car (so don’t ask me). So, I sure as hell won’t let a stranger use my car. I was paranoid when I recently dropped my car off for service. When I saw the mechanic drive it to the back of the building, I was praying he’d drive my car gingerly. I would rather find other ways to make money. The entrepreneur in me, though, is thinking outside the box right now – I could buy a spare car just for the purpose of listing on this site for a nice side income. It might be very profitable.

Depending on the type of vehicle, people earn between $25 and $40 per day on average. Those are just recommended amounts. It functions like your listings on eBay or Craig’s List. The person listing the vehicle sets the amount. You’d earn more for your SUV than you would for a four door sedan; you’d also earn more for a Mercedes than you would for your Hyundai. You’d also earn more for a 2019 vehicle than an older model.

Would you do it? Check out their website, Hyrecar and How It Works, with details on the service. Even vetted drivers could potentially be problematic, such as them using your car to commit crimes, or people who rack up traffic camera tickets. Trying to clear that up won’t be a simple process.

If I need a side hustle, I would rather go to the Goodwill, snag some thrown away items, touch them up, and then re-sell them for top dollar. This is a thing, and has a name: Thrift Store Flipping. Did you know a lot of people throw away some really nice stuff? I have often found discarded (really they’re donated more so than discarded) items sometimes still with the original tag and looking brand new. I once found a nice blazer that was brand new. My mom once found a nice hot plate. I’d rather thrift store flip as my side hustle than let someone use my car.

If you’re into investing, maybe consider buying some stock in the Hyrecar company. It looks promising; shares are currently about $2.80 per share. That’s an option – anything but letting someone use my car. Did I tell you not to ask to use my car? Oh, okay. Just checking.

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The Litigators: My Review of John Grisham’s Book

I first read John Grisham’s, The Litigators, several years ago – perhaps around 2012 or so – shortly after it was published. It is my favorite of Grisham’s works. I immediately got into it as soon as I opened the book. I just read it again. Reading it for a second time was almost like the first. It was just as thrilling.

The book went through lots of ups and down; however, the glue holding it together was Rochelle. She was a young black woman whose snappy witty charm kept her older, Caucasian male bosses – with sometimes nebulous ethics – together.

It begins with the plot centering on Wally, Oscar, and Rochelle as the chief protagonists whose personalities are as different as night and day. Oscar Finley, the senior partner in the Finley and Figg law office situated on the West Side of Chicago, is a conservative jaded man who prides himself as a proverbial ambulance-chasing attorney seeking the easy way to make a fast buck.

Oscar’s partner, Wally Figg, a recovering alcoholic, sometimes employs questionable business ethics but goes just far enough to avoid breaking the law. Rochelle Gibson, a former client who threatened to sue Finley and Figg for malpractice, was hired as a settlement of sorts and is the first buffer between the two lawyers and some of their shady clients and business associates. David Zinc, who joined the team later, brought a sense of reasonableness and normalcy to the motley crew, leaving his six-figure, high-stress law firm, for the peace of mind at the low-key firm of Finley and Figg. The story centers on the good and bad drama of a class action lawsuit filed against a pharmaceutical company for its cholesterol-lowering drug, Krayoxx, that has caused a number of deaths or permanent damage to patients’ internal organs.

The Litigators presents a very graphic account of the character’s interwoven lives – using drama, humor, suspense, and sarcasm – to present a very entertaining and sometimes predictable picture, especially if you read other Grisham’s works, and I mean that in a good way. This one has many of the same nuances. It is a great read and I highly recommend it. There aren’t many books of today’s culture that I read more than once, so that says a lot about the Litigators. It’s well worth your time. Check it out. You’ll thank me later.

 

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Parental Abandonment

I have been reading and researching parents who abandon their kids. It happens quite frequently. We often see reports about absentee fathers. But mothers abandon families too, and that’s not talked about very much. Although fathers leave with far more frequency, the incidence of mothers who leave is also quite high.

Generally speaking, it seems that moms and dads leave their families at different points. Dads who leave their mates and their kids, whether or not they are married, tend to do so either when the kids are conceived or shortly after birth. Moms tend to leave after years of feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated and longing for what they perceive to be a better life.

There are many instances of moms leaving their families, and they are eerily similar. “Eleven years ago, Brenda Heist dropped off her young kids at school — and never returned.” She didn’t go pick the kids up later and she didn’t go back home. Everyone thought she was dead. Then more than a decade later, she turned up in Florida. She hadn’t been kidnapped. She said that she was stressed and needed a new life.

It’s bad enough to grow up never knowing your parents. But I can’t imagine what it’s like for your parents to suddenly leave. One woman says she was seven when her mom left her, her dad, and nine year old sister, and forty plus years later, she still bears the scars of her mother’s decision to leave her family. I suppose it’s better for someone to leave their kids than be neglectful and not providing the warm and nurturing home that kids deserve.

Maybe friends and relatives are partly to blame. Not to take responsibility away from the people who leave, but when people ask them, “Why aren’t you married yet?” or they ask, “When are you going to have kids?” – and you know like I know that people do rudely ask these questions – maybe some people get married or have kids when their heart isn’t fully in it. I have had enough fortitude not to cave to the pressure when people have asked me those questions.

In closing let me say number one, if you really don’t want the responsibility and commitment of a family, stay single and parentless; number two, stop pressuring your single friends and relatives to get married and have kids. Let people in their truth without your commentary – and when you hear your daddy or auntie or cousin try to pressure someone to end their single life, pull them aside and let them know those type of comments are not helpful. You might save some future kids from parental abandonment.

While it can be rewarding to find and nurture a life partner and develop a loving family, you can also find reward with single life too. Let me leave you with one of my favorite recordings by Lady Gaga, Born this Way, that embraces being happy with yourself.

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What’s In A Name?

To begin with, this post may not be very orderly like most of my writings, and it could go off on a tangent. I’m just espousing some ideas that I was thinking about, so bear with me as it unfolds. Sorry if it doesn’t make sense or lacks organization. I’m just rambling here, thinking out loud.

I just met a new employee at work by the name of Robert Jones. It’s interesting to note that I know eight people with that name going as far back as my childhood. Two of my Facebook friends are named Robert Jones, and both of them are named after their father: they are Robert Jones, Jr. Incidentally, one of them goes by the moniker, Son of Baldwin.

This reminds me of a post I made a couple of years ago, Love American Style, in which I talked about people who conduct background checks on people they are interested in dating. They do it themselves online, the way Neve does on the TV show Catfish. I personally think it’s not wise to do it yourself. You should hire a professional if you want to increase the likelihood of accuracy. In addition to the Keiths and Roberts, I also know of a few other people with that name. Other names are Keith Clark, Anthony Anderson, Michael Jones and many others too, and those are just the men. I know of lots of women with the same name too. I addressed the name issue previously (Say My Name: Tyrone), though with a slightly different context.

If you do choose to background check your dates that have common names like these, you most likely will find information that may not be your target. Even for less common names, you still might end up searching the wrong target. Wouldn’t it be unfortunate if you rejected someone because you found information on a different person with the same name? Add to the mix the people who may be known by a name other than their government name, and that can further complicate things. I’m not even talking about people who deliberately try to catfish you, like I addressed in my article Have You Been Catfished? from a few years ago. Some people merely prefer to use a different name or a nickname or perhaps they use their middle name rather than their first name. That’s one of the reasons why it can take so long for people seeking jobs requiring a security clearance. Investigating a person’s background can be complicated.

Years ago, the executive director of the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) had my name. I worked at the US Department of Education at the time. I would often receive calls or emails from people thinking I was him. I suspect he might have been contacted by people looking for me. I never worked for NABSE, but it’s odd that people jump to conclusions, logical conclusions, when it comes to names.

Once, the UPS delivery driver had my name. He told me he made thousands of deliveries during his decade of working for the company and he encountered several people named Will Saunders. For several years, one of the IT specialists at work had my name. I was often getting his calls and emails. The first time I got a call from someone telling me something was wrong with their DHCP settings or a problem with the DNS configuration, I wondered why they called me. One caller even asked, “But you are Will Saunders, right?” It took me a long time to realize there was another Will Saunders who was an IT technician. I was glad when he left the agency. I once read that the late pop singer Michael Jackson was confused with another Michael Jackson when he was a teenager. I’m sure it happens a lot. I’ve heard the same about Chris Brown too.

So, there you have it folks. Don’t rely on a name only if you need to look into someone. Be as thorough as possible, or better yet, hire a professional to do it for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Penny’s Has Failed Again

Penny’s Has Failed Again

A recent experience with JC Penny made me come to two realizations. Number one, I need to be very leery about online reviews. Number two, I won’t shop at JC Penny again.

I ordered something online. It was exactly what I wanted at a good price. I selected to have it sent to my local store for me to pick up. That saved me a $12 shipping charge. I was happy. When I arrived at the store to pick up the order, the associate pushed it out from the back. It was in a box. I was really shocked. It was supposed to be assembled. I pulled up the ad on my phone and double checked. There was no mention of the item requiring assembly. Trying to make amends, the associate made an offer to put it together right there on-site, to which I declined. I requested a refund and went to another store.

But that wasn’t the thing that bothered me the most. Later that day, I received an email inviting me to complete a customer satisfaction survey about my shopping experience. Yes, I obliged. I rated my experience excellent on the functionality of the website, the ease of ordering, the extent to which I could find what I was looking for, and value for what I spent. All of those things were, well excellent. But when it came to the question about whether the item I received was as it appeared on the site and as it was described in the ad, I checked the ‘No’ radio button, and I explained in the text box what happened. I’m a fair person, and I am a particularly fair reviewer. I included the URL in my review to the item on the JC Penny site, validating my point about the ad not mentioning assembly would be required. Some people don’t mind assembling things. I’m not one of them. I was hoping that if anybody saw my review, they would use it to help them make an informed decision prior to ordering.

The next day, JC Penny wrote me to say they would not publish my review, but I could call and discuss the matter with management. That’s the part that bothered me the most. First, I didn’t bash any employees or the store in my review. I provided even-tempered, objective comments about my experience. If I had a store, I would not oppose those  types of comments from a customer. The comments might be helpful to other customers. Second, do they only want favorable reviews? If so, that’s disappointing. It’s not even as though I proactively reviewed the ordering experience. JC Penny invited me to do so, so my silly self thought they wanted honest opinions of my experience. Evidently not.

That experience has soured me to shopping there in the future. I was already on the fence about JC Penny. After this, it’s unlikely I’ll ever shop there again. That’s precisely why some people I know place little value in online reviews, even from verified customers. If vendors are going to censor them, that invalidates the authenticity of the reviews.

Penny’s response was very different than the response I received from the review I provided following  my experience at the Sheraton in Dallas.  The manager reached out to me for further feedback to help them make improvements. That’s the purpose of a customer review: to use the information to improve your product or service. Some businesses get it, others do not. That’s probably one of the many reasons why Penny’s is closing 20 plus stores in 2019. Frankly, they can all close if I had anything to say about it. They don’t care about customers.

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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Lately I’ve been seeing a variety of events in my life that help me see where stand-up comics might get their material. Life has a way of speaking to us with humor, if we bother to look for it. So, I was sitting in my seat on the plane, waiting to depart Dallas for my trip back home. I was sitting in 21D. I should have been in 20D, but I was paying too much attention to all the eye candy on the plane, and I inadvertently went too far, and there was plenty of eye candy everywhere I looked.

So, a short time later, the passenger assigned to 21D showed up. Rather than directly address me and tell me I was in his seat like I would have done – I might have said, “Excuse me sir, but I think you’re in my seat.” – this dude began chanting “21D, 21D.” I looked up and I swear I thought he called my name. I thought he was one of the people I had just met at the conference and I replied, “Oh, hi. I didn’t know we were on the same flight.” After all, how else would someone I didn’t recognize know my name? But I was wrong.

   He looked puzzled telling me he didn’t know me and that I was in his seat. I didn’t say it aloud, but I was thinking, why didn’t he just say I was in his seat in the first place? He took my seat in 20D and said it’s okay if I remained in his. I chuckled for the next few minutes. Fortunately I had on my headphones so anyone watching might believe I was listening to something humorous. Laughter is the best medicine, especially if you can learn to laugh at yourself.

 

 

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My Visit to Dallas, Texas

I spent all of last week in Dallas, Texas for work. It was my first time in Dallas, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I try to explore the neighborhood around hotels when I visit a new town. If I have lots of extra time, I’ll explore the whole city as much as I am able. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time for much exploring.

I must say I was very impressed by this hotel, the Sheraton Dallas Hotel on N. Olive Street in the heart of downtown Dallas, which has been owned and managed by Marriott since 2016. Believe me, it takes a lot for a hotel to impress me. I have been in dozens of hotels, from east to west – from north to south. This hotel was huge. It took up an entire block with the sleeping rooms, conference rooms, business center, and enormous parking garage. But that’s not what impressed me.

First, nearly all of the employees treated me as if I were in their private home. Everywhere I went on the premises, I encountered a hotel employee who greeted me and offered assistance with anything I needed. I suspect that’s all a part of the training. I also think it’s more than just the training, though. Those are soft skills, innate, interpersonal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others in a natural manner. Everyone made me feel right at home.

The other thing that impressed me is the on-site gym. It is one of the most state-of-the-art hotel gyms I’ve ever seen. It made me feel as if I were in a Planet Fitness or other commercial fitness center. There were multiple treadmills, ellipticals, bicycles, weights, stability balls, resistance bands, and other fitness tools that customarily are found in a gym. There was also an on-site, full sized swimming pool adjacent to the gym, and yes. I went for a swim.

Lastly, I was impressed by the hotel’s response following the customer satisfaction survey/review I completed. I was asked to rate the facility using a 5-point scale of Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor – in the areas of cleanliness, dining, location, service, amenities, and value for the money. I rated the hotel Excellent in each category except dining. I rated dining as good, which isn’t a bad rating; however, good wasn’t good enough for Sheraton. I thought the hotel lacked sufficient healthy food items and vegetarian options. I think it would benefit not just me but many hotel guests. The Director of Food and Beverage, Ryan Littman, reached out to me the next day to follow-up and get more of my sentiments on what can be improved. That was special to me. I was glad to offer my point of view.

The other disappointing thing, which had nothing at all to do with the hotel, is that all of the restaurants within walking distance cater to commuters. So, they were closing around 4-5 pm. But that’s alright, though. Lyft took me everywhere I needed to go. One day I need to go back and see the town when I’m not working. I really wanted to go see the JFK Museum and the ATT&T Stadium. But I couldn’t work them in. But that gives me at least two good reasons to go back to Dallas.

I am already thinking about my next visit.

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Taco Flavor Doritos

 

Taco Flavor Doritos, by Will Saunders

When I was a kid, this was a popular flavor for Doritos. It definitely was my favorite. This was before some of the many flavors that exist today. In fact, at the time, the only other flavor that existed was a corn flavor, which wasn’t all that great.

Through the years, many flavors of Doritos have come and gone and come and gone again. This taco flavor is one of them. It was discontinued for many years. I didn’t realize it was discontinued. I figured the stores where I was shopping had merely sold out. After many months of looking for them, I finally forgot about them. Then, one day a couple of years ago, I began seeing them again, here and there. Now, they are everywhere…and I’m thankful. I don’t eat a lot of chips. You know they go right to the hips, so I try and avoid them; however, these are one of the few chip brands I’ll enjoy.

I am so glad Doritos began selling them again. They are the best. If you haven’t had them, give them a try. I think you’ll enjoy them too.

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Be Kind

Be Kind, by Will Saunders

You never know how you can impact others. I saw this first-hand the other day on my flight back home from my time in Dallas.

I was in my seat, watching an elderly man in the aisle across from me taking his time putting his things away before taking his seat. When I say he was taking his time, I mean he was maneuvering as if he were the only person on that flight. There was a man behind him, clearly impatient, evident by the exaggerated breathing and the heavy tapping of his foot. The elderly man eventually finished what he was doing and sat down.

As the impatient man passed, he leaned in to tell me he looked up and saw the hat I was wearing like the one up above, with the words, “Be Kind” across the top. He said that it helped encourage him not to be rude to the older gentleman.

Never underestimate the power you have over others, even if unintentional. The older guy didn’t even know he had dodged a bullet, for he was oblivious to everything around him. I was glad the guy told me that my hat inspired him to be kind. Probably, he had kindness already within his heart. My hat only reminded him of that. Be kind, folks. It’ll always come back to you in immeasurable ways.

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Say My Name: Tyrone, by Will Saunders

The things I write here usually are serious topics that strike me or are relevant to society or a subset of our community, or I write something of major significance in some way, larger than just me I like to say. Today, this post is none of that. I remembered a funny little anectdote that I want to share.

Several years ago, there was a lady at work who would always called me Tyrone. Doris Robb was her name. I have no idea why I remember her name, for it was a really long time ago. I was a sophomore in college then, around 1988 or 1989. I also have no idea why she called me Tyrone. She was a very sweet middle-aged Chinese-American woman. We were responsible for managing the reviews of discretionary government research grants submitted to the agency, but we worked on different programs.

Anyhow, I told Doris my name wasn’t Tyrone and that it was Will. Twice. But it never sunk in. After the second correction, I stopped telling her. Frankly, I liked her accent and the way she pronounced Tyrone. Almost a year had passed and she, as I was told, was having a conversation with a third party about me. When Doris mentioned  Tyrone this and Tyrone that to the third party, that other person evidently asked who she was talking about. She told Doris Tyrone wasn’t correct. Doris came up to me the next day and apologized for the name faux pas. She said she thought I was joking when I had told her my name was Will.

I never did find out what they were saying about me that day. I was always very curious. I was hoping they would have voluntarily told me. I figured it might have been a little rude to ask, don’t you?

 

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