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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Did I Hear That Correctly?

Kalmar is hearing things, and it isn't pretty.

Published: Monday, February 22, 2010 - 05:00

Have you noticed that the world is getting crazier by the minute? Every day we hear about someone in search of his or her 15 minutes of fame or someone who operates on a different wave length than the rest of the civilized world, and in some instances, quality and performance excellence have taken a backseat. Here are some examples of people who have somehow entered the outer space black hole of uncommon sense. Yes, I realize that Quality Digest Daily is about strategic planning and issues affecting performance, but every now and then (OK, fairly often) I attempt to stretch those boundaries a bit and discuss topics somewhat off the mark. As such, I’m sure that several of you will be contacting me about my selections, but just cross if off to my feeling a bit squirrelly today.

I hear that a TV producer in Warren, Michigan, is facing felony charges for copying and selling bootleg polka dance party recordings. Prosecutors said he was using city equipment for personal gain and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Several questions come to mind: Is there really a market for bootleg polka party recordings and who are the buyers? Do bootleg copies really exude the quality of legitimate recordings? On the other hand, maybe the alleged felon is tying in the sale of tapes with an offer of also providing a box of assorted paczkis.

And those of you who recall the movie “Home Alone” perhaps remember the scene with John Candy, aka Gus Polinski, the polka king of the Midwest and his band, the Kenosha Kickers, who try to assist Kevin’s mom on her trip back home to rescue Kevin. Polinski and his merry band of polkateers stated that they had recorded “Polka, Polka, Polka” and “Polka Twist,” and the ever-famous “Twin Lakes Polka.” I wonder if the guy from Warren, Michigan, has bootleg copies. I’ll look into it for all you polka fans. Heck, I’m retired; what else do I have to do? We have to demand quality in all our bootleg recordings and I’m just the guy for the job.

It seems the words “quality” and “Toyota” are becoming mutually exclusive. What with floor mat problems that somehow affect the accelerator pedal, we now hear that computer problems may be the reason the cars unexpectedly speed up. No one likes to hear about safety problems that may affect our fellow citizens but the rigid stance Toyota management has taken on this dilemma mystifies me.

When the United States offered the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Act of 2009, aka the “Cash for Clunkers” program, most of the cars being purchased were foreign, albeit, many “foreign” cars are produced here in our nation. But when Japan offered a similar program in their country, the purchase of U.S. cars was practically eliminated because only cars that got  35.5 miles per gallon could be purchased. Some fair trade, eh? So while we all want safe cars on the road and since no one wants to see a company that employs thousands of U.S. workers have production problems, I think many of us are a bit delighted (secretly) to see the lofty quality conscious Japanese incur a misstep. But that’s just my “buy American” mindset opining. Maybe in the future, the ads for Japanese cars will claim that their vehicles are “almost equal in quality to U.S.-built cars of the Big Three.” Wouldn’t that be poetic justice?

Did I hear this correctly? Madonna, the singer, doesn't allow her children to watch TV for fear it will corrupt their minds. Oh, the irony. But I would agree that there seems to be little, if any, quality in TV these days. Newton Minow, formerly of the Federal Communications Commission once referred to TV as a “vast wasteland,” and that was almost 50 years ago. You want quality in broadcasting? Give me a "Three Stooges" comedy marathon.

I hear that retired NBA Hall of Fame basketball player, Charles Barkley, claims that the NBA All-Star Game is the pinnacle of all the professional all-star games. How’s that for pomposity? Have you ever witnessed an all-star basketball game where there is no defense and the scores usually close in on 150 points? In fact this past weekend’s NBA All Star Game had a score of 141 to 139. Do we really care who won? How about hockey all-star matches where 10 to 12 goals are scored, or the pro football game that resembles flag football or powder puff football? None of these so called games are really games—they are exhibitions. The only true all-star game takes place in baseball where the game counts. Whichever league (American/National) wins, gets home field advantage for the World Series. So Charles, please refrain from telling us something that is so ridiculous and laughable. 

Let’s close with an idea so ridiculous that all of us will be thankful we don’t live in Utah. I hear that Republican Senator Chris Buttars feels that senior year in high school is slacker time for many students, so why not eliminate it all together, which would save his state $102 million? Buttars claims that 12th grade means “nothing but playing around.” What's going through his head? Perhaps he didn't have a date for the senior prom or maybe he was bullied in his senior year. Whatever the case, wouldn’t we just be transferring the “playing around” time to junior year? Shouldn’t we be concentrating on quality in education? Heck, we have high-school graduates here in Detroit who can’t even read their diploma or a menu. Maybe the U.S. Superintendent of Education needs to familiarize all the schools with the Baldrige criteria for education, for those schools that actually have people who can read.

Finally, in several past columns I have discussed the practice of companies offering us surveys on the bottom of receipts (Oh No! Not Another Column About Surveys ). My research on this disclosed that few companies have “Winner Results” and employees of these companies rarely hear about survey respondents who have won. Thus I concluded that most of these surveys offering prizes are bogus.

Well, today I received a letter in the mail that changed that. In fact, as I am writing this, my wife, Mary, is filleting a crow for my dinner. I understand that it tastes good with a hollandaise sauce.

One of the surveys I completed for a national restaurant chain was chosen for their monthly prize, of which there is just one, and yes, I am the recipient of $1,000 cash! Some of it will be used, no doubt, to pump my stomach after dinner; and maybe some for the lobotomy I need to remove all inaccurate facts about company surveys from my mind. In the meantime, I’m completing a survey for the possibility of a $5,000 prize from Home Depot. As you know, all these surveys are legitimate.

Well, there you have it. That’s what I’m hearing. But then again I am approaching 67 years of age and maybe it’s time to see an audiologist to check my hearing. Wait, I just heard Mary calling me for lunch so I guess my hearing is intact. As such, I think it’s time to hear a foot-stomping recording of “Polka, Polka, Polka” as I devour a Boston crème paczki. Can retirement be any better than this?


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.