Unemployment From a Business Owner’s Perspective in California

NOTE: You can always fire an employee “at will.”  It’s just unemployment you have to be concerned about.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

If you didn’t already know, employers help pay a percentage of their payroll into the California Unemployment pool.  From that pool, ex-employees get their unemployment.  Unlike pregnancy leave, social security, and medicare, it’s the EMPLOYERS and not employees that end up paying into the unemployment pool.  So you have to be mindful that you’re not firing people like crazy unless you don’t care about paying larger sums of money into the unemployment pool.

The California Employment Development Department keeps track of what percent of your pool has been paid out, and the higher the ratio (more payouts) the higher amount of money you have to put back into the pool.

 

HOW EMPLOYEES GET UNEMPLOYMENT

If an employee leaves a job for any other reason EXCEPT for “willful misconduct” or quitting WITHOUT “good cause,” then they will most likely get unemployment.

 

BUT THEY QUIT THE JOB!

Even if an employee voluntarily quits, they can still get unemployment if the have a “good cause.”

Here are some more “good cause” reasons for people to quit:

http://www.edd.ca.gov/uibdg/Voluntary_Quit_VQ_500.htm

For example, I had an employee that voluntarily quit so that they could move out of state to take care of their ill child.  They got unemployment.

Or if you cut an employee’s rate of pay more than 20% and they quit, they will get unemployment!

 

HOW TO PROVE “WILLFUL MISCONDUCT”

The burden is on the employer to prove “willful misconduct” for why you fired an employee.  You want to have as much written records to support your claim.  I generally try and get 1 verbal warning, and two written/signed warnings within a relatively short period before terminating employment.

Even if they miss one day, it may not be enough to disqualify them from unemployment.

There was this instance where an employee was stealing checks for the last year they were working (story about that later), but I didn’t find out until AFTER they were terminated.  Even though I brought that up to the administrative judge’s attention, they still got unemployment!  The odds definitely are stacked in the employees’ favor.

To get more information on unemployment or before you decide to fire anyone, I recommend you read the information here to minimize your unemployment liability. http://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/More_Employer_Information.htm

National Cash Systems Review, Irvine, CA

UPDATE (October 15, 2012)
After numerous back and forth emails and delays over a span of about a month, I discovered why I was originally charged such a large amount. They charged me $125/hour for each ATM and then tacked on an additional one hour long driving charge for each upgrade. So I got charged two hours of $125 each for driving time for my two ATMs that were 10 minutes apart, while the actual upgrades took about 20 minutes and 30 minutes.

In any case, they just contacted me to issue me a refund for one of the driving times.

ORIGINAL
I’m currently with National Cash Systems as my ATM Processor and up until about this past month, I would recommend them to other people.  After two years of not really needing to call them for anything, they start taking this hyper aggressive, “I will take your money and you will thank me for it” approach on things.

Unfortunately, the worst part about this company is how they’ll just withdraw funds from your bank account, and not tell you what it’s for until you discover it on your own and call in.  Then trying to get an invoice for those charges becomes a drawn out game of email-tag. They’re also very unapologetic about it, so I expect this kind of treatment in the future.

JUNE 2012

I discover some monthly charges on my accounts for $7.99/month.  Why was I charged?  Because I didn’t reply to their email or contact them to “Opt Out”, I was charged $7.99/month for each of my ATMs.  Obviously, I complained and the funds were eventually refunded back to my account.

BUT SERIOUSLY WHO DOES THIS?!

Here was the email I failed to take seriously and I won’t analyze it because this seems so blatantly unethical that if I need to communicate why this is wrong to you, we will probably never associate or do business with one another.

May 15 Email Subject: Sticker Insurance Opt In

 

SEPTEMBER 2012

I discover two charges on my account, $166.67 and $144.95, labelled, “Software and Braille Stickers.”  I’m annoyed again and call in.  I discovered that technicians from National Cash Systems came over to my machines, logged into the Master password, and upgraded my machines to the latest versions back in July 2012.

So that’s annoying after what occurred with their Sticker Opt-In and I send them this email (September 6, 2012).

I have discovered your company has charged my account in the amounts of $166.67 and $144.95 on August 15, 2012 without my authorization.

See attached work orders for service done to my ATMs without my prior consent.

Please refund the charges and do not charge my account in the future without my explicit consent.

 

We can also talk about a lower amount to be charged for the software upgrades rather than an outright refund. I’d be okay with $50 for each site being upgraded for a total of $100. $150 for about 20 minutes of work that includes uploading files from a USB thumb drive does not seem reasonable (the stickers were mailed to me prior and I had already placed them on the machines). In my particular case, I would’ve been able to do the work myself if your technicians emailed me the files and the directions received from Hyosung. For the sake of expediency, however, I’m willing to compromise and at least cover your expenses.

For the two years I have been with your company, I’ve generally been satisfied and recommended you to my friends. I thought we had a great working relationship where I purchased the ATM, installed it myself, programmed it myself, maintained it, provided Internet connection, and restocked it with my own cash. I took care of the machine, and your company processed the transactions. The division of labour seemed very clear and there were minimal surprises. This was the relationship I was expecting from the very beginning and was communicated to me with your staff.

Then in June, your company started charging me an unsolicited $7.99 from my account for insurance I did not approve of (which was refunded, thank you). And now, we’re dealing with the software upgrade issue.

I would like to continue my business relationship with your company if at all possible. I have been generally very happy with your company’s service and I would like to continue and recommend your business to others. In order to do so, I need to be assured that our business relationship returns to the original intent as described at (http://www.nationalcash.com/affiliate-programs/), “Some independent deployers choose to manage its own fleet of ATMs but utilize National Cash for all its back-end processing, accounting, statement generation & reconciliation services.”

I look forward to an agreement that will enable us to have an ongoing and profitable relationship.

 

Look, I get it.  Sometimes we make mistakes and send out techs without letting people know in advance.  Then we withdraw some arbitrary amount we want from their account and still not tell them until they look at their bank statements.

No response to the email and I’m trying to get an answer from staff and I get an official one today, September 17, 2012.

Their official response is essentially, “touch luck.  We can get into your machines and that’s our right per the agreement you signed.”  Their position is that no prior notice is needed whatsoever and then they can charge me for it.  That’s what I signed up for, right?

Obviously, this company cares minimally for me as a business partner.

So now that I understand how they want to play this, I sent them cancellations for my contracts that aren’t due to expire until about a year out and another one 6 months later.  Luckily, I had enough foresight to not sign the 5 year agreement they originally wanted.

I’ve also submitted a request for them to change the contracts to make it VERY clear that I don’t want their techs touching my machines unless I give them consent first.  It’s just a pet peeve of mine to get funds withdrawn from my account by surprise.  In fact, I’m helping them to cooperate by changing the master passwords and telling them I did so that they don’t try to come out again without my consent.

I can easily imagine in a couple of months, that their techs will come out to my machine to do some additional programming without my consent despite my explicit email to them to NOT do that.  Then they will just withdraw the funds from my account and call it a travel charge.

SERIOUSLY?!  What’s wrong with these people?

Hopefully, I can get some kind of resolution from this with them creating a new contract that explicitly states they shouldn’t be touching my machines without my approval first.  Otherwise, I’ll be moving to a new ATM Processor.

Unfortunately, I don’t have experience with any other ATM Processor, so maybe this is just standard behavior in the industry.

Any recommendations?

Our Parents are War Trauma Victims


Have you ever tried to fully understand the childhood of your parents and make sense of how they see the world?

Your grandparents were raised in Japanese occupied Korea until the end of World War II facing untold atrocities and most likely weren’t paragons of parenting.

Your parents were raised post Korean War still ravaged from World War II in extreme poverty.  No running water.  No electricity. Perhaps in a shack by today’s standards. They might as well been raised in the Great Depression in the 1920s.  But our parents were poorer.  They moved to a new country where they couldn’t even speak the language to forge a whole new life.

But they’ve made it, and you work for them.  And you’ve been raised in the shadow of the trauma they endured in their upbringing.  You are traumatized by the past devastation passed on from their parents, to your parents, and onto you.

Do you see your parents as war trauma victims?  Can you attempt to place yourselves in their childhood to see the devastation they had to endure?

To better understand the suffering they’ve endured will help us understand why they behave as they do.

“Evergreen” Contracts and Contract Negotiation with Tellecommunications

I prefer month-to-month contracts as much as possible, especially in areas of technology.  This is to give me the freedom to cancel with the vendor in case they aren’t working out financially.  It’ll allow you to cancel after the month without any repercussions.  Perhaps you find someone cheaper or you may discover their services aren’t really needed.

Make sure you’re reviewing ALL contracts in the fine print and renegotiate the fine print.  If you don’t like it, walk away and check with a new company if many companies offer similar services.

Often contracts will have provisions that automatically renew the original term of the contract unless you cancel at least 90 days prior to the end of the term.  These are “evergreen” clauses and I HATE them.  Some contracts will even state you can’t cancel earlier than 180 days before the end of the term.  That means you only have a 90 day window to cancel a contract that may automatically renew another 5 years!!!

I will often try to do a standard term on the contract, and then once the term ends, have the contract month-to-month.  Or if it’s an evergreen contract, I will send them a cancellation letter the first month or as early as possible so that it’ll force them to come back to the table to renegotiate the terms at the end of the term, rather than automatically renewing.  You still need to be on the ball upon renewal time.

The most notorious companies are the ones that deal with technology.  Month-to-month is the way to go or at most an annual contract because technology and pricing is constantly shifting downward.  You have to be on the ball and paying attention to these because often times you have a small window to cancel.

Companies to consider: telephone, Internet, and television.  Or basically any company that you started services with more than 3 years ago.

I’ve saved hundreds of dollars per month by trimming bloated telecommunications contracts from 2004.

WARNING! Korean Phone Company Shadiness in Orange / Los Angeles County

http://youtu.be/r-YXHhr5F3Y

Here’s the email (December 31, 2009) summarizing the shadiness that I sent as a complaint to Mitel.  I had attachments for the contracts and bills, but I don’t think it’s necessary for you to get the moral of the story.

Hi [redacted] ,

I was told that you are the regional representative for the [redacted] owned by [redacted] .

I would like to report to you that we are currently in a dispute with [redacted]  stemming from his misrepresentation and fraud.  The leasing company, [Financial Company] has also been pulled into the issue.

Prior to meeting [redacted] , we had 18 phone lines through a T1 Data/Voice Intergrated Phone line through Telepacific with an older model Mitel SX-200 that uses a floppy drive to boot up.

Here is the timeline of what occurred:

November 2009

[redacted]  and representatives approached me and offered me a new Mitel SX200 ICP PBX telephone system and a T1 Dynamic Voice/Data service with equivalent service for a total monthly payment of $680.00 plus tax.  How he would do this exactly wasn’t clearly explained to me at the time.

December 3, 2009

The Mitel SX200 ICP PBX was installed without the T1 Dynamic Voice/Data Service.  They gave me a leasing agreement without any mention of the T1 Dynamic Voice/Data Service.  I told them I needed it on the contract and they added it at the last second.  I signed the lease agreement ([Financial Company].pdf) after they finished installation with the added line of the “T1 Dynamic/Voice Data Service.”

December 4, 2009

[redacted]  from [Financial Company] called me to confirm that the equipment was installed.  I notified her that the equipment was installed.  There was no mention of the T1 Dynamic Voice/Data Service not being provided.  [Financial Company] then disbursed payment to [redacted]  believing or not aware of the T1 Dynamic Voice/Data Service to not be a significant feature.

[redacted]  offered to replace the T1 for a much faster 10mbps/1.5mbps DSL line for an additional $99 per month.  He verbally guaranteed the speeds and I signed up for that contract as attached (DDSL10Mbps.pdf) believing the DSL to be an upgrade to the T1.

December 14, 2009

I receive the first bill from [Financial Company] and discover that there is no mention of the T1 on the bill.  I called and emailed [redacted]  from [Financial Company] to discover that they were not aware that [redacted]  included the T1 service in the leasing agreement.  The email I sent is copied below along with the proceeding communication that the original lease agreement is invalid.

This is when I discovered that [Financial Company] could not guarantee the T1 Service.  Should [redacted]  fail to provide T1 service during the 60 month period, then [Financial Company] would still require full payment.  My understanding was that [Financial Company] gave a lump sum to [redacted]  for signing us up for a $680/month lease payment.  [redacted]  was going to use that lump sum to pay for a separate T1 service, however, no written agreement or contract was setup regarding this and it’s still unclear to me how this would make financial sense to [redacted] .

December 22, 2009

[redacted] , an employee of [redacted] , contacted me about trying to separate the Lease payment from the service portion (email chain is below).  I communicated to [redacted]  that it was not acceptable.

December 23, 2009

[redacted]  signed a contract with Telepacific (TelepacificAnalog.pdf), despite my clear communication his offers were unacceptable, to remove our T1 Line with 18 phone lines down to 10 analog lines.

December 28, 2009

[redacted]  and [redacted]  came to the hotel to attempt to straighten things out.  He offered that we pay an adjusted $399/month for the lease of the equipment, and then $380/month to his company directly for the phone and Internet service to replace the T1.  I asked [redacted]  why I needed to go through him for the service when I could just go direct, and he stated that he gets a special discount.  I questioned how it was possible for [redacted]  to offer us 18 phone lines, and a fast Internet connection for just $380/month since I knew the DSL alone would cost $169.99 at the time.  [redacted]  stated that he knew nothing about how Telepacific was going to offer us a technical solution despite the fact that he had already signed a contract with Telepacific on the 23rd.

During the meeting, a technician from Covad came to the hotel to install DSL.  I was notified by the technician that [redacted]  had signed a contract with Megapath.  I called Megapath and let them know that their service was not authorized.  I also discovered that Megapath’s contracted speed was 10mbps/1.0mbps DSL and that a 10mbps/1.5mbps DSL does not exist.  I also discovered that they could not guarantee that I would get those speeds.  The technician from Covad, after determining the line speed, declared that the maximum speed possible is 6mbps/768kbps.

By the time I found out that they had signed a contract with Megapath, [redacted]  and [redacted]  had already left after talking with the owner of the hotel.

December 29, 2009

I talked with my Account Manager, [redacted] , from Telepacific and discovered that [redacted]  had fraudulently signed a contract on December 23, 2009.  The contract signed was that Telepacific was going to cut our phone service down to 10 analog lines and remove our existing T1 circuit.

Conclusion

It became clear to me that [redacted]  was intending to cut the quality of service to my hotel without my knowledge in order to save on expenses.  He demonstrated a pattern of misrepresentation and open fraud when signing the contract for Telepacific despite my clear communication regarding the unacceptability of his offers.

I have informed [redacted]  that his company is no longer allowed to come on property.

Potential Solution

[redacted]  will need to hire someone I trust to reinstall our old phone system and to remove the phone system he installed.

I will also be including you in any future email communication I have with the leasing company and [redacted]  unless you want me to remove you from the conversation.  Unfortunately, I do believe that [redacted]  has sold these packaged deals to other customers and is jeopardizing your company’s reputation.

Using Consumer Grade 2-Way Radios

Currently I’m using Motorola MR350R Two-Way Radios at my two hotels. Currently (2011), they’re priced at $50.99 for a pair which comes out to about $25.50 each. I try to keep as many staff members with a radio to ease communication.

Compared to the price of more expensive “commercial” grade radios which can easily get as high as ten times the price, I considered the radios to be a great deal. Of course, there are trade-offs, and I’ll list here how I’ve dealt with the issues.

Durability
Meaning, if your staff drop the radio, you’re in trouble. These radios are not meant to survive the impact. They may not physically break on the outside, but you’ll start noticing that the radio my have problems sending or receiving signals.

You’ll probably end up having to buy a new replacement.

One way to combat the dropping issue is have your staff use the clips, or if they’re in housekeeping, they hopefully have large pockets on their uniforms.

Replacing the Belt Clips
The problem with the clips are that they are notorious for breaking continually. And buying replacements start getting annoying. Instead, I bought a bunch of these radio holsters from a local radio dealer that look like this:

Blogs and Social Media DIY

There are already tons of sites that go into this topic. Just google the terms, as that’s how I pretty much got into this.

Recently, I’ve discovered the world of WordPress and started implementing WordPress in this blog, and for the blogs of my hotels. I have one hotel that has a fairly significant conference center and realized we have TONS of amazing events that I could easily post pictures for.

In addition, for the hotels that you’re implementing a lot of changes (such as breakfast items, upgraded furniture, etc), it makes it easy for you to publicize them as you can see here.

All of these sites I was able to create on my own. I have some basic HTML skills that I learned through the “copy and paste” method. All of these skills can be learned through Google and trial-and-error methodology if you’re willing to put in the time. You’ll also need to deal with hosting providers. But you really only need one hosting plan, and you can host WordPress sites for multiple domains through your one hosting plan.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to show how my strategy is actually bringing in “real” money.

Sometimes, you won’t know the full potential of some of these sites until you just jump in and try through trial and error. I’ve found WordPress to be amazingly powerful and somewhat easy to use.

How I Fell in Love with Google Apps

Yes, I’m a Google Fan Boy. It’s VERY difficult to beat FREE and due to the fact that I have enough tech expertise to manage my own infrastructure, this has helped my hotels save TONS of money and increase productivity.

Here are some examples of how Google has saved us money:

GOOGLE APPS

NOTE: Google Apps recently limited the number of users to 10 for their free accounts which may GREATLY limit its cost effectiveness compared to FREE. When I signed up, I was able to add at least 50 users which is more than enough for my hotels.

Google Apps consists of numerous applications and I’ll try and break them down.

Google Mail – Every front desk agent has an email address and basically every employee except the ones that really have no need to access a computer (ie. some housekeepers, banquet staff, cooks, etc). I set up group email addresses, such as info@hojomaingate.com or fdesk@hojomaingate.com to make email messaging easier. I also setup each agent to reply from “info@hojomaingate.com” so that when an individual replies to an email from the front desk, it’ll go to all front desk agents.

Soocial – You can get this through the apps marketplace. Forget the hand written Guest Service Log! This application will allow all your front desk agents to communicate with one another similarly to Facebook. It also makes searching a breeze regarding specific guest issues using the search function.

Google Sites – I created a Wiki for the front desk and for our management staff. This includes contact phone numbers, frequently used files like credit card authorization forms, passwords, etc. I even used it for our http://conference.hojomaingate.com as our public site along with redroofbp.com It’s pretty simple to use as long as you know how to manage domains registrars.

The Wiki is used to create “tickets” for our housekeeping and maintenance staff. The back end staff can access the “tickets” and address issues and resolve them in live time with the front desk. I even gave a laptop to my maintenance staff, so that they go room to room without having to go to a workstation to check for tickets.

Google Docs – For most employees, they do not need an advanced word editor or spreadsheet program. The Sales team uploads group contracts into Google Docs and shares them with everyone in the hotel for read access. There are some key personnel which need the advanced office features, but this greatly minimizes the software costs. Google Docs also greatly aids in collaboration efforts. I recommend Open Office if you’re really needing something high powered and is free.

I also use Google Docs to organize large amounts of accounting files with our CPA or lawyers. Often there are large and numerous files, and it’s often more efficient to send them the link to a Google Docs folder you created for them than trying to email them all the files in complete chaos.

Google Calendar – The Sales Team creates all day events for large groups, and puts hyper links to the Google Docs folders that house the group information. The Wiki for the Front Desk has a Calendar that they can click through to see all the detailed rooming lists, details, and notes etc for the group. The front desk essentially has the most up to date information in REAL-TIME so miscommunication is minimized.

The banquet staff also lists all banquets and conferences that are happening on property on the Calendar. This Calendar is shared with the public which is listed on http://conference.hojomaingate.com so that the public can see all events coming and past events. This is an added marketing bonus as this allows people to see what kinds of events we’ve housed.

Google Voice – For different key personnel’s cell numbers, I attached a Google Voice number as their primary contact number. That way if the cell number needs to change for whatever reason or the employee changes, the vendors know which number to call.

Capsule CRM – This is another apps marketplace program that’s used by our sales team. This is relatively cheaper to run than SalesForce.com and much simpler.

 

That’s it for now that I can think of. Do you have other ways you’ve utilized Google Apps to streamline operations at your hotel?

Vending Machines as Extra Revenue

This one’s fairly simple and straightforward. Buy a used vending machine on Craigslist and place this somewhere safe and obvious.

Price your products competitively and it will be used just for the convenience factor by guests.

The biggest threat to profitability is vandalism. Other than that, you’re guaranteed some relatively easy money.

Why pay someone else to vend and profit on your property when you can easily just do it yourself?

If your parents aren’t already doing it, you might as well see if you can personally invest in a machine and stock it yourself for personal profit.

If you have some vending experiences, share them in the comments section!