Saturday, February 18, 2006

how to feed a startup

There are plenty of great, well-respected resources on the subject of starting a startup and this blog is not one of them. Some of the best writers not only address important topics, but also offer solutions in easily digestible "how to" form. Crucial issues like how to fund a startup are often addressed, but other less glamorous issues are often neglected and left for hacks like me.

And with that, I present "how to feed a startup."

My friends from Maryland will remember latenight drives to our local Royal Farms convenience store where we first discovered what happens to all the unpurchased Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They are carefully inventoried and then violently dumped into a garbage bag that ends up in the back of a truck. I couldn't let this massacre continue -- unlike the U.N.'s treatment of genocide in Darfur -- I felt obligated to immediately intervene. This is how a half-full (note: not half-empty) sack of slightly-misshapen doughnuts ended up on my backseat.

I soon learned that doughnuts (esp. the jelly variety) do not keep well, despite my best efforts to resurrect them (microwave). However, I'd learned an important lesson (not about microwaving doughnuts, but about how to get free food).

Tonight, when I walked passed our local cafe/bakery after-hours, I noticed the two remaining employees emptying all of the day's baked goods into a trashbag. Deja vu. A glitch in the Matrix, whatever. I frantically tapped on the glass and employed a well-honed strategy that I'm sharing with you, dear reader:

Puppy eyes. The more pathetic/hungry you look, the better.

I told them about the undernourished programmers back at the apartment and they acquiesed -- no one wants that weighing on their conscience. By the time they handed me the second baguette, I insisted that I couldn't carry any more and would gladly keep returning at closing time to horde the day's leftovers.

This is routine at just about any establishment that bakes its own food and adheres to its "baked fresh daily" policy. Just remember to look pitiful, be polite, and enjoy the spoils. Now that you know my secret, use it wisely. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.


Some of you may also be wondering why all this food is going to waste and not being dropped off at a local soup kitchen, for instance. I've inquired about this, and although there are some exceptions, most owners told me that it would either be too much of a hassle or that the local charity organizations simply don't want it. Food for thought.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

i miss health insurance

It's one of those things you take for granted when you're in college and still covered by your parents' plan. Without it, you find yourself walking a bit more gingerly over patches of ice and taking a couple extra looks before stepping out into traffic. Lately, my parents have begun to really insist that I get some health insurance, after all, I'd been going without any for a while now (even though I still carry around the expired card, hoping that I can keep up the ruse in the emergency room for just long enough to get treated).

When you're young, fairly healthy (despite a limited diet and even more limited exercise) and a non-smoker, you'd expect this process to be fairly smooth (after all, we're the low-risk customers that these insurance companies love to draw their monthly fees from). Given this, the appropriate plan would cover a couple routine doctor's visits and some kind of coverage for the "get hit by a bus" scenario. Oh, and it'd be cheap, too (it's kind of depressing thinking about the cost of your health care in the number of servers it could buy).

Before long, I found myself on the phone with a sales agent for [unnamed insurance agency] who had a great quote for me that appeared to meet all of my requirements. In fact, the image of that incoming bus was in my head when I asked, "This plan will cover a catastrophic event, like me getting hit by a bus, right? That's a big deal to me. I need those emergency room bills to be covered." The voice assured me, "Yes. You'll be covered."

With that, I handed over my credit card information and looked forward to getting my new insurance card in the mail (I was given a choice between laminated and glossy, I went with laminated for the extra durability).

The next day, I was suddenly struck with what I believe is known as "buyer's remorse," which you'd think -- as an American -- I'd be used to by now. Nevertheless, I felt the urge to call and cancel my new plan. The woman I spoke with insisted that I'd need to fax over a termination & refund request, which I had no problem doing, but I had one more question to ask before I hung up:

"So, on this insurance policy that I'm cancelling, what would have happened if I'd been hit by a bus?"

"Well, this policy doesn't cover that."

"What do you mean? What if I got hit by a truck? Would it cover that?"

"No, no. This policy doesn't cover emergency room bills."

"Are you kidding me?! I explicitly asked for that coverage and was told I was getting it."

"Well, you would be entitled to a semi-private room at the hospital."

*laughing, in a Galgenhumor sort of way* "A semi-private room? Ma'am, a semi-private room isn't going to put my body back together. I asked for insurance that would pay for putting me back together."

"I'm sorry, I know you're cancelling this plan, but we do have some great plans that would cover emergency room expenses, like..."

"Ma'am, again, I'm sorry, but you can't honestly think I'm going to buy insurance from your company again?"

"... the ChoiceCare 1000..."

"Thanks for your help, I'm going to fax this out today."


The search continues...

p.s. If you're curious to know the name of this "health insurance company," I'm not going to name names, but I will say that they sure didn't provide adequate