Rab McNeil’s Week:
For failure, according to a top Scottish businessman, is indeed the key to success. And I use the word “key” serendipitously, for the businessman under advisement is Andy Mooney, head of US guitar company Fender.
Mr Mooney, originally from Whitburn and now based in LA (an expression rarely used throughout the entirety of business history), was addressing an Entrepreneurial Scotland event in Glasgow when he made his insightful remarks.
He said that Scots should not let fear of failure hinder their ambitions. The Americans don’t, and look at them. One reason for this, he said, was that failure was not a stigma, “either financially or personally”, in the United States.
He has a point, although I think a sense of shame is so deeply embedded in the Scottish psyche that you’d need surgery of the heid to remove it.
On a more personal note, Mr Mooney, who previously held top posts at Nike and Disney, spoke of how he loved his job, being a rock fan and guitarist himself. He got to meet top bands, and revealed that the company was planning to recreate the Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix famously set fire to on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival.
I always thought that a disgraceful piece of showmanship and a terrible waste of machinery, though it is fair to say that, even as a hippie, I had a tendency to be a trifle august. On one occasion, I was actually accused, in the parlance of the day, of being uptight. And that was by my bank manager.
True enough, I hated to see a pair of loon pants unironed, and preferred Skol lager to cannabis when it came to getting high.
However, I am proud to say that, today, I do own a Fender Stratocaster myself. At the time of going to press, I have not yet figured out which end you’re supposed to blow into. But I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. My ex once said it might sound better if I took the strings off. That’s the main reason she became my ex (Ex: “No, it isn’t. I have others.”)
Guitar-playing, alas, remains just another glorious failure on my largely success-free CV.
It’s a smaller world
“Shrinkflation” is now the word on everybody’s lips. It refers to the phenomenon whereby consumables shrink in size but remain the same price, or even the same.
The most conspicuous example concerns Toblerone, the peculiarly shaped chocolate bar that, in my experience as a consumer of confectionery, always seemed a bit niche.
Well, it’s oot the niche noo, as a sly move to make the product 10 per cent smaller caused headlines around the world. Poor sods. They (Mondelez International) probably thought they could get away with it quietly.
But, lo, there was great gnashing of sweet teeth among pawky punters, who vented their spleen on yonder internet. Calls to The Samaritans quadrupled, and there were rumours of a coup in Venezuela, which may or may not have been Toblerone-related.
However, it wasn’t just Toblerone that was fingered for downsizing, so to say. No fewer than 2,500 products had shrunk in size in the last five years, according to the Office for National Statistics, where somebody got the job of counting them.
Items named included Doritos, Coco Pops, Peperami and Maltesers. As a respectable ratepayer, I don’t consume any of these, but I was outraged to read that shrinkage was also applied to toilet roll.
I have a fat arse and already can feel this measure hitting me in my back pocket. Talking of buttocks, many leading intellectuals have attempted to blame shrinkflation on Brexit, which seems a bit odd as it started long before that.
All the same, if Project Fear had highlighted this during the Euro referendum campaign, folk might have thought more carefully about how to cast their vote, particularly if they have a humungous posterior and their dinner consists largely of Doritos and Peperami, with a Toblerone for pudding.
Foodie fear factor
In a surprise development, research by Fletcher Solicitors found that folk feared professionals in the hospitality sector most and those in hospitals least. I say “surprise” as doctors scare the bejasus out of me, while barmen have often saved my life.
However, 68% of respondents in the survey of 2,000 adults found hospitality professionals to be the most intimidating. I presume this includes waiters.
A friend of mine is so obsequious to waiters it makes me cringe. But she claims she was once told authoritatively about what they did to the food if they didn’t like you. Consequently, she is down on her knees thanking them before they’ve even set out the cutlery.
By contrast, I have other friends (yes, remarkably enough) who are consistently rude to waiters, and who make me cringe and, worse still, induce me into trying to make light of the situation and put matters back on a pleasant footing.
But some folk just seem to go into restaurants with a hostile attitude. One fella, in a right posh place, insisted that the wine was corked. He passed it to his wife, who dutifully agreed. I had a wee swallie and thought it tasted all right. But what do I know?
My fellow diner insisted: “This wine is corked.” Waiter/sommelier: “I think you’ll find it isn’t.” Diner: “Is.” Waiter: “Isn’t.” Diner: “Is.” Waiter: “Sir, it’s a screwtop.” True story.
My researchers tell me that even screwtop wine can give off a mouldy aroma (caused by fungicides and wood preservatives), though that’s much rarer than wine from a corked bottle being off.
All the same, regardless of the technical truth of the situation, on this occasion it was definitely a case of: Intimidating customer 0 Intimidating waiter 1. And God knows what they did to his food. Probably just laughed into it.
Phish on the money menu
Following the authoritative analysis of scams in our last episode, the phenomenon has grown exponentially, with a study revealing that two-fifths of older people have been targeted. Some have even been tricked into handing over money.
Oddly enough, the study by Age UK claimed that single people were more likely to be scammed than married folk, presumably because the latter were more used to trusted ones using their wiles to try and get money out of them.
The most common scam was via emails, a practice known as phishing. It really says something about human nature that this sort of thing can be so prevalent. Be warned, readers: a lot of people out there are trying to take the phish.