Mon. May 20th, 2024

Flying down the steep stairs in our house Christmas morning in Nyack, NY, where we lived when I was a little kid, of all the gifts a Schwinn bike was the ultimate sign Santa cared. I think my brother Jim, or Ted, may have gotten one, but the old Ho Ho man missed me…

We pedaled home from school most of the year, first best friend Dell Setzer and I, on our Schwinns. Early 60s to mid-60s. I started with an old blunderbuss Schwinn from the late 40s owned by my oldest brother Ted. We finally sold it: tank that it was. Nothing could kill it. My final Schwinn from that era was a bright blue two speed: Bendix pedal-back I bought with money I had earned from mowing Dr. Stein’s lawn and working at Mrs. Nolan’s store.

About ten years ago I decided to buy my first bike in years. I planned on using it for exercise on the road since a back condition prevented me from jogging. I knew in short order something had changed: unlike that blunderbuss bike, or all our other Schwinns, past tense… it went to hell within a year. As did the next one I bought and kept at home because I thought, “Being on the road is too tough for these new bikes, I guess.”

Schwinn is no longer Schwinn. Hasn’t been “Schwinn” for years. The company quietly went bankrupt and the name was sold: produced by a Chinese company that merrily slaps all kinds of names on frames. If you buy any bike from, let’s say WalMart, chances are, no matter what the label is on it, you probably bought a slight variation on the same bike.

Isn’t that deceptive marketing? And why is it we have so much more of that than honest marketing these days?

Deregulation, in part, I believe.

If only our bikes were the only victim here.

Have you noticed that before the housing/mortgage crisis that there were hundred of ads offering special financing, encouraging refinancing, suggesting buying property was a great way to wealth through investment? And the more outrageous claim that your house is, essentially, a bank of sorts and you’re simply using “your money?”

Of course that’s a con game. It’s a loan, and often at no better rates than low life idiots used to get from Tony The Loan Shark, LLC.

Where’s a “Tony” to go these days now that loan sharking is perfectly legal? A revised song flows through that big, never empty, space above and behind my eyes…

Where have all da Tonys gone
Long time passing
Where hav all da Tonys gone
Long time ago…

Now legal, incorporated, “Tony” wannabes rake money in as they foreclose on those they’ve scammed, while the media has the public convinced it’s all the fault of stupid people who took out loans they couldn’t afford. Banks and those who loaned money used to make damn sure you could pay money back before you got a cent. Now they win either way, with deregulation.

Oh, I know Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton/the Evil Liberal Golem made a law that forces banks to loan money to any bugger who asks. No questions allowed.

Except, once again, that is a lie. Not true. Bogus.

Credit cards come to anyone: pre-approved. Dogs have gotten them in the mail. By now all of America knows I’m not making that up.

There’s always some new phone scam. I did phone work for years, mostly surveys and a few times sell. I never cared for the last and usually left quickly due to tactics they insisted we use, like a “Christian” security bar company that insisted I tell a potential customer that they must hate their dog if they expected a dog to protect them rather than buy their bars. I told them I would “bar” none of my contacts.

Those tactics have gotten worse, not better.

For some reason Nigerian E-mails that are obviously an attempt to scam folks are perfectly legal.

If a company offers to fix something and I get it back unfixed, we get to play this game over and over: bring it back, get it back, bring it back, get it back. Can I have the same deal? Offer to pay, take it home, get called back in, offer to pay, bring it back home…

We obviously live in an age when some businesses have far more rights and political power than individual humans. All they have to do is purchase them election time.

If medication has ill-effects, or might kill you taken with something else, they are allowed to read the caveat at the end so fast no one can understand it. In fact, working with digital sound, as I do on a regular basis, I can tell their newest trick: use a neat little feature that cuts out the silence between the words. They don’t even use it right, they set it so high cut out parts of words too, leaving all those warnings inaudible, senseless, useless. Gee, think that’s intentional?

So the next time your ibuprofen and your heart medicine makes you give birth to that creature out of Alien , as he explodes out of your chest and puts on his Mel Brooks hat to sing and dance… be thankful. Ain’t it grand to live in a country where supposed “free” enterprise trumps all: even safety and sanity?

Look folks, I don’t want to handcuff business. I have run my own one man biz for over 20 years. But there is such a thing as sane and necessary regulation.

No one should be able to skirt around safety issues for the sake of profit.

If I buy medicine I really need to know what I should do to prevent it from killing me, parents should know what might kill their children. Instead of using a pre-approved card for Gordie Carman: our semi, sort of border collie… or buying a house with unreadable print at the bottom of the contract, my parents had to go to a bank and convince them they could pay back a loan before they could get one. What the hell was wrong with that?

If I buy Schwinn, I want it to be made by the company that either made Schwinn to begin with, or let it be well known publicly who owns it now. Businesses shouldn’t be able to hide behind anonymity: pretend they’re someone else. I’m sure Huffy lovers (cringe) feel the same.

Sometimes we abandon old ways for a good reason.

But abandoning basic honesty?

I can’t imagine there being any good reason at all.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2010
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

By Ken Carman

Retired entertainer, provider of educational services, columnist, homebrewer, collie lover, writer of songs, poetry and prose... humorist, mediocre motorcyclist, very bad carpenter, horrid handyman and quirky eccentric deluxe.

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Joyce Lovelace
Joyce Lovelace
13 years ago

I seem to remember one bike that got kinda twisted up on 6th Ave – let’s see do I still have a scar from that?;-)

Ana Grarian
13 years ago

The basic honesty problem is a large one in business practices these days. Gift cards that run out of date, or the new ones that you can’t use all of cause you have to know how much is left on them to use them. Guarantees that aren’t. Products that contain hazardous waste. Hidden fees.
This whole mortgage scam is particularly annoying. The idea that these big banks were making so much money on mortgages they knew were bad.
I was so happy to get out of big business where the modus operandi was to scam the employees, the customers, the suppliers, and anyone else they could.
But Faux News and the Right Radio blowhards would have us believe that they and big business are the bastions of Christianity. Argh!

Ken Carman
Ken Carman
13 years ago

Yes, Ana. I knew we were in trouble in the 80s when the radio station I worked at started ignoring all decency, even up to simply not paying employees. When questioned the answer always was, “Deregulation.” The point here is not just deregulation either. The whole idea that the market will regulate itself is a sick delusion. Without sensible regulation they sink to the lowest point that will gain the max cash by whatever method, including pretending to be someone they’re not.

RS Janes
13 years ago

True, Ana, as that ‘Christian businessman’ oxymoron points out. I think it’s possible for a small business, farmer or free-lancer to be ‘Christian’ or decent in their business dealings — transparent, no middlemen, and no gouging on the profit margin — but large and medium-sized corporations — never. I can’t find the quote at the moment, but someone once said something to the effect of deregulating business is the same as telling the Mafia the laws no longer apply to them, with predictable results. Unregulated businesses always turn into ruthless, crooked operations; it’s as inevitable as someone with absolute power eventually turning into a tyrant. Our Founders knew this well, but the lesson has been lost over the centuries.

Joyce Lovelace
Joyce Lovelace
13 years ago

I now work for a Jewish business man – plenty of negative stereotypes there – who believes in customer service, honesty etc. As a small business struggling against the unfair $ advantages given to the big boxes by distributors, excellent customer service, is his way of keeping customers. He could save quite a bit of money by paying minimum wage, but he chooses to pay the local “living wage”(calculated by a living wage task force).
As a small business owner, he has daily visibility in the community, and among his staff. Folks know he makes the rules. He can’t pass anything off as a decision made by “them”, in the “main office”.
That personal culpability is what keeps us honest, but first you have to have the ethics to guide you. I’m afraid many today never incorporated those ethical guidelines.

Matthew C. Kriner
13 years ago

He,This is a great and usefull blog.Keep up the good work.

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