Updated: Aug 1
Über genius X, formerly known as loud-mouth Elon Musk, had his stock-market darling Tesla designed to deceive drivers into thinking his electric cars have a range more than twice of what they actually have. Then, according to news reports, assembled a team to tell unhappy owners who wanted their cars checked that their service appointments had been cancelled. Their vehicles had been “diagnosed” remotely.
Cancelling service appointments saved the company $1,000 per. Employees cheered every time they cancelled a customer.
It also kind’ve exaggerated its self-driving capabilities. Yes, you could sit back and let the car do the driving though Teslas have a habit of stopping, accelerating or changing lanes for reasons known only to the car.
Tesla’s follies are not alone among auto companies. It brings back fond memories of exploding Ford Pintos. It was reported Ford chose to pay liability damages to victims and families rather than add an $11 piece to shield gas tanks from rear-end collisions causing car to burn or explode, immolating passengers.
Or the Chevy Corvair, unsafe at any speed, which was also the title of Ralph Nader’s book that called out GM for the car’s propensity to roll over. In 1970, General Motors responded by spying on him. Nader sued, won an apology and $425,000, about $3.2 million in today’s dollars.
A few years ago, Volkswagen designed a scam on its mileage-per-gallon stats, building software for its diesels that gave the car superior performance in a lab. Once it hit the road, the mileage sucked. Other car companies were found to be doing the same.
But, of course, lying and cheating are not the exclusive preserve of the auto industry. There were the tobacco chiefs insisting cigarettes had no connection to lung cancer. In fact, smoking was good for you. Ask the “doctors” who sold smokes on TV. You could ask the "Marlboro Man," except he died of lung cancer.
NFL football execs did the same about brain damage caused by getting hit a few thousand times over a career. No connection at all between a sport that prided itself on concussive hits and the average life span of a professional football player being around 55 years, death often coming by suicide.
And there’s many Canadians’ favourite grocer, Loblaws, admitting to a bread price-fixing scandal but not admitting they were also inflating food prices at the same time they were putting the screws to suppliers to lower prices. My favourite yogurt bounces between $6 and $10, depending on the size of the moon. My favourite bacon went from $10 to $17, increasing a dollar a package every month or two, but always with a “sale” sticker attached.
Fossil-fuel companies denying climate change had anything to do with fossil fuels. Their own scientists knew in the ‘70s the precarious position the planet is now enduring was inevitable. But executives, knowing how their bonuses were buttered, did a Trump – lie and deny.
And, taxpayers are not only getting gouged at the pump by price-fixing between gas producers, but governments are still subsidizing exploration of still more “drill, baby drill!” You’re paying for that, too.
Last week came a Times’ report Big Pharma in the U.S. is in the habit of holding back life-improving drugs until their patent monopolies expired on their previous less-effective versions. Once a patent monopoly runs out, generics can be produced for pennies a pill. One medication’s retail price dropped from $24,000 a year to $400 a year once the manufacturer lost its patent. No one is sure how many lives these maneuvers cost but shareholders are fixated on the Dow, not mortality rates.
And, today we use bank machines, rarely see a human, kind of like gas stations, and somehow fees and profits keep climbing. It’s a perfect business model: Earn more by doing less.
In the U.S., Wells Fargo had their own variant on the philosophy. It was caught opening accounts for people who didn’t ask for them and charging them fees they didn't know they had. They were fined $3.7 billion U.S. and are now undoubtedly perfect corporate citizens.
But that’s only part of the endless greed. Apple, the super cool company, twisted publishers’ arms to drive up prices of online books and pocketed the difference. Apple Pay allows you to use your phone like a debit card, with Apple taking a piece of every transaction. We won't talk about how some employees at their Chinese contractors preferred killing themselves to building iPhones on an endless assembly line.
My Apple computer insists I store everything in perpetuity in the “cloud,” and charges me for it. What’s $1.49 a month? And when will it go to $10 a month, effectively holding my work ransom?
They also conspired with other Big Tech firms to keep salaries low. Last year they posted a $100 billion profit.
There’s Google, such a cute name, that keeps demanding to know everything you do, where you do it and where you are every minute of the day, especially when shopping or dreaming of buying. They’ve taken to harassing me daily to “sign in” lest they miss an opportunity to store my vacation plans, taste in clothes or appliances and throw ads at me accordingly. It’s working well. Profits last year were $60 billion.
Immigrants come to Canada from troubled homes, hoping to make a living and often do. Our favourite Indian restaurant in Montreal serves remarkable food at reasonable prices. We leave happy.
Restaurants in the Laurentian town we’re closest to nailed us for $180 for dinner for two that was so-so. They seem to need to make a killing and have the cojones to ask us to pay their staff costs by increasing the tip suggestions. This week it’s 18, 20 and 22 per cent. Others ask 15, 20 or 30 per cent.
The business model among many “in” restaurateurs is to make a small fortune building a popular eatery and then make a larger fortune selling it.
Even bakeries are asking you to subsidize their staff costs with ridiculous tip requests for handing you a loaf of bread.
Amazon, profits last year $234 billion, has a motto -- “everything for everyone, everywhere” -- except employees, whose every movement is clocked, including bathroom habits. Overtime is mandatory when Amazon says it is, and union activity a firing offence.
We struggle to find money for health-care, education, housing, addiction while our pockets are picked by corporations owned by our pension funds and our neighbours, friends and ourselves. Profits are breath-taking, as are poverty, rents, food prices and onrushing fascism, seen as a cure to all that ails. Though, like tobacco, it tends to corrode and kill.
The planet is dying and so are its inhabitants from greed for more oil, more minerals, more, more, more.
Apple founder and tech wunderkind, Steve Jobs, made it a rule on the “Apple campus” that he was too important to have employees say hello to or to look him in the face. Nothing that might distract from his drive to create the riches of Midas.
He got his wish. No one can talk to him anymore.