On Jimmy John's Non-Compete Agreement Bans Employees From Working at Restaurants that Serve Sandwiches

When I was a young thing going to work for a startup in the late 80s, the contract included a non-compete section that was both simple and gigantic. For I think a year, employee could not do any work, contract or full time, for basically any company that did anything even kind of related. I don't remember what penalty it made. But someone's boyfriend lawyer told me to go ahead and sign because non-compete clauses are all about intimidating the ignorant, and completely unenforceable. Employers can tell you what to do while you're working for them (though not even who you can work for on your own time) but they cannot tell you what you can do once they aren't paying you any more. He suggested that maybe they'd like to pay a great big severance, and in order to get it I might want to sign something about who I'll work for. I inquired no further, and have signed dozens of the things since. Never heard of any company even trying to enforce one.

Posted on October 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm 0

On My Whole Foods Discount Is the Best—Worst?—Mostly Best

I am in Portland, working in a neighborhood where the only grocery store for a long way is a Whole Foods. But the area hasn't really caught up to WF yet. They try to discourage street people from using the bottle return, see more SNAP than other stores do, maybe. Yesterday I was in line behind a couple. They had way too much stuff for the little WF cart. Tons of stuff, not just groceries but laundry soap, dish soap, staples. They were definitely stocking a new place, and really stood out for the number of things they were buying. It was lunch time and a lot of people registered what they were doing, full conveyor belt, still big pile in the cart, and left their line for another. I pulled in behind them and had a while to contemplate how uncharacteristic it was. They were very nice. She suggested that I might not want to take another line, and I said it was fine, because I didn't want to say I was curious to see their grocery bill. When they paid (they split it) she pulled out a couple of NY Metro cards and they talked about whether they were worth keeping. The bill was $230-something, and they had maybe six bags. And this was a not a luxury haul. I didn't notice meat or wine. I wanted to take them aside and say, "I know this is the only grocery store you've seen since you've gotten to the neighborhood, but you've got to go over to the 39th Ave Fred Meyer for this kind of stuff." I felt pretty kindly toward them. It was like a newbie mistake. Or maybe they're rolling in dough and they'll never go anywhere else, now that they're not paying New York rent. Maybe the Whole Foods sensibility is part of what they came to Portland for. But I try to stay out of the place altogether. Once I was in a jam for dinner and bought chicken thighs that turned out to be $8 a pound.

Posted on October 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm 0

On It’s Time to Pony Up for an Accountant

Just real quick: An accountant and a tax preparer are not the same thing. And accountants (CPAs) have to be licensed, so they cost more. And also, very important: When someone tells you their tax preparer gets them a gigantic refund every year and you should use them, consider that it's very possible they are taking deductions that will not stand under audit, and they will be so fucked if it happens. If a tax person tell you that you can deduct every single thing you have a receipt for (You bought a guitar? That's your side career as a musician!) then they are not caring that an IRS auditor is going to want cast iron proof or they will just take that number our of the total, and you will pay the tax and the penalty. You can put any number on a tax return, and compose a fine narrative to go with it, but if you're audited, they do not have to accept your explanation. Try to deduct $2,000 worth of kitchen gear because you started a food blog and your auditor will not only want to see the blog, they will want to see your attempts to monetize it. It's a hobby if you can't prove a good faith (if not good sense) effort to make back at least as much as you're spending. There are people who have tried to deduct for instruments and recording equipment when they have actually made CDs, duplicated them, and sold some, and especially if it's been a couple of years and they haven't earned much money compared to what they're deducting, auditors have called it all a hobby and not allowed a cent of it. Plus penalties. There are horror stories. And the algorithms for teasing out sketchy returns get more sophisticated every year. They're the best tool the IRS has.

Posted on October 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm 1

On How Wizards Do Money: Parvati Patil

That's not emerald dress robes, and maroon with the lace torn off. WTH?

Posted on September 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm 0

On A Decision to Settle

That phrase, "money well spent," is such a red flag to me. My mother and my sister both say it all the time, and they would say it means something like, "This thing I am buying is an excellent value. What it is worth to me is so much more than what I am paying for it that there can be no question of not getting it." It can mean something is deeply discounted, or so great that they'll wear it for years, or just, perfect. Really it means they want it and they're going to buy it and they are suspending any consideration of whether they have the money to pay for it, or ever will. They are both getting themselves into serious trouble, and they do not see any of the money that was well spent on great shoes, or cabs when it's raining, or plane tickets when the trip was fun, as part of the problem. Their saying money well spent is a perfect indicator that something is money for something they can't afford and should not buy. They say it with total confidence, all the time. I worry because they won't.

Posted on September 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm 1

On Help, a Direct Mailing For a Cleaning Service Actually Worked On Me And I'm Worried It Will Ruin My Relationship

Of all the intractable issues of adult relationships, housecleaning is the easiest. You cannot hire someone to have sex more often for you, or go to dinner with in-laws, or listen to the same story over and over, but if someone wants to spend their money instead of their time to get a clean house, and the other party objects, no.

Posted on August 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm 10

On The Real World Cost of a $22 Gadget

Guy puts this thing on his seat, woman in front objects, attendant is made aware of the situation and uses his basically supreme authority to tell the guy he has to take it off, and _then_ the woman throws water. As soon as airplane guy said do this, and passenger said no, passenger was on his way to getting arrested. Water woman could have sat back and enjoyed her victory and gotten where she was going.

Posted on August 27, 2014 at 11:50 am 0

On It Has Been Made Clear to Me That I Cannot Have It All

I always thought the Never Wake rule was about being able to use that time, and you'll be sorry. Not that it will explode or be broken. I woke a sleeping baby all the time, when he'd been asleep long enough and I needed to get his breakfast into him and be ready to jet when the babykeeper arrived. Do it. And, get a pump.

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm 0

On "Secrets" to Buying a House Without Getting Hosed

Not using a realtor makes more sense for sellers than buyers, because sellers pay the brokers' commissions. My seller was buying a new place, and part of her negotiations with her seller was that their agent would to do the paperwork for our sale as well, for nothing. Saved my seller the broker's %. And, a thing I saw over and over living in San Francisco was agents who played their buyers into spending more than they'd intended by letting them make lowball (really just not far enough over asking price) offers on a few places when they started out, and then when they were frustrated by losing them, saying something like, "If you really want this one, we could go on and offer $75,000 over asking." But without that intermediate step of, "Since houses are going for 15-20% over asking, we need to be looking at places listing for 15-20% less than your budget."

Posted on August 12, 2014 at 11:22 am 0

On Saying Yes to the Dress! (For Other People)

A friend was on the Yes to the Dress show with her sister, and described sitting in a studio on camera with the producers asking her, "Weren't you just furious that she didn't pick the one you liked?" And she was all, "Oh, you know, it was ok. The dress she got was really pretty, and she's happy, so I'm good." And the show people were like, "NO. What about that bitch from her sorority? Did you know she said the dress you wanted was ho-bag? Your dress was so much better than hers. Aren't you pissed?" And finally she said, "You're not letting me out of this room until I throw a tantrum for you, huh?" An they said, "Finally, you get it, you nitwit." So she ranted and raved and they loved it and she got to leave and have something to eat. Then she emailed a disclaimer to about 300 people explaining that she was like one of those hostages who has to read what they gave her, and just couldn't blink out the morse code for T-O-R-T-U-R-E.

Posted on August 6, 2014 at 7:46 am 6