Request to Disallow

We have just learned -- from multiple primary sources -- that some Custodians are calling Plant Managers to request that our $100 charge be disallowed.  The Custodians lobbying for the disallowance are none too shy about it, either.

While my naivet causes me some alarm, just like most of you, I am not altogether surprised or disheartened or disappointed.  This job of Custodian Engineer promotes a sense of autonomy and independence, which we, as a Software Engineers and entrepreneurs can relate to.  All kinds of things can, and do, happen...

But this seems to be a new reality:  "Please, Mr. Plant Manager, please disallow an item on my PO2.  I'd rather pay for this myself out of my own pocket and complain -- and have all other Custodians do the same -- than let another professional earn money for a job well done."

Therefore,  I feel this does merit a response.  And no one knows better than I that a majority do not feel this way.  So I write this as ammunition for those who would defend us.  Here goes:


First question:  Why would one Custodian seek to have another  (or all) Custodians' PO2 Item disallowed ?  Especially since the expense is related to a Board-issued directive?


If we don't object to you not paying, why would you object to someone else wanting to pay?


We have, so far, waived the fee for everyone who asked. 

What could possibly be your complaint, then?

And do you realize that waiving the fee for some, but not others, increases the chances of disallowance?  ("Why are some people paying, and some not?")


Is anyone calling for anyone's pay to be docked for not having your Day Money deposited on time?  Isn't that a little more serious?


The below-base-rate changes affect Payroll (obviously).  That means it also affects PO1, Year-End PO1, 2-week PO1, DAR, Staff, PO66, State Insurance Fund, Tax Worksheets, High Pressure Boiler Hours, and more.

To get these changes done, we worked under duress with respect to the timing, the amount of time we had, and unconfirmed, inaccurate information.

As I've written before, Software Engineers get paid at a premium rate for this type of work, or has everyone forgotten Y2K? 

(By the way, WinPower for Custodians was our Y2K project...  But we got banned because we were demonstrably Y2K compliant (yes) -- the only one that was, so said the Board, precluding three bids, so, no go...)


These below-rate changes were mandated.  They were not optional. 

And, by the way, we don't have any history of initiating new modules and charging for them.  There is a difference.

In other words, this was not an "update."  It was a massive re-engineering initiated by a mandated change directed by the Board.


I speculate that if we did not have the software ready in time, the people who are now lobbying the Plant Managers to disallow the $100 would instead by lobbying us to get the code done, as quickly a possible, at any cost.  This is what happened with the new PO18, in 2002, when that was dumped on you without notice.

We heard not a whisper about a new PO18 before Check Pickup, and Yuko was just out of surgery.  I got close to 60 calls a day "requesting" that we do the new PO18 ("Charge whatever you like, just don't go over $250"), asking when, not if.  We had it 3 weeks later.  It took the Board years, working secretly, and cost (I am told) six figures.  We did it faster and for less.  And, it is better.  Nearly everyone paid.


Of course we backed up WinPower before we began re-working the code with the current retro-fits.  We can restore it to the old way, and revoke our invoice.  Yes, I am being facetious, but if there is popular support for that, it will inform future decisions with regard to effecting massive changes as a function of Board directives...


Is anyone complaining that we had our code ready before  there was even official notification  of the change?


Are there any service issues with our new code ? 
Was the code not delivered fast enough ?
Did it not work well enough ?
Was the design not good enough ?  Did the look, feel and functioning of WinPower change too much, and for the worse?


WinPower has no service issues to speak of, generally, period.  People like the product, and the tech support.  Everybody gets everything quickly.  We ask that you try not to complain about the cost until you can complain about the product, or the service.


Do you not think that it would have been easier for us and better for all if some official in-the-know actually answered our questions about what was coming down?  To wit:
Is it effective 12/16/2005 or  09/01/2005 or 12/29/2005 or 01/12/2006?
Are SEs  77
more or 88 more or 87 more ?
Is the below-base rate is 80% or 85% ?
It is for a one-year period or a two-year period ?

For 4 questions, we received 11 different (unofficial) answers.  And because of this, we had to code for all contingencies, which is much harder.  ...If nothing else, we should be paid for the time spent chasing down these rumors. (!)


Everyone knows that a mandated and fundamental change to the way you do payroll would have associated costs, all the more so if notice came after the change was initiated.


Do you not think that we wished the below-rate changes occurred at a different time of year?  Do you think we wanted the two invoices (Annual Fee and Below Rate) to be bunched up?  You think we like the timing of the below-base rate mandate?


Would it interest you to know that we wish this below-rate change never occurred?  That we would have gladly foregone the income in favor of stability, and not messing with well-established, mature code that we haven't looked at in 7 years? 

And that the pay-cuts for hard working Custodial workers never occurred, either?


Would it interest you to know that we wish this kind of thing never happens again? 

Have you ever heard us complain that the Board is not changing enough procedures?  Have you ever heard anyone here say:

"I'd love to make massive changes to the core parts of WinPower that have been working perfectly for years and that we haven't looked at for years, based on rumor, at the worst time of the year, on short notice, in a way that will disrupt our lives, cost us the holiday season and put WinPower's ability to function at great risk so that we can charge for it, and experience all kinds of unpleasant insults and profanity after we succeed in assisting the Board and its unwilling Custodians to save money by effecting pay cuts against presumably hard-working employees, and the ones who are least able to afford it" ?

Does this sound like us?


And while we are on that subject:  We are glad to have heard that people are complaining about the de-facto pay cuts to people who started in September, who, instead of getting a 77 increase, have now experienced a $1.75 pay cut.  I would suggest pitching in with those who are trying to rectify that, first.

Many Custodians will make good on these employees, and provide an above-contract rate (by $2.55).  This will cost much more -- in the end --  from their budget than our $100.  That would seem to provide more impetus for action, if one is really concerned with budget or justice issues.

Moreover, supporting your employees -- rather than attacking us -- is doing the right thing (we say while admitting some bias).  Indeed, we would gladly give up our fee in exchange for making whole the people who experienced pay cuts, if it were possible.

It is a bit unseemly, I think most would agree, that after cutting a presumably perfectly competent worker's salary, one would accept that, and then turn around and dedicate energies to cutting another's income.


With massive changes mostly behind us, there is still at least one open question:  Will the raises be retroactive to 09/01/2005, the way the eligibility for the pay-cuts are?  And if they are, will the pay-cuts be retroactive?  How would the money be recovered?  Will the below rate people have to work for no pay to make up the lump sum, or will they have to work for $12.50 for the same number of hours they worked for $16.00?  (14.25-1.75).

And if there is a new $12.50 rate * the number  of hours worked at $16.00, would you like WinPower to figure all that out for you automatically, or would you want to do it manually (Payroll, PO1, etc.)

And if it is recovered on a lump sum basis, you know this might affect your 2005 excess/deficit in that your 202 and 202s will be hit, while you will be making it up in 2006.  (Boy, does this seem strange to talk about !)

And if you want WinPower to do it for you automatically, are you going to demand that we enact these changes, and enact them free-of-charge?


We will be providing additional tech support for this one issue for (probably) years to come, as everyone slowly begins to hire new workers subject to the below-base rate.  And then, the calls for tech support will surge again in two years, and for years after that, as these workers begin see their base rate restored. 

(Don't worry.  WinPower will restore the rate automatically.  But there are wrinkles if the rate is restored in the middle of a PO Period.  Interesting, eh?  More additional work for all of us...)




We worked hard on WinPower.  It was only last year that we reached the pay level of entry-level Software Engineers.  Our first year (1998) was spent in development, with zero income.  Is our work so poor that we don't deserve what entry level Software Engineers make?   We've been doing software development to acclaim for a combined total of 40 years.  Why shouldn't we make what junior Software Engineers make, if not more?


We here at The 2M Corporation do not have a salary.  We do not have benefits.  We do not have job security. 

But that goes with being an entrepreneur.  We know that.  And no one can argue that we didn't experience the down side of having our own business in this particular market...


In the first few years of WinPower, we practically gave away the store.  Pay when you like, no charge for TCs (three years), no annual fee for tax tables, no annual fee of any sort (five years).  Yet no one cited these features when purchasing WinPower in those days.  People always referred to the self-printing forms, how much WinPower did, and how we were always improving WinPower according to our clients' wishes.  That is what people liked about WinPower.

They said we really seem to understand what Custodians face, and really seem to be service oriented.

During this time, we had extraordinary hurdles to face from the various entities (and some individuals) in the world of the Public School Custodian.  Indeed, we were actually thrown out of the market three times (verbally, never in writing).  Two of those times it was admitted to us (with relish) that it was for "no reason" (or worse).  Nothing to do with the quality of the product, nor the service.  It is safe to say that our liberal payment (or non-payment) policies proved to be irrelevant.  And no one can say we didn't try.

During this time, our debts mounted and we went broke.  We received dispossess notices.

And while we were trying to get back into the market, our competition was dropping out of the market.  No credit for stick-to-it-iveness?  When 4 out of 5 of your software suppliers leave, doesn't that tell you something?

Eventually, we adapted, as entrepreneurs must.  We initiated charges for new buildings and an annual fee.  The circular allowing you to buy from us -- and multiple other software vendors -- came out.  We began to grow like never before.  Just goes to show...

We are  still service-oriented.  You know it.  This latest event with the new below-base-rate directive shows that.  And we still front the program to new Custodians, and we still do deferred and partial payment plans.  We still have a very liberal policy regarding waiving fees.

We still make late-night emergency house calls when needed.  We still don't take vacations in December or January or July.  We still modify the program on request, and for single users, and help retirees prepare for their final audit, and do many other things that you will likely never hear about.

But.   After having been displaced by the atrocity of 9/11, and having experienced health problems and insurance problems, and having not had a place of our own for 2 years, and after having a baby, and after having negative experiences with the combination of liberal policies and unrepentant surly behavior,
     despite all the free services we have provided, do provide and will continue to provide,
          we have come to realize that The 2M Corporation is a business...


There are a host of things we don't charge for.  We never have -- and still haven't -- charged for pay increases for your employees.

Another example:  Last year, the Year-End PO1 went from being extended (like the PO2), to shortened.  So we retro-fit the program to give you the option.  A greedier company would have built in shortened, charge for it, and when the Board changed back, hard code the extended specification, and charged for that, too.

We not only didn't charge, but we gave you the option...

So give us a little credit for that...

We didn't charge because -- while it was a very difficult retrofit -- we were forewarned, it was confirmed, we had time to test, it wasn't massive and it didn't effect other significant portions of the rest of the core of WinPower.  However, based on economic realities, and the way the events surrounding this charge have unfolded, we might in the future...


We've been verbally banned three times.  Sometimes we're stiffed, sometimes we're pirated.  At times (but not recently) we've had serious collection problems.

For years, some people in positions of authority have been falsely saying not to buy WinPower, because it will soon be handed out free to everyone.

You are now being told that -- despite clear language in the contract to the contrary -- you are no longer able to buy computers.  And you know that the new computers DSF gave you have been rigged not to run WinPower.

Under these circumstances would you be giving things away? 

Is this the right time to disparage WinPower if you want us to be allowed to continue in this market?


Some think that we did it too quick.

This is like:

Wanting to pay more when Federal Express delivers it's "overnight" package 5 days late, or less when the two day package arrives in one day.  (You really wouldn't argue that, would you?)

Or like wanting to pay less for construction that is finished ahead of time.  (If you do pay less, that will be the last time it goes well, as you know better than anyone.)

In the present instance, should the people who are providing you with your PO18 computers be rewarded more than us, because it is taking longer and going so poorly?  (That may be the reality, but do you think that is right?)

Skill, responsiveness and sacrifice in responding to a mandated guideline in short order is what you are getting.  Perhaps some are not really used to this...


Just because we service you that doesn't mean we are slimy vendors.  Indeed, we are proud to.

Serving you -- part of a proud and strong union -- ranks right up there in prestige (for us) with the work I've done at the highest levels of City Government, and for non-profit dance companies, and Zeiss Opticals and the many Fortune 500 companies we've provided software.

The complimentary notes and letters we receive from you are on the wall in our office right next to my Harvard degree.

It ranks much higher in our mind than the PAC software we did for Philip Morris' CEO -- You do much more for children. (!)

Our clients are Public School Building Engineers, and you keep the schools safe and clean for our children.  I have heard that this goes without saying ("No one ever got fired for a dirty building.  Poor paperwork is a greater danger.")  And our product proudly works to help you through this weird anomaly.


Is it not all gratifying that you have accomplished Software Engineers in your corner?  WinPower is as broad in scope as any one piece of software at DSF.  In addition to the core elements of your reporting requirements, it does your tax worksheet, your pay stub, and State Insurance Fund actuals, to name but three areas where we go above and beyond for you.  This makes us slimy and undeserving of recompense?


Child-Abuse syndrome:  Why do some Custodians treat us the way they perceive DSF treats them?


I have never asked anyone to justify WinPower -- or any costs -- with the following, but many others have in the last few days.

Do the new below-rate modules save you $100 in labor, and do they reduce the chances for error in your Excess/Deficit calculations?  Do the new DAR numbers read in the pennies (no) or hundreds of dollars (yes)?  If the answer to these questions is "Yes," then  wouldn't you yourself pay $100 for that?  If so, then what is the problem ? 


We charged this type of fee once before.  It encountered no problems.

We have never been excepted from a PO2 nor disallowed at audit. 

Therefore, if the requests to disallow are honored, it would likely go down the grievance path, where given the history mentioned just above, I think there would be not too much of a need for worry.  So it begs the question even more:  Why would Custodians seek to see this record ended?


More question-begging:

If you ask for a waiver because your budget call for the request, then it costs nothing to you, nor your school.

If we ask you to wait on payment until you can swing it, is the fee really a hardship?

Presumably then, if you don't ask for a waiver, then the money comes from your able-to-afford it school budget, and costs you nothing. 

Therefore, it only costs you anything if it is (successfully) disallowed (doubtful).  But why would you call for that?

















































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