Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A fire storm in the gay community

Death threats. Hundreds of emails. A flood of nasty calls. An email to a man seeking a quote for a landscape project has caused an enormous backlash against a Texas landscape company.

Todd and Sabrina Farber, owners of the Houston landscape company, The Garden Guy, Inc., touched off the avalanche of vituperation when Sabrina emailed a man seeking some landscaping and told him their company couldn't do work for him because it disapproves of the gay lifestyle.

Here, reportedly, is the email she sent following an inquiry from Michael Lord about a quote to do landscaping work. It read in part: "Dear Mr. Lord, I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us. I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals. Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs. All my best, Sabrina."

The email, forwarded and reforwarded, ignited a flood of angry responses from people, and especially the gay community, across the country.

The Farbers have had to unlist their phone number and turn off their office phone due to the number of calls they were receiving.

Even though the couple issued an apology, they're still getting bombarded with condemnation.

Here is their apology, posted this past Friday on the company website:

"We did not refuse service with malicious intent. We do not hate homosexuals and we are sorry that we hurt [ the gay couple ]. We meant to uphold our right as a small business owner to choose who our clients are. We are humbly sorry for the hurt that it has caused." — Ron Hall

Sunday, October 22, 2006

H2B for athletes too?

The poor, poor Mudbugs. They lost their first hockey game of the year because their 11 H2B players hadn't gotten their visas yet.

Did I read that right? Mudbugs? Hockey player?. H2B visas?

You bet, it says so right on the sports page of Oct. 21 issue of The Oklahoman newspaper.

It says that the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs were whipped by the Oklahoma team 5-3 because the Blazers managed to get visas for their five H2B players and the Mudbugs were without the services of their 11 H2B players.

As almost all of you know, the H2B is a federal program that allows U.S. business owners to employ seasonal immigrant labor when no domestic workers are available.

What? There's a shortage of hockey players in the United States?

Well, I guess now we know. — Ron Hall

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A better way to say "no"

KPRC Channel 2 on its website reported Friday that the Garden Guy, Inc., a Houston-area landscape company emailed a Mr. Lord and told him they couldn't do work for him because he is gay. The owners of the company have some really strong feelings on the subject.

In light of the resulting controversy you can bet they'd wished they'd turned down Mr. Lord's request, which is their right, without getting into the gay thing?

The email has stirred up a lot of controversy with some folks calling for a boycott of the business.

Click on the headline above to see how NOT to respond to a request for service. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Alas, poor Yorick!

Maybe it's because Halloween is coming. In the past week, a couple of different landscapers have found themselves in the news for grisly discoveries.

In Bethlaham, Pa., a landscaper dug up a skull while working in a garden area. According to the local Morning Call newspaper, "Police said an employee of Tall Timbers Nursery in South Whitehall Township was working in the garden on Monday when he found the skull. He thought the mud-caked item was the remains of an animal and set it aside. On Tuesday, a nursery employee took a closer look at the item and thought it was a human skull and called police, said Trex Satkowski, one of the owners of Tall Timbers Nursery.

''Never, in my 20 years of landscaping, had I ever seen a human skull,'' Satkowski said. ''It was pretty freaky.'''

In that case, police believe there was no foul play involved.

That wasn't the case in Montville, N.J. According to a story in The Record, "A landscaper discovered the decomposed body on Thursday morning while dumping leaves behind an industrial building off Chapin Road in the Pine Brook section of the township. The body was clothed and wrapped in plastic sheeting."

If this is going to keep happening, landscapers may start being cross-trained as crime scene investigators.
— Mike Seuffert

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Right number, wrong street

I'll bet this happens more often than anybody cares to admit — a lawn technician servicing the wrong property. It can be an expensive mistake, but in the following case the homeowner got a kick out of it.

Dolly Curtis, who lives in Easton, CT, got $538 worth of free lawn service this past week when a technician mistakenly aerated the lawn around her house.

"It looked like a bunch of moles had a fraternity party on my lawn," she told the Connecticut Post newspaper.

The lawn service was meant for a home with the same street number but on Flat Rock Drive, which is just around the block from Dolly's house on Flat Rock Road. Who is the wise guy who why gave two streets in the same neighborhood almost identical names? — Ron Hall

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Noodle Incident

Sometimes, things are funnier or more interesting when left to the imagination. Bill Watterson used this idea frequently in my all time favorite comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Every once in a while, one of the characters, most likely Hobbes, would refer to "The Noodle Incident," involving Calvin. Watterson never explained what the incident was, but left it to the reader's mind to fill in the blank.

That came to mind this week when I read about a California landscaper who, as a protest against the local government, posted a giant sign on the walls of his greenhouse insulting a local councilwoman "in words not fit to print," according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

You can check the story out here. Now if you happen to live in the area, or know what the sign says, please don't tell me. I prefer to leave it to my imagination.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Outsourcing is for big fat sissies

Rave ***** (f5-stars)

Unless you live and love the Great Lakes region of the the United States like I do you can't appreciate what I learned this past week. I learned that the Ariens Company, rather than outsourcing to China for a lot of the hard goods it uses to build its lawn and garden products, including its commercial mowers, relies on local domestic suppliers. It can do this, in part, because it's becoming more and more efficient. The company credits its all-out war on waste — time, effort, materials, whatever. Lean is the word at Ariens.

For the past seven years, management of the privately-owned company, under the leadership of Dan Ariens, has been systematically scrutinizing every system and process within the company, squeezing out waste wherever it finds it. The company's waste search-and-eliminate mentality allows it to maintain mutally beneficial relationships with ldomestic suppler/partners —companies that can stamp on their products "Made in the U.S.A."

Certainly, quality control and Ariens' sense of loyalty to the tiny community of Brillion, WI, (The company's been a part of the community for almost a century and Dan Ariens went to high school there) figure into the relationship Ariens keeps with surrounding suppliers.

As I walk the streets of my pleasant city on Lake Erie in northern Ohio and see all empty downtown store windows, I think about the hundreds of jobs that have left our community (about the same size as Brillion, WI) in the past 20 years, and what it means to the local school, merchants, everybody, in fact . . . and I wish we had someone like Ariens with the business acumen and guts to go "lean" and keep our jobs. (A big thank you to JP Horizons) — Ron Hall

Monday, October 02, 2006

Back off moron, you're risking my life!

Rant *** (three stars)

I've gotten fond of living. Living is a good thing. You know flowers, sunshine, friends, family . . . all that stuff.

Getting squashed on the the grill of some big truck, like the white Ford 250 pulling a trailer of landscape gear that was riding the bumper of my puny Eagle Summit on I-90 tonight. — that's a bad thing.

Hey moron it wasn't enough that you were bump drafting me at 65 mph in the curb lane, but you were yakkin' on a cell phone to boot.

You know who you are. Cut it out!!! — Ron Hall