Volume 43, Issue 12 - December 2008

You Gotta Be Kidding!
by Lyle R. Hill

In January of 1992 I wrote my very first article for USGlass. Some people probably thought it should have been my last. Prior to this, in 1990 as I recall, I had submitted a few sample articles to another glass industry magazine, but they had rejected my work in such a dismissive way that I quickly gave up on the thought of ever seeing anything with my byline on it in a glass industry publication. This was discouraging to me at the time because I didn’t think my writing was that bad … maybe not great … but certainly not as bad as I was led to believe. 

In the early 1990s, USGlass was not what it is today. Now, without question, USGlass is easily recognized as the strongest and most widely read publication in the industry and it has maintained this position for several years. But in 1992 it was the weakest of the three competing magazines. However, when I got a call one afternoon from the publisher … I think her name was Anne …asking me if I would like to provide my thoughts for an upcoming issue, I wasn’t about to say no. 

Later, long after I had submitted that first article, she would tell me that while they had only been looking for a short paragraph or two, she decided to use the complete article as it was written after their layout changed and they needed some additional filler. She even included my picture with a brief biography and thus began my now 16-year association with USGlass. So I’ve been around to watch the transformation and growth of USGlass from a spot on the front row. And during their development into the powerhouse that they are today, they have always treated me respectfully … gently … deferentially … as if I were an old uncle that had treated them kindly in their youth. In fact, on one recent occasion I actually thought I overheard Megan Headley, USG’s extremely talented and youthful editor refer to me as “Pops.” Now this might have bothered a lesser man, but as a father of three and a grandfather of eight … soon to be nine …I thought it was kinda cute.

However, kindness and cuteness aside, “Pops” has a bit of a problem with “The Results Are In,” an article that young, talented, hardworking Megan produced for last month’s USGlass, and all I can say is … “You gotta be kidding.” I mean, come on, if you read that article you would quickly come to the conclusion that all is well and good in Glass Land and I’m here to tell you that, while it might be for some of the people that you talked to … and by the way, I’m very happy for them … for others, it’s a disaster.

Now I understand that a reporter … and USGlass is well known for its consistent and accurate reporting … can only report on the facts and events that are presented to them, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the facts and statements presented in that article were accurate. But, the whole world has changed virtually overnight and what might have been the case just a couple of months ago is not what the situation is today.

So Megan … kiddo … as accurate and well documented as your article was, “Pops” wants to tell you about the other side, so to speak. So, here are some very current, as in the last 48 hours, news items for you to ponder. First, it was announced as I write this that more than 750 car dealerships have closed their doors in the last six months and that another 300 may not be around 90 days from now. Analysts have publicly stated that if Sears doesn’t have a strong holiday season, it most likely can’t survive for another year. All three of the nation’s auto makers are meeting right now in Washington, trying to talk Congress into giving them boatloads of money so they can keep (according to the headline in USA Today) millions of people working. Also, Citigroup told the world that they intend to cut 52,000 people from their payroll in the next year … 52,000! The stock market had yet another meltdown today, housing starts have reached their lowest point in more than 40 years and unemployment claims are at their highest level in more than 25 years. Starbucks is closing stores daily and just last night … and this one really hits home …Fannie May Candies (not to be confused with the other Fannie Mae that also had some pretty sweet deals out there for awhile) has announced that they intend to close all of their remaining stores after the holidays are over. It just can’t get much worse!

Now Megan, I’m not saying that your research wasn’t done properly or that you didn’t get honest answers from the people you talked with, I’m just saying that everything is falling apart so fast that what was accurate yesterday … or in this case a couple of months ago … is not accurate today. In fact, according to old Uncle Lyle’s … aka “Pops” … PCMAJ index (which stands for People Calling Me Asking for a Job), it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it and I don’t think it will get much better for quite awhile.

But you see, Megan, here’s the real problem. If an outsider were to read your article, they may get the idea that this is a good industry to be in, and then all those people who are getting axed at Citigroup or one of those other big companies might think that opening up a glass business would be a good idea. And while we might be able to compete with the bankers and maybe even those automakers, the Fannie May people will finish us off in no time because they understand candy and chocolate and all other things sweet. And there is just no way we grumpy old guys in the glass industry can compete against sweet

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