At sixes and sevens

Thursday 31 January 2013, 4.55am HKT

Updated 02 Feb 2013 (typo fixes)

12am local time, 17°C (63°F), cool

TODAY is exactly one year ago that Ratta (an alias) had been let go by Ferrari S.p.A. after 11 years there.

rattaAnd I’m going to keep putting this reminder up every year, and keep at it for the next 11 years, thankyouverymuch.

For those who don’t know Ratta (from Swedish ‘råtta‘ for ‘rat’: but her personality is nothing like one), I’ve written about her before:—

  1. Ratta’s bother | 20 Jan 2012
  2. Do this if you should get fired: A lifehack exclusive | 3 parts | 01 Feb 2012
  3. Ratta’s progress | 6 March 2012 (which, incidentally, gives my ‘take’ on the utter bollocks behind the so-called ‘Tiger Mother’ neurosis about rearing kids)
  4. Cat bench | 07 March 2012 (a photo by Ratta)
  5. Not what it turns out to be | 09 March 2012
  6. Anger and resentment, delayed for now | 11 March 2012
  7. 10 things this week | 10 Oct 2012 (see item ‘Five’)

If you’ve ever read any of those stories, you’ll appreciate why I am in sympathy with her.

Trials and tribulations

ACH! I don’t think you’ll like to hear the recap. I’ll make it short so you (but mostly me) won’t shat ourselves from the shape of things possibly to come for the rest of us.

Enumerated below in Italian, because it’s nicely sarcastic.

luxury carsPrimo, Ratta spent 11 years at Ferrari personally in charge of the showroom and two Ferraris, each costing a cool HK$4½ million (US$580,000 or £370,000). After 11 years of blemish-free service, she was let go by reason of cost-cutting (if that is to be believed at all). My personal view is it’s 100% bullshit anyway, considering I spent some of my formative years in Italy.

school prank 2011 0115Secondo, Ratta then landed a teaching job at a nursery crammer (i.e. tutorial school), despite having no teaching qualifications or experience. And, yeah, it’s a CRAMMER for nursery-age children the likes of two- to five-year-olds. (You are definitely not sure of actually reading this…)

Very quickly, the place didn’t turn out to be “something else, man” and she left (or fired, I can’t remember which). Like all crammers in Hong Kong, it’s for sphincter-expanding butthurt of children, let’s put it that way.

pink slipTerzo, Ratta then landed a secretarial job at a trading company. She thought, finally, a proper job more in tune with her abilities and temperament. Yet first day at work and she was categorically told she was to be a salesperson! Unbelievably, it’s peddling nutraceuticals — to and INSIDE hospitals!

Alright, alright, Ratta thought, after all this is a job and see what comes out of it. Thankfully, the sales manager fired her over the phone one evening after just one week into the job.

Nutraceuticals are “very interesting from a psychopathic standpoint” (as one of the characters in the 1940 movie “An Angel From Texas” nicely puts it). This is the potentially effing dangerous pharmaceutical-containing crap disguised as either foodstuffs or nutritional supplements. People in the olden days used to feed this stuff to a rich parent or some other family member with a view to getting a premature but healthy inheritance. It’s nothing like the pharma drama we see in movies like “Love and Other Drugs” (2010).

Can you actually picture in your mind the actual moron instructing actual employees to flog this actual stuff right within actual hospital grounds and also hoping to secure actual food and drug licence for it???

Nutraceuticals are the kind of night-soil that brings on a number of interesting legal ramifications for employers and employees alike. One of them is conveniently called ‘accessory,’ if you get my legal drift. Vicarious liability isn’t going to get anyone off the hook, I’m afraid.

hms bounty smallOnly nice thing to come out of that experience for Ratta was going on a company junket (on behalf of the company) on the HMS Bounty (you know, per Captain Bligh and Lieutenant Fletcher).

schoolsignQuarto, she landed yet another teaching job around third-quarter 2012 — another kindergarten crammer. This one fared better than her last teaching job and many parents at this place liked her teaching very well, it seems.

The only hiccup was that she’d been put on part-time roster, so money has been very tight for Ratta.

display shelfQuinto, to supplement income, Ratta becomes a part-time assistant cashier/shelf-stocker at a Japanese chainstore. You’d never guess a person who’s previously worked in a major British publishing firm for 10 years and then 11 years at an Italian luxury automaker would literally end up being a shelf-assistant in an overglorified supermarket.

Despite the job’s low level and low pay, Ratta said this Japanese store job has been the most enjoyable of all her previous jobs because things were done the Japanese way, not the perverse Hong Kong way.

The basic Japanese commercial mindset in running companies is for steady profits and lifelong employment. Whilst that kind of employment no longer exists even for the Japanese themselves in these troubled times, the Japanese still operate along that line. They understand happy employees do a better job of things, and doing a better job means good business. It took two atomic bombs to stop Imperial Japan and still the Japanese are living in the 22nd century — while the rest of us imbeciles are pretending to live in the 21st with fiscal cliff and QE3/4/5/6/whatever. Speaks volumes. So there.

(I’m not apologising for my view either. So there too.)

still wanna have a baby 5da1_cvw1ySesto, because the Japanese cashiering job didn’t bring in enough bacon, Ratta finally ends up being a full-time cashier at a baby-supplies store in a shopping mall. The job’s okay, but the co-workers there were (are?) standoffish, deadpan and a bit dog-eat-dog in mentality, according to how I heard Ratta told me.

She resigned from this job a few days ago because of good news (below).

Banalità (trivia): Ratta is (was) the only staff member who could handle a full-blown conversation in English with customers. Since her joining that store, the store manager (40-something) had suddenly decided to ‘up’ his English-language skills. The rest should up theirs too, in my view. *Smirk* (Geddit?)

A little good news

cute-baby-hamsterSettimo, now that Ratta has resigned from the baby store, she’s managed to negotiate a deal with the kindergarten crammer she’s been part-timing for (the one in ‘Quarto‘ above). She’s now hired on a yearlong contract, full time.

I understand from Ratta that her imminent boss/headmistress is making some changes to the business model of the kindergarten, and Ratta’s performance in part-time teaching has been steady and careful.

Frankly, it’s also because Ratta has absolutely no ambitions to learn the ropes and steal away fee-paying customers parents to start her own setup — as many tuition school teachers in Hong Kong have a reputation for doing.


1. RATTA’s situation is the shape of things to come for older employees.

Six or seven jobs in the space of 12 months. This is no effing joke for the one on the soggy, receiving end.

... but only if it loves you

… but only if it loves you

And that trading company hiring Ratta for one job and immediately switching it to another completely different job happens more times than we’d like to think.

Can’t speak for most other countries, but this is the kind of despicable Hong Kong way of doing things I see all the time. Employers like that bring a goddamn bad name to employers like me, and I take this very personally as ‘them’ causing me to lose ‘face’ in the presence of foreigners.

The Hong Kong way — it gets results, no question about that, but I JUST DON’T LIKE THE WAY IT GETS RESULTS.

All my life before Hong Kong, I’ve lived, grown up or worked in the capitals and first-tier cities of First World industrialised nations. I’m not about to start now and choose the business antics of some colonial or ex-colonial place. I’ve come to be extremely snooty about this.

2. The 50s are being elbowed out, thereby we lose our profit-making know-how.

Blood bagIN our troubled times, people on reaching their 50s are being elbowed out and shoved into pointless jobs. The usual excuses are cost-cutting, need for new blood, the dynamism of younger employees, and so on and so forth.

Wouldn’t a shelf assistant’s job be better for a younger person? No, of course not, because younger employees have more (and longer) to contribute. What, against the decades-long experience of still highly active and able-bodied older people?

Colour me ignorant, pray tell what are the mechanics of that contribution you speak of?


Pleeeease, I heard nearly all of the standard excuses reasons before. I’ve personally used quite a few of them myself on others in my day.

If I ran a business with a view to making profits, running a company full of just young, dynamic new blood just doesn’t seem the way to make profits. For starters, the older folks’ experience, insights and commercial know-how will have been absent to steady the business running. The Young Turks will be forever trying to REINVENT the wheel that the older ones have already REFINED. And people wonder why there’s been a steady loss of commercial know-how in all businesses worldwide all these years.

If you sincerely want to run a business properly (that is, profitably), I’ll tell you and put money in your pocket RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT IN YOUR FACE, if you please:—

You need to have a balance of all ages, all abilities, all experience, and preferably all races. At the very, very least, elders lend stability, young’uns give oomph. Simple as that.

I am Managing Director and Principal Equity Holder of a 115-year-old printing firm AND I APPROVE OF THIS MESSAGE.

Is your anus jealous of what comes out of your mouth?

Wait till YOU get to OUR age, mate…



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13037). Updated 02 Feb 2013 (typo fixes).

Images: Rat doll via | Sportscars via eWhoKnow | School Prank via c4c | Pink Slip via Homeowners Insurance | School Sign via c4c | HMS Bounty via Pirates Wikia | Nail polish display shelf via Ali Express | Birth training mannequin via mix4fun | Baby hamster via c4c | I Love My Job via | Blood bag by Antonia Reeve/Science Photo Library via

4 Responses to “At sixes and sevens”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    Your final paragraphs ring a bell. The effects of age-mates only exposure from our public education system shows up in just that fashion. No where else in your whole life will you experience that atmosphere except during a few school years, so they can’t stand to leave it behind and insist on it in the work place. Meanwhile, they treat everyone else they know badly, particularly if any of them are older.


  2. SkyddsDrake said

    Unbelievable. You know? I only wish the best for Ratta, but the trials she’s gone (and going?) through really put some things into perspective for me. If someone with her knowledge, experience and skills can go through that many jobs in such a short time, how can anyone else expect anything different? It’s a wretches state of affairs. Sometimes I wonder if apprenticeship systems weren’t much better. Know what I mean? Schooling only gets someone so far. Like you said, look at all the industry knowledge that’s been lost! The stuff that can’t come out of a book, or come across in a classroom lecture!

    I don’t know. I really don’t get it. I look at one person I know, for instance. He’s a wonder. You can put any kind of schematic you want in front of him, and he’ll build whatever you please. Mechanically, electrically… He’s has the know-how to make it happen. He moved recently and had to get a new job, though. He’s getting paid half as much as he was in his previous position, and he’s having to teach the company’s engineers why they can’t do certain things. Things THEY ought to know. But they’re recent college grads with heads full of bookish know-how, and less of the practical “how it actually f*cking works” know-how…

    At any rate, I’m glad Ratta’s had a bit of good news. It’s been a long time coming.


    • I hear you, I hear you. I’ll pass on your comment to Ratta and I’ll relay her comment in due course.

      (Ratta thinks her English isn’t good enough on the writing front. I’ve told her we don’t mind that one bit. The message trumps the grammar, and all of us will make allowances for any non-English speaker.)


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