Heroic Charles Ramsey Demands Bouzaglo-Kitchen-Nightmares Media Moratorium.

happy days.Until recently, it was looking like free Big Macs for life, and a fat percentage on big merchandise deals.

Last week’s Internet sensation Charles Ramsey has requested that both journalists and the general public desist from talking or writing about Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, who themselves this week became an Internet sensation following a recent television episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

“Our initial consignment of ‘Dead Giveaway’ T-shirts had just got back from the printers Tuesday, and we were looking to have our first bulk shipments in stores by the weekend”, explained the Cleveland native.

Earlier this May, he entertained millions worldwide with a short interview covering his role in the rescue of Amanda Berry and two other women who had been held captive for ten years by his next-door neighbour.

But as the Bouzaglo Kitchen Nightmares “shitstorm” continues to register non-stop commentary on Facebook, Yelp, Reddit and Twitter, many of these T-shirt orders have suddenly been placed on hold.

amy's bakery place kitchen nightmares“It’s very inconsiderate of you to be so compellingly mad that nobody in the world wants to talk about anything else.”

It’s thought that Monday’s episode is already being combed by designers for its most memorable lines, while (Charles) Ramsey’s humorous kidnap rescue paraphernalia looks in danger of being replaced on store shelves before it can even reach them.

“Our intention had been to run with Dead Giveaway on cups, clothing and school materials until June, then try ‘It’s some more girls up in that house’ for a month or so along with a few meme posters, and to ultimately use that momentum as a bargaining chip for tie-in talks with McDonalds some time late in the summer.”

“Where do we stand now? Outside a warehouse full of merchandise that as long as this Bouzaglo story keeps getting fanned, I couldn’t give away, if you’ll excuse the pun.”

“That’s where”, he continued.

“People really need to forget that Gordon in Arizona ever happened until the comedic fallout from the Cleveland Kidnap Saga gets a chance to run its natural course.”

charles ramsey kitchen nightmaresA tired, visibly chastened Ramsey accepts that the Dead Giveaway ship may have already sailed.

Several international textile wholesalers refused to comment last night when asked if casual cotton tops and canvas tote bags bearing slogans like I HAVE TO DRINK WATER, I AM GOING TO REALLY HURT SOMEBODY IF THEY SEND BACK MY CAKES, YOU DON’T NEED TO QUESTION ME KATY YOU CAN GO HOME RIGHT NOW and I AM THE GANGSTER, NOT YOU  had not already begun rolling off their conveyor belts.

It’s thought that some suppliers are even hopeful that much of their year-round, generic ‘Meeow’ stock will also be taken up by consumers as part of the “Bouzaglo-Nightmares” push.

Elsewhere, media watchdogs have been as critical as (Charles) Ramsey over the unfortunate stacking of viral Internet sensation atop viral Internet sensation, and the lost economic opportunities attaching thereto.

“Of course, while it’s almost impossible to legislate for a Social Media Shitstorm like the one we’ve seen at Amy’s Baking Company this week, I think most people will agree the timing has been unhelpful, and that experts should have seen it coming”, said Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute.

He continued, “With the whole Dead Giveaway Kidnap thing only a week old, surely this episode of Kitchen Nightmares could have realistically been pushed back a month?”

kitchen nightmares bouzaglo The Bouzaglos shown modelling their “ABC Shitstorm”, a new, multi-purpose harsh weather jacket available in six sizes.

“On its own, Charles Ramsey and ‘Dead Giveaway’ still theoretically has legs, but not if it has to simultaneously go mano a mano with Amy, Samy, Gordon and a Facebook page that can get 25,000 comments on a two-line post, and then literally millions of replies to those comments. You think about that.”

Ramsey and Ramsay are not related.

Given their press commitments and three sit-downs with Moulinex, Aspirin and Blue Stratos this week, the Bouzaglos are currently closed for business. Amy’s Baking Company re-opens on the 21st of May.

Da Mysteries of Chessfixing.

It’s your move, but the lactic acid simmering in those thighs serves to distract from the board. And the longer you spend upright and stationary, the harder it is to focus. But wait. You spot a Long Knight to the left that will put your opponent in trouble; only problem is, a Bishop right in the middle of the board is going to interfere with your access. You judge it worth the risk, however, and roll in, your opponent pointing his 3000 lumens headlamp in your face and talking trash.

After almost an hour of circling, fronting, braking, weaving and scheming, your mind and body somehow manage one more time to unite, and power your front wheel smoothly past. Stopping dead, you bend to sweep up the bulky three pound piece on your left side.

It’s a series of four or five broadly separate actions which seem to proceed from each other but then intertwine in a flash, almost as one movement.

They have to.

Teetering but  stable, you  tweak the alignment of your handlebars to maintain position, then reach to deposit the huge black carved horse’s head on G8. It’s a move whose successful execution assumes the flexibility of a Yoga Instructor, the balance of a Tightrope Walker and the static strength of an Olympic Gymnast.

With the piece landed and check called, you exhaustedly yet buoyantly begin departure. But while you try to hop your bike onto an uncluttered exit line, the left pedal’s toe strap snaps. Before your shock even fully registers, you’re splayed under your machine, and the board looks like the site of a bad tempered concession.

Climbing back up amid toppled rooks and pawns that still swing slowly on their side like pendulums, heat rises off your back in the harsh-lit dark. You heave grey clouds of air. Game over.

“Bad Luck”, says your opponent. “I had a feeling that toe strap was going to go.”

Welcome to the often dirty, and thoroughly illegal, bike-mounted world of Chessfixing.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Played under cover of darkness on giant outdoor boards in locked city parks, Chessfixing is the newest mash-up sport to rise from the ashes of the Urban Fixed Wheel Biking movement..

Described by one player as being “Like elite-level bike polo, but for a more cerebral crowd” incidents of play in city parks and squares on both sides of the Atlantic have been getting much word-of-mouth in 2012.

“There’s no other sport like it”, enthuses Girvan Vasquez, a stocky, freckled Argentinan in his early twenties who moved to Europe with his parents three years ago. Vasquez has been Chessfixing since late 2011.

“I had dabbled in Hardcourt, Ghetto Gym, Backward Circles, Urban Golf… you name it”, he says. “I just felt there was some element missing from them all.”

An avid Poker player and online Strategy Gamer, he had read forum rumours of boisterous nighttime chess gatherings with a difference in a neighbouring district west of his family home.

“The first night I jumped that railing into the Stadtpark (Wilmersdorf, Berlin -ed.) a circle definitely closed for me. You had these hardcore Chessfixers there pulling Figure 8’s when all they wanted to do was castle. But I won three in a row”

The short wheel base of his bike allied to its relatively light gear ratio made the underestimated Vasquez an initial surprise hit on the board, but these early wins were followed by a series of regular and painful drubbings. That is, until his chess game got markedly better.

Now, when visiting crews from other cities hit town to challenge Berlin’s best Chessfixers, Vasquez’ name is usually near the top of their list.

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Chessfixing draws players from both sides of the Chess – Fixed Wheel divide. In the few cities where a Chessfixing scene has sprung up, anecdotal evidence suggests that some local Grandmasters are learning rudimentary bike handling skills in order to take part. But the majority of players are cyclists with an already finely honed repertoire of “Fixie” tricks, now feverishly “cramming” a few basic opening replies in order that they can experience more sustained, game-improving “board-time”.

Most of the latter tend to be drawn from the ranks of retired Hardcourt Bike Polo players who gave up the sport in disillusionment around the time that Single-Speed-with-Freewheel became generally accepted as the most efficient type of bicycle to play on.

One Early-Adapter-Early-Rejector is Gianni Nordhus, who claims to have been on court when the first ever fixed-wheel-only chukkah of Bike Polo was played in the German capital, all the way back in 2004.

“At some point we had teams that were trying a little too hard to win, was the problem”, says Nordhus.

“Starting out there were nice people who practically slept with their pristine, super-quiet, vintage track frames and had an opinion about whether you could wear Assos with Rapha or not. Then two years on, it was suddenly all camouflage, broken teeth and freewheel. Well forgive me for saying ‘No thanks’.”

Nordhus points to the bizarre, some would say exaggerated, symbiosis of man and bike that typified early attempts to play elite Polo on track bikes.

He continued, “It’s like what they say about a dog walking on its hind legs. That was the ideology at the heart of Hardcourt, and as such, Hardcourt is now dead for me, and for many others. But its spirit lives on in the sport of Chessfixing.”

Certainly, the skill needed to move chess pieces around a giant board in the dark on a bicycle without conventional brakes is considerable. Combined with an ability to play chess to tournament standard, Chessfixing provides a mental and physical challenge to its players unlike any other in the world of Urban Hybrid Sport.

 

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another recent convert to the charms of Chessfixing, lecturer in Aesthetics at the Freie Universität Berlin Jürgen Nguyen finds ways to appreciate the game on a host of levels.

“It’s a very Existentialist pastime” , he says. “The frustration of knowing how to finish off a game, yet not having the physical coordination to swoop in, grab that Queen and deposit her safely at E7 without your back wheel catching a Pawn on the way out can stir up all sorts of emotions in players.”

There are, he continues, two sides to this coin.

“Likewise, of course, one sees a lot of showboaters who could slalom through every piece on a full board but who don’t have an eye for even the most transparent pincer attack. Chessfixing is a great leveller.”

Chessfixers remain a fairly loose alliance of athletes and are yet to develop a set of universally agreed, nailed down rules, much less any On-Off-Board etiquette guidelines. Thus wherever it is played, gamesmanship and psychological warfare are both widespread. According to independent witnesses of games in Santiago de Chile over the summer, some bursts of play barely fell short of Anti Social Behaviour, if not outright Reckless Endangerment.

Toestrap-tampering and chain loosening are both common, Nordhus concedes, “but ultimately they’re tactics designed to bring out the finest possible Fixed Wheel handling skills in their victims, not to win a game of chess. It wouldn’t occur to most players, for example, to try reintroducing a Queen to the game on their opponent’s blind side or anything”

“The global Chessfixing community is,” he says “in the truest sense of the term, a Mutual Appreciation Society.”

“Fixmate” , a National Championships of Chessfixing, and the first of its kind in Europe, has been provisionally pencilled in for late spring 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.

Olympic Village Karaoke Bar Says “Sorry, We Don’t Have That One Anymore”

The original version of Usain Bolt’s song choice ‘Tequila’ is about two minutes; he nearly stretched it out past ten.

London, England

Budding medalists wishing to remain welcome guests at Olympian Rhapsody, the only Karaoke Bar located within the walls of London’s Olympic Village, will from now on have to pick something other than ‘One Moment In Time’ to sing, it has been learned this morning.

Effective immediately, the bar’s Management has declared a Moratorium on the well known sports-inspired Whitney Houston power ballad, citing among other reasons “unspeakable over-indulgence” from the Azerbaijan Wrestling squad at several evening sessions since their arrival.

“Of course they weren’t the only ones, explained shift supervisor James Toland.

Much to answer for. Innumerable less well equipped athletic vocalists have been butchering one of Whitney’s toughest tunes.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that at least one member of every national team has attempted the song, which famously requires outstanding technical vocal ability in order to passably reproduce.

“High Performance athletes typically aren’t a group of people you’d expect to be looking to sing something edgy”, he went on.

“They’re generally too busy with training, nutrition and recovery to be genuinely concerned about what’s happening in the charts, you know?”

The move purposely comes on the day of the Games’ official Opening Ceremony.

… And the-hee-hee-hee ah-ha-ha-hanswers are aw-haw-hall up to mee-hee-hee-heee-hee-hee-heeee…”

“Hey, don’t get me wrong, full respect. ‘Moment’ is a tough one to do right, no question. Although if you’ve ever heard somebody singing it unironically, then you don’t need to imagine what a hyped-up, adrenalin-pumped middle distance runner is going to do with it. In a karaoke bar. In the Olympic Village. On the night before everything kicks off. Surrounded by his competitors.”

“Probably wearing his team tracksuit too”, he added.

“And maybe not as good at singing as he is at running the 800 meters.”

Toland said he could understand, up to a point, why most of his customers were requesting to sing something that they knew inside out, and also something that they were aware their audience would be very familiar with.

Click here or the pic, then Fast Forward to 5.46 and see the German Ladies’ Pentathlon Champion warming up for later on in the Village.

“Of course you don’t want to go too far off the beaten track. But look, we have a songbook here with over twelve thousand titles, and we don’t think it’s asking the world of these people to get out of their comfort zones for three and a half minutes. We have that Shakira song from the World Cup, for example. ‘Bad Romance’ too.

“Not a single athlete or team physio has asked to do that one yet.”

Other songs included on the Sorry-We-Don’t-Have-It-List at Olympian Rhapsody include ‘Eye Of The Tiger’, ‘My Way’, ‘Ironic’, ‘Zombie’ and according to Toland ” …anything that is, or sounds like it is, a National Anthem”.

They are also henceforth strictly enforcing a Three-Drinks-Minimum policy, said Toland .

“Per Athlete, not per Team, by the way. And that’s Drink drinks. There aren’t going to be any more Seven-Ups cut with mineral water around here unless it’s under six hours before a final you’ve made.”

Also banned. Though not for Sponsorship Infringement.

Putting the M(MA) into Mauerpark.


Any Second Sunday? Kimbo Slice may be one of the MMA luminaries soon plying his trade in Mauerpark.

Berlin, Germany.

Representatives from Pankow’s Tiefbauamt (Office of Public Works) have revealed that discussions are taking place between its Heads of Department and Mixed Martial Arts franchise Strike Force to fill some of the still vacant Sunday afternoon spots available for use of the Mauerpark’s amphitheatre.

Since early 2009, mild weather conditions had until now seen visitors assemble to take part in an informal Karaoke show there. But permits for these shows have been reformulated by the office in 2012, leaving room for what one department official described as “more variety in the Park’s Cultural Repertoire”.


MMA is famously egalitarian, and Strike Force promises the same age-, weight- and gender-diversity as Bearpit Karaoke.

With MMA’s popularity enjoying a worldwide surge in popularity over recent years, it’s understood that several governing bodies had recently contacted Pankow’s Tiefbauamt with a view to booking fight-time in what is referred to by locals as “Der Bearpit”.

Christian Tänzler, PR spokesman for the capital’s tourism marketing board visitberlin.de said “The Mauerpark’s amphitheater is a perfect platform for MMA fighters to showcase their skills. Its stage area is of perfect dimensions to accommodate a regulation-sized octagonal steel cage.

“Whether participants fire long jabs and roundhouse kicks from an upright position, or regard themselves more as Ground-and-Pound specialists, spectators are guaranteed a great view of all the action from the stone steps. I’m actually shocked that nobody came up with this idea sooner.”


The gradient of the steps offers every visiting Fight Fan a “Best Seat In The House” for watching people punch, kick or choke each other.

Recent talks with the organizers of the Karaoke Show had established glaring deficiencies in the event’s infrastructure. Not least the complete absence or seeming necessity of a Security Team. Strike Force spokesman and CEO Scott Coker, speaking about what his organization could bring to the table asserted that “Even a quick sideways glance at any of my fighters should leave no potential troublemaker in doubt as to the World Of Pain he would be entering were he to keep glancing sideways at any of my fighters. They are all, in effect, their own Security Team.”

Given that the amphitheater is a permanent physical fixture in the park, officials were unable to explain why the  non-Karaoke-related applications it had received for the amphitheater’s use had until now all been made for Sunday afternoons.

“The Karaoke is on a Sunday? Are you sure?“, replied an anonymous department employee in answer to the question. “Funny, we all thought it was Saturday. Oops!”

Paul Was Guilty Only Of Being Male.


With no hussies left in the group, Paul contemplates a wholesome couple of final days on Bachelor Island.

Germans draw no distinction between Good, Evil, Person, Place or Entity when deciding on whether to bestow a nickname. If it’s famous enough it gets a nickname. And it’s always the same nickname.

In Germany you know you’ve truly arrived when they slice off the last few letters of your name and cauterize the wound with an “i”. The obvious ones of course are the right wing political persuasion “Nazi”, and the former GDR’s ubiquitous secret police unit the “Stasi”.  “Kotti” and “Klinsi” are two more. The former signifies Kottbusser Tor, where smack deals happen in East Kreuzberg. “Kotti” is a byword among Germans who have never visited Berlin, and used by them, along with “Marzahn” (not Marzi. Yet.) in rambling explanations for the imminent collapse of Life As We Know It.


Klinsi celebrates while Kotti heroin addicts ride off with their drugs.

“Klinsi” is for Jürgen Klinsmann, one of the country’s all-time best loved goalscorers, and all-round Good Egg. His natural successor in terms of well-lovedness is Lukas Podolski, who probably not unrelatedly has an “i” at the end of his name already. His fans have chopped him lovingly back to “Poldi”

But even very heavily used nouns and phrases can sometimes get upgraded to the “i” class. “Prominente Person” (celebrity), for example, becomes “Promi”.

Prominent, incidentally, has a shared etymology with Menace. and the cutesified “Promi” is a word you hear a lot if you have a radio or television switched on with any sort of regularity. German telly, while short on promise, is long on “Promis”

And much as everywhere else these days, all cheaply makeable reality formats like house hunting, dancing contests, quiz shows or opening a shop sooner or later get a “Promi” upgrade.

Sadly there aren’t enough letters in the English alphabet to convey how far down the Food Chain of Fame the protagonists of any show with the word “Promi” in its title tend to find themselves. But I gather Sanskrit has 53, and using its last one could get us close with-

” ह – Lister”

(Sounds like the throaty “h” of coughing up lodged mucus)

Anyway, one such show is Das Perfekte Promi Dinner, which unlike most “Promi” shows very occasionally has a proper, bona fide famous person take part.

The nobodies version is just called Das Perfekte Dinner, and plays out Monday to Friday, one one-hour show per day, each contestant hosting dinner for the other four on their given nights. The obvious downside is if Monday isn’t thrilling, you’re hardly going to watch the rest of the week. And if you miss Monday… well, what’s the point, you know? The Promi version gets blasted out in a two hour marathon Sunday nights, and while it can sometimes drag, at least you have your closure inside two hours.

Which is all by way of saying that assembled to cook dinner for each other over the course of a week in Hamburg and Berlin recently were Paul, Claudia, Wanda and Florian.

Paul starred earlier this year in The Bachelor, sorry, Der Bachelor, over the course of which twenty young ladies prostrated themselves before him in a series of gossipy, mind-gamey and even flat-out slutty attempts to win his heart.

Paul is dyed blonde, and has a strangely shaped mouth. He managed the neat trick throughout the Bachelor series of portraying himself as a man of almost old fashioned moral values, but as a man more importantly trying to source his Soulmate, while simultaneously managing to avail himself, with an apparently clear conscience, of any hand jobs that were going from the more forthright females in the group.

Unfortunately, l’Amour remained elusive, but he now qualifies by general consent as a Promi.


They probably didn’t, but then again, neither of them is terribly picky.

Claudia is a lady in her fifties who makes lots of money selling expensive things to other ladies in their fifties. She spends this money on shoes, sparkling wine and new dresses. She also admits that a portion of her wealth gets used to entice young men to eat dinner and, for all we know, maybe even have sex with her. Having sex is a subject close to Claudia’s heart. Other than the spiritual enrichment to be derived from Shopping, there doesn’t seem to be much else she likes discussing.

Wanda finished fourth in Heidi Klum’s modeling reality show some years back and still gets a bit of work doing all sorts. Underwear, voice overs, appearances. Her boyfriend is perhaps a photographer.

Florian is an actor, from a family of actors, which by rights should give him some kind of Promi Royalty status in Germany. I had never heard of him before, but he was the only one of the group you felt might have wrestled with the proposal from his agent that he do Promi Dinner. Although as noted, Promi Dinner does land the occasional Big Fish, so he doubtless reconciled himself to the gig by casting himself in this role.


Claudia’s till now moderately filthy joke is about to become unacceptably filthy.

The tone was set from the off as Claudia scattergunned racy mouthfuls across the table on the first evening at Paul’s. Unsure at how to proceed, Wanda and Paul looked to Florian for guidance, from whom none was forthcoming. Half heartedly they attempted to breezily deflect or politely ignore base statement after base statement, but Claudia wanted replies in kind.

Depending on the day of the week, she liked either Paul or Florian. Paul’s youthful energy was held up as her Ideal on the Tuesday, but by Wednesday evening he was so much stripling to Florian’s cultured, Bond-like cigar aficionado. Then she liked Paul better again. Wanda was under her radar.

Florian tried to keep out of things, prepared only to hazard a guess that maybe sometimes Claudia cried in private. Wanda thought a person who talked so much about sex couldn’t be getting any. Paul was intrigued and repulsed in equal measure by the whole business. His chief complaint was that Claudia insisted on continually crossing the line of good taste that separates Acceptably Smutty Banter from I’m Just Going To Get My Coat.

Of course Claudia couldn’t have known Paul’s precise threshold for such stuff, but she had surely seen an episode or two of his show. One of Paul’s suitresses, Katja, had made it to the final three with a similar Modus Operandi-

Intrigue, Repulse, Jack Off In A Beach Hut.

Across the table in Claudia, Paul could once again see his Past Errors made Flesh, Katja with a few more miles on the clock, this time passing him the veg and trying to play Footsie under the table. And when we saw him turn away in seeming disgust at yet another crassly formulated come-on from her, surely all we were seeing was his mind replay some regretted, tawdry slap and tickle episode, and the realization on his part of his inability to know that if push became shove, he’d be spiritually strong enough to say-

“Claudia, kindly take my penis out of your mouth”.

Bad News For Mauerpark Basketball Players.


Hoop Nightmares. Spontaneous first-to-eleven throwdowns are history. Photo from metaltraveller.com

Berlin, Germany.

Sports enthusiasts who, since the reunification of Germany in the early 90’s, have met informally at Mauerpark in the former East Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg to play basketball on its basketball court are learning today that as of next week, it will no longer simply be a matter of showing up with a ball and a “Game Face”.

The increased popularity of the park as a meeting point for locals and tourists in recent years has resulted in huge crowds gathering there, especially on Sundays, when the nearby weekly flea market takes place. It has also had the knock-on effect of more people than ever before playing basketball on the basketball court, as well as large crowds assembling nearby to watch play.

Until now, it has not been necessary to pre-book time on the court, with basketball playable by anyone who spontaneously showed up. Nor was any cover charge demanded of spectators. But city authorities have announced that as and from next Sunday, basketball may henceforth only be played by players who have applied for, and received, a special permit (Sondergenehmigung) from the local district’s environmental offices.


The Halftime Show is always popular with Mauerpark basketball fans. Photo by Simon Pokorny

This will take the form of a combined permit and rental contract between the city of Berlin and those who wish to play basketball on the park’s court. Precisely how much the permit should cost is unclear, but will be based on the size of the area in use, i.e. the basketball court’s surface area and the surrounding parkland from where spectators watch games.

Applicants will be required to enclose a list of desired dates and approximate playing times in advance, and will agree to engage a private security service for the duration of their games, as well as ensuring that a medical response unit is on hand in the event of crowd violence, or sports injuries incurred by players.

The details of the special permit also mean that, among other things, players will now be obliged to provide reasonable sanitation services in the public park, which itself has no permanent toilets, for basketball spectators. Added to the costs of the permit itself, these new conditions could mean an outlay on the players’ part of approximately €2500-€4000 per game.


Interior of Dixi Klo‘s high-end portable toilet, “The Festival-Goer Imperial Mk.2″

“It simply was no longer feasible to allow the basketball games in Mauerpark to continue happening in their current form”, said one city official.

“When the court was built, it was never intended that people would play basketball on it all day long. Thousands of people watch games there now over the course of a Sunday afternoon. This constitutes an unacceptable risk to public safety for which the city of Berlin cannot be held responsible.

He continued, “If basketball players insist on playing so impressively on a public court that they cause bystanders to stop and watch them, they need to realize the financial opportunities available both to themselves and to the city. Selling drinks would be one way of covering their costs, for example. Assuming the city issued permits to sell drinks in a park on a Sunday. Which, of course, it doesn’t. Or they could try an admission fee to the general area? Or get money off anybody who stands in the same place for more than two minutes. Something should be possible.”


Mavericks Kingpin Dirk Nowitsky is rumoured to have already block booked July Sundays for himself and his friends.

One regular user of the Mauerpark basketball court who declined to give her name stated that the new system would be unlikely to find much favour with casual players.

“I suppose if I had to pre-schedule my games weeks in advance, then hire a bunch of portable toilets for the afternoon and pay First Aid staff and bouncers to hang around and wait for something to happen, it would probably make me think twice about playing basketball in Mauerpark.

“Imagine it rained unexpectedly and I didn’t want to play basketball! The portable toilet company would still want its money, right? And I bet the bouncers would be grumpy too if I cancelled them half an hour before they were meant to start work.

“Anyway”, she continued, “I don’t see how I can be expected to chase people for thousands of Euros for watching basketball, and play basketball at the same time. Shooting hoops at the weekend isn’t meant to be a hassle”

Nobody else was available for comment.

Why I Am Leaving Dollar Shave Club Dot Com.


Goldman Sachs isn’t the only Big Player losing one of its, um, big players this week.

TODAY is my last day at Dollar Shave Club. After almost half a month at the firm — first as the bear costume guy for our promo clip, then in the warehouse until last weekend, and since Tuesdsay doing a bit of phone and email stuff — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Dollar Shave Club is one of the world’s largest and most important shippers of disposable razors and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.


                                                                   Imitation being a sincere form of Plagiarism.

 

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Dollar Shave Club’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always sending the right disposable razors to our clients. The culture was the “aftershave balm” that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for nearly two weeks. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love packing disposable razors for so many days. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For almost a whole afternoon I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected out of a firm of more than 3 to appear on our promo video, which is currently playing in every wifi-equipped hipster coffee shop around the world. In the parking lot last Tuesday I managed the summer intern program in Envelope-Stuffing and Breaking Open The Big Boxes for eight winos who made the cut out of the many more who had applied.

Image
We sent this guy a free bike and told him cyclists like to shave their legs.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look winos in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Dollar Shave Club, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Alejandra, and the president, Mike, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

My clients have a total asset base of more than a dollar a month. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. Five blades? Who needs them? We said it ourselves! This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Dollar Shave Club. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about a Five O’Clock Shadow, not needing a stubble-free face 24/7. Today, if you close enough 5 blade subscriptions for the firm (and are not currently on the rebound from Goldman Sachs) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

Image
He has no hair anywhere on his body, and Alejandra has him on six 2 Blades a Month till 2016

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is DSC-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the disposable razors or other products that we are trying to get rid of quickly for cash because we got them free off our suppliers. Even though they are crap razors.  b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are going bald and considering a “Shaved-Bald” look, and some of whom aren’t — to buy razors for shaving their heads as well as their face! Call me old-fashioned, but “Shaved-Bald” sends out all sorts of mixed messages and I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to flog any plastic, shiny nonsense with a lubra-strip and a vibrating handle.

Today, many of these leaders display a Dollar Shave Club culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can deal cheaply with blade rash. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that the smoothness of a client’s shave was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last week and a half I have seen Mike and Alejandra refer to their own clients loudly as “muppets,” sometimes within earshot while I’ve been on the phone to the latest newspaper asking about our viral Youtube video. No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated 5-blade products to bum-fluffed 14 year-olds? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

Image
Mike actually laughs when he gets customer complaints to his smartphone like this one from two days ago.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If 14 year olds tear their faces open with a Quintessence every time they start playing with Dad’s shaving foam, they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

Today, the most common question I got from Mike was, “How much money did we make off the client?” Duh! A Dollar! It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection that he rented Wall Street Part 2 last night, and now he thinks he should behave like Michael Douglas. Now project 10 days into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the new Goods-Out guy sitting quietly in the corner of the room licking stamps and hearing about “muppets,” “tearing throats open” and “getting shaved” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was in the bear suit I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to use toilet paper to dry out a cut. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what pre-shave exfoliation was, understanding why Turks need to shave more than Finns, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined value for money, a clean shave and what we could do to help them get there.

Image

My proudest moments in life — getting out of the bear suit, posting out my first Dollar subscription razor, winning an argument with our suppliers in Shanghai over some delayed trial size sachets of Brut by Fabergé, known as the Crown on the King’s Head Of Shaves  — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Dollar Shave Club today has become too much about 30 Dollars A Month and less about 1 Dollar A Month. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to Mike, Alejandra and the new bear costume guy. Make the client the focal (follicle?) point of your business again. Without clients DSC will not make money posting disposable razors out to people who get themselves tied into monthly purchase contracts over the internet, a business plan that you seem to have swung some venture capital somewhere for, even though razors are widely available in lots of different kinds of stores, and forgetting to buy a pack isn’t really a big deal, or a problem that needs an added middleman to help “solve”. In fact, you will not exist. Well, you’ll exist of course, but you won’t be getting rich off the combination of goodwill generated by a mildly charming promo clip, and an at best ropey business idea. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how many 5-blade-with-balm-contracts they close. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain Dollar Shave Club — or the trust of its suggestible, ironic clients — for very much longer.