Dealing with Internet Bullies

Update:5:30 PM on May 1st. After a rewarding conversation on Amazon with Mahala Burlingame, it seems we have resolved this issue peacefully without snarky, insulting comments, and this may offer evidence that the alleged bully comments found on Stop the GR (goodreads) Bullies.com are not accurate. In fact, I offer a standing invitation to the four that were accused by STGRB of being bullies to write a guest post presenting their side of that issue. To avoid revealing IP addresses, guest posts may be delivered via attachment to an e-mail. The peace making conversation is there for all to see on Amazon.

Update: I deleted the original comments I left on the Amazon thread where this all started and replaced them with a new comment that may be found here: May 1, 2013 at 3:23:49 AM PST

______________________

If you are a published author, or planning to publish a book, and/or write honest, well-written reviews and/or opinions on Amazon and/or Goodreads of the books you read, you may want to you read this to discover two sides on how to unmask and combat the hidden bullies and trolls infecting sites such as Amazon and Goodreads. You may also learn what not to do from what I did.

You may want to ignore these bullies, or you may want to call-them-out and risk starting a battle that you cannot win. That is your decision. I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I intend to offer you both sides to this issue with most of a copied and pasted Amazon thread where the alleged bullies came out to play and I, sap that I am, stayed.

I’ve written about this topic In Defense of Authors Perceived as Behaving Badly, and John Scalzi wrote about it in Bad Reviews: I can Handle Them and So Should You. Scalzi also links to three other opinions on this topic.

And we all have opinions, and yes, some are more valid than others.

Civil Liberties says, “The right to free speech is a longstanding U.S. tradition, but actually respecting the right to free speech is not.”

And Internet Bullies and Trolls are a perfect example of individuals that do not respect the right of free speech.

Proof of that is the abuse of free speech rampant on the Internet that is easy to find on Goodreads and Amazon where some bullies think that authors have no right to reply to mean spirited, negative reviews or opinions. There is a big difference between a proper book review and a mean spirited opinion.

But first, to understand what may drive an Internet bully to act as he or she does, it helps to know what “disinhibition” means.

“An individual experiencing disinhibition may not be able to disguise some of their emotional responses, sometimes at the expense of politeness, sensitivity, or social appropriateness. Individuals under the influence of alcohol, for example, exhibit disinhibition in view of the depressant effect of alcohol on the brain’s higher functioning.

“The online disinhibition effect helps to explain the vicious attacks people frequently engage in online. Mean-spirited blog comments, threatening e-mails, and other negative comments are often encouraged by this effect. Some people troll others on the internet even if they would never bully someone in real life.” Source: Six Causes of Online Disinhibition

For example, there was a two-star review of “Tough Cookie” by M. Ruth Myers—that said, “(Tough Cookie is) Too soft and expected situations with the most probable endings, could be written by the reader himself if they had read three novels.” – nancy d. mendez

Mendez could have stopped with “Too soft and expected situations with the most probable endings” and been okay with that opinion, but she had to add that last insulting phrase “could be written by the reader himself if they had read three novels”.

I wonder if nancy d. mendez was a he. Oh well.

If you aren’t sure what a real book review is, I suggest you visit Scholastic.com and learn from a pro how to write a proper book review. I even said as much in another comment after the first of the alleged bullies appeared, who clearly does not think I have a right to my opinion.

I also later said, “Some opinions are worth more than others. It’s up to each of us to decide the opinion we agree with.” As you will see, one of the alleged bullies only quoted the first sentence and ignored the second one changing the context.  At the end of this post, I have copied some of the conversation between me and the four alleged bullies.

It all started on Jan 20, 2013 at 2:09:42 PM PST, when I left a comment for mendez that said, “This isn’t a review. Learn how to write a proper review and then maybe someone that is literate will pay attention to you. I give this sorry excuse for a review one-star or an F-.”

Why did I post this?

Maybe because Myers’s novel had 54 five-star reviews, 39 four-star reviews and only one two-star and one one-star review/opinion. In addition, I’ve seen similar mean-spirited reviews for novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, and for many others books, but such mean spirited opinions always represent a very small minority.

I even spent time researching and crunching numbers to rate how many other readers might agree with mendez and discovered that about two-percent might agree — that means if 100,000 readers read “Tough Cookie”, the odds say that about 2,000 would feel as mendez does.

Now that I know what “disinhibition” means, I admit that I may be guilty—to some degree—of its use in my comment, but if it is any consolation, I was just fighting fire with fire, and there is an old saying that says if you can’t take the heat, don’t start fires.

Mendez never replied to my opinion of his/her opinion, but I did hear back from an alleged pack of Internet bullies and Trolls. In fact, I discovered that everyone in this flock of alleged Trolls is listed and blocked on Stop the GR (goodreads) Bullies.com (STGRB).

Note: if you read John Scalzi’s post you will discover that the four anonymous people behind STGRB allegedly use similar tactics against the people they identify as Trolls — like fighting fire with fire. There is an old saying that fits this situation: “two wrongs do not make a right,” that means “It is never right to wrong someone, even if they have wronged you first.”

If that is true, then I guess I’m guilty, but I have a defense. I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran that lives with PTSD, and the Marines have another method of dealing with someone that does wrong to them or their country. So being a former Marine, I will not condemn the four anonymous people that host STGRB.

I’m sure that many have heard the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” and sure enough the flock of crows that came after me are all listed on STGRB.

  • KarLynP
  • Zahara Cerise on goodreads but Anna Karenina on Amazon
  • Old Rocker
  • Mahala Burlingame (her real name according to Amazon), who won the Amazon troll award from STGRB for the most psychotic comments.

In addition, I found an Amazon forum thread where these same alleged Trolls that came after me may gather to brag about their alleged infamous exploits.

In fact, someone called Amazing Grace said to Cerise aka Anna Karenina “Oh shut up and abandon your obsession with Marion. Get a hobby or something because Marion is a cool lady who writes intelligent posts. You are just…ridiculous and I am SO sick of you and those like you – bitter, obsessed trolls.” Source: An Amazon forum-thread called Is There Or isn’t There An Amazon Review Mafia?

What follows is the comment thread for the nancy d. mendez opinion of “Tough Cookie”. In hindsight, I probably should have never left a comment for that two-star review, but since I did, why not learn something from it.

 

###

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
bla”””!!!, January 20, 2013
By nancy d. mendez
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: 
Tough Cookie (Maggie Sullivan mysteries) (Kindle Edition)

Too soft and expected situations with the most probable endings, could be written by the reader himself is they had read three novels.

Your initial post: Jan 20, 2013 2:05:00 PM PST
Last edited by you on Jan 20, 2013 2:09:42 PM PST

Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

This isn’t a review. Learn how to write a proper review and then maybe someone that is literate will pay attention to you. I give this sorry excuse for a review one-star or an F-.

In fact, why not rate reviews?

In reply to your post on Feb 16, 2013 10:37:02 PM PST
KarLynP
says:

Fail dude, fail. You’re opinion matter more then others? I can read too, don’t worry about what I think. F- back at ya. Your comment makes me believe the neg review. Pass.

Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 7:32:38 AM PST
Last edited by you on Feb 17, 2013 8:02:08 AM PST

Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

 Some opinions are worth more than others. It’s up to each of us to decide the opinion we agree with.

And just like you, I said what I thought about your opinion that wasn’t a book review.

A real book review is much more. In fact, most of the reviews from one star to five stars are not really reviews. Most just express an opinion.

The best way to earn a passing grade is to learn what a real book review is and to do that I suggest you visit Scholastic and learn from a pro how to write a proper book review.

http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/bookrev/

It’s never too late to learn.

I decided to do a comparison between the four-and-five star reviews and the one-and-two star reviews.

We already know that there are more four-and-five star reviews. That is easy to see. No, what I wanted to know is how many reviews have these people written.

The 26 people that wrote the five-star reviews had written more than 400 between them And one of them wrote almost 200–an avid reader maybe?

The four-star reviews added up to more than 300 and one of them had 123 reviews—another avid reader I think.

The one-and-two-star reviews added up to five reviews for two people. That is not a lot of reading.

This tells me that the opinions of the one-and-two star reviews do not fit the average avid reader. Everyone that reads has different tastes. What one person will enjoy, another will not. That is for sure.

By comparing the reviews of 54 people and then checking how many reviews each group wrote, we come up with a better idea of what the average reader may enjoy and the results say the average avid reader would enjoy “Tough Cookie”.

And the results tell us the one-and-two star opinions, valid as they are for those two individuals, do not fit the norm. In fact, the results might tell us that these two individuals might want to consider therapy to find out why. Maybe what we have here are two people that may hate the world with a mind that lives in a dark place.

 In reply to your post on Feb 22, 2013 11:35:51 PM PST
Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

In fact, the results might tell us that these two individuals might want to consider therapy to find out why.

Perhaps you could consider therapy to find out why you think someone should consider therapy because they don’t fit a “norm.”

Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2013 6:55:40 AM PST
Last edited by you on Feb 23, 2013 7:01:26 AM PST

Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

Can’t you do better than that? It’s okay not to fit the norm as long as it does not physically or financially hurt others. But it helps the normal person to understand that there are extremes and he or she doesn’t need to take the extremist that seriously. Basically, shrug, and think, it takes all kinds, and then move on.

Of course, read the extremist, and then decide if he or she has anything intelligent to say that adds to the conversation. I don’t believe in censorship. Everyone has a voice. It’s just that most people tend to ignore and stay away from mean spirited extremists avoiding him or her like the plague.

In reply to your post on Feb 23, 2013 9:53:51 AM PST
Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

“Can’t you do better than that?”

I could, if you had done better. Not my fault your post was faulty.

Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2013 2:06:14 PM PST
Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

You must be ten years old. Blaming someone else for your flaws is a common reaction among the young self esteem raised where nothing is ever the child’s fault.

In reply to your post on Feb 23, 2013 2:20:05 PM PST
Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

Oh, Lloyd, you are so unable to debate rationally that you must stoop to insults. How very sad that is for you.

Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2013 5:47:11 PM PST
Last edited by you on Feb 23, 2013 5:57:09 PM PST

Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

Oh Anna Karenina, before one can debate, there must be a topic worthy to debate. Your comments have only bashed me for criticizing a mean-spirited review that offered nothing constructive.

I have an idea. Let’s debate why so many people that write reviews or leave comments on Amazon use phony names to hide his or her identity—names like Anna Karenina. It’s so easy to be mean spirited when no one knows who you are. Are these people cowards?

In reply to your post on Feb 23, 2013 11:45:25 PM PST
Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

“Oh Anna Karenina, before one can debate, there must be a topic worthy to debate.”

Actually, before one can debate, there must be a person worthy of debating with. You don’t qualify.

post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2013 3:09:11 PM PST
Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

Anna Karenina, your comments are perfect examples of “Disinhibition”. One shrink writes that there are six causes of Disinhibition.

Here’s the first one: 1. Anonymity—Online people feel they can’t be identified in the same way they can when they’re in public. It’s similar to going out in a costume at night with a mask on to cover the face (see research on deindividuation). That sense of disconnection from our normal personality allows new ways of behaving. People may even consider their online behaviours to arise from an online alter ego.

An individual experiencing disinhibition may not be able to disguise some of their emotional responses, sometimes at the expense of politeness, sensitivity, or social appropriateness. Individuals under the influence of alcohol, for example, exhibit disinhibition in view of the depressant effect of alcohol on the brain’s higher functioning.

The online disinhibition effect helps to explain the vicious attacks people frequently engage in online. Mean-spirited blog comments, threatening e-mails, and other negative comments are often encouraged by this effect. Some people “troll” others on the internet even if they would never bully someone in real life. The disinhibition effect of online culture also helps to encourage cyber-bullying and groupthink. This effect can cross over into real life. For example, a group of students might bully a classmate online and then feel emboldened to bully him or her in person. There have been several well-documented cases of online bullying leading to organized efforts to ostracize classmates, severe depression in victims, and even suicide.

Here are several sources on this topic:
http://www.spring.org.uk/2010/08/six-causes-of-online-disinhibition.php
http://users.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/disinhibit.html
http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/online-disinhibition-effect

In reply toyour post on Feb 24, 2013 4:22:58 PM PST
Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

Lloyd, your comments are perfect examples of ludicrous nonsense. (Notice how I used my own words?)

http://s720.beta.photobucket.com/user/slightlytwisted/media/Nonsense.gif.html

Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2013 4:45:56 PM PST
Last edited by you 22 hours ago

Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

Continuing our intellectual conversation about “disinhibition” and now adding the topic of Internet Trolls:

The Atlantic Monthly ran an interesting piece on Internet Trolls. I suspect an individual with acute “disinhibition” may be tagged as an Internet Troll, a person who must control the conversation as this piece says and ignore any attempt by the person being trolled to actually have a real debate/conversation.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/what-an-academic-who-wrote-her-dissertation-on-trolls-thinks-of-violentacrez/263631/

In the ’90s, “to troll” was to disrupt a conversation or entire community by posting incendiary statements or stupid questions onto a discussion board. Regardless of why the poster was being disruptive — for his or her own amusement, or because he or she was a genuinely quarrelsome, abrasive personality — the poster would be branded a troller (later shortened to “troll”) and denounced accordingly. In these cases, “trolling” was used as a general, condemnatory, post-hoc descriptor of an online encounter. It was — and in many circles remains — something you accused someone else of being.

Trolling as described by self-identifying trolls is a game, one only the trolls can initiate and only the troll can win.

The goal is to eliciting strong emotional reactions from the chosen target(s).

Some trolls are very intelligent, and have extremely interesting things to say about trolling, while others have no real opinion about anything they do, other than the fact that it makes them laugh.

it is simply not possible to know what exists the anonymous troll’s heart and mind, for the very simple reason that there is no way of knowing whose heart and mind it is. There are of course some basic demographic indicators …

… the majority of trolls on the English-speaking web are, white, male and somewhat privileged … They have enough free time to sink hours and hours into their online exploits, and have access to the necessary technologies to do so.

As the author of the Atlantic piece argues, trolls are cultural scavengers, and engage in a process described as cultural digestion: They take in, regurgitate, and subsequently weaponize existing tropes and cultural sensitivities. By examining the recurring targets of trolling, it is therefore possible to reverse-engineer the dominant landscape.

In reply to your post on Feb 24, 2013 4:57:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author 21 hours ago

Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

Lloyd Lofthouse said: “Continuing Anna’s intellectual conversation and my too-long-to read nincompoopery about “disinhibition” and now adding the topic of Internet Trolls:”

Fixed it for you.

In reply to your post on Feb 24, 2013 5:04:15 PM PST
Old Rocker
says:

You said “Some opinions are worth more than others.”

Wow, just wow.

(Note: what I meant was taken out of context. Here’s what I said, “Some opinions are worth more than others. It’s up to each of us to decide the opinion we agree with.”)

Posted on Feb 24, 2013 5:14:51 PM PST
Rmahala Burlingame
says:

Not too interested but did Lloyd just describe himself as a troll?

(Note: Because I don’t Troll the Internet — as these four alleged trolls seem to do — looking for people to single out and insult, then by definition, no, I did not call myself a troll but that did not stop an alleged troll from putting words in my mouth.)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2013 5:29:28 PM PST
Anna Karenina ~ Collecting Broken Hearts
says:

I don’t know. If he can’t be bothered to use his own brain to think of something to say, I can’t be bothered to read what he copies.

Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2013 5:34:58 PM PST
Last edited by you 20 hours ago

Lloyd Lofthouse
says:

Amazing. My last comment was an experiment to see if what I learned from my research on “disinhibition” — that led to Internet Trolls—was true. The experts said if you mention the word “Troll” when a suspected troll is already part of a virtual conversation, that a gang of them will show up. Well, let’s see who joined Anna K.

There was Old Rocker and Rmahala Burlingame. I wonder how many more may show up. What do we call that, a trolling party?

That’s it for me. I’m going to stop feeding the trolls. You all are welcome to stay around and keep eating the cake you baked.

Note: This thread continued and may still be growing. There are plenty of links for you to click to visit if you want to join what I think is a trolling party.

What can be learned from this?  Well, that no one can win an argument with a Troll suffering from disinhibition.

In conclusion, everything I write and post on-line is posted under my real name with a link to my on-line platform.

To discover more about this issue visit:

The Internet is not a Safe Haven for being Anonymous and Behaving Badly

Taking it Global: Online Freedom of Speech versus the 6th Amendment

Is this an example of Defamation?—not protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Who’s behaving badly? A culture of arrogance

Ginmar: Alleged Cyber Bully, Troll and Stalker?

Found Guilty because of Reckless and False Speech – based on true events

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

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East Bay Area Author Event, March 2nd, 2013

MEET & HEAR LOCAL AUTHORS AT THE FIRST ANNUAL EAST BAY AUTHORS BOOK FAIRE – FREE

Searching for a way to give themselves and the general reading public a venue to get together, a group of published authors in the East Bay have set up a free-to-the-public Book Faire for March 2nd, 2013, in Walnut Creek, from 10:30 AM to 5 PM .

Fifteen published authors will be talking throughout the day about the subject of their books, about their work, and about the process of writing and getting published.  When they’re not speaking, attendees will have plenty of time to chat with them. They will also have a number of their books for sale (and autograph) at their own tables at the event. Some will have other wares they produce for sale (including chocolate!).

Doors will open at 10:30 AM with the authors’ tables, and presentations will begin at 11 and end at 5.

HERE’S WHO WILL BE THERE AND AN IDEA OF THEIR WORKS (AND TOPICS)

Loyd Auerbach: one of the world’s leading experts on the paranormal and author of many books including The Ghost Detectives’ Guide to Haunted San Francisco – plus he’s a chocolatier, and will have samples to taste!

Richard L. Wren: reinvented himself in his mid 80s as a mystery/thriller writer. Author of Casey’s Slip, Joshua’s Revenge and a great little booklet called A Practical Guide to Writing & Publishing a Novel.

Richard L. Wren

Susan Pace-Koch: children’s book author and publisher, including her award-winning illustrated book Get Out of My Head, I Should Go to Bed and other picture books.

Denise Kalm: personal coaching for those in transition, with much of her work around career management. Author of the novel, Lifestorm and the career management guide Career Savvy.

Denise P. Kalm

Bee Hylinski: former attorney and past Mayor of Moraga before becoming a writer and professional editor. Her novel Contract Year: A Baseball Novel is a labor of love for the game of baseball.

Bee Hylinski

Lloyd Lofthouse: author of Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller set during the Vietnam War and The Concubine Saga, historical fiction centered on Robert Hart and his place in modernizing China in the late 19th Century.

Elaine Starkman: poet and writer, teacher of literature, writing, poetry and memoir, and author of Learning to Sit in the Silence: A Journal of Caretaking and a book of poems, Hearing Beyond Sound.

Elaine Starkman

Dave Case: lifetime professional pilot and sailor, he’s the one to ask about flying and sailing. Author of Sailin’ South and Maverick Pilot, and the novel Keeper of the Secrets.

Dave Case

Jeffrey Hickey: composer, performing artist, teacher, coach, and author of Morehead, a novel about a young man living in San Francisco during the height of the sexual revolution, the late 70s to mid-80s.

Lise Pearlman: retired judge, legal scholar and author of The Sky’s The Limit: People v. Newton, The Real Trial of the 20th Century? She will be teaching “Landmark Trials of the 20th Century” in Lafayette this Spring.

Jay Hartlove: professional writer for over 30 years, blogger, and teacher (seminars on the craft of writing), he’s the author of The Chosen, a supernatural thriller.

Harlan Hague: historian, novelist and screenwriter, author of biographies, travel articles, and historical novels, including Road to California: The Search for a Southern Overland Route, 1540-1848, and Santa Fe mi casa.

Harlan Hague

Lani Longshore: blogger, fiber artist and science fiction writer, and author of Death By Chenille and editor of Voices of the Valley: First Press,  the first anthology of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley branch. She’ll also be talking about and selling her fabric art.

Lani Longshore

Joe Cohen: author of six published works of fiction, including Wandering Cain and The Rabbi and Princess Harmonica: A Tale of Human Trafficking.

Joe Cohen

Sandy Blaine: yoga teacher and author of Yoga For Computer Users and Yoga for Healthy Knees, she’s also a wellness consultant and resident yoga instructor for Pixar Animation Studios.

Come talk to authors/writers of all sorts of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Each author will be speaking from the stage for approximately 15-20 minutes throughout the day, beginning at 11 AM and running until 5 PM. They’ll all be there throughout the day at their own tables, to talk with individuals, answer questions, and of course, sell their books (and other wares in some cases).

The free event will be held in the Oak Room on the grounds of the Grace Presbyterian Church complex, 2100 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94595. Plenty of free parking.

DIRECTIONS to 2100 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA.

2100 Tice Valley Blvd

NOTE ON PARKING: There is a small lot adjacent to the Oak Room building. Not big enough for all of our cars, but you can pull in and unload easily here. The driveway is right before the building (first drive/first building on the left past the light at the intersection with Rossmoor Parkway).

Directions from points West of Walnut Creek: Take Highway 24 East to Pleasant Hill Road South. Turn Left on Olympic Blvd. Turn Right on Tice Valley Blvd. Go through the light at Rossmoor Parkway, and the Oak Room is the first building on your left. PARKING is past the several buildings in the complex, on the left.

2100 Tice Valley Blvd - Two

Directions from points North of Walnut Creek: Take 680 South to Olympic Blvd. Right on Olympic. Turn Left on Tice Valley Blvd. Go through the light at Rossmoor Parkway, and the Oak Room is the first building on your left. PARKING is past the several buildings in the complex, on the left.

Directions from points South of Walnut Creek: Take 680 North to Olympic Blvd. Left on Olympic. Turn Left on Tice Valley Blvd. Go through the light at Rossmoor Parkway, and the Oak Room is the first building on your left. PARKING is past the several buildings in the complex, on the left.

___________________

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The Soulful Veteran's Blog

Sarah McCoy wrote a post for the Huffington Book Blog about “Men of War are Conflicted Characters“. After I read her post, I wanted to leave a comment but couldn’t because that section was closed, so I’m writing it here.

You may want to read McCoy’s post. It’s well written and deals with an author’s dilemma when she has to crawl inside the skin of someone most of the world considers a monster, because he fought for Hitler during World War II and was tagged with the term Nazi.

However, it was McCoy’s conclusion that I wanted to leave a comment for. She said, “I’ll be honest, it was an onerous task to write under the psychological hood of war. I struggled but knew it was essential to the story and my attempt to unearth a truth. War asks us to give up our humanity, but if we…

View original post 593 more words

Death by Competitive Capitalism

Today I went out-of-my-way to order a book at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore and had to walk about a mile from a distant parking lot, because a few days earlier I was told by a B&N employee that the store would match Amazon’s price. But I wasn’t ready to buy then. I wanted to check out Half Price Books first.

Today, I was ready, but I had not learned all the details. After walking that mile, I was told that to get the same discount that Amazon offered, I had to become a Barnes & Noble member with an annual cost of twenty-five dollars.

B&N was even willing to automatically renew my membership each year. I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

I have changed my mind. Why should I be loyal to Barnes & Noble, because the Amazon giant is driving them out of business?

We have been through this sort of thing before but back then it was the independent bookstore being pushed out by the big chains like Barnes & Noble. We heard the same sob story then too but not from the chain stores.

Highbeam.com gives us a snapshot of this history. I pulled a couple of quotes to give you an idea.

“The retail bookstore industry in the early twenty-first century was dominated by several large chains, including Borders Group, Inc.; Barnes & Noble, Inc.; and Books-A-Million. The rest of the market was shared by about 10,000 independent bookstores. Chain stores, many of which opened during the 1970s, were generally located in shopping malls and usually carried between 15,000 and 20,000 of the most popular titles targeted for a broad consumer market.” Source: Highbeam.com

Highbeam.com says that “Barnes & Noble is the largest bookseller in the United States. In 2006 the company operated 793 bookstores in fifty states, including stores under the names Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Doubleday, and Scribner’s, as well as barnesandnoble.com. The company posted $5.26 billion in sales in fiscal 2006. Its superstores accounted for approximately 86 percent of sales. The company is credited with introducing the superstore concept (which Borders embraced) and has also established a significant online presence. Barnes & Noble was founded in 1873 by Charles Barnes & began as a used book business.”

There was even a movie that tells the story.

The movie was called You’ve Got Mail (1998). In the film, Tom Hanks is the son of the owner of a clone of Barnes & Noble that is spreading across the country like cancer, and Meg Ryan owns a small, warm, loyal, independent bookstore struggling to survive in the shadow of the so-called evil giant. In the end, Ryan loses her store, but ends up with the character Hanks plays and our two fictional heroes live happily ever after.

However, the real reason Barnes & Noble is in trouble is because it has to service a huge debt of $465.65 million with total cash on hand of $470.99 million (as listed on Yahoo Finance on February 9, 2013). Most of the cash must be from borrowed money.

Imagine what the payments and interest are for almost a half-a-billion-dollar loan. I suspect that loan came from the cost of adding more stores, and the pressure to grow came from being a publicly traded company on Wall Street. Bad decisions by management also landed B&N in this fix.

It is a challenge to compete on a level playing field when you carry such a heavy burden. That is the brutal curse of Wall Street style capitalism where the true meaning of survival of the fittest comes into play.

Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble’s competition, has a much better debt-to-cash ratio. Amazon.com carries a total debt of $4.28 billion but has $11.45 billion in cash and the operating cash flow was listed at $4.18 billion when I checked. Source: Yahoo Finance

That’s probably why Barnes & Noble has to charge a $25 annual membership fee before a customer can get a discount similar to the one offered at Amazon.com. B&N must use every trick in the book to earn money from loyal customers.

When I walked away from the special order desk at Barnes & Noble today, I thought this book seller’s days are numbered just like so many of those independent bookstores were when Barnes & Noble was the evil giant driving them out of business.

Barnes & Noble may never learn that if you want to compete and win, you have to offer a better deal and/or service than the competition, and the brick-and-mortar shopping experience may not be enough, because we can get the same fix from a library if all that’s needed is hanging out with books on shelves.

I wonder what will come along to kill off Amazon as the survival cycle continues. After all, millions of years ago the dinosaurs ruled the earth and humanity’s ancestors were hairy, monkey like creatures hiding in trees or holes in the ground.

Discover An Authors Bane—the negative review

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Does MADE in the U.S.A. mean made by an American-born citizen?

The American media machine had waged an all-out campaign for more than a year to get Americans to buy products made in the United States, but who are we supporting when we pay more for these products?

For example, I live in California and buy most of my clothes from a clothing company that has several brick-and-mortar stores back east but not in my state. I cannot find the same quality and style of clothing from stores in my local area, so I buy from this company online.

In their most recent monthly catalog, they were selling the same product—100% cotton work jeans—from two different sources: one was imported and sold for about $50, and the second choice was made in the U.S.A selling for almost $80.

The wording in the catalog said, “Yes, they do cost more—a fact of life in today’s manufacturing world. But we know many will consider a USA-made option worth it.”

And I almost ordered the USA-made option to help support an American worker, but then I decided to discover how many American-born citizens worked in the U.S. garment industry.

To find out, I had to do some serious Google digging.

In 2006, NPR.org reported, “Nearly 12 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States. The vast majority work in low-skill, low-wage jobs. More than half work in construction, manufacturing or leisure and hospitality.”

Then the Brookings Institution reported (worth clicking and reading) in 2010 that, “Immigrants are a growing part of the labor force (people with a job or looking for one), and in 2010 there were 23.1 million foreign-born persons in the civilian labor force, making up 16.4 percent of the total (and 12 million were illegal).”

Many of these legal/illegal immigrants work jobs American born citizens refuse to do. In fact, many American born citizens would rather be unemployed than work one of these jobs.

In addition, Immigration Online.org says, “Many workers from Mexico and Central American nations were entering the United States illegally in the hope of finding steady, permanent jobs that would permit them to stay. Many of these people found steady jobs in the Los Angeles garment industry … many U.S. employers were becoming dependent on undocumented workers, who were willing to work for lower pay than American workers.”

Tree Hugger.com reported, “Employment in the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry has declined by more than 80 percent (from about 900,000 to 150,000 jobs) over the past two decades.”

From UCLA.edu, I learned that, “In New York City’s Chinatown, three out of five women work in the garment industry, a backbone industry of the growing ethnic enclave economy. Most of these working women are new immigrants, married, and with school-aged and younger children. Day in and day out, they bend over row after row of sewing machines; they are surrounded by piles of fabric scarps, and they are sometimes with children, including toddlers and infants, clustered at their skirts.”

And Cultural Survival.org adds, “… more than half of the Latin American migrants to the U.S. are women searching for jobs as domestics or in light manufacturing such as garment or microelectronic factories … Not only must women migrants from Third World countries negotiate their way amidst racial and ethnic discrimination, they are also exploited because of their sex. As migrant workers they are confined to the low skill sector of the labor market. As females they are further restricted to the manual sector like sewing or child care.”

Discovering how many illegal immigrants work in manufacturing or the garment industry was a challenge, but the evidence I discovered indicates that most of the labor force in the American garment industry is made up of mostly illegal immigrant women, because skilled, educated legal immigrants are finding jobs in health care and high-tech manufacturing.

And what do most of these legal/illegal immigrant workers do with the money they earn working in the United States?

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mexico reported—mostly from the U.S.—$13.7 billion for the first seven months of 2012. Salvadorians sent $2.6 billion home from January through August. Guatemalan expatriate’s remittances account for 12% of their country’s gross domestic product.”

And Latin America and the Caribbean received $69 billion in transfers in 2011 and this number is expected to increase 7 or 8% for 2012.

FACT: When money leaves the United States, it does not get spent in America!

Did you know that over a five-year period 2007 to 2011, almost 2,000 illegal immigrants died attempting to cross those southwest deserts and almost three million were caught and sent back home—something U.S. taxpayers paid for?

Does that mean buying “MADE in the U.S.A.” contributes to the deaths of illegal immigrants?

I have changed my mind. I will buy the work jeans that were imported and save thirty dollars and hopefully discourage an illegal immigrant from risking his or her life to sneak into the United States.

Discover more about America’s Lost Work Ethic and the Future Fate of the United States

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”